Posted September 26, 2013

Ranking college basketball’s best current programs: 6-10

Best Programs
Coach Tom Crean has some work to do before the Hoosiers are truly back in contention. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Coach Tom Crean has some work to do before the Hoosiers are truly back in contention. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

There are a lot of different things that go into making a modern-day program into one of the nation’s best. How you choose to prioritize those things will lead to significant debate over the overall ranking of programs as they sit today. If you want to be the best of the best, you have to have it all working for you: Great tradition, great coach, great fans, top-level success, national recruiting … the works.

On Monday, we listed the programs that just missed the cut. On Tuesday, it was the programs ranked 16 through 20. Wednesday saw the programs ranked 11 through 15.

Now today, it’s Nos. 6 through 10, where the differences between the programs get smaller and smaller, and the basketball culture gets stronger and stronger:

No. 10 Arizona

Pluses: Long history of success, excellent coach, national recruiting ability, recent success, bright future on tap
Minuses: Arena lags behind that of elite programs, no “local” recruiting base requires diligent regional and national success

I debated the Cats vs. Florida for a long while, ultimately deciding that Arizona’s absolute top end is better than Florida’s because of extended history, fan support and being the “biggest” program in its conference. Sean Miller is getting things rolling now in the desert, with national recruiting success combining with more and more success on the floor. The Cats will be a top-5 caliber team again this season, and are favored to win what should be a really tough Pac-12. They have a long history of generating good pros, and are the absolute only thing in a million-person urban center. Tucson’s not for everyone, but it’s one of the best college hoops markets.

No. 9 Indiana

Pluses: Great history, tradition and fan support, coach in place that can recruit locally and nationally is having success on the court to underscore that
Minuses: While IU lagged, other programs strengthened around them, making a return to the absolute top more difficult

There certainly aren’t eight programs with fans and states that care more about them than Indiana, which makes the Hoosiers’ extended dip in performance so disappointing. Tom Crean has things headed strongly back in the right direction, although the program has some work to do to become reestablished an annual force in the top 10. Michigan State and Ohio State, for starters, have passed them for now in the Big Ten (and Wisconsin obviously has been strong, too), and then Kentucky and Louisville and even Butler’s surge have had an impact on the program. Last season ended in NCAA Sweet 16 disappointment, but cashing in the Oladipo/Zeller core to reach No. 1 in the nation was hugely important. It was a statement of intent on the court and shows what Indiana can be when it has the talent. Now Crean has to keep getting the talent, and that will be easier with recent established success.

No. 8 Syracuse

Pluses: Great tradition and history of success, elite fan support and revenue power, excellent coach
Minuses: Boeheim retirement risk

What’s a move to the mega-ACC when you’ve had the run of success Syracuse has had in the formerly mega-Big East? No. 1 practically every season in attendance with a market all to itself, the Orange are in great position to make an immediate impact in their new league and establish themselves as an elite in that conference going forward. Jim Boeheim won’t be there forever, and while Mike Hopkins is widely regarded as an excellent successor-in-waiting, you’re never 100 percent certain how a transition from a legend will go. Syracuse has set things up as nicely as possible, though, to maintain their level during the transition, whenever it occurs. Last season’s Final Four appearance is helping soften Cuse’s rep for Sweet 16 bustouts under Boeheim, and the Orange have a very legit chance to get to Dallas this spring and make it back-to-back.

No. 7 Ohio State

Pluses: Great coach and staff, established as a national recruiting player, tremendous on-court success
Minuses: Nitpicking: Still a football school?

The vast majority of college hoops fans probably don’t realize how good Ohio State has been under Thad Matta, in part because of a couple of untimely NCAA tournament losses, including to Wichita State in last season’s Elite Eight. Ohio State has been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed six times since 2006. The Buckeyes have made four straight Sweet 16s, including two Elite Eights and a Final Four. They recruit at a very strong level and don’t have very many dips, however modest, on the floor, even with significant personnel turnover due to early departures. In a league where Michigan State and Indiana are considered the marquee brands, Ohio State has been outperforming them. Thad Matta is well established and there are very few gigs that would be able to extract him, so the future looks very solid, as well.

