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Bracketology: Welcome to the top line, San Diego State

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Welcome to the top line, San Diego State.  The Aztecs join Baylor, Gonzaga, and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in our latest bracket update.  SDSU remains the only unbeaten team in college hoops, buoyed by wins over tournament teams Iowa, Creighton and BYU.

The West-leaning geographical slate of top seeds means someone has to go East.  As SDSU is the fourth overall seed, that adventure belongs to them.  Several additional power conference teams are pushing for the top line, too – including Florida State, Michigan State and surging Seton Hall.  And let’s not forget about Louisville, a preseason top seed.  The Cardinals put together an impressive road win at Duke on Saturday.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 20, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
WEST REGION NC State vs. VCU
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ST. FRANCIS (PA)

SOUTH Houston                           WEST – Los Angeles
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ST. FRANCIS (PA)
8) Arkansas 8) Illinois
9) Memphis 9) HOUSTON
Tampa Sacramento
5) Colorado 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NC State / VCU
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
St. Louis Greensboro
6) Marquette 6) Michigan
11) NORTHERN IOWA 11) Saint Mary’s
3) LOUISVILLE 3) Duke
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany Spokane
7) Wisconsin 7) LSU
10) USC 10) Oklahoma
2) SETON HALL 2) Oregon
15) WILLIAM-MARY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) RADFORD 16) MONTANA
8) Rutgers 8) Indiana
9) STANFORD 9) Florida
Albany Cleveland
5) Kentucky 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Villanova 4) DAYTON
13) AKRON 13) VERMONT
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Penn State 6) Auburn
11) Virginia Tech / Georgetown 11) BYU
3) West Virginia 3) Butler
14) COLGATE 14) WRIGHT STATE
Tampa Cleveland
7) Ohio State 7) Wichita State
10) DePaul 10) Texas Tech
2) Florida State 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) NORTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
USC Virginia Tech Purdue Washington
DePaul NC State Minnesota Saint Louis
Saint Mary’s Georgetown Arizona State St. John’s
BYU VCU Xavier Richmond

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor and Gonzaga lead the way

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

Baylor is not the No. 1 team in my poll, and I suspect that they are going to be the No. 1 team in the country when the AP poll is released on Monday morning. The only reason they weren’t No. 1 last week is because four people (like me) had Duke at No. 1, stealing votes from the Bears. That … did not go well, so here we are.

I also want to talk through something else: Last week, I wrote extensively about why I think that it’s foolish to allow the result of one possession games to have a significant impact on the way that you view a team. One shot in a 70 possession game that is just one of more than 30 games that will be played this season is insignificant when determining the quality of a team, and I truly believe that.

But I also think it is important to consider how and why teams are winning close games, not just games that are one-possession games.

So let’s use Duke and Baylor for this example once again.

One thing that the Bears have proven over and over this season — at Texas Tech, at Kansas, at Oklahoma State — is the ability to close out a tough game, particularly on the road. That’s because they have a number of players on the roster that are capable of taking and making clutch shots. Against Tech, it was Jared Butler. Against Oklahoma State, it was Devonte Bandoo. The Bears may not look as good in the metrics because they haven’t obliterated the mediocre teams they have played, but they are 15-1 because they come through in the clutch.

Now, some of that may eventually regress. I believe in the clutch gene because I think life — not just sports, but everything every human being does — is confidence. Baylor has confidence in clutch situations, as much as anyone in the country. They do not get rattled by the moment, and they have a number of different options they can go to down the stretch.

Duke, on the other hand, does not. Their three losses this season have all been close games where the Blue Devils have struggled to find an outlet for offense in the final minutes. Maybe that will come with more experience — Duke is loaded with freshmen, Baylor is as old as anyone in the country — but as it stands, that’s the difference between these two teams.

Baylor won their close games.

Duke did not.

And I don’t think that’s a fluke.


The other thing that I want to discuss in this space is where I have San Diego State and Dayton ranked in the college basketball top 25. They are currently sitting and eighth and ninth in my poll, exactly where they have been for a couple of weeks now. And that is where they are going to stay for the foreseeable future.

The reasoning for me is simple: I don’t want to fall into the trap where I’m bumping a team up in the rankings simply because they keep winning in a league that is not as tough as the leagues where the rest of the teams in consideration for the top ten are playing, and losing.

I’m sure there are going to be people in San Diego and Dayton that call me a hater for this, and that’s fine. Maybe I am being a hater.

But the truth is this: I love both of these teams. SDSU is so tough defensively and Malachi Flynn has proven himself to be a flat-out winner at the point, while Dayton runs a pro-style, aesthetically-pleasing offense heavy on three-balls and Obi Toppin.

