America’s Best Men’s College Basketball

NCAA’s March Madness is the ultimate test of a college basketball team, a tournament of 68 Division-I teams winnowed down to a single National Champion. But is a National Championship the best measure of a college basketball program? Do the best teams send the most players to the NBA? Is there some magical method a great coach possesses to make his players great? If you are a young man contemplating a career in college basketball and your ultimate goal is to play in the NBA, what schools should be at the top of your list?

The past five years have seen the NCCA crown four different teams Champion: Duke (2015), Connecticut (2014, 2011), Louisville (2013) and Kentucky (2012), who was also Runner-up in 2014. You would expect to see these teams at the top of this list, but you might be a little surprised at their actual rankings.

To determine the Best College Basketball Programs, the NBA Drafts from 2011-2015 were analyzed. Each draft consists of two rounds of 30 picks for a total of 60 players per year. The total draft picks coming out of each school over the last five years were noted. This is a ranking of schools from most picks to least. In the event of a tie, the players’ draft positions were averaged, with the lowest average, denoting the highest picks, being ranked higher. A total of 29 colleges had three or more players selected in these drafts.

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RankNameDescription
1

University of Kentucky

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This #1 Ranking is no surprise to any college basketball fan. Not only is Kentucky a historic powerhouse with 8 National Championships, including their latest in 2012, but their success in recent NBA Drafts is outstanding. Twice, in 2015 and 2012 they had an unprecedented SIX players selected, including #1 Overall picks in both years (Anthony Davis, 2012 and Karl-Anthony Towns, 2015). In this “One-and-Done” Era, Coach John Calipari is known for being able to recruit the best talent in the country and assemble a squad of untested underclassmen into National Contenders.

Players Drafted: 19
Average Draft Position: 22

2

Duke University

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The defending 2015 National Champions are no strangers to atmospheric rankings in basketball, and with a total of 86 Blue Devils having been drafted all-time into the pros, their achievements are well-pedigreed. Hall-of-Famer Mike Krzyzewski took over as Head Coach in 1980 and has led Duke to 12 Final Fours and 5 National Championships in that time. In the past five years, Duke’s draft choices have included #1 Kyrie Irving (2011), #2 Jabari Parker (2014), and #3 Jalil Okafor (2015).

Players Drafted: 12
Average Draft Position: 26

3

University of Kansas

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Today’s Jayhawks play in Allen Fieldhouse, named for legendary Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Phog Allen, who is known as the “Father of Basketball Coaching.” With this tradition behind him, Coach Bill Self has been winning on the court and in the NBA Draft. Self’s recent success has propelled #1 Andrew Wiggins (2014), #3 Joel Embiid (2014), #5 Thomas Robinson (2012), and #7 Ben McLemore (2013) into Lottery picks. Kansas joins both Kentucky and Duke as college programs with more than 15 players in the NBA at the end of the 2015 season.

Players Drafted: 10
Average Draft Position: 19

4

Syracuse University

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Syracuse fans still revel in the 2002-2003 season, when #3 Draft pick Carmelo Anthony led the team as a freshman to their first National Championship, but these rankings are more about “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” Well, Hall of Fame Head Coach Jim Boeheim and company are not resting on their laurels, producing 8 NBA Draft picks in recent years. Dion Waiters was a #4 pick (2012), followed by Michael Carter-Williams at #11 (2013) in the Lottery. Despite the imposition of NCAA sanctions, the Orange have reloaded with a talented group of freshmen and look to continue their recent NBA Draft success.

Players Drafted: 8
Average Draft Position: 26

5

University of California - Los Angeles

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When Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden led the Bruins to seven consecutive NCAA Championships (1967-73), he produced a slew of legendary talent including #1 overall picks Bill Walton (1974) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969). But UCLA fans have short memories and when Ben Howland couldn’t win a Championship despite three-straight Final Fours (2006-8), he was replaced in 2013 by Coach Steve Alford, himself a winner of a National Championship in 1987 as a player at Indiana. UCLA has had one sole Lottery pick in the past five drafts, #13 Zach LaVine (2014).

