The NCAA Tournament gives us an opportunity to look into the window of future NBA stardom. We get to study the big names and watch them develop over the course of their collegiate tenures. They then enter the NBA Entry Draft in an attempt to exchange their college baseball cap for one sporting an NBA logo and from there on, the dream becomes a reality (for most). There are so many excellent schools that have bread some of the greatest talents to ever play the game. We have attempted here, to give our best impression of what we believe to be the top-15 greatest college rosters of all time, based on the players that came out of each respective school and blossomed in the NBA.
There are a few things you should keep in mind while reading this article. First off, we did our best to create a starting five and include a sixth man for each respective school. That being said, some players may have had to been shuffled around slightly and slotted into different positions that they don’t normally play. These were cases where for example the school maybe had three great big men and no real standout at the small forward position and thus, we had to do a little bit of shuffling (within reason). Secondly, it is a STARTING five, so if your favourite player out of Kansas is Markieff Morris (for some interesting reason), we regret to inform you that some dudes named Clyde Lovellette and Wilt Chamberlain also went there, so the odds of you seeing Morris’ name again after this paragraph are about the same as Dion Waiters winning league MVP next year.
15 Wake Forest University
At the end of last season, we saw one of the greatest players in Tim Duncan ride off into the sunset and into retirement. Like all great players, they had to begin somewhere and for Tim it was at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Wake Forest has seen an incredible crop of talent come and go and with superstars such as Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, and Josh Howard. They have created an alumni that is very much worthy of our list.
With Paul and Jeff Teague running the back court and Duncan leading the front court, Wake Forest would be able to put forth an excellent five-man roster. Duncan is a five-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, and a two time NBA MVP. Duncan and Paul have also been named to a combined 14 All-NBA First Defensive teams, as defense would be a strong point on this roster. Paul is currently 11th all time in career assists, and with athletically gifted forwards such as Howard and Aminu, Wake Forest offers a tough crop of players to matchup against.
14 University of Connecticut
PG-Kemba Walker. SG- Ray Allen. SF-Richard Hamilton. PF-Donyell Marshall. C-Andre Drummond. Sixth Man-Ben Gordon
The University of Connecticut is next on our list, as they offer an incredible array of athleticism, shooting, and modern NBA basketball. Guys like Richard Hamilton and Donyell Marshall at the forward positions, offer this lineup exactly what today's NBA begs for- big wing men that can shoot the basketball. Donyell Marshall in fact is tied with Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry for most three pointers in a game with twelve. Not to mention the second greatest shooter of all time, Ray Allen, hanging out in the corner with his mouth watering and hands dancing for the basketball.
With Kemba Walker as the staple at point, big man Andre Drummond as the pillar up the middle on both ends of the floor, and three excellent shooters, the Huskies offer a dangerous combination. The sixth man for the Huskies would be Ben Gordon- Chicago’s basketball version of Mariano Rivera from 2004-2009, who would come into ball games late and knock down those clutch buckets that the Bulls would need to close out their opponent.
13 Marquette University
PG-Doc Rivers. SG-Dwayne Wade. SF-Jimmy Butler. PF-Maurice Lucas. C-Jim Chones. Sixth Man- Jae Crowder
Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler in the same lineup?! Butler pushed into the three?! Imagine anyone was ever silly enough to put this into fruition….wait a minute. All jokes aside, the 2016 Chicago Bulls- I mean Marquette University, has put forth some excellent talent that has found great success at a professional level. Doc Rivers would run the point guard position and be faced with the unfortunate fate of being hated by either Wade or Butler by the end of the game. Okay seriously, we’re done joking now.
This squad would be athletically enchanting, defensively gifted, and offensively driven. Maurice Lucas was a five-time All-Star throughout the '70s and won a ring with the Trail Blazers in 1977. Jim Chones was a solid big-man for many years throughout the '70s and won an NBA title with the 1980 LA Lakers as their starting power forward. With Jae Crowder coming off the bench as sixth man, Marquette has both talent and depth and thus were able to crack our top 15.
12 University of Texas at Austin
PG-T.J Ford. SG-Avery Bradley. SF-Kevin Durant. PF-Lamarcus Aldridge. C-Tristan Thompson. Sixth Man-Corey Joseph
The University of Texas has most recently started to deliver boatloads of talent to the NBA. This is an extremely modern team as every player except for Ford is playing a key role on a very good basketball team today. Kevin Durant would captain the squad, and with LaMarcus Aldridge, Tristan Thompson, and Cory Joseph by his side, there are plenty of championship rings to go around. Defensively they would be extremely hard to penetrate down low, and offensively they would possess many options as every player is extremely strong at both ends of the floor.
