1890s College Basketball National Champions

James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Two years later, the first college basketball teams to play the sport against outside competition took the court, but it wasn’t until a year later that college basketball teams actually faced each other in competition. Even the schools that fielded teams during this decade have a tendency to not count some or all of the games their schools participated in during this decade, as many of the games participated in were not at the varsity level.


A year before the first inter-collegiate basketball game, just a few colleges had fielded a team for outside competition. There is some debate whether Geneva College or Vanderbilt is the first college to have played a competitive game against outside competition (both 3-point wins). Iowa doesn’t even recognize having a team in 1893, but they put together a 2-0 record and earned the number one ranking in the Premo-Porretta Poll. Without any real way of comparing teams across the country, a 2-0 record is good enough for the first-ever national championship of college basketball.

GDB National Champions: Iowa


The 1894 college basketball season wasn’t really much of a season. It wasn’t until the next year that things started to pick up. 1-0 Hiram College won the first inter-collegiate game played in the state of Ohio, defeating Mount Union 12-1. The victory earns Hiram the national title nod, as they did in the Premo-Porretta Poll.

GDB National Champions: Hiram


The epicenter of college basketball moved to Philadelphia in the 1984-85 season. Temple’s official results for the season do not count games against Drexel, but Drexel recognizes this season as their first season playing Temple. Drexel blew out the Temple representatives in the two games played and Temple dropped a game against Haverford College. Premo-Porretta ranks Temple number one, but 7-2-1 Drexel gets the title selection here.

GDB National Champions: Drexel


A larger contingent of teams started play this year, and inter-collegiate games were in swing. At different times, the Premo-Porretta Poll had 8-5 Yale and 15-7 Temple number one. Although northeastern basketball was the strongest due to the game spreading from Massachusetts, without inter-regional games, the selection is 10-2 Minnesota A&M (Premo-Porretta’s #2), who eventually became a part of what we now know as the University of Minnesota.

GDB National Champions: Minnesota A&M


Yale was selected as the Premo-Porretta national champs at 11-6, but Minnesota A&M (Premo-Porretta’s #5) went undefeated. Even if the east coast may have had stronger overall play, 8-5 Trinity (CT) split a couple of games with Yale (the home team won by two points both times). The regional nature of the game favors Minnesota A&M, the budding 6-0 midwestern powerhouse, for a repeat.

GDB National Champions: Minnesota A&M


Premo-Porretta #5 Temple went 22-5 this season, making themselves a national championship contender. But a 15-3 loss to 11-9 Yale (Premo-Porretta’s #3) casts serious doubt on their title credentials. Premo-Porretta #2 Westminster (PA) went 4-2, but dropped a 2-1 decision at Mount Union. Meanwhile, Minnesota A&M kept their undefeated streak alive, but in just one game. That leaves Mount Union, at 8-1 and the Premo-Porretta selection, as the national champion.

GDB National Champions: Mount Union


The sport continued to grow in 1899, with inter-collegiate games being played further west than ever before. But the strongest teams remained out east, and a strong Yale team continued their dominance of northeastern college hoops with a 9-2 season capped by a 49-7 rout of Cornell. The Bulldogs earned the #1 spot in Premo-Porretta, and they earn the national championship selection here, as well.

GDB National Champions: Yale