Players Drafted: 8
Average Draft Position: 29

6

University of Arizona

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Since 1980, when Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olson moved to Tucson from Iowa, the Wildcats have been perennial NCAA Tournament contenders, producing 39 NBA Draft Picks in that time. Under current Coach Sean Miller, Arizona has been matching Olson’s success, though they have yet to break out of the Elite Eight. Miller’s recruiting prowess has brought in some great talent and we should expect to see Arizona back in the Final Four soon. Recent Wildcats chosen in the Lottery include #2 Derrick Williams (2011), #4 Aaron Gordon (2014), and #8 Stanley Johnson (2015).

Players Drafted: 7
Average Draft Position: 20

7

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The program that produced #3 Draft pick Michael Jordan (1984), perhaps the Greatest Basketball Player of All Time, has fallen on hard times as of late it seems. Despite winning National Championships in 2005 and 2009, the Tar Heels under Hall of Fame Coach Roy Williams have not returned to the Final Four since. Still, the Heels have produced seven NBA draft picks in the last five years, including four players chosen in the Top 20 picks of 2012: #7 Harrison Barnes, #13 Kendall Marshall, #14 John Henson, and #17 Tyler Zeller.

Players Drafted: 7
Average Draft Position: 23

8

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

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The Wolverines had been flourishing the past few seasons under Coach John Beilein, losing to Louisville in the 2013 Championship game. They made the Elite Eight in 2014, losing to powerhouse Kentucky but stumbled a bit in 2015, finishing a mediocre 16-16, and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. Still, the Wolverines have produced more than a handful of NBA talent, with #8 Nik Stauskas (2014) and #9 Trey Burke (2013) going in the Lottery.

Players Drafted: 6
Average Draft Position: 24

9

University of Connecticut

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UConn is the only team to repeat as National Champions in the past five seasons, which should put them alone at the top of a “Most Successful Program” list, but they have only produced about one-quarter the NBA talent as Kentucky. What gives? In addition, the restructuring of the old Big East Conference, with teams like Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville, and Notre Dame all defecting to the ACC, begs the question of whether UConn can draw the Championship caliber players they once did. Recent Huskies Lottery picks include: #9 Kemba Walker (2011), #9 Andre Drummond (2012), and #12 Jeremy Lamb (2012).

Players Drafted: 5
Average Draft Position: 18

10

University of Louisville

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Louisville joins UConn as a Big East team winning a National Championship just prior to the grand restructuring of the Power 5 Conferences, and in moving to the strong ACC, they figure to still be contenders. Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino was one of Jim Boeheim’s first hires as an assistant and he joins his old mentor as a top producer of NBA talent. Though they haven’t had a Lottery pick since #9 Terrence Williams (2009), with five players drafted in the past three years, Louisville is poised to make big moves in the coming seasons.

Players Drafted: 5
Average Draft Position: 34

11

Baylor University

The Bears recovered from the scandals and NCAA sanctions of the mid-2000s under then-new Coach Scott Drew with an NCAA Tourney berth in 2008, their first in 20 seasons. Since then, they have earned four more NCAA bids. Their best recent NBA Draft was 2012 when three players, #28 Perry Jones, #37 Quincy Acy, and #38 Quincy Miller, were selected.

Players Drafted: 5
Average Draft Position: 41

12

University of Texas at Austin

The Longhorns hope for big things under new Coach Shaka Smart, who led mid-major Virginia Commonwealth to the NCAA Tournament each of the past five seasons, including an amazing Final Four run in 2011. Under former coach Rick Barnes, the Longhorns were a roller-coaster team, but did produce two Lottery picks, #4 Tristan Thompson (2011) and #11 Myles Turner (2015).

