Kentucky’s recently completed 38–2 romp to the NCAA title was one of the more impressive runs in NCAA history.
Not every year does the perceived favorite make it through all six rounds of the Cinderella-laden tournament unscathed. Whether from unexpected injuries, a bad shooting game, or just being unable to deal with high-expectations, the best team is not always crowned champion come April.
Here are the 10 most dominating teams, since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that crowned their seasons with a title at the end:
10. 2008 Kansas: 37–3 record, AP No. 1-ranked for: 0 weeks, star players: Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers—The 2008 NCAA Tournament was the first time since the field expanded in 1985 that all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four and Kansas, with six future draft picks (three first-round, three second-round picks) came away with the title. Though it took a miracle shot from Chalmers and some timely missed free throws by Memphis in the title game, Kansas’s 37 wins were the most ever by a champion until Kentucky’s 38 this past season, giving them a very slight edge over North Carolina’s 1993 team that went 34–4.
9. UCLA 1995: 31-2 record, AP No. 1-ranked for: 3 weeks, star players: Ed O’Bannon, Charles O’Bannon, Tyus Edney—The Bruins won their final 19 games of the ’95 season and though it took a last-second Tyus Edney shot to get past Missouri in the second round, UCLA won both of its Final Four games by double-figures. Though talent-wise the Bruins match up well with KU’s ’08 squad, UCLA went into the tournament with the bulls-eye on their backs, having been the No. 1 ranked team in the land the final three weeks of the season.
8. Connecticut 1999: 34-2 record, AP No. 1-ranked for: 10 weeks, star players: Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin—Though the Huskies’ resume, on the surface, could go higher on this list this was before Calhoun had delivered a title and Duke that went 37–2 that season and spent the final eight weeks as No. 1, was the slightly more feared team that year. Connecticut eventually took down the favored Blue Devils in the title game though.
7. Duke 2001: 35-4 record, AP No. 1-ranked for: 5 weeks, star players: Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy—Coach Krzyzewsk”s third title-winning team had three of its four losses by two points or less and beat conference-rival Maryland three times in four tries—including a 95–84 win in the Final Four. Had it not been for Jay Williams’s injury, the core four players of this team (listed above) would still be in the NBA today. The Blue Devils’ run here gets the edge over UConn’s in ’99 due to their domination in the NCAA Tournament as all six wins were by 10 points or more.
6. Kentucky 1996: 34-2 record, AP No. 1-ranked for: 5 weeks, star players: Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson, Nazr Mohammed, Walter McCarty—This Kentucky team was the pinnacle of Rick Pitino’s reclamation project, as the Wildcats ran the tables in the SEC (16-0) and won their first four NCAA Tournament games by a whopping 28.3 points per contest before downing UMass and Syracuse in the Final Four. Six first-round draft picks came from this squad and the team returned to the title game each of the next two seasons. Kentucky’s better record puts them just ahead of Duke’s ’01 team.
5. Florida 2007: 35-5…