Ranking the Top Programs of the 21st Century: #75- #51
We are only 72 days away from the tip off of the Champions Classic to start the 2018-2019 season. The season is drawing closer and everything is vamping up to make for a terrific year. The RPI is no longer and the NCAA will be using a new tool the NET to help evaluate teams. Recruits are signing like crazy for the seasons to come and even some decommiting. Every team is on campus and awaiting the start of the season eagerly in hopes to excel their program into contention of a National Title or even to change there place among the rankings of the 21st Century.
Ranking the Top Programs of the 21st Century
# 75 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
The Blue Raiders haven’t had much to show over the last century besides being a dominant force in both the Sun Belt and Conference USA. Six regular season titles and an athletics department that stuck by the side of Kermit Davis besides being unable to make the NCAA tournament. Over Davis’ first nine seasons he led his team to a 153-126 with zero postseason appearances. Many programs would have given up hope and released Davis due to lack of success, well there decision has paid off as the Blue Raiders have now made three NCAA tournaments going 179-62 in the last seven seasons and even upsetting a big national Champion favorite, Michigan State, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Rating Score: 26.96
# 74 Southern Illinois Salukis
Another mid-major program that hit the ground running at the start of the century but unfortunately ran out of steam and now struggles to reach the height the program once had. Bruce Weber built the Salukis program before he left for Illinois in 2003. Lucky for Southern Illinois Matt Painter was also on the sideline and replaced Weber. They could only keep him for one year however before he also jumped ship to head to Purdue. Chris Lowery took over and kept it going for a short time but had struggles recruiting and once the Weber and Painter players were out of the program it has never been the same. The Salukis have won five regular season titles and were in the NCAA tournament six years straight from 2002-2007 twice reaching the Sweet Sixteen.
Rating Score: 27.53
# 73 New Mexico Lobos
Steve Alford was the program when it reached its height but being unable to hold onto Alford has led to the programs collapse as well as the conference. Alford left for UCLA in 2013 and under Alford, the Lobos reached three NCAA tournaments never receiving lower than a five seed. Two other trips and four conference and tournament titles round out the rest of the highlight for New Mexico. Lack of success in the tournament has hurt them as they were unable in any of there five appearances to even make the Sweet 16.
Rating Score: 27.54
# 72 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Rick Stansbury and the Bulldogs were a brutal force throughout the early 2000’s. Stansbury led the team to as high as four in the AP poll and even to a number two seed in the NCAA tournament. The program held its own against the likes of blue blooded Kentucky as they have been able to claim five SEC regular season titles ad two SEC tournament titles. The Bulldogs in total have reached six NCAA tournaments all under Stansbury but have failed to reach the Sweet 16 in all of their appearances. Nobody knows what could have become of the program if Stansbury would have stayed in the profession but retirement was in sight as he stepped down as Mississippi State’s head coach.
Rating Score: 27.83
# 71 Hampton Pirates
As a member of the MEAC it can be a shock to everybody to see the Pirates this high on the list. In all honesty they are most likely only this high because they are a member of the MEAC, but everything must be considered. Hampton has controlled the MEAC and has won the regular season title four times while also conjuring the conference tourney on six different to advance to the NCAA tournament. Hampton has never been ranked higher than a 15 seed but can claim a upset of #2 Iowa State in 2001, the schools first ever trip to the Big Dance.
Rating Score: 28.66
# 70 South Dakota State Jackrabbits
As a newish team onto the division I basketball world it is amazing to see the success that the Jackrabbits have been able to achieve. With only ten total seasons as a Division I opponent the Jackrabbits have ran the table in the Summit winning four regular season titles and taking care of business in the post season as they have been crowned Summit League Tournament Champions five times. A team that is always feared in the NCAA tournament tends to fall on that upset favorite line of a 12 or 13 seed but have been unable to achieve victory losing by single digits three times.
Rating Score: 28.93
# 69 LSU Tigers
The Tigers haven’t been the most consistent team from the SEC but the hype the program receives every season would make one think that the program has been running solid for a very long time. On four separate occasions the Tigers have been able to compete with the rest of the SEC and take home a regular season title. Six times they have made the NCAA tournament but only three of those times was LSU able to pull out a win. When the Tigers get rolling in the Big Dance watch out as they have advanced to the Final Four and to the Sweet 16.
Rating Score: 29.49
# 68 Harvard Crimson
1946 was Harvard’s only NCAA tournament appearance and things were looking to be much of the same as the Crimson entered the 21st century. Until Tommy Amaker took the program over in 2007 it was looking to be much of the same for the Ivy League school. With only eight wins after his first season and 14 in his second it must have been running through every fans mind if the program would ever take off. After those first two seasons Amaker and the Crimson rattled off six straight seasons with at least 20 wins. They made the tournament in four straight years and not only did they make the Big Dance but twice delivered the upset and have never lost by double digits in the opening round of the tournament.
