The consecutive Big 12 Conference title streak might be dead, but by earning a spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the Kansas men’s basketball program kept alive another impressive streak.
When things get going in the Big Dance later this week, the Jayhawks will be playing in their 30th consecutive NCAA Tournament, dating back to the 1989-90 season.
Not only is KU’s streak — 14 seasons under Roy Williams and 16 seasons under Bill Self — the longest active streak in the country, it also is the longest in NCAA Tournament history, just ahead of North Carolina, which advanced to college basketball’s showcase event in 27 consecutive seasons from 1975-2001, under three coaches.
Here’s a quick look back at KU’s NCAA Tournament successes and failures during the last 30 seasons.
Back in the Big Dance after serving a one-year probation from the Larry Brown era, the Jayhawks began a stretch of 29 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under little-known head coach Roy Williams. Led by senior guard Kevin Pritchard (14.5 ppg) and junior forward Mark Randall (13.5 ppg), the second-seeded Jayhawks finished 30-5 but lost in the second round of the tournament to UCLA.
In just his third season leading the Jayhawks, Williams took Kansas to the first of four Final Fours in 15 seasons under his direction. Kansas, a No. 3 seed led by senior sharpshooter Terry Brown (16 ppg) and Randall (15 ppg), made it all the way to the title game, where the Jayhawks lost to Grant Hill and Duke. One game earlier, Williams matched up with mentor Dean Smith and North Carolina and knocked off his old boss, 79-73. KU finished the season 27-8.
Despite KU finishing the regular season ranked No. 2 in the nation and 27-5 overall, the ’91-’92 season marked the first of a handful of heartbreaking tournament exits under Williams. Kansas earned a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance but was bounced in the second round by UTEP, 66-60, in Dayton, Ohio. Transfer guard Rex Walters (16 ppg) and junior Adonis Jordan (12.8 ppg) led KU’s attack, with sophomore forward Richard Scott (10.1) also breaking onto the scene.
Led by the dynamic backcourt of Jordan and Walters, the Jayhawks marched back to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons, this time falling to North Carolina in the national semifinals, 78-68, in New Orleans. Second-seeded Kansas got past Jason Kidd and Cal in the Sweet 16 and then upended Bob Knight and Indiana in the regional final before losing to the eventual national champs. KU finished 29-7, and Walters (15.3 ppg) and Jordan (12.1) led the balanced offensive attack.
This season famously ended with Purdue standout Glen “Big Dog” Robinson dunking over KU’s Greg Ostertag, who solicited a handshake after the nasty slam. Led by Scott (13.7 ppg), now a senior, and senior guard Steve Woodberry (15.5 ppg), the Jayhawks earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and finished 27-8 after bowing out in the Sweet 16.
With a No. 1 seed and the path to the Final Four going through Kansas City, the Jayhawks stumbled again, this time to a physical bunch from Virginia that beat the Jayhawks up, 67-58, on a night when Kansas never found its rhythm. Led by a core group (Jerod Haase, Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard) that would go on to make up one of the best teams in school history a couple of years down the road, the Jayhawks finished 25-6.
With most key members of the previous team back and standout freshman Paul Pierce joining the crew, the Jayhawks earned a No. 2 seed and advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to No. 4 seed and eventual national runner-up Syracuse in Denver. LaFrentz (13.4 ppg) and Pierce (11.9 ppg) led KU in scoring, and the Jayhawks finished 29-5.
Arguably the best team in school history joined the group of tourney heartbreakers when the top-seeded Jayhawks were upset by No. 4 seed Arizona in the Sweet 16. Again led by LaFrentz (18.5 ppg) and Pierce (16.3 ppg), with the backcourt of Vaughn and Haase serving as the perfect complement to those future pros, the Jayhawks finished 34-2 and were the first of three No. 1 seeds to fall to the Wildcats during Arizona’s historic run to the national title.
For the third consecutive season, Pierce (20.4) and LaFrentz (19.8) led the Jayhawks in scoring, but for the third year in a row, the highly favored Jayhawks were bounced from the tournament in heartbreaking fashion. Entering the tournament with two All-Americans and at 34-3 overall, top-seeded KU drubbed Prairie View A&M;, 110-52, in the opener before falling to No. 8 seed Rhode Island, 80-75, in round 2. LaFrentz graduated and Pierce left a year early, ending one of the best three-year stretches in KU history.
