College basketball teams rise and fall year after year. Keeping a consistent program is a challenge and a struggle and breaking into the ranks of the elite can be even more difficult. Join in as we take a look at the best college basketball programs since the 2015-2016 season from A-Z.

Determining what makes a great college basketball program can be a challenge. Every person that makes a list will have different criteria as to what ultimately sets a team apart and can easily change year to year.

Over the last five years, college basketball programs have seen high highs and low lows so here are the criteria I followed to find the best college basketball programs over the last five years.

I started with all 353 teams and first looked at teams that had won their conferences regular season and/or made the NCAA tournament at least once in the last four years (2020 tournament could not take place). After calculating these results I was left with 180 teams remaining for best college basketball program within their respective letter.

Next, I compared the teams NCAA tournament winning percentage which cut my list nearly in half down to 92 teams left. To continue the elimination process the team’s overall records since the 2015-2016 season were compared to drop my list down even more to only 57 teams remaining.

This is where things began to get tricky. I added the total number of weeks a team spent ranked in the AP top 25, not including preseason rankings. Finally, I compared the team’s consistency from season to season, their head to head results and their average KenPom ranking to determine the best college basketball programs from A-Z since the 2015-2016 season.

Arizona Wildcats

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The Wildcats have not been the dominant team they once were out west but they may be building back up to it. However, no other team was ready to challenge them for this top spot. Auburn made a push to close the gap but Arizona’s consistency through five years was the difference-maker.

Baylor Bears

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Baylor has been one of the quietest consistent programs in the country. Their dominance in 2019-2020 propelled them even more to the top of the best college basketball “B” programs but without it, they would probably still be here. The Bears beat out quality consistent programs in Butler, Buffalo, Belmont, and Bucknell all who could have deserved this position.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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Cincinnati is another program whose success often goes unnoticed. The Bearcats were challenged by Creighton and Clemson for this place on the list but with five 20-win seasons and four trips to the NCAA tournament, Cinncinati was too much for the field.

Duke Blue Devils

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There wasn’t much competition for Duke in this department. The Blue Devils may not have been completely dominant throughout college basketball but were never even seen crossing the finish line here. A shout out to Dayton who finished in a distant second and would have been on the top of many other lists if they had a different name.

East Tennessee State Buccaneers

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East Tennessee State was starting to break through in the Southern Conference and has certainly become a formidable mid-major that is not wanting to be seen in March. The Buccaneers won by a landslide.

Florida State Seminoles

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It came down to in-state rivals, but the consistency year after year for the Seminoles overtook the Florida Gators for the top spot. With similar tournament appearances and wins in the tournament, it ultimately came down to the time spent in the AP poll where Florida State has spent 30 more weeks than Florida in the last five seasons.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

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Not much to be said here. Gonzaga is missing one thing to solidify there name among the best of the best and it’s not hard believing that the Bulldogs will be National Champions soon.

Houston Cougars

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Houston is another quiet, consistent, and good team. Kelvin Sampson has Houston on the right path to maintain this moving forward and certainly should stay on top of the “H’s”.

Indiana Hoosiers

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Indiana was a surprising addition to this list for me. They haven’t been great. They haven’t been the most successful. Yet of the “I” team’s they have surprisingly been the best. Iowa and Iowa State have both had better seasons than the Hoosiers. They both have been to more NCAA tournaments than Indiana in the last five years and have been ranked for more weeks. However, it wasn’t enough to make a difference. Ultimately, it came down to the Hoosiers avoiding a losing season while the others could not.

Jacksonville State

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Jacksonville State was the only “J” team that played in an NCAA tournament and with no regular season titles if feels like the Gamecocks earned this position by default. But with three 20-win seasons, Jacksonville State has certainly earned this place.

Kansas Jayhawks

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Kansas squeaked out this place over Kentucky but its no doubt the Jayhawks are the top “K” team. The two are virtually equal. Similar in wins, tournament appearances, tournament success, and even losses. Where Kansas has the upper hand is in regular season championships and total weeks spent as the number one team in the AP poll.

Louisville Cardinals

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When you think of “L” teams Louisville is certainly on the top of the list. However, during this period Louisville has not been as successful as they have been in the past. The Cardinals have done enough to take the top spot.

Michigan State Spartans

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The Spartans certainly needed to work to claim this spot. Michigan and Maryland put up a fight but Michigan State has been dominant in the Big Ten to claim three Big Ten regular season titles as well as lead the teams with 133 wins in the past five seasons.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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With a National Championship in this time, it would have been difficult for any team to overtake North Carolina. Nevada, New Mexico State, and Notre Dame made valiant attempts to overthrow North Carolina but it was too much to overcome.

Oregon Ducks

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The Oregon Ducks outlasted Ohio State and Oklahoma to claim this position. The Ducks have been one of the most consistent teams in college basketball the last five years and even in down seasons managed to stay the course and figure things out.

Purdue Boilermakers

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Purdue is another team that falls under the radar. Yet, the Boilermakers have easily earned this spot. Fantastic tournament success, as well as success in the Big Ten.

Quinnipiac Bobcats

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With four losing seasons in five years, the Bobcats are not a team we would expect to see on this list. However, Quinnipiac has no challengers to overtake them so the spot is theirs.

Rhode Island Rams

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Out of the Atlantic-10, Rhode Island is no joke. Plenty of consistency as the Rams have been a dominant force and have earned this place. Rhode Island has compiled three 20-win seasons and two trips to the NCAA tournament.

Seton Hall Pirates

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This was no easy place for the Pirates to earn, but with four years of Myles Powell, Seton Hall has been a threatening force. Five straight 20-win seasons, four straight trips to the NCAA tournament, and a Big East regular season title in 2020 placed Seton Hall above others like Saint Mary’s and successful tournament teams in Syracuse and South Carolina.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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The entire program has never seen the type of success the Red Raiders have achieved under Chris Beard. Even with only two 20-win seasons, Texas Tech has earned its place with a trip to the Elite Eight and a National Championship appearance squeaking it out over Tennessee.

UCLA Bruins

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With one solid season, UCLA was able to maintain this position over the rest of the pack. USC, Utah, UC Irvine, and UNC Greensboro all made valiant attempts to be the top of the “U’s” but none of these programs have done much in the last five years.

Villanova Wildcats

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This one seems to be obvious but it was not easy for the Wildcats to hold on to this spot. Villanova needed both of their National Championships to hold off defending National Champions, Virginia. The Wildcats also outlasted Virginia with more regular season titles and have spent 19 weeks ranked number one in the AP poll.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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West Virginia has been bested in the Big 12 by Kansas and is missing regular season championships. However, their success has been well deserved. With Wichita State and Wisconsin both having down years the Mountaineers were able to be just a bit more consistent.

Xavier Musketeers

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With no competition, this spot was always going to be theirs. Xavier has done plenty, however, to be here. The Muskateers have been to three NCAA tournaments and have spent most of the past five years in the AP poll. Add in a dethroning of Villanova in the Big East has given Xavier a firm leg to stand on.

Yale Bulldogs

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Yale had no competition with Youngstown State but also earned three Ivy League titles and two trips to the NCAA tournament. They are never an easy out and the program looks to be remaining steady.

Featured Image Courtesy of VUHOOPS.COM
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By Matt Karner

Big East hoops writer for NCAAM Review Bracketologist for Busted Bracketology ( Twitter: @karner44 Instagram: @karner44

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