What is a Blue Blood in College Basketball (Full Explanation)

Blue Blood is a term used in college basketball to describe teams with a long and illustrious history of success.

These teams have dominated the sport for decades. They consistently compete for championships and produce some of the most legendary players in the game’s history.

The NCAA does not officially recognize the term, but it has become a popular way for fans, analysts, and players to refer to the sport’s most storied teams.

This article will explore the concept of Blue Bloods in college basketball. We will do this by examining what it means to be a Blue Blood. Lastly, we will explain which teams have earned this distinction and why it is important to the sport.

Let’s ride on.

What Is a Blue Blood in College Basketball?

Blue blood in college basketball refers to a team with a long-standing tradition of success and dominance.

These teams have a rich history of winning championships and producing All-American players. They also make it consistently to the NCAA tournament year after year.

Some examples of blue-blood teams include Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, and UCLA.

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How Did the Term “Blue Blood” Originate?

The term “blue blood” has its origins in European royalty. They used the phrase to describe the nobility of Europe, who were believed to have pale skin that made their veins more visible, giving them a bluish tint.

They often see this visible vein as a symbol of their status and purity.

The idea that the blood of the nobility was somehow different or “purer” than commoners dates back to medieval times.

According to this belief, noble families had been intermarrying for so long that their blood had become distinct from the lower classes.

Over time, the term “blue blood” came to be associated with other characteristics of the nobility, such as their elegance, refinement, and sophistication.

It was used to set them apart from the rest of society and to reinforce their privileged status.

In the United States, “blue blood” was first applied to college athletics in the 1980s. They used it to describe the top teams with long histories of success in college basketball.

These teams were highly respected and recognized for their achievements, including winning championships, producing All-American players, and consistently making it to the NCAA tournament year after year.

While the term “blue blood” may seem like an odd choice for college athletics, it is not entirely out of place.

Just as the nobility in Europe was believed to have a distinct and pure bloodline, these top college basketball teams were seen as having a unique and superior talent pool, thanks to their long history of success and the quality of their coaching staff.

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What Criteria Must a Team Meet to Be Considered a Blue Blood?

To be considered a blue blood in college basketball, a team must meet no specific criteria.

However, several factors are generally considered when determining a team’s status.

One of the most important factors is an overall win-loss record. A blue-blood team must have a high winning percentage throughout history, indicating consistent success.

NCAA tournament success is another key factor. Blue blood teams are expected to make regular appearances in the NCAA tournament and to perform well once they get there. Winning a championship is a major accomplishment for any team, and blue-blood teams are expected to have won multiple national titles throughout history.

Conference championships are also important. Winning the regular season or conference tournament shows consistent dominance over other teams in the same conference. Blue blood teams should have a high number of conference championships.

Producing All-American players is another factor considered when determining a team’s status as a blue blood. All-Americans are the best players in college basketball, and a team that consistently produces them is seen as having a superior talent pool.

In addition, a blue-blood team should have a rich history and tradition of success. This includes a dedicated fan base, a recognizable brand, and a strong coaching staff that can recruit and develop top talent.

It’s important to note that being a blue blood does not guarantee success every year. Even the best teams can have down years or experience periods of decline.

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How Many Teams Are Considered Blue Bloods?

The term “blue blood” is not an official designation, so the number of teams considered blue bloods can vary depending on who you ask. However, there are generally five teams that consistently meet the criteria for blue blood status.

These five teams are the University of Kentucky, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, the University of Kansas, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

These teams have a long history of success, with numerous national championships, conference championships, and All-American players. They also have passionate fan bases and recognizable brands that are popular in college basketball.

While these five teams are generally considered the most consistent blue bloods, other teams may also be considered for the designation based on their histories of success.

For example, Indiana University, the University of Louisville, and Syracuse University are often mentioned as teams that could be considered blue bloods due to their rich histories and multiple national championships.

Ultimately, the number of teams considered blue bloods will depend on who you ask and what criteria they use. However, there is no denying that the five teams mentioned above have set themselves apart as some of the most successful and iconic teams in college basketball history.

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Can a Team Lose Its Blue Blood Status?

While blue blood status is not an official designation, it is generally considered a mark of consistent success and prestige in college basketball. But can a team lose its blue blood status?

The answer is yes. Just as a team can earn blue blood status through sustained success, they can also lose it if their performance declines significantly over time.

For example, the University of Indiana has once considered a blue-blood team due to its success under legendary coach Bob Knight, which included three national championships.

However, the team has struggled recently, failing to make the NCAA tournament since 2016. As a result, some fans and analysts no longer consider them to be a blue-blood team.

Similarly, the University of Connecticut has once considered a blue-blood team thanks to its dominance under coach Jim Calhoun, which included four national championships.

However, the team has struggled recently, failing to make the NCAA tournament in four of the past six seasons. As a result, some fans and analysts have questioned whether they still deserve blue blood status.

Blue blood status is subjective and can depend on various factors, including a team’s historical success, current performance, and overall brand recognition.

While a team can lose its blue blood status, it is important to note that sustained success is still the best way to earn and maintain this prestigious designation in college basketball.

Are Blue Bloods Always Dominant?

While blue-blood teams are generally considered among the most successful in college basketball, it is important to note that they are only sometimes dominant.

