When it comes to college basketball, some programs are known for winning national championships. Some coaches like John Wooden have multiple titles to their name.
UCLA tops the list of men’s teams with 11 tournament victories, while North Carolina and Kentucky are second and third in terms of wins. But what about the women’s game?
As a whole, the Pac-12 has won 16 national championships since the first tournament in 1939. It is also home to some of the game’s most legendary players, from Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Bill Walton (UCLA) to Klay Thompson and James Harden (Oregon). However, only one program has won five consecutive NCAA titles: UConn under coach Geno Auriemma. The Huskies’ ascent to blue blood status began in 1995 and ended last year when they won their fifth title under Auriemma and a roster that included future NBA stars Breanna Stewart, Rebecca Lobo and Diana Taurasi.
Other programs have earned their fair share of national titles, including two for Indiana under coach Branch McCracken and three for Kentucky under John Wooden. Kentucky is a perennial Final Four contender and entered this year’s tournament with high expectations, while Indiana is trying to rebuild under Bob Knight. The most recent winner is Villanova, which staked its claim in March Madness in 2016 with a buzzer-beater from Kris Jenkins that went down as one of the greatest shots in history.
Since the tournament began in 1939, only six schools have claimed back-to-back NCAA men’s championships. Cincinnati won the tournament in 1961 and 1962, while John Wooden’s UCLA team went 30-0 in 1964 and 1965. Villanova added a second title last season, with an unforgettable buzzer beater by Jalen Brunson. This year, Stanford and Baylor look to join the exclusive club.
Most of the top programs have had legendary coaches, with Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari among the most successful. Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jay Wright also have multiple titles under their belts. The list is rounded out by UConn, who are tied with Duke and North Carolina in terms of tournament wins. The Huskies’ first four titles featured future NBA stars including Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor and Kemba Walker. They also won three consecutive national championships under Jim Calhoun, with Shabazz Napier leading the way in 2011 and 2012.
The next six schools on this list have all won four national championships. UCLA is the clear-cut top program with a record 11 titles, including two in consecutive years. Cincinnati is in second with three, and Duke is next with five. The Blue Devils had a nearly two-decade gap between titles until Mike Krzyzewski took over the team and turned them into an elite program with players like Christian Laetner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley.
North Carolina will always be known as Michael Jordan's alma mater, but the school has won three more championships since MJ left in 1984. Florida has two titles, and UConn jumped to fourth with its 2023 title (along with an undefeated tournament run). This was the Huskies first title since 2014, and they are tied with Indiana for the most wins in that span. Those teams featured future NBA stars like Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier.
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While UCLA and Kentucky are tied for most championships, they do not hold the top spot in terms of wins. That distinction belongs to the University of Connecticut. During a two-decade stretch, the Huskies won 11 titles. Their most recent victory came in 2023 when they defeated San Diego State 76-59 in the NCAA title game. The team was led by national player of the year Adama Sanogo.
The UConn women's program is also one to be reckoned with in the history of college basketball. The women's squad won nine national titles under coach Geno Auriemma. That includes a celebrated 29-0 run that won the school its first championship in 1987.
The men's program at Kansas is another big-name powerhouse. John Wooden's legendary teams ran the sport in the 1960s and 1970s. His successors, Adolph Rupp and Mike Krzyzewski, won more titles.