Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ranking the NCAA Champions of the 00s

10-Florida 2006: Of all the teams that won a title, no one saw this team doing it. They were a bunch of sophomores who got helped by a tournament that saw freakin' George Mason get to the Final Four. There seemingly was one one "elite" team that year -- UConn -- who lost to George Mason. This was also the last season that high school seniors could enter the NBA Draft, so there wasn't the big influx of great freshmen.

9-Maryland 2002: Hard to believe it has only been seven years since the Terps won their title. This was a very talented team but the first to have no McDonald's All-Americans in over two decades. Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox have become solid NBA players. Still, this team doesn't stack up against much of the rest of this list.

8-Michigan State 2000: This wasn't the most talented team Tom Izzo had, but it featured a lot of hard workers who did a variety of things. State also got to head one of the worst Final Fours in history. Sure a Final Four featuring Michigan State, North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin looks good. But UNC and Wisky got in as No. 8 seeds. Florida was a No. 5 seed. Their 51-44 win over the Badgers in the national semifinals was the worst Final Four game I ever watched.

7-Syracuse 2003: This wasn't a great team, but it had a great player. Carmelo Anthony carried this team to their first title. He is probably the best player to have won a title this decade. The Orangemen got to the Final Four by playing in Boston and Albany. One interesting note is that the Cuse beat four Big XII teams en route to the title.

6-Florida 2007: Now, I dumped all over the Gators of 2006, but this team ... although the same roster ... was different. They defended their title despite having a huge bullseye on their back. This team was stoic in returning to win the championship and beat a very, very good Ohio State squad in the title tilt.

5-Kansas 2008: Kansas is the only team to win a championship in which the Final Four was comprised of all No. 1 seeds. Just one year removed and you really see how loaded this team was. No one really knew of Cole Adrich until he bothered Tyler Hansbrough in the semifinals. This team was both talented and complete. They were big, quick, strong frontcourt, strong backcourt. They had everything.

4-North Carolina 2005: This team has four guys picked in the first 14 selections of the NBA Draft. Marvin Williams (who was picked No. 2 overall) didn't even start. Sean May dominated this tournament. In their title win over Illinois, it was the first matchup of AP ranked No. 1 vs No. 2 teams for the championship since 1978.

3-UConn 2004: Looking back at that roster: Wow! The Huskies had Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villenueva, Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong and Marcus Williams. Yes, they stomped Ga Tech in the finals, but this team will be remembered for it's great game against Duke in the Final Four. That was the only close game during UConn's dominant run.

2-North Carolina 2009: Trust me, I'm not getting caught up in the Now Factor. This Tar Heels team probably has five guys that will play in the NBA. None may be stars (aside from Ed Davis), but they can play at the next level. You had a very experienced team that housed two ACC Players of the Year and one National Player of the year. They are the only team in history to win all six of their tournament games by at least 12 points.

1-Duke 2001: Even though I hate Duke, I must say that this is the best champion of the decade. This team boasted Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon and brought Carlos Boozer off the bench. They crushed everyone in their path.

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