Arizona basketball in top 5 on AP anniversary poll for 1990s

Jan 11, 2024, 7:00 AM

Lute Olson...

Legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden has words with legendary coach Lute Olson of the Arizona Wildcats on December 5, 2004 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Mike Krzyzewski needed three seasons to rebuild Duke.

Once he got the Blue Devils rolling, they became almost unstoppable.

After coming up just short the three previous seasons, Duke won its first national championship in 1991, then did it again the following season. The ’91 team was led by Christian Laettner, but also had feisty sophomore Bobby Hurley and athletic freshman Grant Hill. The Blue Devils avenged a loss to UNLV in the Final Four and knocked off Kansas in the title game.

The following season, Laettner hit one of the greatest shots in NCAA Tournament history to beat Kentucky in the East Regional, then Duke blew out Michigan and the Fab Five in the title game.

Duke missed the 1995 NCAA Tournament after Krzyzewski took a leave of absence, but began a run of 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 1996 that included three more national titles under Coach K.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of its Top 25, The Associated Press compiled its weekly polls to crown an all-time No. 1, as well as determining the best programs of each decade. Points were awarded based on each individual ballot, just as they are in weekly rankings, and the Blue Devils edged Kansas to lead the 1990s with 3,261 points. Here are the other top schools:

Kansas (3,256 points)

Roy Williams took what Larry Brown started and kept it rolling through the 1990s. The Jayhawks started a record run of 28 straight NCAA Tournament appearances in 1990 and reached No. 1 in five straight seasons beginning in 1992.

Kentucky (3,256)

Rick Pitino led the Wildcats to the 1996 national championship, and Tubby Smith did the same two years later. Kentucky also reached the title game in 1997 and the Final Four in 1993.

North Carolina (3,206)

Dean Smith closed out his career with a national title and the Final Four three other times in the 1990s. The Tar Heels reached another Final Four under his successor, Bill Guthridge, and had a 172-week streak of being ranked starting in 1991.

Arizona (3,128)

The Wildcats have been one of the nation’s top programs for more than three decades, but it started with Lute Olson. The coach with the shock of white hair led Arizona to 14 straight NCAA tournaments, including the program’s only title in 1997.

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Arizona basketball in top 5 on AP anniversary poll for 1990s