By: Ross Bentley
March is right around the corner and soon, a new champion will emerge in the college basketball world. For UConn, it might not be quite as magical a March as it was last year, when the seventh-seeded Huskies shocked the world by making it through the bracket and winning their fourth national championship.
But how does that 2014 team rank, among all of the great teams to have won the national championship in the last 35 years? What about the 1999, 2001, and 2011 championship teams?
We at SportzEdge wanted to take it a step further, beyond just the great UConn teams. We want to know: Which is the greatest championship team assembled in college basketball since 1979?
For the answer we turn to you, the SportzEdge readers. All 35 teams to have won a title will be entered into a tournament, single elimination, to determine which team is the greatest.
Below is an index of the matchups. New ones will be added each day.
And here’s a little bit about our process.
Why only since 1979?
Good question, there are a few reasons. First, 1979 was the first year seeding was implemented in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a good a bench mark as any for a cut off point.
If we wanted, we could have included teams all the way back into the 1930s, but the game has progressed so much since then, it is comparing apples to oranges to go too far back in time.
Furthermore, into the 1950s, it was tough to even determine which team was the true national champion. Before the NCAA took a stranglehold on making sure the best teams entered into the NCAA Tournament, the NIT was viewed as a title of equal, if not greater importance.
In the early days of big-time college basketball, many teams would choose to play in the NIT over the NCAA, creating two champions who both could lay claim to being the best in the country.
Another reason was that before 1975, the NCAA Tournament only allowed conference champions to go to the NCAA Tournament. While it was a good idea in principle, the rule ended up excluding a number of teams who could have made runs to the championship, who just so happened to finish 2nd or 3rd in their leagues during the regular season.
Finally, 1979 was the year that college basketball really became a phenomenon in the USA. Magic Johnson and his Michigan State Spartans took on Larry Bird and his Indiana State Sycamores in a rivalry between two of college basketball’s (and later the NBA’s) greatest players. There were plenty of great teams to come along prior to 1979 (including about half a dozen UCLA teams, and the unbeaten 1976 Indiana Hoosiers) but we needed to cut off the tournament at some point, in which you, our readers would still have a good historical context of the players and teams involved, and ’79 made the most sense.
How does the seeding work?
To seed, we used only the facts to sort the teams. It started with seed in the tournament when they won the title. This was our way of rewarding a teams regular season as well as their championship run. The teams who were #1 seeds and went on to win the championship were given the highest seeds with #2 seeds coming next and so on and so forth. The tiebreaker between teams with the same seed was total number of losses. Wins couldn’t really be taken into account, since as the years have gone on, teams have played more games. That fact slightly benefited the older teams, but there were plenty of recent champs who earned high seeds. The third tie-breaker was something simple: margin of victory in the NCAA Championship game.
From there, the lowest seeded teams were entered into play-in games, and the rest of the bracket was randomly sorted and selected.
Was it a perfect formula? Of course not. But it’s important to remember the seeds don’t matter except to determine who plays who. Think a team is seeded too low? Don’t blame us, blame the math. The important thing is that all 35 champions have an equal shot of breaking through and being declared the winner.
So there you have it. Coming up soon we will have the “first four,” play-in games between the eight lowest seeded teams. It’s up to you to vote who goes through to the next round.