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Kansas within 3 wins of Kentucky on college basketball's all-time wins list as head-to-head matchup looms

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Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) signals "three" after hitting one during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) signals "three" after hitting one during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It’s obsessively tracked by Kansas basketball fans year after year. After each game. After each win. After each loss.

While the specifics of those games are always important — Who scored? What happened on defense? Can this player or that player really keep this up? — the one big-picture thing that so many people want to know after each one is simple: How far behind Kentucky is Kansas for first place on the all-time wins list?

The answer today, a little more than 48 hours out from their meeting at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday is three games.

Kentucky, which topped Mississippi State in overtime on Tuesday night, enters this weekend’s blue blood showdown with 2,343 all-time wins. Kansas, which won a double-overtime thriller with No. 13 Texas Tech in its last outing, sits at 2,340 all-time wins.

It’s the closest the two have been in years and KU coach Bill Self is responsible for a lot of it. In his 19 seasons leading the Jayhawks, Self has presided over a stretch that has closed the gap by 45 games.

When Self took over for Roy Williams before the 2003-04 season, KU sat at 1,801 wins and Kentucky was at 1,849. Since then, Self has racked up 539 wins while the Wildcats have added 494 victories in that time, under Tubby Smith, Billy Gillespie and John Calipari.

Last season’s 9-16 record for the Wildcats helped KU make a major move — the Jayhawks won 21 games last season — and Kansas might even be in first place right now if not for the pandemic shutting down the 2020 NCAA Tournament and shortening the 2020-21 seasons.

KU’s +12 edge in the win column last season marked the second highest total for either program during Self’s time in Lawrence.

There was talk — also known as hope among Kansas fans — about their 2022 meeting 5 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse on ESPN with College Gameday in the house — possibly being for the top spot, but they didn’t quite get there. Fifth-ranked KU enters the weekend at 17-2 overall and the 12th-ranked Wildcats are currently 16-4.

While those records matter a lot for the current season and the upcoming two-month stretch that will decide the 2022 national champion, thoughts of where these two programs rank on the all-time wins list likely will never be far from the minds of KU fans.

It remains a storyline each week, no matter what the gap is, and it will be a storyline moving forward no matter how many times the top spot is traded or how far ahead one team or the other gets. Especially when the two play each other.

Here’s a quick look at the season-by-season breakdown of Kansas and Kentucky victories since Self took the reins in Lawrence.

2003-04: UK +3 (27-24)

2004-05: UK +5 (28-23)

2005-06: KU +4 (25-22)

2006-07: KU +11 (33-22)

2007-08: KU +19 (37-18)

2008-09: KU +5 (27-22)

2009-10: UK +2 (35-33)

2010-11: KU +6 (35-29)

2011-12: UK +6 (38-32)

2012-13: KU +10 (31-21)

2013-14: UK +4 (29-25)

2014-15: UK +11 (38-27)

2015-16: KU +6 (33-27)

2016-17: UK +1 (32-31)

2017-18: KU +5 (31-26)

2018-19: UK +4 (30-26)

2019-20: KU +3 (28-25)

2020-21: KU +12 (21-9)

2021-22: KU +1 (17-16)… so far

Comments

Keith Gellar 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I honestly don't get why we care so much. The article starts out correctly saying It’s obsessively tracked by Kansas basketball fans. What is the point? Do we not have any self-esteem and really need reasons to rub it in to the UK fanbase? I imagine KU fans have more important things to worry about like when are we winning our next title.

Also, this stat completely falls apart considering we have played more seasons than UK. Funny how the obsessive fans conveniently disregard this fact.

Dale Rogers 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Pride. 1. Rupp Arena is named after their greatest coach, Adolph Rupp, who played at University of Kansas. 2. Calipari got his coaching start (assistant) at University of Kansas. 3. Now we need to take the lead in total wins so we can feel fully superior to UK and have yet one more thing to point out to our UK fan friends.

Matt Tait, do you know how many years each of these universities has played basketball? In other words, has one of them had more years to compile their total number of wins?

Benny Armstrong 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't think anyone was really tracking it or aware of the all-time wins until Kentucky was the first team to reach 2,000 wins as a program and KU was shortly behind them. Being the best at something or having the most of some counting stat in sports is a nice bragging right for the fans and something that the program can use in marketing materials. If you scroll the KU wikipedia page, the laundry list of categories in which KU is first or highly ranked is really impressive and adding something like all-time wins would only enhance that further.

