College basketball teams with the most NBA 1st-round draft picks

College basketball teams with the most NBA 1st-round draft picks

Since the NBA draft’s inception in 1947, around 1,500 players have been drafted in the first round. About 90 percent of those players came from a Division I school. Chances are, if you picked one at random, they’d have worn blue in college.

The 2024 NBA draft was on Wednesday, June 26. The Atlanta Hawks selected French standout Zaccharie Risacher with the first-overall selection. Alex Sarr was the second overall pick by the Washington Wizards, while Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard became the first NCAA player selected at No. 3 overall by the Houston Rockets.

The San Antonio Spurs began the 2023 draft by selecting French star Victor Wembanyama with the first-overall pick. Alabama’s Brandon Miller was the first NCAA player chosen in that draft and second overall off the board going to the Charlotte Hornets. In 2022, Duke’s Paolo Banchero went No. 1 overall to the Orlando Magic

In 2021, the Detroit Pistons led off the night drafting Oklahoma State sensation Cade Cunningham as the first-overall pick. It’s the highest selection in Cowboy basketball history and the first time since Bob Fenimore in 1947 that an Oklahoma State athlete went No. 1 overall in a professional draft. 

In 2020, Georgia star Anthony Edwards went No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Edwards was the first player from UGA to go No. 1 overall and the Bulldogs’ ninth first-round pick.

Here’s how the top 20 schools stack up:

College basketball teams with the most NBA first-round draft picks

Rank College Conference First-round picks
1 Kentucky SEC 60
2 Duke ACC 56
3 North Carolina ACC 54
4 UCLA Pac-12 43
5 Kansas Big 12 36
6 Michigan Big Ten 30
7 Indiana Big Ten 28
8 Arizona Pac-12 26
9 Ohio State ACC 25
10 Louisville Atlantic Coast 24
10 Syracuse Atlantic Coast 24
12 Connecticut Big East 23
13 Michigan State Big Ten 21
13 Notre Dame ACC 21
15 Maryland Big Ten 20
16 Georgia Tech ACC 19
16 Texas Big 12 19
16 Alabama SEC 19
19 LSU SEC 17
21 North Carolina State ACC 16
21 Minnesota Big Ten 16
21 St. John’s (NY) Big East 16

No big surprises there. The top 10 schools account for more than half of the NCAA championships alone.

No schools have seen more No. 1 picks than Duke, which has seen five.

Duke’s five are Art Heyman (1963, New York Knicks), Elton Brand (1999, Chicago Bulls), Kyrie Irving (2011, Cleveland Cavaliers), Zion Williamson (2019, New Orleans Pelicans) and Paolo Banchero (2022, Orlando Magic)

In all, 46 schools have had at least one No. 1 pick taken.

Here’s how the top schools rank:

Rank College Conference No. 1 overall picks
1 Duke ACC 5
2 Kentucky SEC 3
3 North Carolina ACC 2
3 UCLA Pac-12 2
3 Kansas Big 12 2
3 Indiana Big Ten 2
3 Michigan Big Ten 2
3 Maryland Big Ten 2
3 UNLV Mountain West 2
3 LSU SEC 2
3 Georgetown Big East 2
3 Utah Pac-12 2
3 Houston AAC 2
3 Cincinnati AAC 2
3 Purdue Big Ten 2
3 Kansas State Big 12 2
3 West Virginia Big 12 2
3 UTEP Conference USA 2
3 Duquesne Atlantic 10 2

Having North Carolina second in overall picks, and Duke with the most No. 1 picks, should clue you in to which conference reigns supreme in the NBA draft.

Through 2022, the Atlantic Coast Conference has had an impressive 285 players drafted in the first round, approximately 20 percent of all Division I players drafted. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are right behind the ACC.

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