I just don’t believe they are one of the top six or seven teams in the country, and beating the likes of Nevada and Saint Louis is not going to change my mind.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



1. BAYLOR (15-1, Last Week: 2)
2. GONZAGA (20-1, 3)
3. KANSAS (14-3, 6)
4. FLORIDA STATE (16-2, 12)
5. LOUISVILLE (15-3, 13)
6. SETON HALL (14-4, 15)
7. DUKE (15-3, 1)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (19-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (16-2, 9)
10. MICHIGAN STATE (14-4, 7)
11. BUTLER (15-3, 4)
12. AUBURN (15-2, 5)
13. OREGON (15-4, 10)
14. KENTUCKY (13-4, 11)
15. WEST VIRGINIA (14-3, 14)
16. TEXAS TECH (12-5, 17)
17. VILLANOVA (14-3, 18)
18. IOWA (13-5, 22)
19. ARIZONA (13-5, NR)
20. HOUSTON (14-4, NR)
21. MEMPHIS (14-3, 25)
22. MICHIGAN (11-6, 20)
23. MARYLAND (14-4, 21)
24. ILLINOIS (13-5, 24)
25. CREIGHTON (14-5, 23)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Houston
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Ohio State, No. 19 Wichita State

Ten Things to Know: Long road losing streaks end during wild day of college hoops

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College basketball was all about big road wins.

The Big 12 and ACC saw two huge road losing streaks end. The rest of the day saw some upsets along with an injury to keep tabs on.

BAYLOR GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN IN PHOG ALLEN FIELDHOUSE

Everything you need to know about the biggest game of the day can be found right here.

CLEMSON GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN (IN 60 TRIES!) IN CHAPEL HILL

Clemson basketball kicked off a big sports weekend for the school. The Tigers snapped their 0-59 mark in Chapel Hill with a 79-76 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

Brad Brownell’s team celebrated in euphoric fashion.

This isn’t your typical ACC road win. It was one of the premier streaks in college basketball. Clemson and North Carolina first played men’s basketball during the 1925-26 season. Both programs are founding members of the ACC.

Same conference.

Since 1953.

So for the Tigers to FINALLY earn a win in Chapel Hill, even if North Carolina happens to be down right now, is a monumental accomplishment.

For North Carolina, the recent freefall continues. The Tar Heels have lost three straight and dropped to 1-4 in ACC play. Following the loss, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams made some emotional remarks blaming himself.

Even though North Carolina is well outside of the top 25, they remain one of the most compelling teams in college hoops.

WEST VIRGINIA SHUTS DOWN TEXAS TECH

Things weren’t particularly pretty in Morgantown on Saturday night. Using seemingly its whole roster to wear down the Red Raiders, West Virginia earned an impressive Big 12 home win.

Despite only making three shots from three-point range on the night, West Virginia held a comfortable advantage thanks to one of the nation’s best defenses. The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 28 percent shooting. The Red Raiders simply had no answer for the swarm of West Virginia defenders.

While West Virginia has continued to climb up the national rankings with an underrated array of quad one wins, this is one of the program’s best wins this season. The Mountaineers are surely a contender in the Big 12. The major question becomes if they are more than just a conference title contender. And more of a potential national title contender.

NICK RICHARDS IS THE KEY TO KENTUCKY’S SEASON

Over the course of the last four games, No. 14 Kentucky has asserted themselves as one of the best teams in college basketball once again. They’ve knocked off Louisville, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama during that run, and it should come as no coincidence that the best stretch of Kentucky’s season has come at the same time that Nick Richards has played the best basketball of his career.

In those four games, Richards is averaging 16.0 points, 10.0 boards and 2.5 blocks, but more importantly, he’s staying on the floor for more than 29 minutes per game. He’s starting to figure things out, and that, in turn, has helped build his confidence, his belief in himself.

“You can’t coach a kid’s confidence,” a source close to Kentucky said. “He needs to build it himself.”

He’s posting harder, he’s demanding the ball, he’s doing all of the things that Kentucky has been waiting for him to two do two-and-a-half years. And it hasn’t only helped Richards, the guards that feed him the rock have confidence in him as well. If you’re a point guard and you know Richards doesn’t want the ball, are you going to give him a post touch? Are you going to throw a post entry when you don’t think anything good will happen?

Saturday proved my point.

In the first half against Alabama, Richards had 11 points, six boards and four blocks, and Kentucky went into the break with a 45-35 lead. He finished with just two points in the second half, and Alabama cut the lead to one in the final two minutes.

