Last week, we started shifting gears here on Pac-12 Friday to the history of basketball in the Conference of Champions, and today we cover the 1960s—which saw the rise of the UCLA Bruins dynasty under John Wooden. Kind of gives away a lot, doesn’t it?
On with the show …
Honorable Mention: 1961 USC Trojans (21-8)
Winning 2 of 3 against the crosstown Bruins was enough to hand the Trojans a conference title and an NCAA Tournament bid. USC beat Oregon in the first round of March Madness before losing in the regional semifinals to Arizona State (neither school was in the league at the time). The Trojans beat the only ranked team (No. 4 Indiana) they played all season.
10. 1962 UCLA Bruins (18-11)
A 10-2 run through the conference schedule salvaged a UCLA season started slowly with a 3-7 mark against out-of-league competition. Then, once into the NCAA tourney, the Bruins reached the Final Four before losing to No. 2 Cincinnati in the national semis. UCLA was never ranked all season!
9. 1962 USC Trojans (14-11)
Odd to see this team here, but the sabermetrics do not lie. USC played the second-hardest schedule in the country, and the Trojans still emerged with a winning record. USC was a Top 5 team until February, when losses started piling up—albeit against great opponents. The Trojans posted a 1-2 record against the Bruins, but they also beat Top 10 Purdue during the season.
8. 1963 UCLA Bruins (20-9)
They won their final four games to claim the conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament, but the Bruins’ hot streak ran out there with a loss to No. 4 Arizona State in the regional semifinals (the Sun Devils didn’t join the conference until the late 1970s). UCLA did achieve a Top 10 ranking during the regular season, so there was that.
7. 1966 UCLA Bruins (18-8)
After getting UCLA to the NCAA title in 1964 and 1965, it must have been frustrating for Wooden to coach this talented team that just fell short of winning the conference title. An early 79-35 win (not a typo) over eventual league champion Oregon State had to be frustrating to look back upon.
6. 1960 California Golden Bears (28-2)
These were the defending national champs, and they were good. An early road loss at USC was the only blemish on the record until the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 2 Golden Bears—coached by Pete Newell, a legend in his own right—defeated No. 1 Cincinnati in the Final Four. Sadly, Cal lost to No. 3 Ohio State in the national championship game.
5. 1965 UCLA Bruins (28-2)
A perfect 14-0 record in conference play anchored this team’s success, as the Bruins were 5-0 against league foes in games decided by single digits. That is fortitude! UCLA beat No. 1 Michigan in the national final by double digits, leaving no doubt as to which team was the best in the country.
4. 1964 UCLA Bruins (30-0)
How can this first team of Wooden’s to win the national title, while going undefeated, not be at the top of our rankings? So-so schedule, although that didn’t matter in the end. Aren’t tournament championships the best?! UCLA beat No. 3 Duke in the March Madness final by 15 points to seal the deal. Only 8 teams even came within single digits of the Bruins.
3. 1969 UCLA Bruins (29-1)
The one loss came in Pac-8 play against USC by two points in the regular-season finale. The Bruins then won the national championship game by beating No. 12 New Mexico State, No. 3 Santa Clara, No. 11 Drake, and No. 6 Purdue by an average of 19 points per game.
2. 1967 UCLA Bruins (30-0)
Ho hum, another undefeated Bruins team win the natty … welcome to the 1960s. UCLA didn’t play the toughest schedule, as there were only three games all year against ranked teams, but the Bruins won their four March Madness matchups by an average of almost 24 points per victory. That is dominance.
1. 1968 UCLA Bruins (29-1)
The only loss (by a 71-69 score) was the famous game at the Astrodome against the Houston Cougars, which the Bruins avenged in the Final Four with a 101-69 blowout. UCLA then beat No. 4 North Carolina in the finals by 23 points. Yeah, this team was pretty good, even with the one loss.