Decade's best teams and programs
As we close out the decade, ESPN.com's writers and contributors rank and take a look back at the top programs and the single greatest teams of the past 10 years (1999-2000 through 2008-09)
Top Program1. North Carolina
2 national titles, 4 Final Fours, 5 Elite Eights, 5 ACC regular-season titles (3 outright) 2. Kansas
1 national title, 3 Final Fours, 282 wins (No. 2 nationally), 7 Big 12 regular-season titles (4 outright) T3. Florida
2 national titles, 3 title-game appearances, 261 wins (No. 5 nationally) T3. Michigan State
1 national title, 4 Final Fours, 5 Elite Eights, 3 Big Ten regular-season titles (1 outright) 5. Duke
1 national title, 2 Final Fours, 2 Elite Eights, 291 wins (No. 1 nationally), 7 ACC tourney titles Just missed the cut: Connecticut Making the caseJay Bilas: North Carolina won two national championships and went to four Final Fours during the decade, and did it with three different coaches and a tough transition. In short, UNC was the most powerful program of the decade. Duke won the 2001 title, made two Final Fours, eight Sweet 16s and won seven ACC tournament titles, winning the most games of any program. The Blue Devils were incredibly consistent at a high level. Michigan State won it all in 2000 and cracked four Final Fours, five Elite Eights and seven Sweet 16s. No other team went from blue collar to blue blood in the decade. Spartan green now belongs with the game's very best. Connecticut won the title in 2004, should have won it in 2006, and was a Jerome Dyson injury away from challenging UNC in 2009. And Kansas had a magnificent decade, winning the title in 2008, making three Final Fours and winning seven Big 12 titles, five in a row under Bill Self. Pat Forde: This is a close call. Despite Carolina's troubles under Matt Doherty earlier in the decade, the Tar Heels have been consistently excellent since Roy Williams arrived. The two titles for both the Heels and Gators (extra points for the rare repeat by Florida) give them the edge in my book over Michigan State, Kansas, Duke and Connecticut. Fran Fraschilla: I put Kansas No. 1 on my ballot. Under both Roy Williams and his replacement, Bill Self, the Jayhawks maintained a standard of excellence that has lasted the entire decade, with 10 NCAA appearances, three visits to the Final Four and an NCAA title in 2008. In addition, the Jayhawks were the second-winningest program of the decade behind Duke and have won seven Big 12 championships in that time. Andy Katz: I had Michigan State as the team of the decade a few years ago and I'm sticking with my original thought. Why? MSU won a title in the first year of the decade (2000) and reached the Final Four four times, including last season's runner-up finish. The Spartans didn't exactly dominate the Big Ten, but they made they made the NCAA tourney every year, something programs like UNC, Florida and UConn can't say. In fact, the Tar Heels had an 8-20 season during this decade. Sparty never took a dip. Dana O'Neil: This was really hard. Winning back-to-back national championships is hard to ignore. Ditto Kansas' consistency throughout this decade's run of the NCAA tournament. But ultimately the Tar Heels' two titles combined with a continued run of excellence after those trophy presentations won out for me. Howie Schwab: The Tar Heels won two championships and were consistent in winning five ACC regular-season titles. Florida won two straight national titles, but falling short of the NCAA tournament the last two years cost them any shot at the top spot. Duke won more games than anyone in the decade, but the recent streak of missing the Final Four hurt its chances. In fact, the Blue Devils haven't even made a regional final since 2004.AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallNorth Carolina was named the program of the decade by five of our seven ESPN.com panelists.Best Single Team 1. 2006-07 Florida 2. 2000-01 Duke 3. 2004-05 North Carolina 4. 2008-09 North Carolina 5. 2003-04 Connecticut Others receiving votes: 1999-2000 Michigan State, 2007-08 Kansas Making the case Jay Bilas: The 2004 UConn Huskies were loaded with talent and had Okafor, Gordon, Villanueva, Anderson, Brown and Boone. Very good defensively, and despite the free throw woes, incredibly powerful. I can see the arguments against this team compared to the 2001 Duke squad (those are my top two), but Okafor would be the difference. That Duke team was explosive and versatile and could score with anyone. Battier was the difference between a great team and a champion. North Carolina has the next two entries on my ballot, with incredible talent and a breakneck style to boot. Wouldn't you love to see a game between the 2005 Heels and the 2009 Heels? Finally, Florida was a true team in 2007, and took everyone's best shot. I don't recall a better passing team or a more unselfish group of great players. Pat Forde: I went with 2005 UNC in the top slot. It was a tremendous collection of talent that played up to extremely high expectations. Florida '07 was a close second, performing under the pressure of trying to repeat. Fran Fraschilla: The 2006-07 Florida Gators get my vote as best individual team of the decade. In my opinion, they get bonus points for being only the second team to win back-to-back NCAA titles since the great UCLA dynasty. Coming off their first NCAA crown in 2006, the odds were stacked against a Florida repeat. As Pat Riley would say, they had to overcome "the disease of me" that creeps into a team that has had such success. They did just that. Andy Katz: The pressure was immense on the Gators to repeat as champs. Yet the '04s (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green) made the commitment to return to school and go for another title. Nothing less was expected. They had to deal with rock-star status everywhere they went, yet they were able to block it out and finish essentially a six-game season as back-to-back champs. That's my No. 1 team. The '08-09 Tar Heels had similar pressure. Injuries early to Tyler Hansbrough, Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Zeller and then late to Ty Lawson made the road more treacherous, but UNC made its mark and won the title convincingly. Mateen Cleaves and the Flintstones were remarkably driven to get a title at the beginning of the decade. Seeing Cleaves hobbling back onto the court at the RCA Dome to finish the title game against Florida -- a year after losing in the Final Four -- was one of those great moments in tournament history. The Duke team of 2001 was such a machine and might go down as one of the best ever in the ACC. The Blue Devils had so many epic games that season and finished it off with a title win over Arizona. The 2005 Tar Heels had to endure a coaching change a year earlier, yet rallied under Roy Williams and got him a much-deserved first title.[+] EnlargeStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesFour juniors (Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Taurean Green) and one senior (Lee Humphrey) made these Gators deadly.Best Team That Didn't Win A National Title 1. 2007-08 Memphis[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Mark HumphreyA 38-win Memphis team could only sit and watch as KU celebrated a miraculous title-game comeback.
