NCAA basketball: Ranking every national champion this century: Is Baylor the best?

D. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
D. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /
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College Basketball
UConn Huskies (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Baylor Bears won their first men’s college basketball national championship ever in 2021 but where do they fit among all NCAA basketball champs this century?

Coming into the 2021 men’s NCAA basketball National Championship Game, the talk of March Madness was the potential for history to be made. The Gonzaga Bulldogs entered the game with a perfect record and as the favorites to cut down the nets, looking to become the first undefeated team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers to win it all. The Baylor Bears, however, had other plans.

After their dominant win to end the Zags’ bid at perfection, the Bears won their first men’s title in the history of the program. And you could make the argument that Scott Drew’s team could very much be considered historically great in their own right, even if they didn’t complete a perfect season to win the title.

The best way to figure out their place in history, though, is to look at the history — at least recently so. Thus, we’re going to be looking at every men’s college basketball national champion this century — 21 title-winners from 2000 until now after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 — and rank them. We start with an exciting team that went on a magical run.

21. UConn Huskies, 2014

Final Record: 32-8 | Def. Kentucky 60-54

When you think about Connecticut Huskies players going on a run through March Madness and helping the program capture a title, Kemba Walker is obviously the first name that comes to mind. But just three years after that magical run, Shabazz Napier helped Kevin Ollie’s team go on an eerily similar run through the end of the regular season and through the NCAA Tournament.

After a relatively pedestrian first half of the season, the Huskies surged late in the year to win seven of their final nine regular-season games and making it deep into the AAC Tournament, good enough to earn a No. 7 seed. UConn’s run was nearly over before it began as they needed overtime in the First Round to beat St. Joe’s but it was off to the races from there.

Napier went absolutely ballistic in the tournament at large, averaging 21.2 points, 4.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Moreover, the Huskies toppled the top overall seed, Florida, in their first Final Four Game before taking down a true blue blood in Kentucky to capture their second title in four years.

Despite how memorable Napier’s run to the title was for Ollie’s team, though, it’s hard to escape that this team was still a No. 7 seed for a reason. They are the poster children for getting hot at the right time and, while their trophy case doesn’t care how it happened, they are the obvious choice for the bottom of these rankings.