Men’s College Basketball National Champions

Most fans consider the college basketball national championship to be synonymous with the NCAA Championship. Yet, that ignores three fundamental truths:

  • College basketball teams have been playing competitive games since 1893,
  • National Champions were contemporaneously named in real-time prior to the NCAA Championship ever existing, and
  • Even after the NCAA Tournament commenced in 1939, the NCAA Tournament was not the only major national tournament with championship ramifications.

Why name a champion now?

This is the big question and there are three reasons:

  1. March Madness has become such an enormously successful entity that it falsely paints a picture that the only teams in college basketball history to be #1 for the year are those that won the NCAA Tournament. In fact, in 47 college basketball seasons, no NCAA Tournament occurred. Almost half a century of results are largely ignored if we just focus on the NCAA Champion. All college basketball seasons and the special teams that headlined them deserve historic recognition. College basketball has been wildly popular even in years without an NCAA Tournament, and those seasons should be remembered.
  2. The NCAA Tournament Champion was not always thought of as the national champion during the early years of the NCAA Tournament. Yet the average fan has come to believe the NCAA Champion is considered the undisputed champion. For example, teams that chose to play in the NIT often came home to thousands of fans lining the streets to celebrate a national title.
  3. While most seasons should recognize only one champion, some seasons should have multiple champions since no team had a materially stronger case for the national championship than all others. Currently, no major national championship selector recognizes co-champions and that should be remedied.

Method for Naming a Champion

The National Champion is the team that had the most successful outcome for the season. While the most successful team may be the same as the best team, that is often not the case. For example, when 8th seeded Villanova upset 1st seeded Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA Championship, it was largely agreed that the “best” team did not win. But there is no doubt Villanova had the most successful outcome (winning the NCAA Tournament) of all 1985 college basketball teams.

The methodology aims to select only one National Champion for every season in college basketball history. However, when no team can be considered to have had a materially more successful season than any other team, all teams that had equally successful seasons are named co-champions.