The loss of Pierce and LaFrentz brought the Jayhawks back down to earth and Kansas finished the ’98-’99 season with double-digit losses for the first time in the Roy Williams era. Sophomore center Eric Chenowith (13.5 ppg) and senior guard Ryan Robertson (12.8 ppg) led the KU offense, but the Jayhawks managed just a No. 6 seed and, despite a career-high 31 points from Robertson, fell to third-seeded Kentucky, 92-89 in overtime, in the second round.
The slide continued for Kansas after the 10-loss 1998-99 season. But 2000 also marked the beginning of a major surge. Led by junior Kenny Gregory (12.8 ppg) and talented freshmen Nick Collison, Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich, the Jayhawks struggled to a No. 8 seed and lost to top-seeded Duke in the second round, 69-64, in a game that featured an epic battle between Hinrich and former Duke point guard Jason Williams. KU finished the season 24-10.
Sophomores Gooden (15.8 ppg), Collison (14 ppg) and Hinrich (11.5) joined senior Gregory (15.6 ppg) to lead the Jayhawks to a 26-7 record and a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance. But after easy victories over Cal-State Northridge and Syracuse in Dayton, Ohio, the Jayhawks were knocked out by top-seeded Illinois, which was led by future Kansas head coach Bill Self. The young Jayhawks were beaten up by the more physical and veteran Illini squad, and the disappointment of that loss paved the way for back-to-back Final Fours in the next two seasons.
Back in the Final Four for the third time under Williams, and the first time since 1993, Kansas entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1998. After surviving an injury scare to Hinrich in the first round, KU got revenge on Illinois from the previous year and then rolled over high-scoring Oregon, 104-86, in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks caught a bad break with their Final Four matchup, losing, 97-88, to eventual national champion Maryland in a game that many said should have been the national title game. Gooden (19.8 ppg), Collison (15.6 ppg) and Hinrich (14.8 ppg) led the Jayhawks, who finished 33-4.
The Jayhawks lost Gooden to the NBA Draft, but that didn’t stop Hinrich (17.3 ppg) and Collison (18.5 ppg), with the emergence of sophomores Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and Wayne Simien, from getting back to the Final Four. Second-seeded Kansas lost six regular-season games, and bowed out early in the Big 12 tourney, but reached the Final Four for a second straight season by going through a bracket that included tough wins over No. 3 seed Duke and No. 1 seed Arizona. From there, the Jayhawks blitzed Dwyane Wade and Marquette in the Final Four before falling to Syracuse, 81-78, in the national title game. The loss to Carmelo Anthony and the Orangemen wound up being the last coached by Williams at Kansas, and the Jayhawks finished the season 30-8.
Kansas’ first NCAA Tournament run under new head coach Self came as close as it gets to the Final Four without actually reaching it. Led by juniors Simien (17.8 ppg) and Langford (15.5 ppg), the fourth-seeded Jayhawks lost to Georgia Tech in overtime in the Elite Eight after drubbing a UAB team that knocked off top-seeded Kentucky. Self, who left Illinois to come to Kansas, led the Jayhawks to a 24-9 record during his first season in Lawrence.
The incredible four-year run of seniors Simien (20.3 ppg), Langford (14.4 ppg), Miles (9.3 ppg) and Michael Lee ended in heartbreak in Oklahoma City. That’s where No. 3 seed KU fell to Bucknell in the opening round of the tournament when Simien’s last-gasp chance at a game-winner fell short in the final seconds. Kansas finished 23-7 during Self’s second season in charge.
With three freshmen finishing among the top four in scoring, the Jayhawks ushered in a whole new era of leading men. Brandon Rush (13.5 ppg), who led the team in scoring all three of his seasons at KU, joined Mario Chalmers (11.5 ppg) and Julian Wright (8.5 ppg) to lead the new-look squad made more in Self’s mold. Before they could become champions, these young Jayhawks had to take their lumps, and never did the blow hit harder than in the NCAA Tournament, where 13th-seeded Bradley became the second team in a row to knock the Jayhawks out in the first round. Fourth-seeded KU finished the year 25-8.