Rating Score: 30.81
# 67 St. Joseph’s Hawks
Phil Martelli has been a staple at St. Joseph’s since the 1985 season. He became head coach in 1995 and the program has always had a name because of it. as a member of the A-10 the hawks have played tough as a team that is still considered a mid-major and even were able to play themselves into a #1 ranking in the AP poll and a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. On five different occasions the Hawks took care of business in the A-10 and advanced to the holy grail six different times. With not much success in the postseason the Hawks have one year to be proud of as they reached the Elite Eight in 2004 capping off a 30 win season.
Rating Score: 30.85
# 66 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
The Sun Belt has always been able to produce a contender come March. As a conference that is capable as to pulling off the upset Louisiana has been unable to accomplish this feat. However the Sun Belt has belonged to the Ragin’ Cajuns as they have brought home the regular season title a total of seven times. Four different times they were able to win the conference tournament and advanced to to NCAA tournament but luck has yet to be found in the Big Dance.
Rating Score: 31.13
# 65 North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack hasn’t been the same since the 80’s and Jim Valvano, but that isn’t saying that they are a team to forget about. As a member of the AC they do suffer from the blue blood syndrome as Duke, North Carolina and lately Virginia have claimed the throne, but have been able to bring in three regular season and two tournament titles. On top of that they have fared well on the bubble as they have reached the NCAA tournament ten times. In nine of those seasons the Wolfpack have been seeded as a seven or lower with the exception coming in 2004 as a three seed. NC State however, plays the underdog well as they have advanced to the Sweet 16 three times within the century.
Rating Score: 31.15
# 64 Weber State Wildcats
The Wildcats are another team out there that may be puzzling seeing them this high in the rankings. The team only reached the NCAA tournament four times and never won a game. They have been seeded as either a 15 or 16 in three of those appearances while being able to achieve a 12 seed in 2003. However the Big Sky is where the Wildcats do there damage as they have won the conference six times including going 18-2, 30-7 overall in 2012-2013.
Rating Score: 31.16
# 63 UNC Wilmington Seahawks
Mid-major programs play a big role within the basketball community and because of that the teams can build upon a successful year and build their program to be a success. UNC Wilmington is an example of that. Coming out of the CAA the Seahawks have reached the Big Dance on six separate occasions, they have won the CAA regular season and tournament six times each and have done this while losing coaches to power programs like Kevin Keatts (NC State), Brad Browned (Wright State), and Jerry Wainwright (Richmond). Tournament success isn’t quite there yet but with a win over USC in 2002 and extremely close loses in all of their tournament appearances the team is right on the cusp of achieving even more.
Rating Score: 31.98
# 62 Dayton Flyers
While still only a mid-major program, the Dayton Flyers have made a name for themselves and no one wants to see them as there opponent come March. As a member of the A-10 the Flyers have won four regular season championships and have been bale to reach the NCAA tournament eight times. Success has been difficult to come by as they have lost plenty of heartbreakers but with a trip to the Elite Eight in 2014 the Flyers have enough to be proud of. No one knows what could have been if the Flyers could have held onto there coaches but like so many others the team has had to replace Oliver Purnell (Clemson), Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech), and Archie Miller (Indiana) but still were able to move forward on the right path.
Rating Score: 32.00
# 61 Iona Gaels
With eight total trips to the NCAA tournament the Gaels know when to kick there season into second gear to make the most of their season. Iona has only won four regular season championships coming out of the MAAC but have won the automatic birth by winning their conference tournament seven times. That’s where it seems to come to an end for them as they have been unable to make the move past the round of 64 in March.
Rating Score: 32.88
# 60 East Tennessee State Buccaneers
It feels like making it this high in the rankings comes down to one of two things, conference championships or a successful run or two in the NCAA tournament. Well, the Buccaneers have been very successful when it comes to playing in the Southern and A-Sun conferences. Six times they have been crowned regular season champions and have won the conference tournament five times to help them advance to the NCAA tournament where their success stops as they too have been unable to make it past the round of 64.
Rating Score: 33.66
# 59 Utah Utes
Most of Utah’s success came as a member of the Mountain West. A member for 12 seasons the Utes were able to reach the NCAA tournament six times. After a move to the Pac-12 success was a little harder to come by but not inexistent, as they added two more tournament runs. They have been ranked as high as #8 in the AP poll and reached the Sweet 16 twice. They have also taken home five regular season championships and look to extend there success this season.
