When it comes to college basketball, a select few programs have a reputation for excellence that's second to none. These programs are known as "blue bloods," and they have built a storied legacy of success both on and off the court.

In this article, we're going to dive into what makes a college basketball blue blood and explore which ones hold that distinction.

What’s College Basketball Blue Blood?

When we talk about a blue-blood college basketball program, we're referring to one with a long history of success. This includes multiple national championships, numerous alumni who reached the NBA, and an extremely loyal fan base that's dedicated and passionate. Blue-blood programs also have a tradition of excellence in coaching, recruiting, and player development.

The History of Blue Bloods in College Basketball

In the 1960s and 1970s, programs such as UCLA, Kentucky, and North Carolina emerged as the standard-bearers of college basketball in building a storied legacy of excellence that has withstood the test of time. However, as the years went by, other programs, including Duke, Kansas, and Indiana, began to assert themselves, thereby making a case for inclusion among the sport's elite.

Today, the debate rages on about which programs truly deserve to be considered college basketball blue bloods, but one thing is clear -- the original blue bloods set a standard of excellence that has inspired generations of basketball players and fans alike. Whether it's the unmatched dominance of John Wooden's UCLA teams or the clutch performances of Michael Jordan and Dean Smith's North Carolina squads, the legacy of the blue bloods will forever be enshrined in the annals of college basketball history.

Who are the Blue Bloods of College Basketball teams?

While there is no definitive list of blue-blood programs, several are widely considered to be in this category. Together, these programs have won a staggering 27 NCAA Championships and produced countless NBA players. They also have some of the most loyal and dedicated fans in the entire world of college basketball.

These college basketball programs include:

Duke University

The Duke University Blue Devils, based in Durham, N.C., have won five national championships and made 12 Final Four appearances.

University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels, based in Chapel Hill, have won six national championships and made 20 Final Four appearances.

University of KentuckyThe University of Kentucky Wildcats, based in Lexington, have won eight national championships and made 17 Final Four appearances.

University of Kansas

The University of Kansas Jayhawks, based in Lawrence, have won three national championships and made 15 Final Four appearances.


The University of California, Los Angeles Bruins, better known as UCLA, have won 11 national championships and made 18 Final Four appearances.

Indiana University

The Indiana University Hoosiers, based in Bloomington, have won five national championships and made eight Final Four appearances.

What Makes a College Basketball Program a Blue Blood?

So what exactly sets a blue blood program apart from the rest of the pack? Several key factors contribute to this distinction:

  1. National Championships: A blue-blood program must have won multiple national championships, demonstrating a prolonged period of success and excellence.
  2. Final Four Appearances: While winning a national championship is the pinnacle of success in college basketball, simply making it to the Final Four is also a major accomplishment. Programs with numerous Final Four appearances are often seen as ranking among the sport’s elite.
  3. Conference Championships: Winning a conference championship is a sign of consistent success within a team's conference. Programs that have won numerous conference titles over the years are often seen as being among the best in the country.
  4. NBA Success: Blue-blood programs have produced countless NBA players, which speaks to the high level of talent that they attract and develop. It also demonstrates that the program has a strong infrastructure as far as coaching and player development.
  5. Fan Base: The fans of blue-blood programs are some of the most dedicated and passionate in all of sports. They're not just rooting for their teams, but also for the history and tradition of their favorite programs.
  6. Coaching: Blue-blood programs have a long history of attracting and retaining top coaching talent. They are known for developing assistant coaches into head coaches and for consistently promoting excellence in coaching and player development. For example, Duke former head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, known simply as "Coach K," is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history. Over his career, he led the Blue Devils to five national championships and 12 Final Four appearances.

A blue-blood college basketball program is one that has a rich history of success on the court, produces numerous NBA players, has a dedicated and passionate fan base, and is known for its excellence in coaching, recruiting, and player development. While Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, and Indiana are widely regarded as such programs, others have also come close to achieving this level of excellence. Blue-blood programs have made an indelible mark on the world of college basketball and will continue to do so for many years to come.

College Basketball Blue Bloods FAQs:

  1. What is the origin of the term "blue blood" in college basketball?

According to the NCAA, the term "blue blood" first appeared in the Brooklyn Times-Union in 1927. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, it was used in other publications to refer to an undefined elite class of college basketball programs.

  1. How many teams are considered as blue bloods in college basketball?

While there's no definitive list of blue blood programs, there are several that are widely considered to be in this category. These include Duke University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Kentucky, the University of Kansas, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Indiana University.

  1. What are some of the common characteristics of a college basketball blue-blood program?

There are several factors that contribute to a college basketball program becoming a blue blood. These include national championships, Final Four appearances, conference championships, NBA success, fan base, and top coaching talent. 

  1. Which college basketball blue-blood program has the most national championships?

The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program leads the blue bloods with the most national championships. UCLA has won a record of 11 NCAA Championships – three more than second-place Kentucky, but UCLA hasn’t won an NCAA title since 1995. The bulk of UCLA’s titles came in the period from 1964 to 1975, when head coach John Wooden led the Bruins to 10 national championships in 12 seasons.