The most exciting thing about the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is that the best team throughout the year doesn’t necessarily cut down the nets at the end. In order to be the last one standing when the clock of the Big Dance strikes midnight, a team needs to pull together and take it one game at a time. If you getting caught looking too far ahead in a single-elimination tournament, you never know who’s going to come along and pull the rug out from under you.
Some teams can’t handle heat. The pressure of March becomes too great and they lose out on an opportunity to celebrate their one shining moment. However, other groups rise to the occasion. Not only do they thrive on the game’s biggest stage, but they catapult the experience into a lucrative future at the next level. Don’t get us wrong, not every college basking championship winning team will be made up of players who wind up pulling in big bucks in the NBA. But make no mistake, some of these squads will. We can prove it.
The good folks at HoopsHype took the time to go through all the teams that won national championships over the years and see how many players on each of these squads went on to play in the NBA, and how much money they ended up pulled in during their career at the highest level. After adding up the total salaries, HoopsHype was able to calculate which teams proved the most financially successful in the NBA.
It’s really cool stuff and we completely applaud the effort. And since we’re in the business of sharing excellent information, we decided to pass this one along. With that, here’s a look at the five men’s college basketball championship teams that made the most money in the NBA.
5. ’97 Arizona Wildcats
- NBA Salaries: $228,729,677
Behind a Superman-esque performance by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Miles Simon — who racked up 30 points in the national championship game — the 1996-97 Arizona Wildcats made an unlikely run in the year’s Big Dance. The No. 4 seed out of the Southeast took down the mighty No.1-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the title game (that went to overtime), by a score of 84-79. Other than Simon, four other Wildcats — Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Jason Terry, and AJ Bramlett — where they would go to make $228,729,677 in total salaries.
4. ’92 Duke Blue Devils
- NBA Salaries: $233,853,021
The 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils flexed their muscles by going into the national championship game and crushing the up-and-coming Michigan Wolverines and their highly touted Fab Five by 20 points. With a 71-51 victory, and their second straight national championship, the Blue Devils solidified their place atop the college basketball elite. Six members — Bobby Hurley, Antonio Lang, Brian Davis, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Cherokee Parks — of this squad would talent their talents to the next level, where they would combine to make $233,853,021 in total salaries.
3. ’04 Connecticut Huskies
- NBA Salaries: $243,735,238
As a No. 2 seed in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, the Connecticut Huskies would topple both the Duke Blue Devils and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on their way to capturing coach Jim Calhoun‘s second national championship. This team was so stacked it had three players — Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, and Charlie Villanueva — selected in the lottery of the 2004 Draft. In fact, Okafor and Gordon ended up being two of the first three players taken that year. According to HoopsHype, just these three players alone accounted for $224 million in NBA salaries. Of course, with six total Huskies reaching the NBA, the total salaries of all the players would reach $243,735,238.
2. ’01 Duke Blue Devils
- NBA Salaries: $301,179,962
Coach Mike Krzyzewksi would win his third national championship — he has five in total — at Duke on the backs of the uber-talented 2000-01 squad. Made up of Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, and Jay Williams — all future pros — this group completed its 35-4 season by defeating the Arizona Wildcats in the national championship game 82-72. Had it not been for the derailment of Williams’ career because of injury, this team would absolutely top the list. Still, there’s no shame in accumulating a combined NBA salary of $301,179,962.
1. ’96 Kentucky Wildcats
- NBA Salaries: $307,068,705
There was no stopping the 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats.
Rick Pitino and company finished 16-0 in conference play on their way to 34-2 overall record and a victory in the national championship game over Syracuse. This team would have seven players –Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, Mark Pope, Nazr Mohammed, and Derek Anderson — all make it to the NBA. With Walker pulling in $108 million by himself over the course of his 12-year career, it’s not surprising this group would end up making $307,068,705 in total salary. No doubt at it, these boys were absolutely money (in the NBA).
All statistics are courtesy of SR/College Basketball.
To see HoopsHype’s complete list of the NCAA championship teams that made the most money (in the NBA), click here.