Every year, some dummy makes the comment: “This great college team could beat this terrible NBA squad.”
Of course, I walk away from the conversation because clearly this person doesn’t know much about basketball. I don’t care how good a college team is, the level of play in the NBA is so superior that usually the idea is just laughable.
But this year, for the first time ever, when Charles Barkley wondered out loud if Kentucky could beat the Wizards, I stopped to think about it.
Hmmmm…I don’t think so Chuck. BUT…could they beat the Charlotte Bobcats?
- PG: Marquis Teague vs. DJ Augustin. While I think Teague will be the slightly better pro, I think it’s safe to call this matchup a wash at this point.
- SG: Doron Lamb vs. Gerald Henderson. The Bobcats win this matchup. Henderson has been tearing it up this year. However, Lamb is still a good player and would battle Henderson reasonably well.
- SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Corey Maggette. Corey Maggette is a scoring machine and ball-hog extraordinaire. Kidd-Gilchrist is one of the hardest workers in basketball…period. He will be the second pick in the draft if he comes out this season. Maggette may have been better once, but he isn’t today. Kentucky wins this matchup.
- PF: Terrence Jones vs. DJ White. Jones is far more talented, White is normally sane. Let’s call this one a wash as well.
- C: Anthony Davis vs. Bismack Biyombo. Biyombo is basically Davis without an offensive game. Let’s just move on. Win for Kentucky.
- Sixth Man: Darius Miller vs. Kemba Walker. Both benches are laughably thin, but both have a talented scorer to come in for instant offense. Slight edge to the Bobcats.
Wow. It’s much closer than you would have ever thought, isn’t it.
Anyways, that got me thinking. Since the “college team versus a pro team” is almost never logical, does this make Kentucky the most talented Final Four team of all time?
Let’s not get too hasty.
After some exhaustive research, I narrowed the field down to ten teams, with three receiving honorable mention.
Please note: This is not an article arguing about who is the best college team of all time. That conversation, in my opinion, comes down to the ’76 Hoosiers vs. the ’73 UCLA Bruins. If you didn’t go undefeated, you don’t deserve to be in the conversation. But that’s another article entirely.
Narrowing down this list was harder than you might think. Since we are trying to judge actual talent, I had to somehow weigh college accolades with future professional accomplishments.
First of all, I narrowed down the list to only teams that made the Final Four. Then I looked at each team and weighing the following eight criteria:
- Number of good players – A team of Tim Duncan and nobody else won’t make this list.
- # of College Player of the Year Awards
- # of College All Americans
- # of First Round Picks
- # of Years Played in the NBA
- # of NBA All-Star Appearances
- # of Future NBA MVP’s
- An extra intangible…just for fun.
However, a definitive, objective ranking couldn’t be arrived at with the list solely reliant on a formula. If it was, some of the most recent teams wouldn’t even come close because most of their players haven’t finished their NBA careers yet. Because of that, I chose not to rank the Top Ten. That’s for you to do. Feel free to voice your opinions in the comment section.
1962 Ohio State – John Havlicek, Bobby Knight, and Jerry Lucas
Jerry Lucas was a 2-time College Player of the Year and 3-time All-American. Havlicek made the All-American team twice. Both were first round draft picks.
Needless to say, both players had stellar pro careers. Bobby Knight wasn’t a great pro, but he definitely fit into that “extra intangible” category. As good as this team was, they just didn’t have enough talent across the board to crack the top ten.
1968 UCLA – Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren
2002 Duke – Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Daniel Ewing, Reggie Love, Dahntay Jones, and Jason Williams
If this team had just made the Final Four, they would have finished high on this list. Every single one of these players made the league except for Reggie Love – who makes the list for being Barack Obama’s personal bodyguard…I challenge you to find a more special “intangible.”
And with the exception of Daniel Ewing (who is playing in Russia) and Jason Williams (who suffered a career ending injury), every guy is still a viable player in the NBA.
What’s crazy is that the most talented player, Jason Williams, actually ended up falling short of the rest as far as NBA accolades go. Of course, his tragic motorcycle injury cut his career far too short.
With five All-Americans and one College Player of the Year, this team definitely goes down as one of the most talented teams in history.
