Is UNC the new 'standard for excellence'?

In his Sunday column in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Jerry Tipton polled several longtime college basketball observers with this question: Since the John Wooden-led UCLA dynasty ended in 1975, which program sets the standard for excellence?

None of quartet of writers who responded, he notes, chose Kentucky as No. 1. But both North Carolina and Duke were in the mix, for varying reasons:

  • Seth Davis at Sports Illustrated said NCAA tournament titles are the measuring stick, putting UNC and Duke jointly atop his list.

  • ESPN’s Jay Bilas added winning consistently to the discussion -- thus, putting Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, UConn, Michigan State and Syracuse in his mix.

  • Robyn Norwood, past president of the United States Basketball Writers Association, said championship game appearances, plus running a clean program, makes her choose Duke as the pre-eminent team.

  • Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star said getting to the Final Four should set the standard, and listed his choices in this order: UNC, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas. "And they all did it with multiple coaches, which, to me, is another sign of program greatness," Kerkhoff wrote in an email to Tipton, according to the story. "I look at programs like Connecticut and Arizona as one-coach wonders. Indiana, also, if you measure the Hoosiers in the post-Wooden era."

The Tar Heels have won four national titles since 1975 (under two head coaches) and made 12 Final Four appearances during that timespan (under three coaches).

Does UNC set the new standard -- or does another team deserve the nod? What should be the standard? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Robbi Pickeral can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bylinerp.