With the speedy T.J. Ford running the point guard position, Texas would have multiple options in terms of ball handling as Kevin Durant would also be a key candidate to bring the ball up the floor. Avery Bradley is a long and athletic guard who can play multiple positions on defence. Corey Joseph is an extremely matured and experienced point guard for his age, as his experience winning in San Antonio and a deep playoff run with the Raptors last year makes him a valuable and very skilled asset of the bench. Led by one of the top three players in the league and two of the better defensive bigs, Texas would be a tough go for any lineup to contend with.
11 Duke University
PG-Kyrie Irving. SG-J.J Reddick. SF-Grant Hill. PF- Luol Deng. C-Elton Brand. Sixth Man-Jeff Mullins
I bet most readers did not plan on seeing Duke this early on the list. As incredible as the Duke basketball program has been and as much success as they have had, many of their talents (Christian Laettner, Kyle Singler, Austin Rivers) just to name a few, were not able to fully translate their college success into the NBA. That being said, there have of course been many players who have left Duke University and flourished into the NBA as valuable impact pieces, and even a few as franchise players like Kyrie Irving and Grant Hill.
After this past season, Kyrie Irving proved to be a bonafide superstar and champion and would be the captain of this Duke lineup. Grant Hill is one of the best scoring small forwards of all time and he and Luol Deng would be more than capable of playing on the perimeter as well, knocking down three pointers. We all know what J.J Reddick is capable of and with Elton Brand protecting the rim and throwing down lobs from Kyrie, Duke is littered with deployable talent. Old timer Jeff Mullins was a three-time All-Star and Rick Barry’ served as sixth man for the 1975 champion Golden State Warriors- making him the perfect candidate to come of the bench for this Duke lineup.
10 Indiana University
PG-Isiah Thomas Sr. SG-Victor Oladipo. SF-Tom Van Arsdale. PF-George McGinnis. C-Walt Bellamy. Sixth Man-Eric Gordon
To kick off this entry we have a team led by Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” era point guard Isaiah Thomas, the focal point and best player in this lineup. Thomas collected two rings during his tenure with the Pistons and was the saving grace of the city when he was selected second overall in 1981. Add a finals MVP and 12 All-Star appearances and it’s clear to see that Isaiah is easily a Hall of Famer. Another Hall of Famer on the squad is big man Walt Bellamy.
With Bellamy and McGinnis working the glass and the low-post, this lineup would give many other imaginary college rosters a lot of trouble. A rarity for a big-man, Bellamy was able to fend from injury throughout most of his career as he finished first or second played for an entire 10-year span from 1962-1972. Bellamy also sits at 12th all-time in rebounds. Victor Oladipo was taken at second overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and has lived up to the hype thus far in his young career with a stat line of 15.9 ppg/4.4 boards/4.0 assists over three seasons. With Eric Gordon coming off of the bench as a sharp-shooter, Indiana has put together quite a decent six man pack.
9 Michigan State
PG-Magic Johnson. SG-Jason Richardson. SF-Draymond Green. PF-Zach Randolph. C-Kevin Willis. Sixth Man-Scott Skiles
A seasoned team with one of the (if not the) greatest point guard to ever play the game in Magic Johnson. Plenty of size and grit and today’s best undersized big-man and defensive alpha-dog playing in the three spot. Jason Richardson is an all0time top-20 three-point shooter. Kevin Willis dominated the glass for years, standing 23rd all-time in rebounding, seventh all-time in games played ,and won a ring with the 2003 Spurs. Magic stands second all-time to only Oscar Roberston with 138 triple-doubles over his career.
Along with five championships and three finals MVP, it’s safe to say once again that Magic is one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game. Randolph has been a strong and consistent big-man for this generation of NBA fans and is a nice fit at the four spot as he is the best pure power forward to come out of Michigan State. Finally with Scott Skiles coming off of the bench as the sixth man, the back-court is in great hands as Skiles still holds the record for most assists in a game with 30 set in 1990.
8 Louisiana State University
PG-Pete Maravich. SG-Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. SF-John Williams. PF-Bob Pettit. C-Shaquille O’Neal. Sixth Man-Jerry Reynolds
LSU is about an established Ben Simmons away from being a top five or even top three team on this list. Although they have "Pistol" Pete Maravich, Bob Pettit, and Shaquille O'Neal, they struggle somewhat at the two and three spots. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a solid scorer and good three-point shooter, but that’s about it. Williams is largely unknown by most contemporary basketball fans and I’ll admit I had to do some research on him myself.