I understand the basis of your argument about the total number of seasons and recognize that KU has played basketball for 124 seasons (1898-present) compared to 114 for Kentucky (1903-present). Based on that, we should probably have more wins than Kentucky, but we don't. Some tourney runs cut short prematurely and some lean years under Harp and Owens probably cost that from happening. Hell, if we were stronger in just the head to head matchups we could have flipped this years ago. KU is 10-23 against Kentucky all time, and if we were just around .500 in those games, we'd have added another 6 or 7 wins at their expense for a 12 or 14 game net change.

I don't know that the stat "completely falls apart" when we consider how many years the programs have existed/games played. When coaches or players or teams break records, the story is that they won the games or scored the most points, etc. and a minor detail if mentioned at all is the number of attempts that it took to get there relative to others on the list. Is it a factor, sure, but is it the leading factor that would undercut the success of reaching that milestone, no.

Jonathan Allison 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Benny is right, while there may have been some people keeping tabs on the all-time wins record, I certainly know that I had no idea of it until the season that UK, UNC, and KU all were approaching 2000 wins. If I remember correctly, UK and UNC surpassed 200 wins before KU, but we passed up UNC soon after and have been closing in on UK ever since. Due to the excellence of both programs since Calipari took over at UK in 2010 it has been a very slow approach. KU has benefitted from a few poor Kentucky seasons, such as last season, and KU of course has had a few subpar seasons along the way where Kentucky was able gain back a little breathing room. However, the trajectory overall has been in Bill KU's favor. That of course could change in an instant depending upon such things as the NCAA investigation, among other things.

People who think that Bill Self is easily replaceable are failing to recognize how fragile things can be when it comes to the level of success that we all expect. Look at the history at Kentucky, UNC, UCLA, Indiana, UConn, among many others. Bill Self has managed success in every aspect of the program from winning the championship in 2008 to continued excellence in academic progress rate. The consistency that Kansas has experienced since Larry Brown almost 40 years ago is unheard of in basically every other program except maybe Duke.

Garry Wright 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Actually being the first to reach 1,000 wins was a big deal between KU & UK. KU was on the verge of becoming the first when UK "discovered" two unrecorded wins very early on. Thus, they edged us out to 1,000 wins. They made a big deal of it. So no reason why we can't make a big deal of it when we once again become the winningest school.

Steve Schoenekase 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Is this stat important? Not really.

Do I track it? Yes, with every passing game. I even have a link to the official NCAA record book site so I can verify that my count is accurate at the end of every season. (Some games, like the charity game against Mizzou a couple of years ago, don't count.)

Why do I care? Because we are the best BB school in the country and this is just one more way to prove it. Kentucky and UNC (currently in 3rd) wouldn't be where they are if it wasn't for a pair a HOF coaches from KU.

Winning a Nat'l Championship is awesome. I wish we had more, but that's proof of a good team, one year (see Gonzaga or Baylor). Winning multiple NC's back-to-back is a dynasty (see UCLA), but dynasties fall. Winning the most games eve, if it took an extra couple of years, is a sign of greatness over time. It's the same reason that coaches are measured by career wins, not wins in a single season.

Now let's go out and drop 150 pts on Kentucky, like we did in 1989. Wow, what a game that was!

Gary McCullough 3 months, 3 weeks ago

WOW! I remember listening to the 150 point drubbing on a radio in my Fraser office while writing my dissertation. One of those events that stick in your memory forever.

Trace Stark 3 months, 3 weeks ago

150-95. That was an enjoyable game. Know a Hawk who lives in Louisville, he refers to the team as Kensucky.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Maaan... I wonder if we ever repeat that. Crazy.

David Robinett 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Keith - I admit it: it's one of the stats that console me/us in lieu of more national championships.

But to Steve's point, it IS meaningful - a measure of greatness or at least quality over time.

I always want folks to remember though, while Phog was great, we didn't dominate our conference(s) until Roy arrived. Without Roy and Bill, KU would not really be considered a Blue Blood today, I don't think. (if we had been mediocre for the past 35 years).

Garry Wright 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Conference championships were very important to Phog Allen. He really racked them up during his many years as the KU coach. Note that KU has 62 conference championships during its history. That is the current record. So this started long before Roy. And UK just barely beat us to being the first to 1,000 basketball wins.

David Robinett 3 months, 3 weeks ago

p.s. I once heard that many of Kentucky's NC's were due to paying players as part of their recruiting - so "ill-gotten gains"?

Brett McCabe 3 months, 3 weeks ago

To have the most wins spanning over 100 years? Yeah, meaningless. Just like Ruth’s record. It doesn’t show anything like, maybe, relentless excellence over a century or so.