No. 6 Louisville

Pluses: Great coach, fan base, tradition, arena. Huge budget. Defending national champs, recruiting pipeline is improving
Minuses: Presence of Cal/Kentucky in state, impact of move to ACC is undetermined

This was a really tough decision against the teams that ended up fourth and fifth. The defending national champs have a chance to repeat as Rick Pitino has reestablished the program to its peak level. The Cardinals may also have landed Pitino at the right time in his career. You never say never with him, but it looks like he could remain settled in Louisville for the duration. They have a great pro-style arena (and an absurd financial deal with the city on top of it) and are having more impact nationally for the top recruits. It will help if Montrezl Harrell (or someone) has a big season and gets strong NBA draft love. When the other program in the state is minting 1st-round draft picks, there’s some room for improvement here in terms of impression on elite prospects. After a year rolling over the American Athletic, Louisville will join Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse to give the ACC an unmatched top four. Should be fun.

Tomorrow, we unveil the top five current programs. How would you rank Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State?

23 comments
Steve555
Steve555

2 elite eight appearances, 2 final fours, 1 national championship all within last 10 years. Zero NCAA infractions, multiple years with highest average GPA in Big East athletics. More wins than any other team in their tenure of what was arguably best conference in history of college basketball. Oh and makes more $$ than anybody. And you have Louisville 6th for your "last 10 year rankings"??? Louisville should arguably be at the top

Fair Enough
Fair Enough

Could someone please explain to me why it matters that Cow, I mean Cal, is in the same state in regards to Louisville?  Does it matter to UK that Louisville and Pitino are in state?  Get off the Cow's crotch long enough to see reality.  

 This reality is UL doesn't need to be a farm team for the NBA to beat teams.  They are simply kids playing their heart out vs players who got the old $100 handshake and are there "taking classes" for 8 months.  Teams > one and done players every day.

Yieldman
Yieldman

Count me among those that think Ohio St. and Michigan St. are over ranked here. Yes, Tom Izzo is a very good coach, whose teams generally overachieve (the exact opposite could be said about Thad Matta, btw) - but all the teams in the top 10 have good coaches, and I'm not ready to set Izzo so far above Coach K., Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, etc. that this overrides actual performance. Championships mean something.

Mike1987
Mike1987

 Izzo fell short of obtaining his 2nd national championship on April 6, 2009, losing to North Carolina 89–72. His streak of three straight Final Four appearances from 1999 to 2001 is the third-longest of all time, and his six Final Four appearances in the years 1999–2010 were matched by no other team in college basketball. During the summer of 2010, Izzo was approached by the Cleveland Cavaliers on becoming their next head coach. With the possibility of potentially being able to coach LeBron James, Izzo pondered the offer for over a week. Finally, on June 15, 2010, Izzo reported to the Michigan State University's Board of Trustees that he would remain head coach of Michigan State, in which he stated he was "a Spartan for life."[10] -wikipedia 

This is Ranking the best Programs in Collage Basketball in Which MSU is a Clear top 5 Program thats consistency is matched only by Duke and Kansas 

Mike1987
Mike1987

Im sorry, but there is a reason Louisville fans think their team is so great. Its called education which they dont receive a very good one, MSU is far superior to Louisville other then winning this past NC, Louisville would not even be in the top 10 if not for their last championship... if we were to take the best teams from the last 15 years it would be#1 Duke #2 MSU #4 Kansas Florida #4 and #5 NC  

ScottDeweerd
ScottDeweerd

1. Kansas (average KenPom ranking of 5.6 over the past five years) -- Self has made Kansas a national championship favorite every single season. Now that he's starting to land elite recruits on a consistent basis, I think he really has a chance to leave a huge mark on the college basketball landscape. 

2. Duke (8.2) -- K doesn't even recruit HS players... HS players beg to play for Duke. K is arguably the greatest coach in the history of college basketball. I don't think people in this era really understand what K has going on at Duke. 

3. Michigan State (16.6) -- I'm biased here, but I think everyone agrees that Izzo is the one coach you DON'T want to see in March. The reason being this: He never has the talent on his team that the other blue-bloods have, and his teams are highly flawed at the beginning of the season; but he throws his kids into a gauntlet of a schedule every single year (top-three SOS four times in the past five years per KenPom) and has them battle-hardened and cold-blooded by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around. Izzo may not have the talent to win a National Championship year-in and year-out, but he consistently gets the very most out of his teams.

4. Kentucky (22.0) -- Kentucky is pretty hit-or-miss. It really depends on how Cal's recruits turn out. Sometimes the one-and-dones truly are NBA-caliber players who gel and go on a tear. Other times, the teams aren't cohesive and the players aren't all they're cracked up to be. I give Kentucky the nod over North Carolina here because Kentucky's incoming class is the only discernible difference between the two as of recent. 

