It's easy to spot the best men's college basketball programs. They have the most wins, NCAA Tournament victories and titles, have thrived recently and send more players to the NBA than any other schools.
You know 'em: UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana and Duke. Six schools who have rich basketball traditions, devout fan bases and high expectations every season.
The harder part is figuring out which teams come after the stellar six.
How does one compare teams like Temple or Princeton – both of which have fielded teams for more than 100 years and have been consistently good – to schools like UNLV or Memphis, which have dominated foes at times, but haven't been as consistent or had basketball as long?
No, I didn't make a bracket, though that would've been cool. But I did the next best thing.
Much like Street & Smith did a few years ago, I set up several categories and weighed teams against each other to see exactly how everyone stacked up. Historical success (overall wins and win percentage), NCAA Tournament results (titles, Final Fours, win percentages and appearances), conference titles, NBA players, NIT results and recent performance (dominant seasons and last NCAA tourney miss) were considered.
The results were typical for the top, but the rest was surprising at times. Who's where? Well, settle in for the summer. I'll detail the top 25, starting next week. Today, it's the teams that just missed the top 25.
Marquette and Oklahoma State tied for 26th. The Cowboys' two NCAA titles and six Final Fours helped, but a poor showing of NBA players and a sub-par win percentage (.5879) hurt them. Going in, I figured they'd be a top 25 school.
The Golden Eagles probably would've been in the top 25, but they've spent a majority of their 91 seasons as an independent school and didn't win their first conference title until Dwyane Wade led the way in 2003. Marquette was consistently middle of the pack in most categories.
Western Kentucky was 28th. The Hilltoppers don't have any NCAA titles, just 1 Final Four and their Big Dance appearances aren't overwhelming (20), but they win like few others (67 percent of their games in 89 seasons, 7th best) and have an impressive number of conference titles.
Memphis, boosted by its remarkable three-year run, came in at 29. The Tigers also don't have an NCAA title and haven't racked up enough wins to break into the top 25. But that recent success helps, and don't expect John Calipari's crew to stop winning Conference USA anytime soon.
At 30th, we have Maryland. The Terps are a bit of a puzzle. Gary Williams' crew was among the game's best in the early 2000s, winning a title and producing a fair number of NBA players. But a lack of conference titles and just two Final Fours hurts.
After that, Florida (Billy Donovan has turned the Gators into a power), Wisconsin (same goes for Bo Ryan; Badgers just don't enough NCAA tourney appearances, 14, to rack up numbers to match everyone else) and Penn and Princeton are close behind.
The two Ivy League schools are among the winningest programs around (both have more than 1,500 wins) and plenty of conference titles (Penn has 37, Princeton 28), but they just don't win enough in the NCAA Tournament and the expected lack of NBA players hurts.