Rating Score: 34.16
# 58 Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones have been a tale a three teams within the 21st century. At the start of the century under Larry Eustache the Cyclones rattled off two straight trips to the NCAA tournament as back to back two seeds and even made the Elite Eight. from 2001-2011 the team was non-existent as they only made the tournament once. Then came along Fred Holberg. Who in his second season started an impressive six consecutive trips the the big dance, including two trips to the Sweet 16. He brought the cyclones from a nobody all the way back and even achieved a ranking as high as #4 in the AP poll. Kansas however, has been the force that Iowa State couldn’t get past as they only have two regular season championships (2000,2001), they have however fared well in the Big 12 tournament with a total of four championships. With Fred Holberg leaving for the Chicago Bulls the team hasn’t been quite the same but success is still coming.
Rating Score: 34.61
# 57 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish spent time in both the Big East and ACC within the century and have been overall successful. One thing the Irish lack and long for is conference championships of any kind. One regular season championship in the 2000-2001 season winning the Big East and one tournament title winning the ACC in 2015. However, success for the Irish is bountiful as they have reached the NCAA tournament 12 times under Mike Brey. They lost in the Sweet 16 once and twice in the Elite Eight. They have been seeded as high as a two seed and ranked as high as #4 in the country. Notre Dame struggles to win championships but if they can figure that out beware as the Irish are on the move.
Rating Score: 34.75
# 56 Virginia Cavilers
While not as consistent throughout the century as Notre Dame, Virginia has found other ways to bring success to the program. Coming from a powerhouse in the early 80’s Virginia struggled to regain it’s peak performance until they hired Tony Bennett. In his first nine seasons as head coach of the Cavilers the team has made the NCAA tournament six times and even earned a number one seed in three of those seasons. The previous ten seasons before Bennett took the reigns the Cavilers only made the big dance twice. They have reached the Elite Eight and been ranked #1 in the country all under Bennett including knocking off North Carolina and Duke to win three more regular season championships all because of Bennett and his coaching style. While March has been a struggle for the team it only takes one year for them to make a breakthrough and skyrocket up the list.
Rating Score: 35.18
# 55 Pennsylvania Quakers
Another high quality Ivy League program the Quakers of Pennsylvania were the kings of the Ivy in the early 2000’s under Fran Dunphy. With five conference championships in Dunphy’s last seven years as a Quaker the team continued to roll into the NCAA tournament. When Dunphy left for crosstown rival Temple in 2006 it was tough for the Ivy school to handle. Since that departure the team has only made the NCAA tournament two more times and still have been unable to have any success in the round of 64.
Rating Score: 37.27
# 54 Stanford Cardinal
Mike Montgomery had the Cardinals rolling. During his 18 year tenure at Stanford he only missed six NCAA tournaments. With his last five seasons falling from 1999-2004 the Cardinals didn’t miss a single tournament and were seeded #1 in three of those seasons. They reached the Elite Eight in 2001 before losing to eventual runner up Maryland and even reached as high as #1 in the AP poll under Montgomery. Since his departure for the Golden State Warriors the team has only reached four more tournaments advancing to the Sweet 16 twice.
Rating Score: 37.53
# 53 Georgetown Hoyas
Like so many other programs it will always be hard for the Hoyas to replicate the success it had in the 80’s under John Thompson but the dream of every coach is to fill that void and bring the program back to prominent success. As a member of the Big East it is difficult to pull the team out of a slump but John Thompson III was able to bring them back. With nine trips to the NCAA tournament in the century (nine under Thompson III) the Hoyas were back. They spent most of his career ranked in the top 25 in the AP poll and seeded as a four or higher in March. 2007 was the height of the program once more as the team reached the National Title game unfortunately losing to Florida.
Rating Score: 37.98
# 52 BYU Cougars
For a program that struggles to keep its core together for four straight years its amazing to see how successful the Cougars have been. As a member of the Mountain West they took home five regular season championships and one tournament title. As they moved into the WCC those have been much harder to come by as they are still seeking there first championship of any kind in the WCC. Overall though the team has been to 11 NCAA tournaments in the 21st century. Success has been hard to come by with many early exits but a Sweet 16 run in 2011 keeps the hopes alive for another to come.
Rating Score: 38.04
# 51 Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers are a staple when it comes to March. Asking what teams will always be there and Purdue will always come up. Under Gene Keady’s 25 year stint he only missed the NCAA tournament twice, when Matt Painter took over not much changed as he has made the NCAA tournament 10 times out of his 13 seasons as head coach. In the 21st century the team has made it to the the big dance 12 times. They have reached the Elite Eight once and played in the Sweet 16 four other times before their season came to an end. They have only managed to win two Big Ten regular season championships but have accomplished an AP ranking as high as #3 and an NCAA tournament seed as high as #2.
Rating Score: 38.27