AP All-Time Top 100: Maryland and Purdue top the list of never No. 1s
PHOENIX (AP) — Gary Williams had great players and great teams during his tenure at Maryland, even won a national championship.
The one thing missing from the Terps' resume: A No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25.
Through 68 years and more than 1,100 polls, Maryland was never once the top-ranked team in the country — and that's just fine by its former coach.
"We were No. 1 after the national championship, but nobody votes after that," Williams said. "If you win the national championship, you're the best team in the country."
The Associated Press has been ranking the best teams in college basketball since 1949, with 59 teams earning a No. 1 ranking, starting with Saint Louis in the inaugural poll.
Based upon a formula that awarded one point for poll appearances and two for No. 1 rankings, Maryland has the most points (400) for a team that was never ranked No. 1.
Purdue was next among the highest never No. 1s with 339 points, followed by Utah, Minnesota, Vanderbilt and LSU.
Williams' teams racked up points during his tenure from 1989 until 2011, yet never found the top spot. The Terps reached No. 2 twice under Williams, in 1998-99 and 2001-02, following four No. 2 rankings under Lefty Drissell.
Current coach Mark Turgeon also had Maryland up to No. 2 for three weeks during the 2015-16 season after starting at No. 3 in the preseason poll.
The No. 1 ranking was about the only accomplishment Williams didn't have in his 22 seasons in College Park.
A former coach at Ohio State, Williams took over a program that was still reeling from the death of star Len Bias in 1986 and was hit with NCAA sanctions in 1990 for violations that mostly dated to the Bob Wade era.
Williams, who played at Maryland, gradually built the Terps in a contender in the tough ACC, leading them to the Sweet 16 in 1994 and 1995 with a frenetic style that left opponents spinning. That kicked off a run of 11 straight NCAA Tournaments, including a trip to the Final Four in 2001 and the program's only national title in 2002.
Williams won 461 games at Maryland, had its court dedicated to him in 2012 and was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame two years later.
"Everyone comments on where you are ranked, so you wanted to be ranked as high as possible," Williams said. "We weren't ranked No. 1 that year we won the national championship, but we were the best team in the country when the tournament was over."
Purdue had its heyday during 25 seasons under Gene Keady.
The Boilermakers reached their highest ranking as a program — the previous was No. 3 in 1969-70 under George King — spending three weeks at No. 2 during the 1986-87 season. Purdue also was No. 2 in the 1987-88 preseason poll and later spent six weeks at that spot later in the season, never able to get over the No. 1 hump.
Purdue was close again in 1994 after winning the Big Ten championship and earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm going to vote us No. 1," Keady said after beating Illinois for the Big Ten title. "It wouldn't be unjustifiable."
It never happened. Purdue reached no higher than No. 3 in the AP Top 25.
Keady won 512 games and finished in the top 10 six times before retiring in 2005. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Utah accrued 239 points the AP rankings after reaching No. 2 in two seasons. The 1996-97 team led by Keith Van Horn, finished the regular season at No. 2 on their way to the regional final and the 1954-55 team hit the same mark without reaching No. 1.
Minnesota was right behind with 226 points, its high ranking coming in 1996-97, when the Gophers got up to No. 2 on the way to the Final Four.