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It isn’t uncommon for teams that fall a bit short to find fuel for a run the next year. And with North Carolina returning the bulk of a roster that was handled by Kansas in the 2008 Final Four, the Tar Heels weren’t going to let anybody get in the way of winning it all in 2009. One of three national champions to choose from, this team narrowly edges out the 2004-05 team that might have been more Basketball Cheap Jerseys talented overall. These Tar Heels won every game in March by at least 12 points; the closest result was a dozen-point victory over a Blake Griffin-led Oklahoma team in the Elite Eight. That led to wins of 14 and 17 points over Villanova and Michigan State in the Final Four and national championship game, respectively, with Tyler Hansbrough wrapping up a legendary career surrounded by two seniors (Danny Green, Bobby Frasor) and three juniors (Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Deon Thompson). Add in freshmen like Ed Davis and Larry Drew, and this team wasn’t short on options.
5. KANSAS 2007-08
(Photo: John Biever/Sports Illustrated)
The Jayhawks looked ready for a run in 2006-07, particularly after knocking off defending champ Florida on a neutral court during the season. But Kansas caught the yips in the Elite Eight, missing a number of bunnies as UCLA landed a 13-point win. Julian Wright left early to go pro, but everybody else returned, with the Jayhawks putting together arguably the most underrated champion of the last 20 years—leaving out this year’s incomplete results, KenPom ranks this team as the third-best of the millennium, and the second-best champion. Sure, it took Mario’s Miracle to get the Jayhawks across the finish line against Memphis. More easily forgotten was the 18-point domination of a North Carolina team that had almost all the pieces of its 2008-09 national title winner; that Tar Heel team entered the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. And it’s worth noting that Kansas emerged atop the only Final Four in history to boast all four No. 1 seeds. The backcourt rotation was tremendous, with Russell Robinson starting next to Mario Chalmers, and Sherron Collins rotating with Robinson. Brandon Rush was an excellent athlete and defender with a sweet shot. Darrell Arthur was a lottery-type talent who only missed the lottery because health rumors surfaced before the draft, while Sasha Kaun had a long pro career. The depth on this team was impressive; senior backup big man Darnell Jackson had an NBA cup of coffee, while Collins and Cole Aldrich would both go on to get their jerseys retired.
4. FLORIDA 2006-07
(Photo: Streeter Lecka, Getty)
It’s always tougher to repeat, and Florida became the first team since Duke in 1991-92 to pull off the difficult feat. Nobody’s done it since. And while the NBA careers of Florida’s big men in particular provided a glance into how talented this team was, it’s important to note that 1) they were also pretty special in college and 2) however talented Florida was, the Gators were made better because of their terrific chemistry. The previous year had come as somewhat of a surprise, though that team also dominated the NCAA Tournament with just one game decided by single digits. That’s when something rare happened: all five starters returned for another go. Lee Humphrey was a senior; the other four were juniors. And Florida added a freshman in Marreese Speighs who would go on to a long NBA career; for these Gators, he was their No. 4 true big man. Everyone now remembers Joakim Noah and Al Horford, two future NBA All-Stars and All-Defensive Team members, manning the post. Some remember rangy wing Corey Brewer, himself a lottery pick and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. But Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey were darned near automatic from deep; Humphrey in particular filled the role of long-range gunner—he hit 113-of-246 3-pointers (45.9%) that season while only taking 13 free throws. Add in players like sophomore guard Walter Hodge and senior big man Chris Richard off the bench, and this was a team that defeated every team it played in the tournament by at least eight points.