That being said, LSU is still the home of three NBA legends and two of the greatest big-men to ever set their giant feet on a basketball court, with fiveNBA championships between them plus Shaq’s three finals MVP’s. Shaq sits at 14th all-time in rebounding and eighth in blocks, while Pettit sits at 17th all-time in rebounding and 35th in all-time scoring. Although Maravich failed to win a championship, he still sits at 18th all-time in points-per-game, was named to two All-NBA First Teams and was a five-time All-Star. I had to put him at the point as LSU really had no other option, even though Maravich was typically a two-guard (sorry traditionalists).
7 Ohio State University
PG-Mike Conley. SG-Michael Redd. SF-John Havlichek. PF-Jerry Lucas. C-Neil Johnston. Sixth Man-Evan Turner
Some of you may wonder how this team made it over LSU and maybe even Michigan State- just hear us out because they are damn good. First off we have three Hall of Famers in John Havlichek, Jerry Lucas, and Neil Johnston. Lucas and Johnston each captured one championship a piece and Havlichek grabbed eight. Michael Redd was a terrific scorer, averaging over 20 points per-game over six straight seasons including one at 26.7 ppg in 2006-2007. Lucas (4) and Johnston (3) combined for seven All-NBA First Teams while Havlichek was named to four All-NBA first teams and five All-NBA First Defensive Teams.
Mike Conley has been arguably a top-ten point guard in this generation of NBA stars and a main ingredient for the success that the Memphis Grizzlies have had over the past eight years. Evan Turner is a terrific two-way player coming off of the bench here and was a key player in the Boston Celtics success last season. Led by three absolute legends with plenty of postseason success and a steady and dangerous back-court, Ohio State comes in at number seven on our list.
6 University of Kentucky
PG-John Wall. SG-Louie Dampier. SF-Cliff Hagan. PF-Dan Issel. C-Anthony Davis. Sixth Man-DeMarcus Cousins
When you see DeMarcus Cousins as the sixth man, you may think either how or why? Well the how is due to the incredible amount of depth that has come out of Kentucky and the why is because Cousins is too good to leave off the team. Including Cousins, this squad is comprised of three of the top twenty players in today's NBA and three other Hall of Famers in Cliff Hagan, Dan Issel and Louie Dampier.
Issel and Dampier won a ring as teammates in 1975 for the Kentucky Colonials and Hagan also won a championship in 1958. In fact, Dampier and Issel are the all-time leading scorers for the ABA at one and two respectively and Issel is 10th all-time on the NBA scoring charts. John Wall and Anthony Davis were first overall picks in the 2010 and 2012 NBA Drafts and so far have easily lived up to those decisions. It is likely that when all is said and done, this entire six-man roster will be in the Hall of Fame-a testament to the basketball program at Kentucky.
5 University of Kansas
PG-JoJo White. SG-Andrew Wiggins. SF-Paul Pierce. PF-Clyde Lovelette. C-Wilt Chamberlain. Sixth Man-Kirk Hinrich
Okay, so the top five was extremely tough to decide and we’re really not sure there is much of a difference talent-wise between teams one through five, as each have their respective superstars. Wilt Chamberlain is one of the greatest players of all time and is a huge reason that Kansas cracked the top five. Along with JoJo White, Clyde Lovelette, and Chamberlain, Kansas has bread three and soon to be four Hall of Famers, as Paul Pierce will no doubt be heading in that direction once he hangs up his sneakers.
As for Andrew Wiggins, the promising young talent has lived up to the hype of his status as first overall overall draft pick and is quickly becoming one of the league's elite talents. With a combined seven NBA championships, too many All-star appearances to count, a 100-point game, the fifth (Wilt) and 16th (Pierce) all-time scorers in NBA history, a two-time NBA champion at point guard, and one of the most gifted young talents of today’s NBA, Kansas sits in at number five on our list.
4 University of Houston
PG-Otis Birdsong. SG-Don Chaney. SF-Clyde Drexler. PF-Elvin Hayes. C-Hakeem Olajuwon. Sixth Man-Sam Mack
We know, Clyde Drexler is not a small forward…but that’s just where he fits best on this unit of incredible NBA talent, and at 6’7, it’s at least a practical spot for him. With Drexler in the three-spot, The University of Houston carries with it arguably the deadliest front-court on the list. Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon are ninth and 10th respectively all-time in scoring and Drexler is not far behind them at 35th. Drexler is also ranked seventh all-time in steals and 32nd in assists.
