Top 5 Pennsylvania College Basketball Teams Of All Time

Written By Corey Sharp on February 28, 2023
Villanova's Jenkins hit one of the biggest shots in March Madness history.

The Madness of college basketball is right around the corner. Every year, the tournament is one of the best sporting events where you see the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Despite the provided March Madness odds, upsets occur regularly and make the event even more exciting.

Selection Sunday is in 12 days, as the best 68 teams in the country are selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Pennsylvania has had its share of great teams make deep runs during March Madness.

PlayPennsylvania counts down the top 5 PA college basketball teams ever.

Top 5 March Madness teams from Pennsylvania

No. 5 – 1987-88 Temple Owls finish with 32 wins

Temple tied a school-record with 32 wins in 1987-88 before getting knocked out in the Elite 8.

Legendary coach John Chaney led the Owls to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after going undefeated in the Atlantic 10 at 18-0 and winning the conference tournament.

The Owls had four future NBA players, led by freshman phenom Mark Macon. He averaged 20.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Tim Perry, Ramon Rivas and Duane Causwell all made the NBA and contributed for the Owls.

The Owls beat Lehigh, Georgetown and Richmond before falling to Duke, 63-53, in the Elite 8.

No. 4 – 1985 Cinderella Wildcats create March Madness

One of the greatest upsets in college basketball history happened in 1985 when Villanova knocked off Georgetown 66-64 in the National Championship game.

The Wildcats’ magical run started as the No. 8 seed for March Madness. They won their first three games of the tournament by a combined nine points and ousted top-seeded Michigan in the second round.

Villanova defeated North Carolina, Memphis and Georgetown in one of the most improbable National Championship runs ever.

Georgetown’s roster featured five future NBA players, headlined by Hall-of-Famer Patrick Ewing.

Villanova’s scrappy bunch boasted three future NBA players Ed Pickney, Harold Pressley and Dwayne McClain.

The Wildcats entered the tournament with a 19-10 record and finished the Big East with a 9-7 mark. But they turned it on when it mattered most and now live in immortality.

No. 3 – St. Joseph’s undefeated run in 2003-04

Phil Martelli’s long tenure at St. Joseph’s started with great success in 2003-04. His Hawks ended the regular season with a perfect 27-0 record before losing in the first round of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament.

The Hawks, still a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, showed they were no fluke by beating Liberty and Texas Tech in the first weekend.

In the Sweet 16, the Hawks defeated Chris Paulled Wake Forest 84-80. Many Hawks and Philly hoops fans remember John Lucas, who hit a clutch bucket late in the second half to propel Oklahoma State past St. Joseph’s, 64-62, in the following round.

St. Joseph’s finished with a school-record 30 wins and produced three NBA players. Jameer Nelson and Delonte West captivated the nation as one of the best backcourts in college basketball history. Nelson averaged 20.6 points per game and 5.3 assists. West averaged 18.9 points per game and 4.7 assists.

Both Nelson and West had long careers in the NBA. Nelson played 14 NBA seasons for five teams and made the All-Star team with the Magic in 2008-09. West played eight seasons in the league with four teams.

Dwyane Jones, the third future NBA talent, was a role player as a sophomore for the Hawks. He led the team in rebounds averaging 7.0 boards. Jones played in parts of five seasons in the NBA for four different teams.

No. 2 – Kris Jenkins’ famous buzzer-beater in 2016

The 2016 Villanova Wildcats actually sent more players to the NBA than their 2018 squad.

Here are the six players:

  • Josh Hart
  • Daniel Ochefu
  • Ryan Arcidiacano
  • Jalen Brunson
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Donte DiVincenzo

The 2016 team had the perfect combination of size, leadership and shooting. Arcidiacano ran the team as the point guard and averaged 12.5 points per game and 4.2 assists. Hart led the team in scoring as a wing with 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

That matched perfectly with 6-foot-11 center Ochefu manning the middle and Kris Jenkins as the sharpshooter from the outside. Brunson, a freshman, and a sophomore in Bridges, were the young role players to fill out the rotation.

Villanova finished the season 35-5 and won the first of its two National Championships under Jay Wright. The Wildcats defeated UNC Asheville, Iowa, Miami, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina on their way to the title.

Jenkins’ shot at the buzzer against the Tar Heels is considered one of the best moments in college basketball history.

No. 1 – Villanova’s dominant tournament run in 2018

Villanova had one of, if not the most, all-time dominant seasons in 2018.

Wright’s Wildcats finished the season with a school-record 36 wins and the program’s second National Championship in three years.

The Wildcats not only dominated the regular season, they dominated in every tournament game. Villanova won the Big East, winning all three games by double digits. They won all six games in the NCAA Tournament by double digits, as well. Villanova’s average margin of victory in all nine conference and NCAA Tournament tilts was almost 18 points per game.

The 2018 Wildcats produced five NBA players:

  • Jalen Brunson
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Donte DiVincenzo
  • Omari Spellman
  • Eric Pascal

Collin Gillespie, a freshman in 2018, could possibly be the sixth, but has been sidelined this season by a leg fracture he suffered in July. Gillespie signed with the Nuggets as an undrafted free agent last June.

The 2018 Villanova Wildcats are quietly considered one of the best college teams ever.

Photo by David J. Phillip / AP
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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