John Wooden's UCLA set standard for being No. 1 in AP poll
The programs that bleed blue have dominated when it comes to being No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll - though the shades of the color have varied.
UCLA has been the most frequent No. 1 in the AP ranking with 134 appearances at the top, mostly thanks to coach John Wooden's unmatched dynasty on the 1960s and `70s. Next come Duke (129), Kentucky (124), North Carolina (110) and Kansas (65).
The Associated Press has been ranking the best programs in college basketball since January 1949. Over 68 years and more than 1,100 polls, a total of 59 schools have been ranked No. 1, starting with Saint Louis. The Billikens wear blue. Maybe it was a sign of things to come.
Wooden had been coaching at UCLA for 15 years, successful but without winning a national title. That changed in the 1963-64, when the Bruins went 30-0 and won the NCAA Tournament. It was the first of 10 championships in a 12-year span for UCLA. The Bruins were a regular fixture atop the AP rankings during UCLA's era of dominance. Three of those championships ('67, '68 and '69) were won with Lew Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bill Walton played center on the '72 and '73 title teams.
''While our practices were the most demanding endeavors that I've ever been a part of, so physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically taxing, there is always the sense of joy, of celebration and of people having fun playing a simple game,'' Walton wrote on his website in a tribute to Wooden . ''Always positive, always constructive, John Wooden drives us in ways and directions that we are not aware of, always with the goal of making us better. It is never about him, never about the struggle for material accumulation, but always about individual skill and personal development within the framework of the team, the game and UCLA.''
UCLA strung together a streak of 46 straight No. 1 rankings, starting in 1970-71 and ending in the 1973-1974 season. The next closest streak of consecutive No. 1 rankings belongs to Ohio State, which had 27 straight spanning the 1960-61 and 1961-62 seasons.
Wooden's players did not only leave UCLA with records and championship rings, but with lessons for life.
''He wanted to win, but not more than anything ... My relationship with him has been one of the most significant of my life,'' Abdul-Jabbar wrote in his book, ''Kareem,'' ''The consummate teacher, he taught us that the best you are capable of is victory enough, and that you can't walk until you crawl, that gentle but profound truth about growing up.''
Wooden was coach for 121 of the Bruins' No. 1 appearances. No other coach has more, but one is close. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is six No. 1 rankings away from tying Wooden.
North Carolina's Hall of Fame coach, Dean Smith, led the Tar Heels to 61 No. 1 rankings.
Kentucky and its Big Blue Nation has been No. 1 in each decade of the AP poll, the only program to pull off that feat.
It has been 42 years since Wooden coaches his last game at UCLA, but his time as the Wizard of Westwood is still the standard in college basketball.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25
This story has been corrected to reflect that Bill Walton won titles with UCLA in 1972 and 1973, not in the 1960s.