Best Men’s College Basketball Teams
Every year in March, the best men's college basketball teams from across the country battle for the national championship in the single-elimination NCAA tournament. One of the most exciting sporting events in the world, the tournament is nicknamed "March Madness" for the frenzy created among fans.
For aspiring basketball recruits, the best men's college basketball programs provide an opportunity to be part of a special journey and increase their odds at a career in the sport. For students and fans, these teams offer incredibly entertaining extracurricular and viewing experiences.
To provide insight on the best programs, the following page ranks the best men's college basketball teams in the country. We considered various factors, including overall winning percentage, conference championships, NCAA tournament appearances, tournament wins, and players who reach the NBA.
Top Men’s College Basketball Teams
With eight national championships, the most recent in 2012, the University of Kentucky is the best men's college basketball program in the nation. In school history, UK has made 57 NCAA tournament appearances, putting together a .711 winning percentage and making the Final Four 17 times.
The program also boasts 52 first-round NBA picks, including three first overall selections in Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015, Anthony Davis in 2012, and John Wall in 2010.
Among the best men's college basketball teams in the country, the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill boast an overall winning percentage of .739. In addition to 32 first-place finishes in the ACC conference, the team has made 20 Final Four appearances and brought home six championships, including titles in 2005, 2009, and 2017.
Of the 51 NBA first-round picks who played for the Tar Heels, two went first overall: James Worthy in 1982 and Brad Daugherty in 1986.
Kansas University won the last of its three NCAA championships in 2008, but the school's 15 Final Four appearances and .697 tournament winning percentage help make KU one of the best men's college basketball programs. The team has produced 32 NBA first-round picks, including first overall Danny Manning in 1988 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014.
Other notable alumni include Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce, and Joel Embiid.
Appearing in the NCAA tournament 43 times, the Duke University Blue Devils have won five titles, including most recent wins in 2001, 2010, and 2015. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, or "Coach K," is one of the most respected coaches in the history of college basketball. Duke has produced 48 NBA first-round picks, including four first overall picks like Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson.
Since 1999, the University of Connecticut has made five Final Four appearances and won four titles, good enough to make them one of the best men's college basketball teams in the nation. In its history, UConn boasts 33 NCAA tournament appearances and a .637 overall winning percentage.
The UConn Huskies have also seen 20 players get picked in the first round of the NBA draft, including star players Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, and Andre Drummond.
Long considered one of the best men's college basketball programs, Syracuse University has put up a .687 winning percentage over 120 seasons, including 38 appearances in the NCAA tournament, six trips to the Final Four, and a national title in 2003. The Orange boast 24 NBA first-round picks, including the 1990 first overall pick, Derrick Coleman, and NBA star Carmelo Anthony.
Though not a major powerhouse in recent years, the University of California, Los Angeles has amassed a .687 overall winning percentage and 49 NCAA tournament appearances. The Bruins have made 18 Final Fours and won 11 titles, the most in all of men's college basketball.
UCLA also boasts 39 NBA first-round picks, including two legendary first overall picks, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. UCLA's former coach John Wooden is arguably the most famous coach in the history of college basketball.
One of the best men's college basketball programs in the nation, Villanova University has posted a .657 winning percentage over more than 100 seasons, along with 39 appearances in the NCAA tournament, 61 wins, six trips to the Final Four, and three championships, including titles in 2016 and 2018.
The Wildcats have produced 15 NBA first-round picks, including three in 2018: Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman.
Over 122 seasons, the Michigan State University Spartans have managed a .612 winning percentage and made 33 NCAA tournament appearances, including 10 trips to the Final Four. The Spartans also boast 69 wins in the NCAA tournament, two national titles, and 21 first-round selections, including former first overall pick and legendary Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson.
Despite only winning a single national title in 1997, the University of Arizona is still one of the best men's college basketball programs. Over 116 seasons, the Wildcats have earned a .658 winning percentage, 26 conference titles, 35 NCAA tournament appearances, and four Final Four appearances.
The Wildcats have produced 22 players selected in the first round of the NBA draft, including Deandre Ayton, the first overall pick in 2018.
Despite being known for losing in perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA history in 2018, the University of Virginia has developed one of the best men's college basketball programs. The Cavaliers have compiled a .584 winning percentage, making 23 NCAA tournament appearances. Since 2016, UVA has become a powerhouse under coach Tony Bennett, making two Final Four appearances and winning the 2019 title.
Additionally, 12 Cavaliers have been selected in the first round of the NBA draft, including Ralph Sampson, the first overall pick in 1983.
The University of Louisville Cardinals have managed a .666 overall winning percentage, 43 NCAA tournament appearances, 10 Final Four appearances, and two titles, along with a vacated championship from 2013. The Cardinals have posted 61 wins in the NCAA tournament and have produced 24 first-round NBA picks, including current Utah Jazz star point guard Donovan Mitchell.
In 70 seasons, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs have put up a .655 winning percentage along the way to winning 18 conference championships, making 22 NCAA tournament appearances, and reaching one Final Four. Gonzaga has produced nine NBA first-round picks, including legendary Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton and two first-round picks in the 2019 draft.
Despite winning just one national title in 1989, the University of Michigan still ranks as one of the best men's college basketball programs. Boasting a 104-year team history and a .608 winning percentage, the Wolverines have made 29 NCAA tournament and eight Final Four appearances.
U-M has also churned out 27 first-round picks, including first overall picks Cazzie Russell and Chris Webber. The Wolverines are perhaps best known for their "Fab Five" team, which started five freshmen during the 1991-1992 season
The University of Texas Longhorns boast an overall winning percentage of .622, along with 34 NCAA tournament appearances, three Final Four appearances, and 17 conference championships. The Longhorns have also produced 18 first-round picks in the NBA draft, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Tristan Thompson, and Kevin Durant.
How Many NCAA Men’s College Basketball Teams Are There?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association serves nearly 1,100 schools across the country, with teams divided within three divisions and more than 100 conferences. The 350 best men's college basketball teams play within Division I and are split among 32 conferences.
Each year, the team that wins their conference championship gets an automatic entry into the NCAA tournament, with the remaining 36 teams chosen by a selection committee. The NCAA tournament takes place each March and uses a single-elimination format to narrow the field to a Final Four and then a national championship game.
Do College Basketball Players Get Paid?
In an effort to protect the recruitment process and level the playing field for smaller schools, the NCAA made it illegal for men's college basketball teams to pay student athletes for their services. Colleges can provide students with scholarships and stipends, but those funds must only cover the costs of earning an education.
In 2020, however, the NCAA Board of Governors supported a shift in the rules that would allow student athletes to profit off of their name and likeness. Under the new ruling, players would be able to make money as long as the funds do not come from the school.
What Percentage of Men’s College Basketball Players Go to the NBA?
With nearly 500,000 student athletes in the NCAA system across all sports, the odds of a basketball player reaching the NBA remain very low. Since there are fewer players on each NBA team than in other sports, the odds of getting drafted in the NBA are lower than in the MLB, NHL, and NFL.
In men's college basketball, nearly 19,000 student athletes participate, with over 4,000 players becoming NBA draft eligible. Each year, only 60 players get drafted. While some players sign with teams as undrafted free agents, it is still very difficult to earn a roster spot in the NBA.