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 18

13

University of Washington

The Huskies and Coach Lorenzo Romar are looking to return to the NCAAs for the first time since 2011. Their most recent Lottery pick was #8 Terrence Ross in 2012.

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 30

14

Michigan State University

Under Coach Tom Izzo, the Spartans have made 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, including a Final Four run in 2015 as a 7-seed. In the Izzo era, 16 players have been selected in the NBA draft, eight of those in the first round.

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 31

15

Ohio State University

Coach Thad Matta has led the Buckeyes to the 2007 National Championship game as well as the past six NCAA Tournaments, including a Final Four in 2012. In 2015, D’Angelo Russell was selected #2 overall.

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 33

16

Louisiana State University

Two of the greatest NBA players of all time were LSU Tigers, Pete Maravich (selected #3 1970) and Shaquille O’Neal (#1 1992). Coach Johnny Jones enters his fourth season with the Tigers, boasting of three players selected in the last two drafts.

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 35

17

University of Florida

The Gators fondly remember back-to-back National Championships in 2007 & 2008, along with a Final Four run in 2014, but former coach Billy Donovan has left for the NBA’s Oklahoma Thunder. Will Coach Michael White be able to fill his shoes? Florida recently had one Lottery pick, #3 Bradley Beal (2012).

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 36

18

The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Though they have had four players selected in the past five Drafts, the Volunteers have suffered through three head coaches in three years. Coach Rick Barnes will take the reins in 2015-16 after coaching four Draft picks at Texas.

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 38

19

University of Missouri - Columbia

The Tigers will be starting their fifth season in the SEC under second-year Coach Kim Anderson. They look to return to the NCAAs after having made five straight appearances 2009-13.

Players Drafted: 4
Average Draft Position: 52

20

Indiana University - Bloomington

The Hoosiers boast the best average Draft position in this list, and are the only team with all their players selected in the Lottery. Under Coach Tom Crean, Indiana has made three of the last four NCAA Tournament fields. Their Lottery picks were #2 Victor Oladipo & #4 Cody Zeller (2013) and #9 Noah Vonleh (2014).

Players Drafted: 3
Average Draft Position: 5

21

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Coach Bo Ryan’s Badgers had Frank Kaminsky selected #9 in the 2015 Draft, one of five players selected out of Wisconsin during his tenure. The Badgers capped 17-straight NCAA Tournament appearances in 2015, losing in the Championship Game to Duke. With this kind of success, look for more Badgers on upcoming Draft days.

Players Drafted: 3
Average Draft Position:22

22

University of Colorado - Boulder

The Buffaloes had Alec Burks selected #12 in the 2011 Draft. Coach Tad Boyle is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six years. Colorado has had 32 players drafted all-time, led by Five Time NBA All-Star, NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, who was the 3rd pick in the 1997 Draft.

Players Drafted: 3
Average Draft Position:25

23

Vanderbilt University

All three Commodores were selected in the 2012 Draft, coming off an SEC Championship and Sweet 16 appearance. Coach Kevin Stallings has led Vanderbilt to 11 post-season appearances in his 16 seasons and has coached six NBA Draft picks during his tenure.

Players Drafted: 3
Average Draft Position:28

24

University of Georgia

The Bulldogs had Kentavious Caldwell-Pope selected #8 in the 2013 Draft. Coach Mark Fox, in just his second season, led the Bulldogs to a 21–11 record and their first at-large NCAA Tournament bid since 2002. Georgia has had 37 players drafted all-time, including three players in the past five years.

Players Drafted: 3
Average Draft Position:31

25

University of Virginia

The Cavaliers won 30 games in each of the past two seasons and will be highly ranked again in 2015-16. Coach Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers are the repeat defending ACC regular season champion, finishing first in both 2013–14 and 2014–15. Of the 19 Virginia players drafted all-time, #1 Pick Ralph Sampson (1983) is the best-known.

Players Drafted: 3
Average Draft Position:32