It feels like I'm a student again, sitting down to write a "How I spent my summer" essay.
The last 26 weeks of ranking the greatest college basketball programs was a fun, enriching and, at times, difficult experience that was one of the best ways to spend the summer doldrums of college hoops.
It certainly beats reading the endless glut of campaign stories…
The rankings, which started here and finished Tuesday with Kentucky assuming the No. 1 spot, probably weren't perfect (what is?), but in the end, I hope everyone enjoyed my assessments and learned something about each school that they didn't before.
(My favorite factoid: Sandy Koufax earned a hoops scholarship at Cincinnati. As if Koufax's athletic career wasn't impressive enough.)
As readers discussed here, sometimes I made some errors (thanks for the corrections, and your patience) or left out some good facts. Some disagreed with the methodology, and maybe they were correct. I'll stick with the final results.
Ultimately, it was a ranking system that rewarded consistency and multiple periods of great basketball, not just one or two excellent eras. That's how Illinois ended up ahead of Michigan State and UCLA behind Kansas and North Carolina, among others (and were the two most heavily discussed programs).
Next time, maybe it'll just be ranking during the NCAA tournament era. But that's for another summer season. For now, I'll leave you with the top 50, including final point totals from the 11 categories. I've left notes besides each team indicating what their biggest factors were.
1. Kentucky, 64. 'Cats among top 4 in 9 categories. Even if Billy Gillispie doesn't reach a Final Four soon, UK isn't dropping on this list anytime soon.
2. North Carolina, 87. Heels 2nd or 3rd in six areas. Only hurt by NIT, though they fared better than KU or UCLA there.
3. Kansas, 119. 'Hawks were top 5 in 10 categories, including No. 1 in conference titles and recent dominant seasons. NIT showing kept it from No. 2.
4. UCLA, 124. Bruins' 11 titles, 18 Final Fours and 72 NBA players were tops. Recent seasons, NIT showings were significant factors for fourth.
5. Duke, 127. Devils have best NCAA tourney win percentage. Speaks volumes for how dominant they've been lately. Need more conference crowns (21) to move up.
6. Indiana, 156. Five NCAA titles are behind only UK and UCLA. But Hoosiers could fall behind Louisville overall due to recent slippage.
7. Louisville, 166. Cards do it all well, ranking among top 30 in every category. Top 10 in five. Another Final Four or title would move them up.
8. Arizona, 189. 'Cats haven't missed NCAAs since '84. Also don't have an NIT win. What happens when Olson leaves?
9. Syracuse, 210. Overall consistency helps Orange. Recent NCAA misses and long run as independent (no conference titles) don't.
10. Connecticut, 219. Multiple NCAA titles and recent excellence key to Huskies' rise. So do 28 conference crowns.
11. Cincinnati, 239. 'Bearcats' multiple NCAA trophies and Huggins' era were key here.
12. Utah, 250. Respect the Utes. They were great in '40s (NCAA and NIT title) and awesome under Majerus.
13. Villanova, 253. 'Cats quietly snuck in here. Solid in everything, great in NBA players, recent success and NIT.
14. Illinois, 274. Illini here because of top 15 showings in wins, win percentage, recent success, Final Fours, Big Dance appearances and NBA players.
15. Michigan State, 279. Proud recent history (2 titles since '79, awesome in NCAAs) can't overcome poor overall mark (almost 60 teams have a better win percentage). They'll likely pass Illinois this season.
16. Georgetown, 290. Hoyas weren't a factor until mid-'70s. Also could pass Illini this season.
17. Arkansas, 299. Six Final Fours, 29 tourney appearances and 26 conference titles. Lacking in NIT and recent success.
18. Ohio State, 312. One of two schools really hurt by NCAA sanctions. Lost 76 wins and a Final Four berth.
19. St. John's, 324. Once-proud program (owns the NIT and is top 10 in wins, win percentage and NBA players) needs some recent success.
20. UNLV, 330. Tarkanian responsible for most of Rebels' success (NCAA title, 4 Final Fours, 3rd-best win percentage), but Kruger is doing his part.
21. Texas, 338. Football scores scores behind Barnes' and Penders' recent success, conference crowns (25) and overall wins.
22. Notre Dame, 344. No conference titles? Make it up with overall wins, NCAA tourney appearances, NBA players and NIT success.
23. Temple, 352. Another Big Five school, which is 6th in wins, but lacking in Final Fours and conference titles.
24. Oklahoma, 364. Consistency – a top 30 mainstay in most areas – boosts Sooners.
25. N.C. State, 367. Two titles and plenty of wins, but nothing lately.
26. Marquette, 372. Been to Big Dance often, but could use some conference crowns.
27. Oklahoma State, 375. Two NCAA titles, but Cowboys have been up and down lately.
28. Purdue, 383. Somehow didn't mention Boilermakers in initial post. An oversight. Two Final Fours and no NCAA titles kept them from top 25.
29. Michigan, 401. Another early omission. Wolverines' NCAA penalties cost them more than 100 wins and two Final Fours. Otherwise, top 20 program.
30. Western Kentucky, 409. Lots of conference crowns (26) and 7th in win percentage.
31. Memphis, 417. As long as Calipari sticks around, Tigers will keep climbing.
32. Maryland, 428. Good in NCAA tourney (4 Final Fours, better win percentage than Louisville).
33. Wisconsin, 430. An NCAA title and haven't missed Big Dance since '98, 6th best current streak.
34. Florida, 440. This is what happens when you win back-to-back titles.
35. West Virginia, 448. Lots of wins.
36. Penn, 454. Quakers have wins (8th) and conference crowns (3rd most).
37. BYU, 461. Excellent in every but Big Dance.
38. Princeton, 469. Just like Penn, but without the Final Four.
39. St. Joe's, 476. Fourth school from Big Five. Bravo, Philly.
40. Stanford, 480. If Montgomery had stayed, Cardinal may have been in top 25.
41. Bradley, 483. Once proud power has been to two Final Fours.
42. Kansas State, 489. Four Final Fours make up for pitiful '90s and 2000s.
43. Iowa, 510. Hawkeyes have wins, and 3 Final Fours.
44. Wake Forest, 518. Could be big year in Winston-Salem.
45. California, 521. Not much since Bears won NCAA title in '59.
46. Xavier, 532. Musketeers rising behind recent tourney success.
47. LSU, 542. Four Final Fours and plenty of NBA players.
48. Missouri, 558. Stewart built a hoops school, but it didn't last.
49. San Francisco, 563. Two NCAA titles won't keep Russell's alma mater in top 50 much longer.
50. Houston, 585. Cougars have five Final Fours.