OHIO STATE HAS NOW LOST FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES

The 12th-ranked Buckeyes dropped to 11-5 on the season and 1-4 in the Big Ten after losing their fourth straight game on Saturday, 66-54, to Indiana.

During that four game losing streak, Ohio State has shot 28-for-97 from three, a cool 28.9 percent. Prior to the start of this losing streak, after they beat Kentucky in Las Vegas and when they were sitting at No. 1 in KenPom and splitting votes with Gonzaga for No. 1 in the AP poll, the Buckeyes were shooting 41.5 percent from three as a team.

The reason why they are struggling from beyond the arc is a bigger question. Part of it is just regression — water eventually finds itself — and part of it is that as D.J. Carton has struggled, who had seven turnovers on Saturday, Ohio State’s offense has struggled. They don’t have the individual playmakers to create offense for themselves, and if Carton (and C.J. Walker) are struggling to create easy shots for their teammates, Ohio State becomes really limited offensively.

Oh, and should I mention that Ohio State’s second-leading scorer, Duane Washington, didn’t take a single shot and was benched for the final 30 minutes. He’s either hurt or Chris Holtmann is fed up with his defensive lapses.

Either way, what was clicking for the first month of the season is clearly no longer working.

AUBURN AND SAN DIEGO STATE ARE STILL UNDEFEATED

The No. 5 Tigers cruised past Georgia at home, winning 82-60, while the No. 7 Aztecs took care of business against Boise State at home, 83-65.

Auburn’s biggest tests of the season to date will come next week, as they travel to take on Alabama and Florida. SDSU heads to Fresno State on Tuesday and then will host Nevada next weekend.

OBI TOPPIN ROLLED HIS ANKLE

The star big man for No. 15 Dayton stepped on someone’s foot early in the second half of an 88-60 win over UMass and had to leave the game. He ended up leaving the game and returning to his team’s bench with a boot on his left foot.

Toppin told reporters after the game that, “it’s good.” Head coach Anthony Grant, speaking in his press conference after the game, said that he thought it was a sprained ankle and that the team would know more in the next 24 hours, but he did not sound overly concerned.

VIRGINIA DROPS SECOND STRAIGHT TO UNRANKED OPPONENT

It’s looking like defending national champion Virginia will fall out of the top 25 next week. A second consecutive loss to an unranked team on Saturday likely sealed the Cavaliers’ new fate.

After falling on the road at Boston College last game, Virginia fell to Syracuse at home.  The Orange earned an unlikely overtime win while also avenging its season-opening home loss to the ‘Hoos.

Hitting some massive three-pointers once overtime started, the Orange played completely free and with a lot of confidence once the extra session started. It also pointed to a continuing glaring issue Virginia has faced. Who is this team’s go-to player when they need a bucket?

Things don’t get easier for Virginia when they head on the road to Florida State next game. With three of their next four coming on the road, the Cavaliers have some work to do to stay with the ACC’s best.

GONZAGA AND DUKE CRUISE TO VICTORY

Easy day for No. 1 and No. 2 on Saturday.

Gonzaga made quick work of Loyola Marymount. The Bulldogs won by 25 on the road.

In the ACC, Duke ran past Wake Forest. The Blue Devils were fueled by Tre Jones in a 31-point victory.

MYLES POWELL, SETON HALL OUTDUEL MARKUS HOWARD, MARQUETTE

CBT’s Preseason All-America Team featured Myles Powell and Markus Howard both on the first team.

So Saturday’s Big East clash between Seton Hall and Marquette was must-see TV. Both stars finished an identical 8-for-22 from the field as Howard dropped 27 points and Powell delivered 23 points.

Most importantly, however, was the Pirates claiming the 69-55 Big East win. Seton Hall has six straight wins since Powell returned to the lineup from a concussion. Saturday’s win gives the Pirates a leg up on the rest of the league and Powell a leg up on Howard with one matchup to go.

Not many people seem to be talking about Seton Hall. That’s a mistake. This team is playing really well over the last several weeks and look like the possible team to beat in the Big East.

Boeheim lifts Syracuse past No. 18 Virginia, 63-55 in OT

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Buddy Boeheim scored nine of his 14 points in overtime and Syracuse outlasted No. 18 Virginia 63-55 on Saturday. The Orange scored 20 points in the extra period after netting just 19 in the second half.

Boeheim hit the third of three consecutive 3s for the Orange (9-7, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) and added another when he made a desperate heave from well behind the 3-point line to beat the shot clock late in the extra period.

