Schu Strings: The Sensational Six

With UConn's second national title since 1999 in the books, Jim Calhoun's club can now rightfully include itself among the nation's elite programs. At the moment UConn is one of six in that prestigious group. Where does Arizona rank?

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It takes a lot of time, and years of consistency to be a good program. Some teams can make a flash in the pan shot toward the top, but sustainable dictates the position of the elite. Over the course of the last decade, six programs in particular have stepped to the plate. Some have strung together success ratios of 20 years or better. Here's Schu's list of the nation's top men's basketball programs:

1. Duke. Beyond argument. Ten Final Fours under head coach Mike Krzyzewski and three national titles in a 14-year span. Duke consistently reels in the best recruiting classes and seemingly more McDonald's All-Americans than the rest of the greats combined. The program is so good there's a significant backlash. Duke is the most hated program in college basketball. That's generally only afforded the nation's top dog.

2. UConn. Prior to finally breaking through in 1999, Jim Calhoun's program had a tough time in the NCAA tournament despite a string of strong Big East performances. There are many steps in the building process, and UConn has successfully tackled them all. With two national titles in hand, its position among the elite is secure. And it's the only program in the nation that has Duke's number.

3. Kentucky. One of the nation's richest basketball powers overcame probation 15 years ago, then rattled off two titles in the mid-90s, one with Rick Pitino and the other with Tubby Smith. Smith has kept the program on solid footing, and despite recent tournament disappointments, it remains the class of SEC.

4. Arizona. The nation's longest active tournament streak. One national title, four Final Fours and two other trips to the Elite Eight. Lute Olson's Wildcats have been a legitimate power since 1988. You know you're good when a 20-win season is considered a failure. The UA appears poised to make another serious title run next year.

5. Kansas. A close call with Arizona. The difference probably being the UA's national title in 1997, largely culminated by virtue of one of its rare wins over KU. It won a title in 1988, then got hit with probation only to bounce back with a fervor under Roy Williams. Kansas has appeared in a Final Four, title game and Elite Eight the last three seasons.

6. North Carolina. When Dean Smith left, UNC took a bit of a hit and even missed the tournament altogether last season. Williams will have Carolina back on top in no time at all. The inability to win a national championship will haunt Williams' reputation until he can finally remove the albatross. At UNC, it's likely not a question of if, but when.

On the cusp:

Syracuse: Up until Arizona's title run, Olson and Orangeman coach Jim Boeheim had almost identical numbers in terms of wins in the regular season and in tournament play. Syracuse leveled off somewhat at the turn of the century, but bounced back with a vengeance with its championship last year.

Maryland: For years it seemed that Gary Williams could get no further than the Sweet 16. In 2001 that changed. The Terps advanced to the Final Four before losing a heartbreaker to Duke. Williams got his title two seasons ago, and Maryland appears poised to be a major player for many years to come.

Stanford: The testament to perseverance and patience. Mike Montgomery struggled in Palo Alto for a decade, but when he finally broke through the Cardinal became a major player. Stanford has finished among the top three in the Pac-10 the last eight years, and despite the disappointment in the NCAA tournament, its two-loss campaign ranks among the best in league history.

The Others: Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Louisville, Illinois, Michigan State, Florida, Gonzaga.

At some point they'll get good again: UCLA, Indiana, Michigan.

…Moving on…

…I don't tend to watch that much TV, but there are some shows out there I really enjoy, and they're getting good this time of the year. This might sound like an HBO promo, but the Sunday night lineup of The Sopranos and Deadwood is really impressive. Perhaps no show dipped so significantly in quality than last season's Sopranos, but it appears to have reestablished momentum. Deadwood has a lifespan of three episodes to date, and each has been better than its predecessor.

Additionally, 24 has gotten strong again. This season it should have been called 11, as most of the early setup seemed contrived, drawn out and unnecessary. But in March the ball finally got rolling, and it looks as though the end results have the opportunity to live up to what was delivered in seasons one and two.

Even Enterprise, which might be on its final dilythium crystal, has improved. Sadly, the WWE has been only pretty good, but pretty good doesn't get it done in the realm of professional wrestling.

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