Olajuwon won his first ring in 1994 and the following season he and Drexler both won the NBA championship with the Houston Rockets. Elvin Hayes also has a ring to his name while two-guard Don Chaney has a pair as well. Chaney is not well known for his offensive abilities, but was named to five All-NBA Defensive Second Teams throughout his career. With a four-time All-Star point guard in Otis Birdsong and the addition of sharp-shooter Sam Mack (37% career three-point shooter) coming off of the bench, the University of Houston is well-balanced, experienced, and damn good- good enough to crack our top four teams on the list.
3 Georgetown University
PG-Allen Iverson. SG-Sleepy Floyd. SF-Patrick Ewing. PF-Alonzo Mourning. C-Dikembe Mutombo. Sixth Man-Jeff Green
If defence wins basketball games, then this unit out of Georgetown would be far and away favourites each and every night. Easily the best defensive unit on the list, this Georgetown squad is composed of six defensive player of the year awards (Dikembe Mutombo with four, Alonzo Mourning with two), along with Mourning’s two All-Defensive First NBA Team appearances, and Patrick Ewing’s three All-Defensive Second NBA Team appearances.
Mutombo sits at second all-time in blocks, Ewing seventh, and Mourning 11th. So yeah, try and take it into the paint on this unit- I dare you. We haven’t even mentioned Allen Iverson yet, the 2001 NBA MVP, 11-time All-Star, and three-time First All NBA Team member. Iverson was one of the greatest point guards of the 2000s and arguably a top-20 point guard of all-time. As for Sleepy Floyd, well someone has to play the two-guard and Sleepy wasn’t too shabby of a choice, averaging 12.8/2.6/5.4 over his 15-seasons. Mutombo and Iverson reunited once again. Something Philly fans could only dream of today.
2 University of North Carolina
PG-Charlie Scott. SG-Vince Carter. SF-Michael Jordan. PF-Billy Cunningham. C-Bob McAdoo. Sixth Man-James Worthy
Yet another squad with an overload of Hall of Fame players and a potential future Hall of Famer in Vince Carter, the North Carolina Tar Heels have spat out some of the greatest talent that professional basketball has ever seen. Configuring the top five teams was tough, but the top three even tougher. However, the MJ effect pulled North Carolina ahead of Houston and Georgetown and into the top two. Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, and Billy Cunningham would make a dominant front court that has combined for nine championship titles. These dudes know how to win and that was a huge deciding factor that enabled them to get into the top two on our list.
Cunningham was named to three All-NBA First Teams, McAdoo to one and Jordan to ten! If we want to talk back court, Vince Carter is one of the greatest and most exciting scorers to ever play the game and Charlie Scott was one of the best guards of the '70s recording a career line of 20.7/4.0/4.9 over 12-seasons. James Worthy is a Hall of Fame player and was forced into the sixth man position- that’s how dominant this unit is. Worthy was a seven-time All-Star and has won three-NBA championships. Like I said, this team WINS and with 12 rings between this team, four Hall of Fame players, and an extremely experienced and talented back-court, North Carolina takes the number two spot.
1 University of California, Los Angeles
PG-Russell Westbrook. SG-Reggie Miller. SF-Kevin Love. PF-Bill Walton. C-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.Sixth Man-Gail Goodrich
The number-one spot on our list goes to the UCLA Bruins as they have had some of the greatest players of all-time pass through their system. Russell Westbrook is one of the most incredible athletes to have ever played the game and over the past few seasons has developed into a top-five player in today’s NBA without question. Russ recorded 18 triple doubles last season, tying him with Magic Johnson for most all-time in a single season. Reggie Miller is one of the greatest and most clutch shooters in the history of the NBA and ranks 2nd all-time in total three-point shots made behind just Ray Allen.
As for the front-court of this team, where do we begin? Kevin Love is a versatile big-man that can post up inside, knock down a 20-footer, or step behind the three-point line and drain one from distance. Bill Walton is a Hall of Fame forward who captured two championship rings during his illustrious career, collecting finals MVP honours in 1977 and league MVP honours in 1978. Finally, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Not much has to be said about this 19-time All-Star. Kareem is the league's all-time scoring champion as he sits alone at the top with 38,387 career points. Kareem had tons of post-season success capturing six championships and collecting two Finals MVP’s to go along with six regular season MVP awards. Finally, the man off the bench in Gail Goodrich is also a Hall of Famer, a five-time All-Star, and collected one championship in 1972 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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