The 10 Most Talented Final Four Teams of All Time
Presented in no particular order….remember, that’s for you to decide at the end.
1974 UCLA – Marques Johnson, Dave Meyers, Bill Walton, Richard Washington, and Jamaal Wilkes
Walton was a 3-time National Player of the Year, and Johnson won the award once. These five also racked up nine All-American Awards between them.
Johnson and Wilkes went on to have stellar pro careers, and Walton would have been one of the greatest to ever play the game if injuries hadn’t ravaged his career.
In my opinion, there is no way this team finishes out of the top 3.
1982 UNC – Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and James Worthy
This team only had three players that met any of my criteria…but BOY did they meet the criteria with flying colors.
Jordan was a College Player of the Year, and…well…we all know about his NBA resume. Perkins was a solid pro that had a 17-year career, and Worthy was a numerous All-Star and NBA Champion.
Even though they only went three deep, you could call this team a legitimate Big Three. And with the Greatest of All Time lacing up his sneakers for them, I have a hard time believing they would fall out of the Top 3 on any list.
1983 Houston – Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwan, and Michael Young
Man, college basketball must have been unbelievable in the early-80s.
While none of these players made huge names for themselves while in college (only three All-American awards between them), their real talent showed in the pros.
Hakeem went on to become one of the greatest centers of all time, and probably the best defensive center ever. He won one MVP, two championships, and countless other awards.
Clyde “the Glide” was a member of the original Dream Team, and while he was often overshadowed by Michael Jordan…so was everybody. There was little doubt that he was the second best SG in the league during most of his career, and he racked up All-Star teams and other accolades left and right.
1992 UNLV – George Ackles, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, and Elmore Spencer
You know all about Larry Johnson (one National Player of the Year award) and Stacey Augmon (one of the greatest defensive players ever). But I bet you didn’t realize that Greg Anthony and Elmore Spencer were also first round draft picks.
Plain and simple, this team was loaded. There’s a reason they absolutely crushed Duke in the championship game the year before going undefeated and choking in one of the greatest upsets in college history.
While this team doesn’t crack the top five in my opinion, they are easily in the top ten.
1993 Michigan – Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, and Chris Webber
Because most of these players didn’t stay in school very long, their college accolades aren’t as impressive. In fact, they only accumulated two All-American awards total.
However, Webber became a stellar NBA player making the All-Star team five times and the First All-NBA team once.
Howard is still playing today, and Rose had a solid 13-year career and a 40-point explosion for the Pacers in the playoffs.
1996 Kentucky – Derek Anderson, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, Nazr Muhammed, and Antoine Walker
What’s crazy is that Mark Pope and Jeff Sheppard – two outstanding college players in their own right – didn’t even make this list.
If you are measuring all of the teams from top to bottom, this team might be the most loaded of them all.
Each of the six listed players made the NBA, and Walker was a 3-time All-Star and NBA Champion.
Even though none of them were great NBA players, most of them were solid rotation players for several years (and in the case of Muhammed, still are).
1999 Duke – William Avery, Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Chris Carrawell, Trajan Langdon, and Corey Maggette
I actually thought this team would have finished close to the top, but many of their players ended up being busts in the NBA. Avery, Carrawell, and Langdon did nothing.
And while Brand and Battier were both College Players of the Year, and Langdon and Carrawell added a few more All-American Awards to their stockpile, the team just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.
2007 Florida – Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey, Joakim Noah, Chris Richard, Marreese Speights
This team wins the award for “most complete team that you could actually play a real game with.”
Every player went on to play professionally, at least for a few years, and Horford and Noah are legitimate stars in the NBA right now. Speights is uber-talented, if not spastic and dumb sometimes, and Brewer is one of the best lockdown defenders in the NBA as well.
They are also one of the only back-to-back Champions on the list. Not only were they super talented, but they were winners as well.
2009 UNC – Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Tyler Zeller
Every single player on this list went on to play in the NBA or will (in Zeller’s case). Unfortunately, none of them is a game-changer at the next level.
This is your classic “everybody is good but nobody is great” team, talent-wise.
2012 Kentucky Wildcats – Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, and Marquis Teague
We are all very familiar with them by now.
So what do you think? Who is #1?
Vote, and then comment below with your top 3, top 5, or rank them all 1-10.