2021 Gonzaga Bulldogs among seven best men’s basketball teams without NCAA Tournament title
The NCAA men's basketball tournament is a beautiful spectacle of drama and unforgettable moments.
And while the upsets and great performances for three weeks create memories for fans and players, the event isn't necessarily the best way to determine a national champion.
A single-elimination tournament with 68 teams is going to lead to chaos where brackets are imperfect and some teams get easier paths to the Final Four. The pressure of performing every game also leads to some favorites getting knocked off by a great night from an unexpected opponent.
So while the nets are cut down every April and a champion is crowned, that doesn't mean the best team won. There are many great teams that have fallen short.
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A look at the seven best not to win a championship since the tournament expanded to 48 teams in 1980:
Phi Slama Jama. Those three words are enough to conjure up memories of the Cougars and their rare athletic talent. Clyde Drexler on the outside and Hakeem Olajuwon on the inside drew most of the attention, but it was lefty forward Michael Young that led the team in scoring. Houston only lost to Syracuse and Virginia early in the season before running off a 25-game win streak entering the Final Four. The Cougars' high-flying performance against No. 1 Louisville in their national semifinal left no doubt what would happen to what seemed to be an overmatched North Carolina State team. Except the Wolfpack somehow stayed close and stunned the Cougars on a last-second dunk by Lorenzo Charles. You may have seen that highlight once or twice before.
Patrick Ewing was a senior and the Hoyas returned much of the team that won the national title in the previous season. Reggie Williams, Bill Martin and David Wingate helped supplement the offense. The defense of the Hoyas was equally difficult to solve. John Thompson's pressure system was helped by having Ewing as an eraser down low. Consecutive losses to St. John's and Syracuse were the only two defeats during the regular season as they navigated a difficult Big East schedule. The league would place three teams in the Final Four. Georgetown would beat St. John's handily in the semifinal before facing Villanova in the championship game. The Hoyas had won the two regular-season meetings, but the Wildcats would pull a huge upset by shooting 22-for-28 from the field in a near-perfect performance that was clinched by late free throws.
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