College basketball rankings 2024: Where last 10 national champs were ranked in late January

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament- Championship
NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament- Championship / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

March Madness has cleared the horizon line in the 2023-24 college basketball season and it's certainly time in the heart of conference play to start asking a simple question: Which teams have a real chance to make the Final Four and cut down the nets as national champions?

The truth of the matter is that college basketball and the 68-team tournament format of March Madness gives almost any team that makes it into the dance a chance of winning a title. This isn't as simple as the No. 1 team in the college basketball rankings (or even a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament) and know that they're going to win it all. In fact, that's rarely been the case.

Looking at the last full week of January and the AP Top 25 college basketball rankings, only one of the past 10 national champions was ranked No. 1 in that week's poll, the 2017-18 Villanova Wildcats. Perhaps just as interestingly, three of those title-winners have ranked outside the Top 5 in that week's Top 25 rankings.

So where were the last 10 champions in the college basketball rankings for the last full week of January? Let's take a look (h/t College Basketball Report), but also at which teams are current ranked in that slot as of this week in the 2023-24 season.

College basketball rankings 2024: Where the last 10 national champions were ranked at this point of the season


National Champion

Team's Ranking in late January

Current Team in that spot of 2024 rankings


UConn Huskies


Memphis Tigers


Kansas Jayhawks


Tennessee Volunteers


Baylor Bears


Purdue Boilermakers


Virginia Cavaliers


North Carolina Tar Heels


Villanova Wildcats


UConn Huskies


North Carolina Tar Heels


Arizona Wildcats


Villanova Wildcats


Kentucky Wildcats


Duke Blue Devils


Houston Cougars


UConn Huskies

Also Receiving Votes

San Diego State Aztecs


Louisville Cardinals


Tennessee Volunteers

Just for posterity, we're including San Diego State as this year's proxy for the 2013-14 UConn team as they received the second-most votes of teams not to crack the Top 25 a decade ago, which is where the Aztecs fell in the latest AP Top 25 this season.

Beyond that, though, many of the correlated teams for the 2023-24 season check boxes for title contenders. Yes, teams like UConn, Purdue, North Carolina and even Houston make sense, but there are big fans of Tennessee, who is lurking at No. 5. Even deeper in the rankings, it's not hard to imagine teams like Kentucky and Arizona getting hot and going on a run -- though that's a bit more difficult to consider for the likes of Memphis and SDSU.

In any case, the March Madness field is starting to take a clearer shape and the national championship is still up for grabs. Based on history, though, we're getting a clearer picture at which teams have a viable chance of cutting down the nets.

Next. 30 forgotten college basketball stars who flamed out in the NBA. 30 forgotten college basketball stars who flamed out in the NBA. dark