Monday, March 14, 2022

NCAA TOURNAMENT 2022: Looking back at KU’s 32-year NCAA Tournament streak

The Kansas starters huddle up before tipoff against Kansas State during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas starters huddle up before tipoff against Kansas State during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Things returned to normal during the 2021-22 college basketball season, and Allen Fieldhouse was at the center of lot of it.

Instead of major COVID-19 restrictions cutting into the atmosphere that defines Kansas basketball, KU’s home venue was full, night after night, of adoring fans watching the Jayhawks roll to a 15-1 record at home.

In addition, Bill Self’s Jayhawks finished at the top of the Big 12 standings — their 16th title in the past 18 seasons — and were led by a couple of players who joined the 1,000-point club in Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack and a supporting cast of experienced veterans hungry to put Kansas back in national title contention.

The Jayhawks finished the regular season 25-6 and spent the entire season ranked in the AP Top 10.

All of that led to KU reaching the NCAA Tournament for the 32nd consecutive season, 14 in a row under Roy Williams and 18 under Self. That’s the longest such streak in NCAA Tournament history, five years better than North Carolina’s 27-year streak from 1975-2001.

While we wait to see what type of run this Kansas teams makes in this year’s postseason, here’s a quick look back at the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament successes and failures during the last 31 seasons.

1989-90 — Back in the Big Dance after serving a one-year probation from the Larry Brown era, the Jayhawks began their streak of 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 2nd-seeded Jayhawks finished 30-5 but lost in the second round of the tournament to UCLA.

1990-91 — In just his third season leading the Jayhawks, KU coach Roy Williams took Kansas to the first of four Final Fours in 15 seasons under his direction. Kansas, a 3 seed led by senior sharp-shooter Terry Brown (16 ppg) and senior forward Mark 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.

1991-92 — 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 and disappointing tournament exits under Roy 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.

1992-93 — Led by the dynamic backcourt of seniors Adonis Jordan and Rex 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.

1993-94 — 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 senior guard Steve Woodberry (15.5 ppg) and senior forward Richard Scott (13.7 ppg), the Jayhawks earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and finished 27-8 after bowing out in the Sweet 16.

1994-95 — With a No. 1 seed and the path to the Final Four going through Kansas City, Mo., the Jayhawks stumbled again, this time to a physical bunch from Virginia that beat the Jayhawks, 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 what 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.

1995-96 — 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 fourth-seed and eventual national runner-up Syracuse in Denver. Raef LaFrentz (13.4 ppg) and Pierce (11.9 ppg) led KU in scoring and the Jayhawks finished 29-5.

1996-97 — Arguably the best team in school history joined the group of tourney heartbreak when the top-seeded Jayhawks were upset by No. 4 seed Arizona in the Sweet 16. Again led by Raef LaFrentz (18.5 ppg) and Paul Pierce (16.3 ppg), with the backcourt of Jacque Vaughn and Jerod 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.

1997-98 — For the third consecutive season, Paul Pierce (20.4) and Raef 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.

1998-99 — The loss of Paul Pierce and Raef 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.

1999-2000 — 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.

2000-01 — Sophomores Drew Gooden (15.8 ppg), Nick Collison (14 ppg) and Kirk Hinrich (11.5) joined senior Kenny Gregory (15.6 ppg) to lead the Jayhawks to a 26-7 record and 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 beat 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.

2001-02 — Back in the Final Four for the third time under Roy 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 Kirk 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 match-up, losing 97-88 to eventual national champion Maryland in a game that many said should have been the national title game. Drew Gooden (19.8 ppg), Nick Collison (15.6 ppg) and Kirk Hinrich (14.8 ppg) led the Jayhawks, who finished 33-4.

2002-03 — The Jayhawks’ talented trio of seniors-to-be lost Drew Gooden to the NBA Draft, but that didn’t stop Kirk Hinrich (17.3 ppg) and Nick 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 game coached by Roy Williams at Kansas and the Jayhawks finished the season 30-8.

2003-04 — Kansas’ first NCAA Tournament run under new head coach Bill Self came as close as it gets to the Final Four without actually reaching it. Led by juniors Wayne Simien (17.8 ppg) and Keith 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.

2004-05 — The incredible four-year run of seniors Wayne Simien (20.3 ppg), Keith Langford (14.4 ppg), Aaron Miles (9.3 ppg) and Michael Lee ended in heartbreak in Oklahoma City. That’s where No. 3 seed KU fell to 14th-seeded 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 Bill Self’s second season in charge.