After back-to-back first-round exits, the top-seeded Jayhawks, led by sophomores Rush (13.8 ppg), Chalmers (12.2 ppg) and Wright (12.0 ppg), got back on track with a deep tourney run that ended with a 68-55 loss to second-seeded UCLA in the Elite Eight. KU’s run featured a second-round win over No. 8 seed Kentucky and Rajon Rondo and a dog-fight win over Southern Illinois in the Sweet 16. KU finished the season 33-5.
Led by a group of juniors who suffered a first-round loss to Bradley in the tournament during their freshman season, the Jayhawks rolled to the program’s first national championship since 1988, knocking off Davidson, North Carolina and Memphis along the way. The Jayhawks were a part of history during this run, as all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four for the first time ever. Led by Rush (13.3 ppg), Chalmers (12.8 ppg), Darnell Jackson (11.2 ppg) and sophomore forward Darrell Arthur (12.8 ppg), KU drubbed UNC in the national semifinals, leading Carolina 40-12 at one point, and ripped off an incredible comeback from nine down with 2:12 to play to knock off Memphis in overtime in the title game. Chalmers’ miracle three-pointer in the final seconds tied the game and KU dominated the OT to finish the season on top of the mountain with a 37-3 overall record.
Forced to replace all five starters from the national championship team one year earlier, the Jayhawks leaned on the dynamic duo of junior Sherron Collins (18.9 ppg) and sophomore Cole Aldrich (14.9 ppg) to finish the season 27-8. Freshman point guard Tyshawn Taylor and freshman forward Marcus Morris, whose brother, Markieff, also was on the team, helped KU survive the loss of six of the eight players who played in the title game in 2008. Seeded third in the Big Dance, Kansas lost in the Sweet 16, 67-62, to a Michigan State team that went on to lose to North Carolina in the national championship game.
With Collins (15.5 ppg) and Aldrich (11.3 ppg) back to lead the team one more time, Kansas roared to a monster regular season, losing just twice — at Tennessee and at Oklahoma State — en route to a No. 1 seed in the Midwest regional. Freshman starter Xavier Henry (13.4 ppg) added firepower to KU’s lineup and the Jayhawks rolled into the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. But KU ran into a tough Northern Iowa team in Oklahoma City and a monster shot by a man named Ali Farokhmanesh was the final dagger in UNI’s upset over the Jayhawks, who finished the season 33-3.
With one of its most veteran squads since the 2008 national title, Kansas, for the second season in a row, enjoyed a two-loss regular season — home vs. Texas and at Kansas State — and entered the NCAA Tournament with a No. 1 seed. As if that weren’t enough, KU’s Southwest regional blew wide open early on, paving the way for what looked to be a favorable road to the Final Four. Seeds 2-8 lost in the first or second round and KU rolled into the Elite Eight, where it faced 11th-seeded VCU and up-and-coming coach Shaka Smart. The Jayhawks, led by the Morris twins (Marcus 17.2 ppg and Markieff 13.6 ppg), never got going offensively in the regional final in San Antonio and were knocked out by VCU, 71-61, ending the season with a 35-3 record.
Back as a starter for the fourth year in a row, senior point guard Taylor (16.6 ppg) teamed with junior forward and All-American Thomas Robinson (17.7 ppg) to lead a thin but talented KU squad on a run all the way to the national title game. KU, seeded second, squeaked by Purdue in Omaha to get the run started and then played stellar defense in wins over North Carolina State, North Carolina and Ohio State to reach the title game against Anthony Davis and a loaded Kentucky team. The Jayhawks fought, but the Wildcats were simply too much, as UK delivered John Calipari his first national championship, 67-59. KU finished the season 32-7.
With seniors Elijah Johnson (9.9 ppg) and Jeff Withey (13.7 ppg) stepping into the roles vacated by Taylor and Robinson, Kansas earned a No. 1 seed behind the strong play of future lottery pick Ben McLemore, who sat out the 2012 run and averaged 15.9 points during his first season on the floor. The Jayhawks, for the third time since he left, faced former KU coach Williams in the tournament — this time in the second round in Kansas City, Mo. — and Self improved to 3-0 at Kansas against his predecessor. That put Kansas into the Sweet 16, where the top-seeded Jayhawks played well for 35 minutes but collapsed late against No. 4 seed Michigan and lost in overtime. KU finished the season 31-6 and would enter the following season looking to replace five starters once again.
