By Josh Markowitz | | 17 mins
The Next College Basketball Dynasty: Kansas, Gonzaga or Villanova?
College basketball is in a period of transition. The opening of the transfer portal and elimination of the sit-out year, along with the advent of name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation has created a vastly different landscape than the one that existed even five years ago.
Additionally, two of the sport’s legendary coaches, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Villanova’s Jay Wright, coached their final games just hours apart at the Final Four in New Orleans.
Their programs have long been models of consistency, running through the season with single-digit losses almost every year, frequently securing conference regular season and/or tournament titles, repeatedly garnering top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, and ultimately winning multiple national championships each.
So, with two of college basketball’s best programs now under different leadership, what teams are poised to position themselves as dominant forces in this new era?
Bookies.com developed a system to determine which programs are best equipped to start (or continue) the sport’s next great dynasty. Teams were scored 1-10 in 10 different categories related to both on-court performance and external factors that influence the college basketball hierarchy, with the individual scores combined to determine the final ranking.
The 10 categories examined are as follows:
- Coaching Experience: What is the track record of the team’s head coach?
- Future Program Stability: How resistant is the team to potential future coaching changes/external issues like NCAA sanctions?
- Program History: How successful has the team been historically?
- Recent Regular Season Results: How has the team performed in the regular season over the past five seasons?
- Recent Tournament Results: How has the team performed in the NCAA Tournament over the past five seasons?
- Recent Recruiting: How has the team recruited over the past five seasons?
- Future Recruiting: How is the team set up to recruit moving forward?
- Roster Management/Player Development: How often is the team avoiding excessive roster turnover by keeping its players for multiple years and how much do the team’s players improve if they stay in the program.
- Budget/Resources: How much financial support does the team receive?
- Conference Positioning: How does the team compare to the rest of the schools in their league/how easy is it for the team to consistently finish at or near the top of their league?
These categories were meant to reflect a holistic view of the program that encapsulates all that goes into building and sustaining a winner. Unsurprisingly, the final rankings are littered with many of the most recognizable teams in sports betting. Below are 30 of the top programs most likely to become the next college basketball dynasty. After the table, we'll go into more detail on the top 15 programs from our research.
15. Arkansas (72 points)
In just three years in Fayetteville, Eric Musselman has already taken the Arkansas program to heights unseen since the Nolan Richardson era. The Razorbacks have reached back-to-back Elite Eights and are now set to bring in the second-best recruiting class in the country this fall per the 247Sports composite, featuring three 5-star prospects in Nick Smith, Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh.
Arkansas may not pull in a class like that again, but Musselman has proven to be a strong recruiter of both high school and transfer talent. As long as he is on the sidelines the Razorbacks are in good shape, but he is already 57 and has never stayed in the same job for more than six seasons.
14. Auburn (73 points)
Auburn lacks the basketball tradition of other teams on this list, but the Tigers have won more games over the past five seasons than any other five-season span in school history. Additionally, they topped 25 or more wins four times, won or shared two SEC regular-season titles and an SEC tournament title as well as appeared in a Final Four during this stretch.
However, much of the Tigers’ success comes from Bruce Pearl’s ability to develop players and recruit at a level previous Auburn coaches could not match. While Pearl signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2030, he is 62 and the program could easily fall off if he were to leave before then given the increasingly competitive nature of the SEC.
13. Purdue (76 points)
Purdue does not recruit like the other schools in the top 15, but Matt Painter has built a player development machine in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers excel at maintaining roster continuity and have started to target some more 4-star prospects recently, which could help raise their overall talent level in a post-Jaden Ivey, Sasha Stefanovic, and Trevion Williams world.
Even without premium recruiting, Purdue has made two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight in the past five seasons while also sharing the Big Ten regular-season title in 2019. Painter is already 384-192 in 17 seasons leading the Boilermakers, but at age 51 could easily stay with his alma mater for another 20 years, creating incredible stability for a program that has only employed two head coaches since 1980.
T-11. Michigan (77 points)
The Wolverines keep rolling along even after a coaching change. Michigan has advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in each of the last 5 NCAA Tournaments, three times with John Beilein and twice with Juwan Howard, including a run to the national championship game in 2018. With Howard at the helm, the Wolverines have landed three consecutive top-15 recruiting classes, cementing them as one of the dominant teams on the trail.
Michigan’s biggest issue going forward will be keeping the 49-year-old Howard around. Given his status as an alum, it is unlikely he leaves for another college job, but Howard is often floated as an NBA coaching candidate, though he is shutting down rumors of any interest in the open Los Angeles Lakers job. If he stays in Ann Arbor for a while, the Wolverines are set for more success in the long term.
T-11. Houston (77 points)
Since taking over in 2014, Kelvin Sampson has revived a proud Houston program that fell on hard times. Prior to his arrival, the Cougars made just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992 and now they are the only team besides Gonzaga to finish in the top-20 at KenPom each of the past 5 seasons. They have also experienced their first postseason success since the Guy Lewis era, reaching a Sweet 16, Final Four and Elite Eight in their last three tournament appearances.
