- From squads stacked with one-and-dones and surprising Cinderellas to undefeated teams and seasons defined by buzzer-beaters, the 2010s were filled with college basketball teams sports lovers will never forget.
- On the women’s side of the court, the UConn Huskies enjoyed multiple perfect seasons and won four consecutive national championships, while the Notre Dame Fighting Irish completed a fairytale season thanks to back-to-back NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters.
- On the men’s side, the Kentucky Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils boasted teams loaded with future NBA talent while teams like the UMBC Retrievers, Loyola Chicago Ramblers, and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles enjoyed Cinderella stories straight out of fantasies.
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2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats
John Calipari assembled what was, at the time, considered one of the most stacked college basketball squads in the history of the game for the Kentucky Wildcats in 2014. The Harrison twins ran the backcourt while future NBA stars like Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, and Devin Booker lit up scoreboards and dominated opponents throughout the season. The Wildcats were ranked first in the AP Poll for the entire year and entered the NCAA tournament with a perfect 34-0 record. Still, the heavy favourites to survive March Madness hit a roadblock against Frank Kaminsky and the Wisconsin Badgers in the Final Four, and the Duke Blue Devils went on to cut down the nets.
2018-19 Duke Blue Devils
Considering head coach Mike Krzyzewski locked down the first, second, and third prospects in the 2018 recruiting class, the Duke Blue Devils didn’t enter the season with overwhelming hype. That quickly changed after Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish torched the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats in the Champions Classic to deal head coach John Calipari the worst loss of his career. From that point on, Duke – and specifically Williamson – was the talk of college basketball. The Blue Devils suffered a disappointing upset in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament, but their three star freshmen made waves when they were all selected in the top 10 of the 2019 NBA Draft.
2016-17 South Carolina Gamecocks
Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies had dominated the world of college basketball to an unprecedented degree, winning four consecutive national championships heading into the 2016-17 season. And even though UConn was primed to enjoy yet another perfect season, Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks were not-so-quietly enjoying a special year in their own right. Led by A’ja Wilson, the Gamecocks finished the regular season with just four losses and wins against seven different top-25 teams. They went on to beat No. 20 Kentucky and No. 6 Mississippi State to win the SEC championship and then cruised through the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament. After the Mississippi State Bulldogs knocked out the UConn juggernaut to advance to the championship, South Carolina dealt them a double-digit loss to win its first national championship in program history.
2012-13 FGCU Eagles
Like any Cinderella sleeper, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles came out of nowhere to shock the field during the 2013 NCAA tournament. Known as “Dunk City” for its colossal dunks, 15th-seeded FGCU took down a second-seeded Georgetown Hoyas squad that featured Otto Porter Jr. by a 10-point margin before beating the seventh-seeded San Diego State Aztecs in another double-digit decision. The Eagles’ luck ran dry during the second weekend as they lost to the No. 14 Florida Gators – a third seed that year – by 12 in the Sweet 16. To this day, that Florida Gulf Coast squad is the lowest-ranked team to ever compete in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
2010-11 UConn Huskies
The Connecticut Huskies began the season as the No. 4 team in the AP Top 25 Poll but continually dropped throughout the year thanks to losses against a handful of top-25 teams. After losing six of its final 10 games of the season – three of which came against unranked opponents – the Huskies earned the ninth seed in the Big East tournament and missed out on a bye game. Led by future NBA star Kemba Walker, UConn won five games in five days, taking down four straight ranked opponents at Madison Square Garden to win the Big East tournament. The Huskies carried that momentum into the NCAA tournament, toppling four more top-25 teams in six consecutive wins to take home their third national championship in 12 years.
2015-16 Villanova Wildcats
The 2015-16 Villanova Wildcats were among the top teams in the nation from the start. They began the year ranked third in the AP top-25 poll and remained in the top 10 for the majority of the season. Regular-season losses to Buddy Hield and the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners, No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers, No. 16 Providence Friars, and No. 5 Xavier Musketeers set Villanova up with the top seed in the Big East tournament. Still, a loss to the unranked Seton Hall Pirates bumped the Wildcats back to a two seed in the NCAA tournament. Josh Hart paced the Villanova offence and led Jay Wright’s team to five wins – all but one of which by double-digit margins – to face the one seed North Carolina Tar Heels for the national championship. The game famously ended with a wild sequence; North Carolina guard Marcus Paige drained a mindboggling, off-balance three with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game before Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled up the court and dumped the ball off to Kris Jenkins at the top of the key. Jenkins rose up and sank the three over Isaiah Hicks at the buzzer for the title.