Elijah Hughes, who scored 18 points, hit the first 3 of the overtime for the Orange and freshman Joe Girard, who scored 19, hit the second.

Jay Huff had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Virginia (11-4, 3-2), which lost back-to-back games for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Mamadi Diakita and Kihei Clark each added 13 points for the Cavaliers.

Neither team scored in the final 1:20 of regulation, but the Orange hit their first four shots of the extra period.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange scored 34 points in their first game against the Cavaliers, which was the season-opener for both teams. Syracuse started Saturday averaging 73.7 points and haven’t scored fewer than 54 in a game since the opener. They had 43 at the end of regulation at Virginia.

Virginia: The Cavaliers’ inconsistency on offense was on full display in the second half when they didn’t score for nearly 3 minutes, then scored 12 consecutive points in about 3 1/2 minutes to take a 35-30 lead. Immediately thereafter, they went 7 minutes without a point.

UP NEXT

Syracuse returns home to face Boston College on Wednesday night.

Virginia goes on the road to face No. 10 Florida State on Wednesday night.

Ranking the best college basketball teams of the decade

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More college basketball all-decade content here.

The 2010s are coming to an end, which should make you feel incredibly old.

We’ve now gone a full decade with John Calipari in charge of the Kentucky Wildcats. We’re more than a decade removed from the existence of Psycho T on a college basketball campus. In the last ten years, we’ve seen Kentucky and Duke win titles by playing as young as possible, Virginia win by playing as slow as possible, Villanova win by shooting as many threes as possible and UConn win a pair of titles by hoping a star point guard can carry them through a six-game tournament.

We’ve experienced Jimmermania. We survived Zion Williamson’s Shoegate. We watched Louisville win a national title and then had the NCAA erase it from our collective memory because an assistant coach liked to turn dorm rooms into the Champagne Room.

It’s been a wild ride.

And over the course of the next two weeks, we will be taking a look back at some of the best parts of the decade.

Today, we are giving you the ten best college basketball all-decade teams of the last ten seasons.


North Carolina after defeating Gonzaga in the 2017 national title game (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The criteria for ranking the best teams in college basketball over the last decade was pretty simple: We’re not ranking how good the players on these rosters ended up being once they reached the NBA, or how good those teams looked on paper, or even basing it strictly on whether or not they won the national title. Take, for example, 2015. Duke won the national title that season, but I think everyone will agree that the Kentucky team that started the season off at 38-0 was the best team in college basketball that year.

And, for clarity’s sake, we are including the 2009-2010 season in this discussion. We did consider this season as well, but since everyone in college basketball stinks this year, our life was made easier.

So without further ado, these are the definitive, unquestioned best teams that set foot on a college basketball court in the last decade.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

2010 DUKE: Mike Krzyzewski’s first national title of the decade. It might go overlooked among Coach K’s best teams because there were no eventual superstars on the roster, but that team won a share of the ACC regular season title, the ACC tournament title and, of course, the national title with a team that had six NBA players on it. That number doesn’t include Jon Scheyer, who was a senior All-American that probably would have made a roster somewhere if he hadn’t injured his eye.

2014 WICHITA STATE: This was the best team that Gregg Marshall had at Wichita State. The Shockers won their first 35 games of the season, with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker running the backcourt, but the best player on the roster that year was actually Cleanthony Early, who was eventually picked in the second round of that June’s draft.

2016 VILLANOVA: This season’s version of the Wildcats won the national title and rid Jay Wright of the stigma of being unable to get out of the first weekend of the tournament. I think that the 2018 iteration of the Wildcats was significantly better, but this group had to be considered because A) they won the national title, and B) there were six NBA players on the roster, including three (Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson) in the starting lineup.

2017 NORTH CAROLINA: I was such a big fan of this group. With Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks leading the way, the Tar Heels won the outright ACC regular season title before making a run to win the national title, redeeming themselves for a loss in the same game the previous season.

2019 DUKE: This Duke team had as much, if not more, talent on their roster than any team that we’ve seen the last decade. R.J. Barrett became the first player to average 22 points, seven boards and four assists at a high-major since Penny Hardaway in 1993, and he was the second-best player on that team. Remember Zion? The Blue Devils finished third in the ACC regular season standings, but they won the ACC tournament and entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed before flaming out in the Elite Eight.


Definitive proof Louisville won the 2013 national title (Mark Cornelison/Getty Images)

10. 2013 LOUISVILLE

RECORD: 35-5 (14-4 Big East)
WHAT THEY WON: Big East regular season title, Big East tournament title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell

Before we get into it, I need to clarify something: I know you remember this team. I know that you watched them win the national title, and that we all remember Russdiculous doing Russdiculous things and Luke Hancock hitting four straight threes in the title game. But none of that happened. The NCAA erased it all from the history books when they punished Louisville.

