Michigan State and North Carolina will play for the NCAA men's championship on Monday night -- duh. But there's another honor at stake when the two schools take the floor: team of the decade.
The first one's official. You've probably seen the trophy.
But the second carries bragging rights that aren't associated with just one tournament. It's excellence over an extended period of time, using different sets of players and sometimes different coaches.
Both teams won two NCAA titles. The Devils went to five Final Fours, the Wildcats four. Kentucky sported a better overall record (282-63) to Duke (271-78). If you love college hoops – or just like to argue – it's a fun one to debate. (Throw in North Carolina or Kansas if you're feeling feisty.)
|Kalin Lucas, left, and Ty Lawson
As for the 2000s, I'd say it comes down to Monday.
Since 2000, They've both been to four Final Fours, more than any other school. UNC's won five regular-season conference titles; MSU three. Both have two conference tourney titles. Sparty went to the Big Dance each season this decade; the Heels missed two. They're both among the top 15 winningest teams of the decade, have sent at least 8 players to the NBA.
And they each have an NCAA crown this decade. The 2009 title will be the tiebreaker.
The other team with an argument would be Florida.
The Gators won back-to-back titles and lost the 2000 title game to the Spartans. They've logged 261 wins, three regular-season conference crowns and two tourney titles. They've been to eight of 10 NCAA tourneys in the decade.
Other schools like Kansas, Duke, UCLA and UConn would be in the discussion. They've all been to multiple Final Fours, while the Jayhawks and Huskies each have a title. But overall, I'd say they fall short of UNC and Michigan State.
But hey, the more the merrier. Check out the numbers of the schools below. (League titles are regular-season/tournament; *denotes leader in that category)
Team NCAA titles FFs Overall League titles NCAA berths
UConn 1 2 253-85 4/2 8
Duke 1 2 291-60* 4/7* 10*
Florida 2* 3 261-85 4/2 8
Kansas 1 3 282-69 7/3 10*
Maryland 1 2 225-110 1/1 7
Mich. St. 1 4* 248-95 3/2 10*
UNC 1 4* 250-94 5/2* 8
Syracuse 1 1 250-95 2/2 7
UCLA 0 3 227-106 3/2 8
As an added measure, Sweet 16 appearances shake down like this: Duke 8; Kansas 7; Michigan St. 6; UCLA 6; North Carolina 5; UConn 5; Syracuse 4; Florida 3; Maryland 3.
So yeah, the Michigan State-North Carolina winner would have the best claim to team of the 2000s, but the decade's been pretty close.
Duke and Kansas have really racked up the regular-season wins and conference titles, but it hasn't resulted in as many NCAA tournament victories. And it's amazing that every time the Gators reached the Sweet 16, they also went to the title game.
So what about the 2000s? Who's your outstanding team of the decade?