AP releases Top 100 college basketball programs based on poll
It all started in 1949 with Saint Louis on top. And 68 years later, The Associated Press college basketball poll has ranked a total of 200 schools through more than 1,100 polls — 59 at No. 1.
There have been plenty of changes over the years to how teams are ranked, just as there have been broader changes in the sport itself as hoops evolved from an older style to the amazing performances of today's players, showcased through the flashy made-for-TV drama of the NCAA Tournament.
Now, for the first time, the AP is using that data to go past the Top 25 of the moment and ask: what are the top 100 programs of all-time? To determine that, the AP reviewed the weekly polls and counted appearances (1 point) to mark consistency and No. 1 rankings (2 points) to acknowledge elite programs. The results don't factor in national championships because the AP doesn't release a poll after the NCAA Tournament. Still, the teams at the top are a who's who of college basketball royalty.
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Starting with Kentucky, the all-time No. 1 with appearances in 75.4 percent of all polls and 124 No. 1 rankings.
The distinction is no surprise to Joe B. Hall, who coached Kentucky to its fifth title in 1978 and was an assistant under the legendary Adolph Rupp, eventually succeeding the "Baron of the Bluegrass" in 1973.
"Credit goes to coach Rupp for starting the fever with two straight titles in the 1940s and four overall during a time when all of the programs were beginning to develop," said Hall, who took the Wildcats to three Final Fours in 12 years. "The fact that he laid such a solid foundation, and that four of us have followed him and won championships indicates how he built a program that has endured over time."
The next top teams are North Carolina, Duke and UCLA — the only schools to be ranked at the top for more than 100 weeks. In the 1960s and 70s, the Bruins could have gotten mail addressed to "No. 1."
Kansas, Indiana, Louisville, Arizona, Syracuse and Cincinnati round out a top 10 that includes only schools that have won national championships.
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Programs similar to Kentucky, where Hall said tradition and pressure to succeed gave motivation to keep going.
"It infused me with the spirit to work harder," Hall said. "Coaches feed off it and players feed off of it. I don't know what the secret is, but success breeds success and the coaches that have been here, from (Rick) Pitino to Tubby (Smith) and (John) Calipari have enhanced the program and brought it up to the times."
The AP poll started with 20 teams, then was reduced to 10 midway through the 1960-61 season. It returned to a Top 20 for 1968-69, then expanded to 25 teams starting in 1989-90. The first preseason poll was done before the 1961-62 season.
The poll has always been a guide for which teams deserve national attention, giving fans fodder to talk about where their schools fit in the pecking order of college hoops. It may not have always been correct top to bottom, but it has always been there.