So just remember that, as we discuss this group, you are legally barred from actually remembering them. It’s the NCAA’s rule, my hands are tied.

In all seriousness, this was one of my favorite college basketball teams of the decade. It was the last great team from the old Big East, winning a share of the regular season title before taking home the Big East tournament title. They finished the season with the second-best rating in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric in his database, and they did it all with one of the most entertaining players we’ve ever seen in Russ Smith. They played fast, they forced turnovers and they were the crowning achievement for Rick Pitino, who went from building the best team of the 1990s at Kentucky to one of the best teams of the 2010s at Louisville.

Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger and the rest of Ohio State’s 2011 team (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

9. 2011 OHIO STATE

RECORD: 34-3 (16-2 Big Ten)
WHAT THEY WON: Big Ten regular season title, Big Ten tournament title, lost in the Sweet 16
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, David Lighty, William Buford, Jon Diebler

For my money, this was the best team that Thad Matta ever had at Ohio State. I know he had the one year with Greg Oden and I know they reached the Final Four in 2012, but to be honest, this was his best. I just don’t know how you thought you were going to be able to guard them. Sullinger was a first-team All-American low-post scorer and he was surrounded with three big, long wings (Lighty, Buford, Diebler) who all shot at least 43 percent from three. Diebler shot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc while taking more than six threes per game. Craft was the guy that tied it all together.

The Buckeyes were clearly the best team in the country in 2011. They were No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings, and gap between them and the team sitting at No. 2 was the biggest of any season this decade. They just happened to get a 2-for-16 shooting performance from Buford on the wrong night, as the dropped out of the tournament in the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin after defeating Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

8. 2015 WISCONSIN

RECORD: 36-4 (16-2 Big Ten)
WHAT THEY WON: Big Ten regular season title, Big Ten tournament title, lost in the national title game
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Josh Gasser

The 2014-15 version of the Wisconsin Badgers was the consummate Bo Ryan basketball team. It was built around a 7-foot center in Frank Kaminsky that entered the program as an unknown three-star prospect that spent two seasons as a seldom-used sub before exploding into an All-American as a junior. He was paired on the front line with Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker, the former a future All-American and the latter a first round pick, to give Ryan three players that were impossible to guard because they could post-up, play on the perimeter and shoot the three.

The result was arguably the best offense that we’ve seen this decade. The Badgers posted the highest adjusted offensive efficiency in the KenPom era, and while there is a lot of noise in that number, there are two things that make me believe there is some truth to that statement: A) There are only two teams in KenPom’s database that had a higher raw points-per-possession, and B) This was posted in what was the best season of the decade. Seven teams finished the year with four or fewer losses, the only time that’s happened since the turn of the century.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

Duke won the 2015 national title, Coach K’s fifth (Lance King/Getty Images)

7. 2015 DUKE

RECORD: 35-4 (15-3 ACC)
WHAT THEY WON: National title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Quinn Cook, Grayson Allen

The interesting thing about this Duke team is that, for much of the season, they didn’t even look like the best team in the ACC. There was a point in mid-January where it looked like this thing could end up spinning off the rails. They had lost to N.C. State on the road, their first loss of the season, and they had gotten run out of Cameron Indoor Stadium by a pretty regular Miami team just two days later. They fell out of the top 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency and it looked like the idea of pairing a slow-footed center with a point guard that’s not exactly known for his physicality and toughness would come back to bite them.

Hell, they didn’t win the ACC regular season or tournament title.

But when it mattered, in the NCAA tournament, it all came together. Duke was awesome defensively throughout their run. The only team to score more than 1.0 points-per-possession against them was Wisconsin in the national title game, who had 63 points on 60 possessions. The Blue Devils ended up sweeping the Badgers – they had won by 10 in Madison in December – en route to Coach K’s second title of the decade.

North Carolina in 2012 before Kendall Marshall got hurt (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

6. 2012 NORTH CAROLINA

RECORD: 32-6 (14-2 ACC)
WHAT THEY WON: ACC regular season title, lost in the Elite Eight
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Reggie Bullock, James Michael-McAdoo, P.J. Hairston

From a neutral’s perspective, I don’t think that there was a more disappointing injury to take place during this decade than when Kendall Marshall fractured a bone in his wrist during the second round of the NCAA tournament against Creighton.