Some blue-blood teams have experienced mediocrity or even extended periods of struggle. For example, the University of Kentucky, widely considered a blue-blood team, went through a stretch in the late 1980s and early 1990s, failing to make the NCAA tournament in three out of four seasons.

Similarly, the University of North Carolina, another blue-blood team, has experienced periods of struggle in recent years. In the 2019-20 season, the team finished with a losing record for the first time in over a decade and failed to make the NCAA tournament.

However, it is important to note that even during these periods of struggle, blue-blood teams often have the resources and fan support necessary to rebuild quickly and return to a position of dominance. This is partly due to the brand recognition and national appeal of being a blue-blood team.

In short, while blue-blood teams are generally associated with dominance and success, they are not immune to periods of struggle or mediocrity. However, their status as blue bloods can help them rebound quickly and return to a position of prominence in college basketball.

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Why Is Being a Blue Blood Important in College Basketball?

Being a Blue Blood in college basketball is more than just a title or a recognition of past success. It holds great significance in the sport and carries a certain prestige that can impact a team’s current and future success.

Firstly, being a Blue Blood means having a rich history of success in college basketball. These teams have won multiple national championships and conference titles and consistently appeared in the NCAA tournament.

This type of success attracts talented high school players who want to be a part of a winning tradition and have the opportunity to play for a prestigious team.

Secondly, Blue Blood teams often have large fan bases and alumni support. These teams have loyal fans who follow them closely and are willing to travel long distances to watch them play. This level of support can create a home-court advantage, which can make a difference in close games.

Additionally, alumni support can lead to financial backing for the team, which can help fund new facilities and equipment, recruit top talent, and improve the team’s overall quality.

Being a Blue Blood can also impact a team’s recruiting efforts. A team known as Blue Blood can attract top high school players seeking to play for a successful team with a storied history.

These players may see playing for a Blue Blood team as a stepping stone to playing professionally in the NBA.

Lastly, being a Blue Blood can also impact a team’s perception in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee.

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What are Some Notable Moments in College Basketball History Involving Blue Bloods?

There have been many notable moments in college basketball history involving Blue Bloods.

One such moment is the 1966 NCAA Championship game, also known as the “Game of Change,” where Texas Western, a team with all-black starters, defeated the University of Kentucky, a traditional Blue Blood.

Another notable moment is the 1979 NCAA Championship game, where Magic Johnson led Michigan State to victory over Larry Bird and Indiana State, two other prominent college basketball teams.

The annual Duke vs. North Carolina rivalry game has become a marquee matchup that often determines conference standings and tournament seedings in recent years.

These are just a few examples of the many notable moments involving Blue Bloods in college basketball history.

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How do Blue Bloods Impact Recruiting and Player Development in College Basketball?

Blue Bloods significantly impact recruiting and player development in college basketball. We see these teams as the most prestigious and successful; players often aspire to play for them.

As a result, Blue Bloods has an advantage in recruiting top talent, and they often attract the best high school players in the country.

Additionally, Blue Blood teams have a reputation for developing players and preparing them for the next level. Coaches at these teams are often viewed as some of the best in the business, and players who play for them are well-prepared for the rigors of the NBA.

This reputation for player development can be a selling point for recruiting, as players often look for teams that can help them improve their skills and get them to the next level.

Blue Bloods also have access to more resources than most other teams. They typically have larger budgets, better facilities, and more exposure through media coverage and television contracts.

All these factors can make a Blue Blood team more attractive to top players, and they can also help with player development by providing players with the resources and support they need to succeed.

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Do Other Sports Have a Concept Similar to Blue Bloods in College Basketball?

While Blue Bloods are a unique concept in college basketball, other sports have their version of legendary teams.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio State Buckeyes, and USC Trojans are powerhouses in college football.

The LSU Tigers, Texas Longhorns, and USC Trojans are dominant in college baseball.

The concept of a storied team with a rich history and winning tradition is not exclusive to college basketball, but they don’t use the term “Blue Blood” outside of this sport.

Check Out: Top 15 Best College Basketball Teams of the 90s│2023 Ranking.

What are Some Criticisms of the Blue Blood Concept in College Basketball?

The Blue Blood concept in college basketball has faced some criticisms.

One of the main criticisms is that it creates an unfair advantage for certain teams regarding recruiting and funding. This can lead to a lack of competitiveness and a predictable game outcome.

Critics also argue that it perpetuates a “winning is everything” mentality, where a team’s success is solely based on past achievements rather than current performance.

Additionally, the concept needs to pay more attention to the contributions of smaller schools and lesser-known teams that may have talented players and successful seasons.

Finally, some critics suggest that the Blue Blood concept can reinforce societal inequalities. This is because most designated Blue Blood teams are historically white institutions.

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What is a Blue Blood in college basketball?

A Blue Blood is a term used to describe college basketball teams that have a long-standing tradition of success and excellence.

How many teams are considered Blue Bloods in college basketball?

There are generally five Blue Blood teams in college basketball: Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, and UCLA.

Can a team lose its Blue Blood status?

Yes, a team can lose its Blue Blood status if they go through a prolonged period of poor performance.


Understanding what a blue blood is in college basketball is important for any fan or follower of the sport.

It helps to contextualize the history and success of certain teams and provides insight into the level of respect and prestige that these teams carry.

While the list of blue-blood teams may shift over time, the tradition and legacy of these teams will always be an integral part of the college basketball landscape.



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