|5||1956 San Francisco|
By Jeff Borzello | CBSSports.com College Basketball Blogger
Before UCLA, there was San Francisco. The Dons were a dynasty in the 1950s, winning back-to-back national championships and winning 60 consecutive games over the course of three seasons. Because of their exciting style of play -- and the presence of Bill Russell -- fans from all over the country would go to watch the Dons play. They didn't disappoint, cruising through the 1956 season with an undefeated record -- and barely a tough game along the way.
Coach: Phil Woolpert
Primary starters: Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Hal Perry, Carl Boldt, Gene Brown
NCAA Tournament final result: Defeated Iowa 83-71 to win the national title.
Best player: Bill Russell. One of the greatest pure winners in the history of the sports, Russell dominated at both ends for San Francisco. He was one of five players to average 20 points and 20 rebounds for his career, and stepped up his game in the NCAA tournament. Russell went for 26 points and 27 rebounds in the title game against Iowa, and grabbed a combined 50 rebounds in the semifinal and final. He also anchored the nation s best defense, once swatting 13 shots in a game.
Another worth noting: K.C. Jones. Jones was the outside complement to Russell's inside dominance, but he wasn't allowed to play in the NCAA tournament. After suffering season-ending appendicitis in 1953, San Francisco's conference granted Jones a redshirt season -- but the NCAA didn't, making him ineligible for the 1956 NCAA tournament. During the regular season, he routinely led the team in scoring from the perimeter.
This team is one of the best of all-time because ... San Francisco's defense was simply dominant. The Dons had Bill Russell at the back of the defense, controlling the glass and blocking shots, and they used a 2-2-1 fullcourt zone press to force turnovers and get baskets in transition. They led the nation in scoring defense for the second consecutive season, allowing just 52 points per game. San Francisco won only one regular-season game by fewer than seven points, beating teams by an average of 20 points per game. They rolled through the NCAA tournament without much of a test, winning each contest by double-digits. The Dons had more depth than most teams of that era, overcoming the ineligibility of K.C. Jones in the NCAA tournament and still winning a championship. Eugene Brown replaced Jones in the lineup, and scored 16 points in the title game. Combine the dominant defense with the up-tempo offense, the depth with Bill Russell, and the Dons can compete with anyone in college basketball's annals.
Did you know ... The Dons were the first team to go undefeated during the regular season and then win the national title. They won the championship in 1955 but lost one game that season. Overall, San Francisco ran their winning streak to 60 games, including two national championships. That was a record until UCLA rattled off 88 straight two decades later.