The Tar Heels were absolutely loaded. Every member of their starting lineup ended up being a first round pick, with four of the five getting selected in the top 17 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft. They had played Kentucky to a stalemate in Rupp Arena that December, losing when Anthony Davis blocked a John Henson shot at the buzzer to seal a one-point win. Kentucky was considered far and away the favorite to win the national title that season, but North Carolina was right there with them and on the opposite side of the bracket.

Everyone wanted the rematch.

And thanks to one, single scaphoid fracture, that never happened.

That should not change how we view the 2012 North Carolina team. They were, as you can see, absolutely loaded.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

Kentucky had a lot of talent in 2010 (Mark Cornelison/Getty Images)

5. 2010 KENTUCKY

RECORD: 35-3 (14-2 SEC)
WHAT THEY WON: SEC regular season title, SEC tournament title, lost in the Elite Eight
WHO WERE THE STARS?: John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller

John Calipari’s first season with the Wildcats really set the tone for what we would get from him during his tenure.

For starters, Cal brought in an absolutely electric recruiting class, headlined by John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, arguably the two best recruits that season. Throw in Eric Bledsoe and add a sprinkle of the veteran presence that came from Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller, and suddenly Cal had a roster that included five NBA players – including two top five picks and four lottery picks in total. That team would go on to win both SEC titles before falling short of the Final Four when they went 4-for-32 from three in the Elite Eight against West Virginia.

That’s not the last time we’ve see a Coach Cal team loaded with talent lose because they couldn’t shoot it all that well.

But what made that season truly notable came during the draft. Five Kentucky players were selected in the first round, and Cal said that it was the greatest moment in the history of the program, something that rankled the feathers of Kentucky’s old guard. But it was also a prescient statement on the future of the program he wanted to build: He was going to turn Kentucky into the prime spot where you go to do your eight months before jumping to the NBA. Getting someone like Daniel Orton picked in the first round despite averaging three points was evidence that you didn’t need to thrive at Kentucky to make it to the next level. You just needed to be there.

And in the decade since, he’s had as much success as any coach in the country, even if there is only one title to show for it.

Virginia after their 2019 redemption (Matt Marriott/Getty Images)

4. 2019 VIRGINIA

RECORD: 35-3 (16-2 ACC)
WHAT THEY WON: ACC regular season title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Mamadi Diakite, Kihei Clark

We all know about just how good Virginia is on the defensive side of the ball, and this roster was no different. Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite were both plus-defenders, among the best that you are going to find in college basketball at their position. There’s an argument to be made that De’Andre Hunter is the best defensive player that we saw in college basketball this decade. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.

But what set this version of the Cavaliers apart was just how efficient and lethal they were offensively. Kyle Guy was an NBA draft pick because of how well he can shoot. Ty Jerome was a first round draft pick because of his ability to operate in ball-screens. And Hunter was simply bigger and more athletic than anyone that tried to defend him.

When you give a Tony Bennett team three NBA players who excel on the offensive end of the floor, you are going to be very, very difficult to beat.

John Calipari’s only national title came in 2012 (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

3. 2012 KENTUCKY

RECORD: 38-2 (16-0 SEC)
WHAT THEY WON: SEC regular season title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, Darius Miller

We always hear about just how close the 2015 Kentucky team came to going undefeated on the season. We don’t hear all that much about how close this Kentucky team, the first team to win 38 Division I basketball games in a single season, came to finishing out the year unblemished. If it wasn’t for a buzzer-beating Christian Watford three at Indiana and an SEC title game loss to a Vanderbilt team that had three pros, we might remember this group differently.

As it stands, Kentucky had the consensus National Player of the Year, Anthony Davis, surrounded by a perfect compliment of young talent (Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist) and wily veterans (Lamb, Jones, Miller). They finished the season as one of the nation’s elite offenses, and defensively, Davis took them to another level. Fun fact: Kentucky finished the 2012 season with the highest block rate of the decade. The only teams in the KenPom era that bettered them were a couple of the UConn teams in the mid-00s.

This group also changed college basketball in a pretty significant way. This proved that national titles could be won with rosters built around the best freshmen in the sport. The one-and-done era was already in full swing, but this win turned each and every recruiting class into an arms race. Arizona jumped in the mix. Kansas jumped in the mix. Even schools like LSU, or Missouri, or Cal tried to replicate what Kentucky did in 2012.

I think there’s an argument to be made that this team was the most influential team of the decade.