2015-16 UConn Huskies
Led by established college basketball icon Breanna Stewart during her senior season, the UConn Huskies completed their second perfect season in three years and won their fourth consecutive national championship. Not since John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins had a team reigned over college basketball in such dominant fashion, a feat that was entirely unprecedented in the women’s game. Stewart became the only college basketball player besides Ralph Sampson to be the consensus National Player of the Year three times and the first to win Most Outstanding Player in four consecutive NCAA tournaments.
2017-18 UMBC Retrievers
With a mediocre 21-10 record during the regular season, K.J. Maura and the UMBC Retrievers hadn’t enjoyed a particularly impressive stretch throughout 2017-18. But things clicked in a major way for the Retrievers in the postseason; they torched their first two opponents in the American East tournament before downing the top-seeded Vermont Catamounts on a last-second three-pointer to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. A 16 seed, UMBC was matched up against a No. 1 overall seed Virginia Cavaliers squad that entered March Madness with just two losses all season. The Retrievers shocked the world by becoming the first 16 seed to take down a No. 1 seed in the tournament, and they did so by a whopping 20 points. Even though UMBC lost to the Kansas State Wildcats in the next round, the Retrievers inked their legacy in the college basketball history books with the most stunning and high-profile upset ever recorded in the sport.
2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers
Just one year removed from the worst upset in NCAA tournament history, the Virginia Cavaliers completed the ultimate comeback story. Juniors Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and sophomore De’Andre Hunter led a seasoned and determined Virginia squad to an impressive two-loss regular season in a stacked ACC. The Cavaliers then exacted their revenge in the NCAA tournament, steamrolling the competition en route to their first national championship in program history.
2009-10 Butler Bulldogs
Before his days of lighting it up in the NBA, Gordon Hayward was known as a baby-faced David who nearly toppled Mike Krzyzewski’s Goliaths during the 2010 NCAA tournament. Despite a rocky start to the season with four losses in nonconference play, the Butler Bulldogs cruised through Horizon League play without a loss and won their conference tournament to earn an eight seed in March Madness. Butler enjoyed a classic Cinderella story, surprising the field and taking down three AP top-25 teams en route to the national championship game. The Bulldogs played up to the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils’ level in Indianapolis and it came down to the wire. With less than a second remaining in the contest, Hayward memorably chucked up a half-court prayer for the win that clunked off of the rim and ended Butler’s hopes of completing the ultimate underdog story.
2017-18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The year legendary head coach Muffet McGraw was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame became a dream season for her Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Despite losing multiple key players to season-ending injuries – including a slew of ACL tears – Notre Dame cruised through the regular season with just two losses before losing to the Louisville Cardinals in the ACC tournament. Still, the Fighting Irish secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and won each of their first four contests by double digits. However, they faced a roadblock against Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies in a Final Four game that went to overtime and came down to the wire. With just one second remaining, Notre Dame sharpshooter Arike Ogunbowale sank a long-range step-back to send her team to the title game, but her heroics didn’t stop there. She hit an off-balance three at the buzzer to beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs and bring the Irish their second national championship.
2017-18 Loyola Chicago Ramblers
The Loyola Chicago Ramblers program enjoyed a standout season in 2017-18 well before they reached the NCAA tournament. The Ramblers stunned the No. 5 Florida Gators in December to notch their first win against a top 25 team since February 2009 and first against a top 5 opponent in more than two decades. They won the Missouri Valley conference tournament handily to secure an NCAA tournament bid and certainly made the most of the opportunity. An 11 seed, Loyola Chicago took down three ranked opponents in four games during its dream run to the Final Four. Though they lost to the Michigan Wolverines, the Ramblers’ tenacity – combined with their top supporter, then 98-year-old nun Sister Jean – won over the hearts of fans across America and cemented their legacy in college basketball lore.
2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats
In 2011, John Calipari assembled a juggernaut with one-and-dones well before the one-and-done era had entered the mainstream. The Kentucky Wildcats head coach lured four five-star recruits to Lexington. Led by future NBA superstar Anthony Davis, the Wildcats dropped just one game during the regular season – a one-point loss to the Indiana Hoosiers – before falling to the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC tournament championship. Still, top-ranked Kentucky secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and won its first four games by double digits before taking down No. 17 Louisville and No. 6 Kansas en route to a national title. Davis and three of his teammates were selected in the first round of that year’s NBA Draft, while two more Wildcats were selected in the second round.
Now check out the most memorable players of the past 10 years:
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