The argument over which college basketball program is the best ever has been raging almost since colleges began playing basketball against one another. And because it’s a completely subjective topic, the answer to the question of who’s best will likely be different based on regional and — in the case of the state of North Carolina — local preferences. But in an effort to come as close as possible to determine the all-time best of the best, the Associated Press has compiled its own rankings, based on its weekly polls over the past 68 years. Kentucky, which has won more games than any other program, came in at No. 1 overall, with North Carolina and Duke coming in close behind at No. 2 and 3 respectively.
NC State placed No. 21 in the all-time rankings, while Wake Forest was 33rd and Davidson 89th. Since the first AP rankings were released in January 1949, more than 200 schools have made at least one appearance with 59 of them ascending all the way to No. 1. For the purposes of its all-time top 100, the wire service counted poll appearances as one point each to mark consistency and No. 1 rankings two points each to acknowledge elite programs. UNC earned its spot at No. 2 by being ranked in 76.68 percent of the nearly 1,100 polls the AP has released, with 110 No. 1 rankings. No other program has appeared in the poll more than the Tar Heels, who have made at least one appearance every year since 1966-67 — a record made even more impressive by the fact that the AP only ranked 10 teams each week when the streak began.
Duke has been ranked in 67.6 percent of the polls, but it’s 129 times at No. 1 are second only to UCLA’s 134. A full 80 percent of the Blue Devils’ poll appearances have come during coach Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure and they’ve only been left out of the rankings four times since the start of the 1996-97, by far the highest percentage of any program during that time. State, meanwhile, has appeared in 29.69 of all polls with 13 No. 1 rankings.
The majority of the Wolfpack’s appearances, however, came during the tenures of coaches Everett Case and Norm Sloan from the 1949 through the mid-1970s.