Commentary

Counting down the most prestigious programs: Nos. 31-40

Originally Published: July 22, 2008
By Harold Shelton, Nick Loucks and Chris Fallica | ESPN Research

How do you rank the best programs in the modern era of college basketball?

It's not easy, but this summer, we decided to tackle the hundreds of Division I men's college basketball teams, weighing the thousands of regular-season and postseason wins and losses, the NBA draft picks, the All-Americans and the national titles to come up with a numerical point system to provide unbiased rankings of every college hoops program's success since the start of the 1984-85 season, the season when the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams.

We let the numbers do the talking by assigning the following point values for certain successes and failures.

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10
• Best W-L record in conference's regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5
• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3
• Player in top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2
• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1
• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3
>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season
^^ Teams are listed with their current conferences

On Monday, we unveiled teams Nos. 41-50.

Now we continue the countdown to No. 1.

40. PRINCETON TIGERS, Ivy League
Positives: 10 conference titles (regular-season only in the Ivy); 8 20-win seasons
Negatives: 4 losing seasons
Total points: 93
Did you know? Where have you gone Pete Carril? The Tigers are slumping, with three straight losing seasons. But their glory days aren't too far in the rearview mirror. Princeton reached as high as No. 7 in the national polls in 1998. There was the near upset of 1-seed Georgetown in 1989. And, of course, the Tigers upset defending champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament.

39. TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE, Conference USA
Positives: 14 20-win seasons; 11 NCAA tournament berths; 1994 win over No. 5-seeded UCLA; 2002 win over No. 5-seeded Marquette; 2003 win over No. 4-seeded Dayton; 1 Elite Eight
Negatives: 4 losing seasons
Total points: 97
Did you know? Having coaches like Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith, Bill Self and Buzz Peterson has made NCAA tournament success a regular occurrence here. The Golden Hurricane have advanced past the first round in seven of their past eight Dances. Current coach Doug Wojcik hasn't gotten them back there yet, but he has engineered back-to-back 20-win campaigns.

38. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS, ACC
Positives: 17 postseason berths (12 NCAA, 5 NIT); 7 All-Americans; 3 NBA top-10 picks
Negatives: 6 losing seasons; never reached the Final Four; 2 ACC regular-season titles
Total points: 98
Did you know? Wake Forest is held back a little because of the heavy hitters in the ACC who often deny it conference glory. The Tim Duncan- and Randolph Childress-led teams from the mid-'90s reached high levels of success. Recent teams have been upset by lower-seeded teams in the NCAA tournament in four of the past six trips.

37. MISSOURI TIGERS, Big 12
Positives: 12 20-win seasons; 14 NCAA tournaments; beat No. 5-seeded Miami (Fla.) in 2002 first round
Negatives: 3 losing seasons; just 12 NCAA tourney wins in 14 trips; NCAA sanction in 2004; loss to 13th-seeded Xavier in 1987, loss to 14th-seeded Northern Iowa in 1990
Total points: 98
Did you know? The Tigers haven't heard their name for the past five Selection Sundays and are the first team on our list to get upset by 12-seeds or worse twice. They have just missed out on Final Four berths two times under different coaches. Missouri wins the tiebreaker with Wake Forest thanks to a .623 winning percentage (Wake Forest's was .599) since the start of the 1984-85 season.

36. ST. JOHN'S RED STORM, Big East
Positives: 2 No. 1 seeds; 12 NCAA berths; 1 Final Four; 6 All-Americans
Negatives: 10 losing seasons; just 2 regular-season conference titles, and none since 1992; NCAA sanction
Total points: 100
Did you know? This once-proud program has fallen on hard times lately with just three winning seasons since the 2000-01 season. Quick trivia question: Against which team was the Red Storm's last NCAA tournament win? Give up? It was Northern Arizona in 2000. Give the Red Storm credit for taking advantage of home-court advantage in the postseason NIT for two titles, which kept them above Missouri and Wake here.

35. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE, SEC
Positives: 14 20-win seasons; 19 postseasons (14 NCAA, 5 NIT); 6 Sweet 16 appearances
Negatives: 3 losing seasons; 1 Elite Eight appearance in 14 NCAA trips
Total points: 100
Did you know? The Crimson Tide are regulars in the NCAA tournament but are notorious underachievers in March. They have been a top-five seed seven times since 1986 but didn't advance past the Sweet 16 in any of those years. Their best tournament run was to the Elite Eight as an 8-seed in 2004. Alabama wins the tiebreaker with St. John's thanks to its .641-.594 winning percentage advantage since 1984-85.

34. PENN QUAKERS, Ivy League
Positives: 12 NCAA tournaments; 10 20-win seasons
Negatives: 8 losing seasons; 1 NCAA win
Total points: 102
Did you know? Your gut instinct might be to give the overall Ivy League crown to Princeton, but Penn has done more on the hardwood since 1984-85. The Quakers have more automatic NCAA tourney bids than the Tigers (12-9) and more 20-win seasons (10-8).

33. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS, ACC
Positives: 21 wins in 14 NCAA berths; 10 20-win seasons; 7 All-Americans; 5 NBA top-10 picks
Negatives: 6 losing seasons; just 2 ACC regular-season titles; loss to 13th-seeded Southern in 1993
Total points: 117
Did you know? This is a superstar-driven program that has boasted Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, Stephon Marbury and Chris Bosh as its own. Seven Yellow Jackets have been named to one of the top three All-America teams. Yet with all that talent, if you throw out the 2004 run to the national title game, Georgia Tech has just one NCAA tournament win since 1997.

32. OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS, Big 12
Positives: 14 20-win seasons, including one 30-win season; 13 NCAA berths; 2 Final Fours
Negatives: 3 losing seasons; just 2 conference regular-season titles; 0 first team All-Americans; 1 NBA top-10 pick
Total points: 125
Did you know? After punching eight straight tickets to the Dance between 1998 and 2005, the Cowboys have been under .500 in the Big 12 the past three seasons.

31. VILLANOVA WILDCATS, Big East
Positives: 13 20-win seasons; 22 postseasons (13 NCAA, 9 NIT); 1 NIT title; 2 Elite Eights
Negatives: 5 losing seasons; just 1 Big East tourney title (1996)
Total points: 126
Did you know? At No. 31, this is the lowest ranking for any team that has won a national title. The 1985 season was the only time the Wildcats reached the Final Four. They also have owned the best record in the Big East twice in the past 24 seasons.

Check ESPN.com on Wednesday for Nos. 21-30.

Harold Shelton, Nick Loucks and Chris Fallica are researchers at ESPN.

Chris Fallica

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