Throughout the history of March Madness, we’ve seen plenty of the best basketball teams in the amateur ranks. And while some of those teams have gone on to win the coveted NCAA championship, there are a handful of great college basketball teams who have failed to win it all. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the best teams to never win the NCAA tournament.
During the 2020-2021 campaign, Gonzaga was a formidable squad led by eventual NBA player Jalen Suggs. He also received notable support from Joel Ayayi, Drew Timme, and Cory Kispert. The Bulldogs posted an undefeated record of 15-0 in the West Coast Conference, and nearly posted a perfect record on the season after pulling out a dramatic victory over the 11th seeded UCLA in the Final Four that saw Suggs sink a halfcourt game winner at the buzzer. Unfortunately, they were upset by the third seeded Baylor University in the National Championship Game by a score of 86-70, crushing their hopes of winning a title and finishing the season without a loss.
2013-2014 Wichita State
Led by eventual NBA players Fred VanVleet, Cleanthony Early, and Ron Baker, Wichita State was an untouchable squad during the regular season. They had a perfect 35-0 record until the third round of the tournament, when they lost 78-76 to Kentucky. Early’s 31-point outburst went to waste, as Andrew Harrison led the way with 20 points for the Wildcats as they stained the Shockers’ clean slate.
Duke looked primed for another national championship after dominating the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 16-0 record. With exception of a loss against Cincinnati, the Daredevils would win 31 straight games enroute to a 37-1 record to punch their ticket to the National Championship Game. Unfortunately, future NBA champion Rip Hamilton was too much to handle for Duke, as he exploded for 27 points in the game that mattered most to help Connecticut pull off the 77-74 shocker.
The Michigan Wolverines’ Fab Five certainly brought excitement to the college basketball scene. Despite having freshmen getting the keys to the car, they gave several teams quite a run for their money. In fact, in the 1991-1992 season, the Wolverines went 25-9. However, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, and Chris Webber just couldn’t get past Duke, losing by a score of 71-51 in the National Championship Game. They returned to the National Championship Game the following year, but also lost for the second straight year, this time to North Carolina by a score of 77-71. Moreover, a scandal ultimately rewrote the record books, which dampened the Wolverines’ overall record.
During the regular season, Indiana would go a commanding 29-0, thanks to Scott May, Steve Green, Kent Benson, and Quinn Buckner. Unfortunately, May suffered a broken arm that derailed Indiana, and while the Hoosiers were still able to make it to the Elite Eight with their undefeated record, they lost a tight match against fifth seeded Kentucky 92-90.
Heading into the NCAA tournament, Illinois held a remarkable 32-1 record, with their only loss coming at the hands of Ohio State. The Fighting Illini maintained their hot streak in the tournament, especially after they pulled off a 15-point comeback victory over Channing Frye’s Arizona. However, Deron Williams and crew failed to get past North Carolina in the National Championship Game, losing by a score of 75-70.
In the 2009-2010 season, Kentucky was loaded, with future NBA All-Stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way. Moreover, they were surrounded by fellow NBA players Eric Bledsoe, Darius Miller, Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, and Josh Harrellson. However, the team failed to get past the Elite Eight after they were defeated by West Virginia, who were led by Da’Sean Butler’s 18 points.
The Kansas Jayhawks had all the starpower they needed to make a national championship run in the 1996-1997 season with Paul Pierce, Scott Pollard, and Jacque Vaughn leading the way. Although the team would go 34-1 to punch their ticket to the national championship round, a hungry Arizona squad backed by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry pulled off a close three-point win to deny the Jayhawks a championship.
UNLV were championship contenders during the 1990-1991 season, and they proved as much by going 18-0 in the Big West Conference. While they were able to push their winning streak to 34 before reaching the Final Four, the Runnin’ Rebels suffered a 79-77 heartbreak at the hands of Duke. Despite Anderson Hunt’s 29 point performance, the Daredevils rode Christian Laettner’s 28 points to pull out the much-needed victory.
With future NBA MVP Derrick Rose leading the way, the Memphis Tigers were a formidable squad that were nearly unbeatable with a 38-2 record. Although they went as deep as the national championship games against Kansas, a clutch three from future NBA champion Mario Chalmers forced overtime, and the Tigers ended up losing 75-68. However, after the NCAA initiated an investigation, which would have made Rose ineligible, the Tigers’ records during the 2007-2008 season were vacated and forfeited.