Working off of lists is always kind of dangerous when it comes to trying to make a judgement on just about anything in this world. The reason it is tough is because the lists being discussed are always subjective to the opinion of the person doing the list. Everything from the 10 most powerful people in the world...to the 100 most beautiful people in the world...and everything in between....reflects the bias of the writer or the general public "conventional wisdom".
The same rule applies to ranking the top college basketball programs in the country.
I bring this up because of VCU's Shaka Smart....and his decline of an offer to coach at the University of Illinois. I hear it over and over again when it comes to hiring a new coach at Illinois. Whenever a job search is underway...there are always fans who say that "coaches will be knocking on the door of the Illini program to get the job" because of its outstanding history and reputation. Others say that the progam has an average history in basketball and "we are not as good a program as we think we are".
So I did a little research and did find a couple of things that might help. Or it might just fuel more debate on the topic.
I think most people agree that the elite level of college basketball programs would include Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and Duke. Those progams have won a lot of national championships down through the years. They also happen to be the 4 winningest progams of all time.
But when you try to put basketball programs in order on a list from #5- #30...it gets interesting.
Do you base the ranking of a basketball program on the number of national championships? Conference Championships? NCAA appearances? Number of wins overall?
After the top 4 teams I mentioned....the next 11 winningest programs are....(5) Syracuse (6) Temple (7) St.Johns (8) UCLA (9) Notre Dame (10)Penn (11) Utah (12) Indiana (13) Illinois (14) Washington and (15) Brigham Young.
If you base the standard of where to rank a program based on the number of overall wins....Illinois is a Top 15 program.
Which is true.
But look at who is number (16) in the overall wins department....Western Kentucky. Would you consider the Hilltoppers a Top 20 all time program? What about Penn (not Penn State) at #10 in all-time wins? Utah at #11?
I looked up Bleacher Report from last summer and their college basketball writer did a Top 50 College Basketball Programs of All Time list. .
He listed UCLA as #1 overall...based mostly on all the championships the program won under John Wooden. Obviously they have not been as dominant since then. In that list.... the same elite teams were listed in the top 5 behnd UCLA.....Kentucky... KU.... North Carolina. and Duke.....but then Indiana was # 6. UConn was #7. Arizona # 8 . Michigan State was # 9 and Louisville was #10.
Other Big Ten teams in the list? Ohio State (12)......Michigan (13).....Purdue (21).... and Illinois (24). Wisconsin was (29) on the list. Iowa (37).
In the Bleacher Report List...other teams ahead of Illinois included: Syracuse (11)......Cincinnati (14) .... NC State (15)...Arkansas (16)....Georgetown (17)....Villanova (18)......Oklahoma State (19)....UNLV (20).....Marquette (22) ....and Temple (23).
For what it is worth....other programs listed behind Illinois: Florida (25).....Memphis (26)....Maryland (27).....K-State (33) and Mizzou (38).
So in this list...based on history....total wins...NCAA appearances....reputation....etc.....Illinois would still be a Top 25 program all time.
I just threw a lot of numbers at you....but re-read it if you need to do so.
Based on the 2 lists above...I think you could safely say that Illinois basketball is considered anywhere from a Top #15- #25 basketball program.
That is pretty good....dont you think?