Kentucky was two games away from 40-0 in 2015 (Mark Cornelison/Getty Images)

2. 2015 KENTUCKY

RECORD: 38-1 (18-0 SEC)
WHAT THEY WON: SEC regular season title, SEC tournament title, lost in the Final Four
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Tyler Ulis

I think there’s a very strong case to make that this Kentucky team is the best team in college basketball history that didn’t win the national title. There was so much talent on the roster that, if you remember, Coach Cal had to talk about ‘platoons’ as much as possible to try and keep everyone happy. They legitimately went 10 deep. Devin Booker, who is one of the top five young scorers in the NBA, came off the bench. That is an embarrassment of riches for one roster.

And what made this team so good is that they were unquestionably the best team in the country on the defensive side of the ball that season. The only two teams that have posted better adjusted defensive efficiency numbers in KenPom’s database were Texas Tech in 2019 and Louisville in 2013. When you have a team with that much game-changing talent – remember what Karl-Anthony Towns did to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight? – that is willing to sacrifice minutes, accept roles and defend the way they defended, it’s the Coach Cal masterpiece.

It’s unfortunate that they didn’t win the title.

Because if any team deserved a 40-0 record, it was this group.

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The best of the decade (Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

1. 2018 VILLANOVA

RECORD: 36-4 (14-4 Big East)
WHAT THEY WON: Big East tournament title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth

This team was Jay Wright’s Mona Lisa. They were old, they were positionless, they shot a ton of threes and they were loaded with soon-to-be NBA players.

Let’s start with the basketball side first. This team finished as the second-best offense in the KenPom era, according to his adjusted offensive efficiency metric, but no one since 2002 has posted a higher raw points-per-possession than this Villanova team. They shot better than 40 percent from three while firing up nearly half of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. What made them so difficult to defend was that their point guard, Jalen Brunson, the National Player of the Year, was a lethal post scorer while Omari Spellman, their center, shot 43.3 percent from three and averaged two blocks per game. Throw in myriad versatile, sharp-shooting wings that would go on to play in the NBA, and there was just no way to stop this group. They only lost two games at full strength all season long – at Butler when Butler shot 15-for-22 from three, and at Creighton in overtime when Creighton shot 12-for-29 from three.

But the other side of it is that this roster was quintessential Jay Wright. Brunson was a McDonald’s All-American, but he needed three years in college because the NBA doesn’t recognize talent when it doesn’t come in freak physical packages. Bridges was a redshirt junior because he needed to add weight in college and accepted playing behind Josh Hart as a sophomore. Paschall was a redshirt junior after transferring into the program from Fordham. Booth (redshirt junior), DiVincenzo (redshirt sophomore) and Spellman (redshirt freshman) all missed a season due to injury or, in Spellman’s case, academics.

Booth is the only one of those five that hasn’t found success in the NBA, and I think he’ll get there eventually.

When you combine next-level talent and elite shooting on an unselfish, old roster, this is what happens.

You get the Team Of The Decade.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

College Basketball’s All-Decade Team

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More college basketball all-decade team content here.

The 2010s are coming to an end, which should make you feel incredibly old.

We’ve now gone a full decade with John Calipari in charge of the Kentucky Wildcats. We’re more than a decade removed from the existence of Psycho T on a college basketball campus. In the last ten years, we’ve seen Kentucky and Duke win titles by playing as young as possible, Virginia win by playing as slow as possible, Villanova win by shooting as many threes as possible and UConn win a pair of titles by hoping a star point guard can carry them through a six-game tournament.

We’ve experienced Jimmermania. We survived Zion Williamson’s Shoegate. We watch Louisville win a national title and then had the NCAA erase it from our collective memory because an assistant coach like to turn dorm rooms into the Champagne Room.

It’s been a wild ride.

And over the course of the next two weeks, we will be taking a look back at some of the best parts of the decade.

Today, we are taking a look at the best college basketball all-decade players.


Doug McDermott (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The criteria for picking the all-decade teams was kind of tricky with the one-and-done rule in effect.

On the one hand, some of the very best players that we have ever seen in the collegiate ranks spent all of six months playing college basketball. How do we weigh that against guys that had sensational three or four year careers without ever reaching the heights that some of those one-and-dones reached.

It was difficult to balance, and after spending too many hours thinking about it, I’ve come to the decision that there is no right answer.

And that that is OK.

So without further ado, here is college basketball’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.

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ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Doug McDermott, Creighton

McDermott’s path to becoming one of the greatest college basketball players of a generation, not just the decade, was not typical.

