The last undefeated NCAA champion was Indiana University. The Hoosiers were loaded with basketball talent. Six Indiana players went on to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). But Indiana’s real secret was its head coach: Bobby Knight. Knight won two more national championships at Indiana during a career in which his teams won more than 900 games.
From 1964 to 1975, UCLA dominated college basketball. The Bruins, led by legendary coach John Wooden, won an unbelievable 10 championships in 12 seasons. Four of those championship teams were undefeated.
The 1972 and 1973 champs finished with 30-0 records. Led by all-American center Bill Walton, the 1972 Bruins crushed their opponents by an average of more than 30 points a game.
Walton also led the 1973 squad that beat Memphis State in the NCAA final, 87-66. Walton scored 44 points, making an incredible 21 of the 22 shots he attempted.
The undefeated 1967 UCLA team had a center who was even better than Walton — Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and became the leading scorer in NBA history.
In the 1960s, players did not play their freshman (first) season and usually stayed until they graduated from school. Jabbar played three seasons at UCLA and won the NCAA championship each year. His teams had a combined record of 88-2.
The first UCLA undefeated team was different from the teams dominated by 7-foot centers Walton and Jabbar. The 1964 championship team did not start a player taller than 6 feet, 5 inches. The Bruins won 30 straight games with speed and hustle.
North Carolina did not have it easy when it won its NCAA championship in 1957 with a record of 32-0. The Tarheels beat Michigan State in the tournament’s semifinal game, 74-70 in three overtimes. Then North Carolina upset Kansas and its 7-foot-2-inch center, Wilt Chamberlain, 54-53 in three more overtimes.
The first undefeated NCAA champion was the University of San Francisco (USF) in 1956. The Dons’ big star was senior center Bill Russell. Russell did not stop winning after he graduated from USF. He won a gold medal in the 1956 Summer Olympics and 11 (!) NBA championships with the Boston Celtics.
If the Gonzaga men can go all the way this year, the Bulldogs will join an elite group.