March Madness culminates with a national champion each year, so which team stands above them all this century?
March Madness is a period of entertainment, celebration, and heartbreak, which encapsulates college basketball fans in the third month of each year. Stories are told that live for generations of fans. Some of it is just one shining moment.
At the end of the road, one team stands tall. In the 2000s, though, a handful of the same teams walked out victoriously with the National Championship — the bluebloods of the sport.
Since 2000, 19 national champions have celebrated the ultimate success in college basketball. Each has its own history, but they also line up differently based on talent level and respective runs through the tournament.
So which of the past 19 teams holds up as the best of them all? Let’s take a look:
19. UConn (2014)
Three years after a historic run to the National Championship, Kevin Ollie took a team with remnants of Jim Calhoun’s squad and turned them into an unlikely national champion, again. They were 32-8, but the seventh seed in the tournament.
That UConn team, without star players, was not supposed to have a title run. While a fine player in school, Shabazz Napier held the starring role. DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright were the second and third options in line. Given what fans see from current title contenders, that seems minuscule in talent compared to the loaded Duke and Villanova teams winning it all.
Maybe it lines up, however, since the Huskies were, again, the seventh seed. This was hardly the most talented team in a field of quality Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and UCLA teams, but they defeated the No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State and No. 4 Michigan State in consecutive games. The Gators were a No. 1 seed, and they went down to Napier and company.
The Kentucky team, which was an eighth seed, that went down in the title game, was not short on talent, either. Willy Cauley-Stein, the Harrison brothers, Julius Randle, James Young and Alex Poythress made up a stellar group that underwhelmed in the regular season.
This UConn team took all of them down, surprisingly. They were not favorites to win it all and made another remarkable run; not quite like Kemba Walker in 2011, and this team won’t rank among the greatest to ever make March Madness their own, but their unlikely accomplishment is still something to embrace.