He played his high school ball in Ames, Iowa, where he was completely overshadowed by his teammates, Harrison Barnes. His father, Greg, was the head coach at Iowa State at the time, but Doug committed to play for his dad’s old school, Northern Iowa. He eventually left Iowa State and took the head coaching gig at Creighton. Ben Jacobson let McDermott out of his letter of intent so that he can play for his pops at a league rival, and that turned out to be a costly decision.

Doug played in the Missouri Valley for three season. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 boards as a freshman, seeing that number jump to 22.9 points and 8.2 boards as a sophomore and 23.2 points and 7.7 boards as a junior. As a senior, when the Bluejays made the jump to the Big East, he led the nation by averaging 26.7 points.

He left Creighton as the fifth-best scorer in Division I history, amassing 3,150 points; he’s since been surpassed by Chris Clemons from Campbell. He was the first player in 29 years to be named a first-team AP All-American for three consecutive seasons. He is one of just three players in the history of men’s basketball to record 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, and he owns an NCAA record by scoring in double figures in 135 games. He only played in 145 games for the Bluejays.

Not bad for a kid that was the second-best player on a public high school team in Ames.

Jalen Brunson (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova

If things had gone the way that the Brunson family had wanted them to go, Jalen never would have ended up at Villanova. He would have played for their city rival, Temple. That’s where his father, Rick, played, and where he was going to get a job as an assistant before a legal issue ended that dream.

So Jalen went to Villanova, where he would become a starter that averaged 9.6 points and 2.5 assists, an integral piece of a team that won the 2016 national title. He was a first-team all-Big East player as a sophomore, but it was his junior season that is the real reason he is a first-team All-Decade player. Brunson would average 18.9 points and 4.6 assists, putting together one of the most efficient seasons in college basketball history en route to a National Player of the Year award and a second national title in three seasons for the team we named as the best in college basketball this decade.

In three seasons with Villanova, Brunson went 103-13 with a 45-9 record in the Big East. He won two Big East regular season title, two Big East tournament titles and two national titles. That’s decent.

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Kemba Walker (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

KEMBA WALKER, UConn

“Cardiac Kemba does it again!”

That is the line that I will always remember about Kemba Walker’s 2010-11 season, which is wild when you really do think about it.

Because that line was delivered by Dave Pasch in the quarterfinal of the Big East tournament. Granted, the line was justified. Kemba had just dropped Pitt’s Gary McGhee to give UConn, the No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament, their third win in three days over the league’s regular season champs. He would go on to lead UConn to eight more wins in a row, taking home not only the Big East tournament title but the national title as well.

Which leads me to one of the most incredible information nuggets that I’ve come across in my years as a college basketball writer: After averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 boards and 4.5 assists for a team that became the first to win a major conference tournament title by winning five games in five days before leading that same team to a national title as a No. 3 seed, Walker did not win any Player of the Year awards.

There are six major college basketball Player of the Year awards, mind you. And not a single one of them determine that Kemba was the best college basketball player that season.

In hindsight, I think that was a miss.

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Zion Williamson (Lance King/Getty Images)

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Zion makes this list despite playing just 33 games in his college career thanks to Duke’s Elite Eight exit and a knee injury that stemmed from a shoe that exploded in the middle of a game against North Carolina. No one on any of these teams will have played fewer games.

But I didn’t think I could justify have the best player that I have ever seen in the college ranks not on the list. He finished the year averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 boards, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks. No one has done that since at least 1992-93, which is as far back as basketball reference’s database goes, and he was a freshman playing in the ACC. He holds the record for the highest PER in college basketball since 2009-10, which is as far back as that data goes.

We’ll never see anything like Zion Williamson ever again, so I have no problem making an exception to get him on this list.

Anthony Davis (Robert Willett/Getty Images)

ANTHONY DAVIS, Kentucky

I love the Anthony Davis story because I love the trajectory of his career.

When he was a sophomore in high school he was a goofy, 6-foot-2 guard that wore rec specs and was completely inconsequential. When he was a junior he grew to 6-foot-6 and got an offer from Cleveland State, but he was only part way through his growth spurt, as he eventually sprouted to 6-foot-11 without losing any of those guard skills while adding a 7-foot-5 wingspan, making him just an absolutely perfect player for modern basketball.

Suddenly, the dude that looked like this when he was a sophomore is the No. 1 recruit in the country and putting up 14.2 points, 10.4 boards and 4.7 blocks to lead Kentucky to their first national title since 1998 before becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft and, eventually, LeBron’s running buddy in LA.

But that’s jumping ahead.

Because in college, Davis was an absolute game-changer to the point that everyone that saw the Wildcats play immediately knew who their best player was despite the fact that he took the fourth-most shots on the team.