Sampson has largely built Houston through player development, but the Cougars' recruiting is improving as incoming freshmen Jarace Walker and Terrance Arceneaux are respectively the best and third-best recruits to sign with Houston in the internet recruiting rankings era. While their upcoming transition to the Big 12 in 2023 should not cause problems now, the 66-year-old Sampson, who is under contract through 2027, will only be on the sidelines for so long, though his son and assistant coach Kellen has been named the head coach in waiting.
10. Michigan State (78 points)
Michigan State has long been one of the most consistent programs in college basketball. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans have reached 24 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and all but one of his recruiting classes has played in a Final Four provided they stayed through their senior year. While the past two seasons have been down seasons by their lofty standards, Michigan State won or shared three straight Big Ten regular season championships from 2018-2020 and also took the 2019 Big 10 tournament title.
The Spartans have the biggest basketball budget of any team in the Big Ten and consistently feature rosters full of 4-stars with the occasional 5-star sprinkled in. The big question here is how long does Izzo keep coaching? He is 67, but signed to a rolling seven-year deal that automatically triggers an extension year on June 30 every year, giving no great indication of when he may step away, though Michigan State is a school that values continuity so there is a good chance his eventual replacement comes from the Spartan family.
T-8. Duke (82 points)
Replacing a legend like Mike Krzyzewski is no easy task, but Jon Scheyer has about as good a setup for success as possible. Since Scheyer was officially named Krzyzewski’s successor in April of 2021 before Coach K’s final season, Duke has earned commitments from eight 5-star prospects across the class of 2022 and 2023. He should have no shortage of talent at his disposal as they look poised to continue out-recruiting everyone, especially after poaching Jai Lucas from Kentucky’s staff. The Blue Devils also have an enormous advantage when it comes to resources, as Duke spends more money on basketball than any school in the nation.
The problem that drops them in the rankings is Scheyer simply has no track record as a game coach and the Blue Devils' consistent roster turnover and heavy reliance on freshmen does not often mix with national championships. Duke has made a Final Four and two Elite Eights in the last five seasons with this model, but 2012 Kentucky and 2015 Duke are still the only freshmen-laden champions of the one-and-done era. But the Blue Devils have enormous upside that could easily make this ranking look foolish given their ability to attract top-end talent and the fact that the 34-year-old Scheyer could conceivably coach for 40 years if he is successful.
T-8. Baylor (82 points)
Scott Drew has orchestrated the most incredible program turnaround in college basketball history at Baylor. When he took over in 2003, the Bears were in the midst of an unprecedented scandal and had only made four NCAA Tournaments in program history, the last one coming in 1988. Despite severe sanctions, Drew had Baylor back in the tournament in five seasons and has only elevated the program from there. The Bears have finished in the top five nationally each of the past three seasons and won the National Championship in 2021.
They have also challenged Kansas for supremacy in the Big 12, winning or sharing the conference’s last two regular-season titles. Much of Baylor’s recent success has come from player development, but they are another team whose recruiting is on the rise. Top-5 recruit Keyonte George will help lead the upcoming edition of the Bears, who by one account project as the best team in the country for the 2022-23 season. Drew may already have 19 years of experience and 399 wins at Baylor, but he is only 51 so he should be around to keep them at the highest levels of the sport for years to come.
T-6. Virginia (83 points)
The Cavaliers may have had their worst season in years this past season, but Tony Bennett’s squad still has more ACC regular-season championships than any other program in the conference over the past 10 years. Virginia has won or shared five league titles under Bennett, including three in the past five seasons. They also captured their first National Championship in 2019, becoming the first first-time winner since Florida in 2006.
While the Cavaliers have had a pair of first round tournament exits as well over the past five seasons, including their infamous loss to UMBC, few programs have matched their recent consistency. Bennett excels at fitting and developing talent to his system and Virginia’s recruiting is on the upswing, with their incoming freshmen class rated as their best since the 2016 class of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, DeAndre Hunter and Jay Huff that formed the core of their title team. As long as the 52-year-old Bennett continues to rebuff NBA advances, the Cavaliers can remain in competition with Duke and UNC at the top of the ACC.
T-6. UCLA (83 points)
UCLA has not had quite the recent success of other programs at the top of this list, but Mick Cronin has quickly revitalized the 11-time national champion Bruins since his arrival from Cincinnati in 2019. They had a strong finish to his first season in 2020 before COVID canceled postseason play, then went from the First Four to the Final Four in 2021, before following it up with an improved regular season and a trip to the Sweet 16 this past year. UCLA’s recruiting is also picking up, with 5-stars Amari Bailey and Adem Bona set to join the roster in the fall and the Bruins targeting several elite players in future classes.
In addition to its rich history and improving play/recruiting, UCLA ranks highly because of its position within the Pac-12 where they spend far more on basketball than the rest of the league. The 50-year-old Cronin has everything he needs at his disposal to return the Bruins to glory. There is a reason he left his alma mater to come to UCLA: The program’s upside is special.
