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Ranking College Basketball's National Champions Since 1985

Villanova Basketball Celebrates March Madness Championship

Villanova Basketball Celebrates March Madness Championship

With its 79-62 win over Michigan to cap the 2017-18 college basketball season, Villanova claimed its second national championship in three campaigns, and the program's third title since 1985.

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That 1985 Villanova championship marks an important moment in college basketball history, as it ushered in the era of March Madness. Before 1985, the NCAA Tournament was just 48 teams — that's 16 fewer than the field was expanded to, and 20 less than the selection committee invites today.

The current format of the NCAA Tournament has truly given March its Madness. And in the past 34 seasons of college basketball's modern era, championships of all kinds have emerged from the field to lift the hardware. From dominant powerhouse to underdogs, the NCAA Tournament provides teams championship opportunities that are unparalleled anywhere in sports.

1. 1992 Duke

Record: 34-2, 14-2 ACC

Championship Game: Beat Michigan, 71-51

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Repeat championships in college basketball are rare, particularly in the modern era. Since the legendary John Wooden's retirement more than 40 years ago, marking the end of the UCLA dynasty, there have been just two repeat champions. The first was Krzyzewski's 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils.

Coming off its unforgettable upset of UNLV en route to the 1991 national championship, Duke returned virtually every key piece for an encore. Bobby Hurley solidified his place among college basketball's all-time great point guards that season, while Christian Laettner (above, right) gained a reputation as one of the sport's most prominent heels.

2. 1996 Kentucky

Record: 34-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship Game: Beat Syracuse, 76-67

Head Coach: Rick Pitino

Arguably the best team in Kentucky's illustrious history, the 1995-96 Wildcats blasted opponents by an average of 22 points per game. The bevy of talent on Pitino's roster included Antoine Walker and Tony Delk, both of whom went on to lengthy NBA careers, as well as Nazr Mohammed and Ron Mercer in complementary roles.

In an interesting, coincidental twist, Kentucky's road to the championship included a semifinal win over current Wildcats coach John Calipari's UMass squad.

3. 2001 Duke

Record: 35-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship Game: Beat Arizona, 82-72

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Krzyzewski hitting big on the recruiting trail isn't exactly breaking news, but the collection of talent he had come through Cameron Indoor Stadium in the late 1990s into the early 2000s was otherworldly. Consider the 2000-01 championship team, which featured future well-tenured NBA players Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer. Duke also had NBA lottery pick Jay Williams running the point for a team that beat excellent Maryland and Arizona squads in the Final Four. 

4. 2012 Kentucky

Record: 38-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship Game: Beat Kansas, 67-59

Head Coach: John Calipari

Calipari accomplished a rare feat in 2011 when his Kentucky squad reached the Final Four. However, his first career championship evaded him. It wasn't until the 2011-12 season that Calipari finally joined that most exclusive of coaching clubs with a national championship.

Marcus Camby was excellent for Calipari at UMass, and Derrick Rose was outstanding in Memphis' near-miss to end the 2008 Final Four, but no Calipari-coached team ever had a superstar take over in the Tournament quite like Anthony Davis in '12. 

5. 1990 UNLV

Record: 35-5, 16-2 Big West

Championship Game: Beat Duke, 103-73

Head Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

Las Vegas offered no more exciting show than the Runnin' Rebels back in the 1980s and early '90s. The 1990-91 team nearly ran the table in what would have been the most dominant performance by any basketball team since the height of the Wooden dynasty at UCLA. That team would also have been a surefire No. 1.

As it stands, the 1989-90 squad — featuring an incredible starting five of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Butler, Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony — was still one of the best in the modern era. The Runnin' Rebels blasted their competition through the NCAA Tournament, including a pair of blowouts in the Final Four and a record-setting offensive outpouring against Loyola Marymount in the Elite Eight.

6. 1999 UConn

Record: 34-2, 16-2 Big East

Championship Game: Defeated Duke, 77-74

Head Coach: Jim Calhoun

Connecticut basketball claims four national championships, all won since 1999. The first started a trend of sorts for future Huskies titles, with stellar guard play setting the tone through the Tournament.

Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin powered Connecticut on a run that culminated with a huge upset against a loaded Duke team.

7. 1995 UCLA

Record: 31-2, 16-2 Pac-10

Championship Game: Beat Arkansas, 89-78

Head Coach: Jim Harrick

The most decorated program in college basketball history won its last championship (and only with a coach other than John Wooden at the helm) in 1995. Ed O'Bannon earned National Player of the Year in an outstanding senior campaign, but the depth of the 1994-95 shined through in the Tournament.

The Bruins' two most memorable moments from that title run are Tyus Edney's coast-to-coast lay-in to beat Missouri in the Round of 32, and Toby Bailey's dunking exhibition in the national championship game.

8. 2018 Villanova

Record: 36-4, 14-4 Big East

Championship Game: Beat Michigan, 79-62

Head Coach: Jay Wright

No dramatic finish necessary for Villanova's second national championship in three seasons: The Wildcats completed an impressive run to the 2018 crown with an emphatic defeat of Michigan. Villanova's championship capped an NCAA Tournament marked by historic upsets — ironically enough, considering it was arguably the best team in the nation throughout the season.

The 2018 Wildcats blended the discipline and physicality typical of a Wright-coached team with perhaps the most talented roster in program history. Jalen Brunson won National Player of the Year; Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges added NBA-caliber game; Eric Paschall brought an intimidating, interior force; and Donte DiVicenzo provided spark off the bench.

9. 2005 North Carolina

Record: 33-4, 14-2 ACC

Championship Game: Beat Illinois, 75-70

Head Coach: Roy Williams

It seems odd in 2018, but not long ago Williams was in an unfortunate club of great coaches who never won national championships. That dubious distinction ended with a win over a loaded Illinois bunch in the 2005 national title game. 

The 2004-05 Tar Heels were balanced, with Tournament Most Outstanding Player and old-school paint presence Sean May; explosive youngster Marvin Williams; and the savvy point-guard play of Raymond Felton. May later came back to contribute to another North Carolina championship as an assistant coach.

10. 2009 North Carolina

Record: 34-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship Game: Beat Michigan State, 89-72

Head Coach: Roy Williams

North Carolina's second national championship team under Williams bore uncanny similarities to the first. Both had outstanding point guards running the show, with Ty Lawson taking honors in 2009. Forward Tyler Hansbrough capped a four-year Tar Heels career in style, averaging 21 points per game.

11. 2007 Florida

Record: 35-5, 13-3 SEC

Championship Game: Beat Ohio State, 84-75

Head Coach: Billy Donovan

Consider Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer — the core of Florida's 2006 national championship team — announcing their return to Gainesville the college basketball equivalent of Babe Ruth calling his home-run shot.

Florida was a clear favorite to win the 2007 national title, but precedent points to the difficulty of completing a repeat. The Gators bucked the trend with unselfish offensive play and tenacious defense.

12. 2008 Kansas

Record: 37-3, 13-3 Big 12

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Championship Game: Beat Memphis, 75-68 (OT)

Head Coach: Bill Self

Twenty years after Danny Manning led an underdog Kansas team to a surprise national championship, Mario Chalmers (right) sank a late 3-pointer to force overtime and give the Jayhawks another perhaps surprising title.

Kansas winning in 2008 wasn't exactly a shock, mind you: The Jayhawks were one of four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, and featured a lineup that included Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush and Darnell Jackson. Of the four Final Four teams, however, Self's was the least star-studded.

13. 1994 Arkansas

Record: 31-3, 14-2 SEC

Championship Game: Beat Duke, 76-72

Head Coach: Nolan Richardson

With its aggressive press defense and run-and-gun offense, Arkansas ranked among the best programs in college basketball during the first half of the 1990s. The Razorbacks' finest moment in the 40 Minutes of Hell era came in 1994 when "Big Nasty" Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman led the Hogs to a national championship. The latter's deep 3-pointer in the national title game, with Arkansas' own President Bill Clinton watching, is one of the Final Four's enduring moments.