Top 10 of the last 10: positioned for success

In the final part of a weeklong look at the past decade in college basketball, picks its top 10 programs best positioned for success in the next 10 years.

Originally Published: May 11, 2007
By Andy Glockner |

Editor's note: This Top 10 list is an aggregate of the individual ballots from five ESPN/ basketball experts. The experts' ballots can be found here.

There's no one right way to determine the programs that are best positioned for future success in college hoops.

Some of the bluest of blue-blooded programs already have virtually everything in place, and just need a tweak here and there to keep the machine purring. Other nouveau powers have roared onto the scene and have shown the potential (and in one case, the performance) to surge past the establishment and reorder the sport's hierarchy.

So, you try to look at the entirety of the picture -- and the sustainability of that picture -- when it comes to ranking programs. Everything matters -- history, tradition, facilities, administrative support, recruiting reach, conference, TV Q-rating, coaching and fans. The more of those a team has in place -- and the more it looks like they will be in place for the long term -- the better positioned a program is.

Here they are … today's Top 10: The programs best positioned for success in the next 10 seasons.

1. North Carolina (3 first-place votes)
Simply put, North Carolina has everything you want in a basketball program: tradition, historical success, current success, an enormous and passionate fan base, quality facilities, complete national recruiting reach and a Hall of Fame coach who already has won a national title at the school. In today's college basketball world, with each season bringing a wave of potentially one-and-out recruits, even the best programs will experience peaks and troughs, but Carolina under Roy Williams is well-positioned to minimize the downturns. Williams recruits to his very up-tempo style of play and uses the depth he recruits (unlike Duke). He's also having success keeping most of his talent longer than one season. Bonus points for not going down the same road as schools like Duke and Florida and rolling out an alternate black jersey. Just classic Carolina blue and white, please.

2. Florida (1)
If recent performance were the largest predictor of future success, Florida would be the runaway pick for No. 1 on this list. On the surface, the Gators are primed to move forward successfully. They (seem to have) kept Billy Donovan as the head coach, and he can now restock his roster rapidly, promising immediate playing time and legitimately pumping the chance recruits will play for national championships while in Gainesville. While next season will be for reloading, the product on the floor should, on the whole, remain excellent for the foreseeable future. Still, Florida is still a football-first school and the smallish O'Connell Center, while a tough place for visitors, does not meet the standards of a national power. Donovan also will remain an annual flight risk, which could significantly impact the Gators' future upside.

It's a wonder how good the most successful program in college hoops history can look when it finds the right fit at head coach. The scary part for Bruins opponents is that UCLA just made back-to-back Final Fours without having superelite high school prospects on the roster. That changes next season when big man Kevin Love arrives in Westwood, giving the Bruins the low-post scorer they have sorely lacked the last two seasons. Combine the tradition of the program, the recent success, the increased reach in recruiting, a terrific head coach, Westwood with all it has to offer and the L.A. media market, and you can see why things continue to look up for UCLA going forward. Is it a sacrilege, though, to wonder whether Pauley Pavilion is a minus? Especially with the new Galen Center across town at USC, better overall hoops facilities would be the feather in UCLA's cap.

4. Kentucky (1)
The Wildcats definitely have the history/tradition, fan base and facilities requirements squared away, and many UK fans believe the hiring of Billy Gillispie after Tubby Smith left for Minnesota will remedy the somewhat more modest recent on-court accomplishments. While Gillispie is very new to this level of expectations, his performances at both UTEP and Texas A&M, plus his ability to land a player like DeAndre Jordan in this year's A&M recruiting class, show he might have the package of skills that will both be able to get better players to Lexington and do something with them when they are there. Kentucky will always be the bluest of blue-blooded programs, but it's up to Gillispie & Co. to get teenagers to once again believe it's cool to play for the Cats. If he can, they and Florida could turn the SEC East into the AL East.

5. Ohio State
Because Ohio State is widely regarded as a football school, there is a certain lack of appreciation for the Buckeyes' hardwood exploits, even though this has been a very successful program for large portions of the last five decades. Now? In three short years, Thad Matta has built Ohio State into an elite hoops program. The Thad Five panned out and took the Buckeyes to the national title game, and now -- even though Greg Oden's gone and Mike Conley Jr. very well might be, too -- there's plenty of talent left from last season's roster and more stud freshmen are arriving in Columbus for next season. Throw in the new Value City Arena and a huge athletics budget, and the foundation is there for a very long stay in the sport's upper crust.

6. Duke
Many will be surprised the Blue Devils are this low … and some will be surprised they are this high. Duke has a legendary coach, legendary fan support and an incredible last 20 years of on-court performance. Also very important for this generation of players, the Devils are the clear TV favorite, with almost every one of their games nationally televised. They also have an established national recruiting reach, although they self-limit at times and one of the fairest knocks on the program is that the Devils don't end up utilizing many of the All-Americans who matriculate in Durham. When a down year is 22-10, you know you are an elite program. It just will be interesting to see if the slight downward trend since the 2001 national title is a blip or a leading indicator of a future when Duke ultimately is bypassed by schools like Florida and Ohio State.

7. Texas
Texas is another state school with big money and big potential. Rick Barnes took the mantle from Tom Penders, who did well in Austin in his own right, and has led the Horns to previously unexpected heights. On the court, it's now nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances and counting, including both a Final Four and an Elite Eight in the last five seasons. On the recruiting front, getting players such as Kevin Durant (from Maryland) and D.J. Augustin (from New Orleans) is an indicator that Texas is now a national player for any top-level high schooler. The Horns also have nice facilities and Austin is a great college town.

8. Kansas
As I said on a Jayhawks radio broadcast on Tuesday, it was hard to know how high Kansas was going to rank in this poll because the Jayhawks already have everything in place (history, current success, national recruiting reach, great arena, great fans, etc.) other than the somewhat arbitrary ability to string together six wins in mid-March. Bill Self has proved he can get players, but with the meter running at 19 years since the program's last national title and four years of the Self Era without a Final Four appearance, the pressure to deliver in the NCAAs will continue to build. Unlike Texas, KU doesn't have football to fall back on. This is the only game in town.

9. Louisville
Representing the red part of the basketball-crazed commonwealth, as long as Rick Pitino sticks around, the Cardinals should be extremely formidable. Pitino already took them to one Final Four (in 2005) and they should be a strong preseason candidate to make it to San Antonio next season. The move to the Big East was a great one for the school; the football team also is reaping the rewards of BCS-conference participation. Louisville doesn't have quite the national name as Kentucky or some of these other schools listed ahead of it, but that doesn't mean Pitino won't have the Cardinals ahead of those programs at some point down the road if he stays.

10. Indiana
Like UCLA, the Hoosiers' fortunes should turn for the better now that it seems they have found a coach who is the right fit. There isn't a program in the land with better intangibles (fan support and breadth, historic basketball brand and performance). Now Kelvin Sampson needs to mold Indiana into a program that can match the on-court success of Bob Knight's 1970s and 80s IU teams -- or even Mike Davis' 2002 national title game team. Big bonus points for keeping the candy-striped warm-up pants, even if some recruits probably think they look goofy. Sampson proved at Oklahoma that he can get high-level recruits, even at a football school. Now that he has a better basketball brand and recruiting base to work with, watch out.

Others receiving votes: Michigan State, Memphis, Connecticut, Georgetown, USC

Andy Glockner is a regular contributor to's college basketball coverage and is the host of the ESPNU college basketball Insider podcast.