2005-06 — 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 Bill 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.

2006-07 — After back-to-back first-round exits, the top-seeded Jayhawks, led by sophomores Brandon Rush (13.8 ppg), Mario Chalmers (12.2 ppg) and Julian 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.

2007-08 — 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 and Steph Curry, North Carolina and Roy Williams and Memphis and John Calipari 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 Brandon Rush (13.3 ppg), Mario 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.

2008-09 — 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.

2009-10 — With Sherron Collins (15.5 ppg) and Cole Aldrich (11.3 ppg) back to lead the team one more time, Kansas roared to a monster regular season, losing just twice 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.

2010-11 — 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 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 and shot poorly from the outside in the regional final in San Antonio and were knocked out by VCU, 71-61, ending the season with a 35-3 record.

2011-12 — Back as a starter for the fourth year in a row, senior point guard Tyshawn 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. Second-seeded Kansas squeaked by Purdue in Omaha, Neb., 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 Jon Calipari his first national championship, 67-59. KU finished the season 32-7.

2012-13 — With seniors Elijah Johnson (9.9 ppg) and Jeff Withey (13.7 ppg) stepping into the roles vacated by Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas 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. The Jayhawks, for the third time since he left, faced former KU coach Roy Williams in the tournament — this time in the second round in Kansas City, Mo. — and Bill Self improved to 3-0 at Kansas against his predecessor. That put Kansas into the Sweet 16, where the top-seeded Jayhawks played great for 35 minutes but collapsed late against No. 4 seed Michigan and lost in overtime. KU finished the season 31-6.

2013-14 — 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.

2014-15 — With the disappointment of an early exit in 2014 still lingering, 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 match-up, and they finally got it in a n NCAA Tournament showdown in Omaha, Neb. 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.

2015-16 — 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 a dogfight, 64-59. Leading scorer Perry 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.

2016-17 — Despite playing mostly with a four-guard lineup and limited depth, KU rolled to its 13th consecutive Big 12 title behind the strength of its guards, national player of the year Frank Mason III (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.” Snagging a No. 1 seed for the seventh time in Self’s 14 seasons, the Jayhawks played as well as any team in the tournament 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, Mo. KU finished the season 31-5.

2017-18 – With Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte' Graham teaming 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 reached the program’s first 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 of 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 with dreams of repeating the feat from 10 years earlier, 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, including an NCAA record 13 in the first half. KU finished the season 31-8.

2018-19 – Led by Dedric Lawson’s 20 double-doubles, 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 all season, it was not good enough to extend KU’s streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles. The Jayhawks entered the NCAA Tournament as a 4 seed in Salt Lake City, and, after a strong showing in Round 1, were blitzed by Final Four-bound Auburn in the second round. It marked the first time since 2015 that KU failed to get out of the first weekend and the Jayhawks finished the season 26-10.

2019-20 – Led by the All-American duo of Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, the Jayhawks finished the regular season at 28-3 overall, 17-1 in Big 12 play and on a 16-game winning streak. Dotson led the Big 12 in scoring. Azubuike led the Big 12 with 15 double-doubles. And junior Marcus Garrett earned Naismith Defensive Player of the Year honors. That trio, along with a defensive-minded supporting cast, was poised to deliver Kansas the No. 1 overall seed, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the 2020 tourney before the brackets were ever announced.

2020-21 – No tournament in 2020 meant the streak carried over to 2021 and 31 tournaments in a row for the Jayhawks. Unfortunately for Kansas fans, that was the highlight of this tournament run, which ended with an historic beating at the hands of USC in the second round at Butler’s famed Hinkle Fieldhouse at the Big Dance played entirely in and around Indianapolis. Self’s squad endured some rough patches during the pandemic-shortened season and was hit by COVID issues late. But it still finished with a 21-9 record and a No. 3 seed in the tournament.

2021-22 – Led by Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji and five other seniors, a Kansas team that featured 10 new faces from the season before finished the regular season 25-6 overall and 14-4 in Big 12 play. While things did not go the way anyone at KU hoped or expected with Arizona State transfer Remy Martin — the Big 12’s preseason player of the year — big years by Agbaji, Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson put KU back among the top seeds entering the 2022 NCAA Tournament. KU earned a No. 1 seed after winning the Big 12 tourney title and finishing 28-6 heading into the Big Dance.


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Bryce Landon 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I should point out that the 1998-99 season was not the first time a Roy Williams-coached KU team posted double-digit losses. His first team, the 1988-89 team that was banned from defending its 1988 national title, went 19-12.

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