5. North Carolina (22.0) -- Williams seems to be slacking a bit lately, but UNC will always be a brand-name that recruits can't ignore. Watch for North Carolina to land a strong recruiting class for both '14 and '15 and climb right back up this ladder. Powerhouses like UNC don't stay down for long (if you can consider being the fifth best current program being "down"). 

charlestoned
charlestoned

Michigan State over Louisville is extremely laughable. Everyone always drools over Tom Izzo. Yet he has averaged 10 losses a season for the last 8 seasons and has as many first round tourney exits as final four appearances. And since this is supposed to a "current" ranking, comparing Michigan State and Louisville over the last 3 seasons makes the gap between Louisville and Michigan State even wider. No surprise Sports Illustrated is a dying magazine with analysis like this.

WhatSayWhat
WhatSayWhat

Curious how Ohio State surpasses Syracuse on this list.  I must have missed Ohio State's recent national championship (NIT Titles don't count...).  Also, this is a college basketball list right?  Syracuse draws 30,000 plus for big games in the dome, 18,000 plus for big games in MSG, and floods NCAA tournament sites with fans.  The atmosphere at OSU games comes off as dead.  I think if you asked people in Columbus they would even tell you how little they care about basketball.  Just don't see how those even compare.

ConcernedFan
ConcernedFan

Louisville is at least equal to Kansas and ahead of Michigan State.  You obviously felt obligated to include a team from the B1G and went with the one that last won a championship from that conference.  Sure, UK, UNC and Duke are gonna be #1, #2 and #2a with Kansas at #4.  But Michigan State is a clear drop in class from there.  Louisville isn't. 

Writer'sPollsAJoke
Writer'sPollsAJoke

Arizona -- "biggest" program in its conference.  What are you smoking.  1 national championship in 1997 and that is it.  UCLA has 11 w/ the last one just 2 years before in 1995.  Damn, even Oregon has 1 championship So to be the "biggest" right now lets look at the last 10 years.  UCLA is tied with Duke with most guys in NBA and 3 straight Final Fours in 2006-2008.  Arizona hasn't been to the Final Four since 2001 and its NBA players are a joke.

jimmyjon_55555
jimmyjon_55555

@Mike1987 Uconn has been better in all areas-  and Uconn has 3 titles since 99.  MSU 1?    

jimmyjon_55555
jimmyjon_55555

@ScottDeweerd UConn is top 5- better than MSU - Kansas- and Kentucky over the last 15 years.   anyone that watches college hoops knows this-  these lists are a sham.   Uconn, Louisville and Syracuse are all ahead of MSU and Kansas.  not sure what youre watching or have been watching.

ConcernedFan
ConcernedFan

@ScottDeweerd Oh, so now you have come up with a formula that even puts Michigan State ahead of UK and Carolina?  Disingenuous, at best.  And to think "that Izzo is the ONE coach you don't want to see in March" is presumptuous and myopic.  Since you appear to know something about basketball; you should at least be able to realize that, while Izzo is tough as any coach with only a two day turn around (i.e., Elite Eight), Pitino is the master with four or five days to plan (undefeated in the Sweet Sixteen).  Coach K is the one coach you don't want to see in March.  And Michigan State is the one team on this list that hasn't won a championship in over a decade.  They stick out like a sore thumb, regardless of any statistics you might contrive.

ScottDeweerd
ScottDeweerd

@charlestoned  @charlestoned Everyone "drools" over Tom Izzo because of his ability to hang with the big-dogs despite putting less-talented players on the court. 

Since '96, when Izzo took over at Michigan State, only 3 programs have better NCAA Tournament records than MSU. Yet, MSU's average recruiting class rank over that timespan is 18th. 

As for your argument that Louisville deserves to be ranked ahead of Michigan State because MSU has averaged 10 losses per season over the past 8 years: MSU has had a top-25 schedule every season since 2006, finishing with a top-three schedule four of those years (per KenPom). Louisville has had a top-25 schedule four times in the past 8 years, and exactly *zero* top-three schedules. 

Oh, and while we're referencing KenPom, Michigan State has an average end-season rank of 18th over the past 8 years compared to Louisville's... wait for it... 19th. 

But why are we using this ambiguous and selective "8-years"? Why not 9? Why not 5? 

Louisville over the past five years: 1 National Championship, 0 Runner-Ups, 2 Final Fours, 3 Elite Eights, 3 Sweet Sixteens, 2 Conference Championships. 

Michigan State over the past five years: 1 Runner-Up, 2 Final Fours, 2 Elite Eights, 4 Sweet Sixteens, 3 Conference Championships. 

As for your ill-informed conclusion -- "Michigan State over Louisville is extremely laughable" -- it's obviously extremely close and MSU and Louisville are two of the greatest programs currently in college basketball. You're out of your mind if you think Louisville is definitively a "better current program" than Michigan State. 

