College Basketball: Longest Tournament Streaks

With the calendar turning to March, every sports fan across the country is counting down to March Madness. From Selection Sunday to the final buzzer on the National Championship game, March Madness is the greatest postseason event in sports. Winning the tournament requires winning six consecutive games. With each victory the stakes become higher and more pressure packed. An off-night by your star player, foul trouble by your big men or opposing teams shooting lights out from three and your out of the tournament. Teams that routinely make the tournament are some of blue bloods of college basketball. According to NCAA.com, the Kansas Jayhawks have made the tournament twenty-seven times in a row. What is remarkable about that streak is that it spans during two coaching tenures. Roy Williams led Kansas to fourteen consecutive tournament berths and current head coach Bill Self has led the Jayhawks to thirteen consecutive tournaments.

Aside from the Kansas Jayhawks, several other top seed teams are poised to continue their March Madness streaks. Duke has the second longest active streak with twenty-one consecutive tournament births. The streak would have been twelve more if not for Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski suffering a back injury during the 1994 season. Coach K has built Duke into a dynasty, winning five National Championships during his tenure (most among active coaches) and has five gold medals in the Olympics as either a Head Coach or assistant. Given Coach K’s remarkable resume it was no surprise that he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Out of the Big Ten, the Michigan State Spartans have been to the tournament nineteen consecutive tournaments. Head Coach Tom Izzo, the longest-tenured head coach in the Big Ten, has the highest winning percentage amongst active power five coaches in the postseason. Izzo has won .686% of his tournament games leading ESPN.com’s analyst Andy Katz to coin the nickname Mr. March. Currently, Michigan State is sixth in the Big Ten and is in danger of not making the tournament. Winning their last game against Maryland and making a run in the Big Ten Tournament will solidify Michigan State’s chances of making the tournament.

Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo

Keeping with the Big Ten; the Wisconson Badgers have made the tournament eighteen consecutive years. Sixteen of those years can be accredited to now retired Head Coach Bo Ryan. Ryan made the tournament every year he was the Head Coach of the Badgers starting in the 2001-2002 season. In Ryan’s last full year coaching in 2014, the Badgers had their best season in school history reaching the National Championship game. In the Final Four, Wisconson was able to upset a Kentucky team that included future number one overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns. The 2014 Kentucky team also included Suns guard Devin Booker, Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein and Jazz guard Trey Lyles. Two other Wildcat players Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson were drafted in the second round.

Two Mid-Major programs also have consecutive tournament appearances. Mark Few’s Gonzaga teams have made the tournament eighteen consecutive years. Few has built Gonzaga into a national power and over the past five seasons, Gonzaga has been a number one seed and a number two seed in the tournament. Thus far Gonzaga is projected to be the number one seed in the West bracket. What’s remarkable about Few’s teams is the lack of NBA talent on the roster. In the seventeen years that Few has been the head coach only three players are active in the NBA. The second Mid-Major program is the VCU Rams. In 2010 VCU made a surprising run to the Final Four utilizing a full-court press style pressure defense nicknamed “Havoc”. Shaka Smart has since taken the Texas job but head coach Will Wade has taken the Rams to the tournament last season and projected to go to the tournament again this season.

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