Having the best talent can only get you so far when it comes to tournament time. In a tournament where anything can happen, it takes a great team that plays together to win the NCAA title–not just a group of individuals.
Over the past 25 years, we have seen some of the greatest college basketball teams not live up to their hype and fall when it mattered most. Today we are looking at the best teams to never win an NCAA title in the past 25 years.
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20. Connecticut Huskies (2005-06)
How far did they go? Lost in the Elite 8 to George Mason
Key players: Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams, Rashad Anderson, Hilton Armstrong, Denham Brown and Josh Boone
Two years removed from a championship that was led by Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, the ’06 Huskies ran through the Big East during the regular season. The team featured five future NBA Draft picks, and were stacked from the starting five to the bench. With a star in the making in Rudy Gay and a clutch point guard in Marcus Williams, the Huskies were bound to go to the championship until they ran into Cinderella George Mason in the Elite 8, losing 86-84. This is one the greatest upsets in tourney history.
19. Illinois Fighting Illini (1988-89)
How far did they go? Lost in the Final Four against Michigan
Key players: Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle and Stephen Bardo
Dubbed the “Flyin Illini” for their up-tempo style and vicious dunks, this Illinois team brought excitement to every game. During the season, the team put up over 100 points in eight games and were so deep that no one on the team averaged more than 25 minutes a game. They also won 12 games against ranked opponents and defeated five top-10 ranked teams. They would eventually lose to Glen Rice and Michigan in the Final Four.
18. Kentucky Wildcats (2009-10)
How far did they go? Lost in the Elite 8 to West Virginia
Key players: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson
In the inaugural season of the John Calipari era in Lexington, the Wildcats led the NCAA in wins and started the season 19-0. Calipari brought in one of the most elite recruiting classes in recent memory, featuring John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. The team made history by becoming the first squad in history to produce five first-round draft picks. On the court there were not a lot of teams able to matchup with the inside and out game of Wall and Cousins. They cruised during the first three rounds of the tournament until they met a veteran-stacked West Virginia team that got the best of them in the Elite 8.
17. Cincinnati Bearcats (1999-00)
How far did they go? Lost in the second round to Tulsa
Key players: Kenyon Martin, DerMarr Johnson and Kenny Satterfield
Led by a future first pick in the NBA Draft, Kenyon Martin, the Bob Huggins-coached Bearcats were a tough bunch to handle. Martin won every major player of the year award that year and the Bearcats were No. 1 for the majority of the season. As they entered the postseason with National Championship hopes, Kenyon Martin went down with a leg fracture during the Conference USA conference tournament and their championship hopes demolished when they were upset by Tulsa in the second round of the tournament.