Landing Andrew Wiggins, the top-rated player in the 2013 recruiting class and future No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, helped the Jayhawks survive life after the departure of some mainstays, but Wiggins (17.1 ppg) was not enough to lead the Jayhawks very far in the postseason. With dominant freshman center Joel Embiid (11.2 ppg) sidelined with a back injury for the final six games of the season, Kansas earned a No. 2 seed in the Midwest regional but did not make it out of the first weekend, losing to No. 10 seed Stanford, 60-57, in St. Louis. Kansas finished the season 25-10, marking the first time since 1999-2000 that KU’s loss total reached double digits.
With the disappointment of an early exit in 2014 still lingering and the Jayhawks forced to move on from Wiggins, junior Perry Ellis (13.8 ppg) and sophomores Frank Mason III (12.6 ppg) and Wayne Selden (9.4 ppg) led Kansas to a No. 2 seed and second-round match-up with surging Wichita State, which reached the Final Four in 2013 and saw an undefeated season go down in 2014 with a second-round tourney loss to Kentucky. For years, people had been clamoring for a KU-WSU matchup, but it had not happened. There was no avoiding it when the bracket came out, though, and after WSU knocked off Indiana in the first round, the stage was set for a second-round showdown in Omaha. With Ellis dealing with an injury, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet proved to be too much for the Jayhawks, who fell, 78-65, and ended the season at 27-9.
After a 27-4 regular season, the Jayhawks won three straight games in the Big 12 tournament to take the postseason crown and entered the NCAA Tournament at 30-4 and as the No. 1 overall seed in the Big Dance. After second- and third-round wins over big-name schools UConn and Maryland, Kansas faced second-seeded Villanova in the Elite Eight in Louisville, Ky., and lost an absolute dogfight, 64-59. Leading scorer Ellis was limited to four points on five shots, and KU shot just 6-of-22 from 3-point range in falling to the eventual national champions.
Despite playing mostly with a four-guard lineup and limited depth, KU rolled to its 13th consecutive Big 12 title behind the strength of national player of the year Mason (20.9 ppg), Devonte’ Graham (13.4 ppg) and Josh Jackson (16.3 ppg). Senior Landen Lucas held things down in the paint for a Kansas team that Bill Self said “may not play the best, but there’s no team tougher than the University of Kansas.” Snagging a No. 1 seed for the seventh time in Self’s 14 seasons, the Jayhawks played well for three rounds, including a Sweet 16 dismantling of Purdue, before watching the wheels fall off in an Elite Eight loss to Oregon in Kansas City. KU finished the season 31-5.
With Big 12 Player of the Year Graham teaming up with fellow senior Svi Mykhailiuk to lead another thin Kansas squad, the Jayhawks won an NCAA-record 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title and rumbled their way to the program’s first trip to the Final Four since 2012. After surviving No. 16 seed Penn and Seton Hall in Wichita, the Jayhawks topped Clemson in the Sweet 16 in Omaha, Neb., before knocking off No. 2 seed Duke in an overtime classic to reach the Final Four. Transfer Malik Newman, who was red-hot throughout the postseason, scored all 13 KU points in OT, which was needed because of Newman’s defense on Duke star Grayson Allen on the final possession of regulation. Back in San Antonio for the Final Four, the Jayhawks ran into a buzzsaw in the national semifinals, losing to eventual national champion Villanova, which hit 18 3-pointers in a 91-79 win. KU finished the season 31-8.
Led by Dedric Lawson’s 20 double-doubles and a group of freshmen who helped Kansas overcome the absence of three of the five players who had meaningful roles on the 2018 Final Four team, the Jayhawks finished the regular season at 23-8 overall and 12-6 in Big 12 play. While that showing was good enough to keep Kansas in the top 15 for the entire regular season, it was not good enough to extend KU’s streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles, and now the Jayhawks head to the postseason looking to make a run that will have them remembered as something other than the team that ended the streak.