T-4. UNC (84 points)
Hubert Davis replaced three-time national championship winner Roy Williams and immediately made the national title game himself in his debut season as UNC’s head coach. While the Tar Heels ultimately fell to Kansas, it was a remarkable run for an 8 seed. UNC’s two seasons prior to 2022 were substandard for them, but they shared the ACC regular-season championship in 2019, so they were not down long.
Now, the Tar Heels' next run could be just getting started. All of the starters from their national runner-up squad except Brady Manek are set to return to Chapel Hill for 2022-23, leading to expectations of another excellent season, especially since quality offseason development is another hallmark of the program. And while the Tar Heels always recruit at a high level, they look to be taking a leap in that department too as Davis establishes momentum off their March run. UNC is currently the only team other than Duke with multiple 5-stars already committed for the class of 2023.
At age 51, Davis has ample opportunity to attempt to match the legendary 18-year run of his predecessor, the question is was his first season just a flash in the pan? Given the program’s history and the recent recruiting and roster retention developments, that seems unlikely.
T-4. Kentucky (84 points)
Although the rest of the SEC has improved and Kentucky has won just one regular-season title and one conference tournament title in the last five seasons, the Wildcats still typically operate at a level above the rest of the conference. They have the nation’s second-highest basketball expenditure behind Duke and the Blue Devils are also the only team that has recruited in the same stratosphere as Kentucky since John Calipari became the head coach in 2009.
While Calipari is pivoting somewhat to a more transfer-driven model to try and combat the roster continuity issues and overreliance on freshmen that have at times plagued the Wildcats, he continues to recruit high schoolers at an elite level. With National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe returning to school, Kentucky will be in a rare position next year.
A more veteran-heavy roster with 5-star freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston mixed in may just be what gets the Wildcats back to their first Final Four since 2015. The Kentucky faithful are certainly hoping the 63-year-old Calipari can adapt and hang some more banners before he leaves Lexington.
3. Villanova (85 points)
It is staggering what Villanova basketball has accomplished over the past decade. The Wildcats have finished first in the Big East seven of the last nine seasons, and the two seasons they failed to finish first they finished second and won a National Championship in one (2018) and reached a Final Four in the other (2022).
Jay Wright created a mold that blended elite player development with talent that was highly recruited but not quite one-and-done material. The result was two national titles and a culture that is the envy of the college basketball world. Now, Kyle Neptune is tasked with keeping the machine running. After serving as a Villanova assistant for eight years, Neptune spent last season leading a Fordham program that is considered extremely difficult to win at to a 14-win improvement from what he inherited in his only season in charge.
At age 37, he is set up for decades if he can maintain the Wildcat culture he was brought in to preserve. The early returns are already promising as he re-secured all three of Villanova’s commitments from their incoming 14th-ranked recruiting class.
2. Gonzaga (89 points)
All that is missing on Mark Few’s resume is a national championship. Gonzaga has made it to the Sweet 16 or later in each of the past seven tournaments, the longest active streak in the country, but have failed to get over the hump despite two title game appearances. The Bulldogs are 316-39 over the last 10 seasons and have won or shared the WCC regular-season championship every year during that span.
Minus the championship, it is an eerily similar run to the one Jerry Tarkanian went on his final 10 seasons at UNLV where the Runnin’ Rebels went 307-42 and won or shared 10 straight PCAA/Big West regular-season titles. However, Gonzaga has been so dominant for so long that they have actually won or shared 21 of the last 22 WCC regular-season championships. After starting out with rosters heavy on international players and underrecruited high school prospects, the Bulldogs have gotten more active recruiting elite high school players, signing their top three all-time recruits within the past two years.
The Bulldogs are simply head and shoulders above the rest of their league and have the resources to compete in any conference if realignment rumors ever came to fruition. Even if the 59-year-old Few were to step away from Gonzaga on the younger side, the Bulldogs have already created something special in Spokane.
1. Kansas (90 points)
If the 2020 NCAA Tournament had not been cancelled, there is a chance Kansas would have two national championships in the last three seasons. The Jayhawks won this year’s title, but never got the opportunity in 2020 after they established themselves as the clear best team in the country by March.
With the largest basketball budget in the conference and a mix of strong recruiting and player development, Kansas has long had a stranglehold at the top of the Big 12, despite the league routinely ranking as one of the top two in the country. While their streak of 14 consecutive outright or shared Big 12 titles ended four seasons ago, they have added two more since then. In a bit of a surprise for a program that has only had eight head coaches in over 120 seasons of basketball, the Jayhawks' biggest potential issue going forward is stability.
Bill Self is 59 and already has 763 career wins, but the school has NCAA issues on its hands. Kansas and Self may come out relatively unscathed and he could continue to coach until he is well past 1000 wins, but the cloud of uncertainty is enough to cause concerns. The Jayhawks are still operating at their peak for now, but future punishments may loom large. Will this just be a small bump in the road? Who knows, but dynasties live and die in many different ways.