ConcernedFan
ConcernedFan

@WhatSayWhat

Syracuse is obviously a better overall program than Ohio State, Louisville vs. Michigan State isn't even close.  Through the most recent season, the Big East was the greatest basketball conference ever assembled.  Yet, not a single team in the Top Five of "current" programs?  Glockner arbitrarily decided to give demerits to all the Big East powers because of that conference's demise.  How many times has a Big East team won it all since the B1G last won the NC?  And having IU and Zona ahead of UConn is a complete joke, just like your rank ranking, Glockner.

ScottDeweerd
ScottDeweerd

@ConcernedFan Could you explain how Michigan State is a "clear drop in class," while Louisville is not? 

Please don't tell me your only argument is that Louisville has recently won a National Championship. That's an extremely simple-minded way to think about "best current programs." 

AndyGlockner
AndyGlockner moderator

@Writer'sPollsAJoke In terms of current standing in the league re: talent, recruiting pull, etc. We're all well aware of UCLA's history and pro-player production.

ScottDeweerd
ScottDeweerd

@ConcernedFan Not much of a "formula"... it's just KenPom's rankings over the past five years. But feel free to try to convince me that your opinion of how teams should be ranked deserves more respect than the Pomeroy rankings. "And to think 'that Izzo is the ONE coach you don't want to see in March' is presumptuous and myopic." Presumptuous and myopic is squeezing scrutiny out of a hyperbolic statement. "And Michigan State is the one team on this list that hasn't won a championship in over a decade." Again with the faulty logic and simplistic thinking regarding national championships. Your argument has already been defeated -- change it or accept that it's weak. "They stick out like a sore thumb, regardless of any statistics you might contrive." In other words: 'I refuse to accept that Michigan State is one of the five best current programs and I'm not willing to look at the available information objectively.' 

ConcernedFan
ConcernedFan

@ScottDeweerd

@ConcernedFan

@ScottDeweerd @ConcernedFan How's this argument: Michigan State hasn't recently won a National Championship.  In fact, no team from their conference has won a Championship in well over a decade.  Kansas and Louisville have the same number of championships: three.  Winning it all matters, my friend.  The Cards also dominated the Big East of late, a conference as good if not better than the B1G.  I like Izzo and what he has accomplished with inferior talent. But Louisville embarassed your Spartans the last time they played.  Neither you nor Glockner can justify putting Sparty in the Top Five.   

ScottDeweerd
ScottDeweerd

I didn't say you're simple-minded. I said you're taking a simple-minded approach to the question at hand. You're trying to argue that Louisville should be ranked higher than Michigan State based on Point A and completely ignoring points B through Z. National Championships are important, but you're comparing apples and oranges. Michigan State lost in the National Championship game to a North Carolina program with enough talent to put an NBA team on the court; Louisville won the National Championship against a Michigan team that MSU beat by nearly 40 earlier in the year. And you want to ignore that context and proceed to argue that the outcomes of those two games completely outweighs all of the evidence supporting the idea that Michigan State might actually be better than Louisville recently...? 

ConcernedFan
ConcernedFan

@ScottDeweerd @ConcernedFan

 @ScottDeweerd @ConcernedFan

 Oh, so I'm the one who is simple-minded?  You just admit that you can't justify putting Sparty in the top five.  Well, I beg to differ but that is the topic at hand.  You're not doing a good job at listening.  Sure, Izzo, as much as anyone, gets the most from his players.  But the same might be said of Tommy Amaker.  However, a team should be able to claim they have won it all recently to be with the elite.  Playing a tough schedule is admirable; dominating the toughest conference (yes, the Big East was better than the B1G in my humble opinion) is elite.


ScottDeweerd
ScottDeweerd

@ConcernedFan @ScottDeweerd So you did choose to take the simple-minded route. 

Winning it all "matters," sure. I agree. But can I also remind you that Louisville's recent national championship win came against Michigan, a team that Michigan State beat by nearly 40 points just a month earlier? 

Michigan State hasn't won a recent national championship; they did, however, finish second to a North Carolina program that had *six* NBA Draft picks on the roster. Seems like you're putting a lot of weight on the outcome of two games -- against completely un-comparable opponents -- when we're talking about a timespan that includes over 150 games. 

Can I justify putting Sparty in the top-five? Well, maybe not, but that's not the topic at hand. Your argument was that Michigan State is a 'clear drop in class from the top-few teams whereas Louisville is not.' I don't think you've done a good job supporting that argument. In fact, I don't think you've even done a good job supporting the argument that Louisville should be ranked as high as Michigan State.