2. 2004-05 Illinois
3. 2002-03 Kansas
4. 2005-06 Connecticut
T5. 1999-2000 Cincinnati
T5. 2001-02 Duke
Others receiving votes: 1999-2000 Iowa State; 2000-01 Arizona; 2002-03 Kentucky; 2006-07 Ohio State Making the case Jay Bilas: The Illinois team that lost to North Carolina in 2005 was a magnificent team that simply knew how to play. Deron Williams was the difference in that team being in my top spot in this category. Memphis was a play away from 39 wins and immortality with Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts leading a great defense and a potent dribble-drive attack. UConn was perhaps the most disappointing, because the Huskies were the best team in 2006, but did not realize the title because of a lack of focus toward the end of the season. Talentwise, there were few better in the decade. Kansas was a few free throws away from making Carmelo Anthony just another great freshman, and Arizona was a healthy Gilbert Arenas away from the title in 2001. With a healthy shoulder, I think Arenas knocks down the open shots he had. Pat Forde: Everyone forgets about the 2000 Cincinnati team, but the Bearcats were 28-2 and ranked No. 1 when Kenyon Martin broke his leg one minute into a Conference USA tournament quarterfinal game at noon on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday in Memphis. That team would have been the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament if fate had not intervened. Fran Fraschilla: In my view, the 2002 Duke team was the best without a title. This team put six players in the NBA, including five who are still active. Wow! Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Jay Williams were the nucleus of Mike Krzyzewski's 31-4 Blue Devils while Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing and Dahntay Jones were outstanding players, as well. In addition to winning the Maui Classic, they breezed through the ACC with a 13-3 regular-season record and also won the ACC tournament title. Ultimately, Duke played one awful half and was nipped by an underdog Indiana team 74-73 in the Sweet 16. Doug Gottlieb: Most people remember Larry Eustachy getting ejected from the Elite Eight game, but the 2000 Iowa State team doesn't get nearly as much love as it should. With Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Fizer and Stevie Johnson leading the way and Eustachy creating perfect roles for seven players, the Cyclones were the second-best team that season. I am convinced of that. It's really too bad they were matched up in the same region with the best team that season (Michigan State) -- and in Auburn Hills, Mich., no less. Andy Katz: The UConn team in 2006 was loaded with pros, but the Huskies never seemed to enjoy winning. It always seemed like a struggle. The loss to George Mason will haunt this squad, because they were talented enough to deny Florida the first of its two titles. Memphis was just a shot away from closing out Kansas and delivering a national title. The Tigers were a dominant squad for most of the season, especially while annihilating Michigan State, Texas and UCLA en route to the title game. The 2005 Illini were one of the more enjoyable watches of the decade. Going to games that season in Champaign was an event, with the Orange Krush as loud as any fan base in the country. The 2003 Kansas squad under Roy Williams ran into a more focused Syracuse in the title game. The 2001 Arizona team was loaded with pros during a season in which Lute Olson had to deal with the death of his beloved wife Bobbi. They rallied around Olson and still made the run to the title game, but couldn't get past what may have been Mike Krzyzewski's most complete team. Dana O'Neil: My five on the list were all loaded with talent and expectation, but each was derailed before its one shining moment: Memphis by the free-throw line, one-loss Illinois by a North Carolina machine, Cincinnati by Kenyon Martin's injury, Connecticut by Cinderella George Mason and Kansas by a super frosh named Melo.
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THE DECADE: A LOOK BACK
What a memorable and often tumultous past 10 years it has been in college basketball. Sit back and let our panelists of ESPN.com writers and contributors take you through the teams and personalities that made up the decade.