I am baffled by how obtuse Keith is. It’s a big thing. Not the only thing. Not the most important thing. But a big thing for sure.

Kenneth Johnson 3 months, 3 weeks ago

It should be noted that many of Kentucky's wins came in the 30s and 40s, before the NCAA came into being. Adolph Rupp regularly flaunted his utter disregard for the rules of fair play in recruiting and routinely paid his players throughout the 30s and 40s. His 52-53 squad even received the death penalty. Joe Hall was reprimanded for recruiting violations. The tradition of breaking rules continued even under the Eddie Sutton regime. Asst. Coach Dwayne Casey was banned from coaching in the NCAA for five years for being willfully involved in rules violations and providing false and misleading information to the NCAA. And most of us know and remember all the troubles caused by Rick Pitino and John Calipari.

So the Wildcat fans can brag about the all-time wins, but should be ashamed at how they were achieved.

Kenn Johnson, Ph.D., (KU MS ’70) Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends (2013) and More University of Kansas Basketball Legends (2014), both published by The History Press, and available at KU Bookstores and Amazon. Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/kennjohnson

Bj Cassady 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Maybe rather than win total we should look at win percentage.

Jonathan Allison 3 months, 3 weeks ago

all-time KU ranks behind UK and UNC. But of course Roy Willaims won 80.5% and Bill Self is at 81.6%. So dating back to 1988 that's a ridiculous record.

Lee Short 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I honestly don't understand why those that don't care about this milestone even read and then follow up with a comment on the articles. If I don't care about something, I don't read it, let alone write a critical comment.

That said, do we think Coach K is interested in his total number of wins in spite of him coaching more seasons or other coaches having higher winning percentages? Was it a good thing to note Hank Aaron had the most career home runs ever in spite of having more seasons (and/or at-bats) than many others, who, if comparable, would have had more home runs? The list goes on.

ESPN commentators, on several occasions, addresses the total program wins and/or quantity ranking of KY, KU, Duke, etc. I appreciate hearing the references.

Those teams mentioned I am sure, have a lot of fans interested in hearing those stats or they wouldn't bother to mention. I suspect stats like this are even mentioned to recruits.

I do think those who comment on the meaningness of these stats are the outliers. I am sorry they are put out by this.

Matt, please keep the occasional references on this coming. I know I will be quoting the program historical significance even if bothersome to others. Please ignore the naysaying.

Brett McCabe 3 months, 3 weeks ago

BJ. Do that. There are many ways to look at stats in sports. If you look at win percentage, what’s your time frame? Just whenkensucky was playing? Since black players could play? Or stay in the team hotel? Since the 3-pt line was introduced or the play clock was implemented or when freshmen could play or when there was no tournament or when there weren’t two tournaments? You do you.

Wilt was the greatest player in NBA history and it’s not even close. But people will cite Russell, MJ and Goofball LeBron for various reasons. And they are all right if they are making a case for the second- best player in history.

Total wins, total homers, total points, total goals, etc. are also valid statistics. Kentucky owns it and should be proud of it. We will own it soon unless a number of victories are vacated.

Brett McCabe 3 months, 3 weeks ago

BTW, Matt, great use of a photo to match the story!

Matt Tait 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I'd say it's more wrong than it is interesting, Dirk. ;-)

The total, from official game notes at both schools, is in fact 2,343-2,340 in favor of Kentucky.

Michael Leiker 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Think your numbers show that Self has closed the gap by 45 games not 48.

Matt Tait 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Yep. Thanks. I did the math for the gap when Self started instead of what they’ve done since then. Fixed. Appreciate the help!

Rodney Crain 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Only a few select KU fans care about most wins. Trust me no one else does.

Pathetic, cry babies who can't compare national championships with the other blue bloods of college basketball care about most wins.

Even if we played 150 more games than UK, we have played 4 more seasons than UK, and have the 3rd best Win %. Yeah but... Yeah but nothing.

  • It means nothing for any other college sport.
  • It means nothing for any professional team.
  • It means nothing internationally for any other sport.

Nobody, No one, Nada, Nyet, no no, fill in the blank __KU losers.

No one but some KU fans desperate to cling to something like "most wins" do.

It is beneath us, sorry meant to say beneath anyone who can reason, to think this means anything.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Someone seems care so much about 'Only a few select KU fans care about most wins'.... ;)

Shannon Gustafson 3 months, 3 weeks ago

When looking at the balance in your bank accounts, are you more concerned with how much money is in there or how long you've been collecting it?

Garry Wright 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Achieving records is always nice. That's why so many lists are kept. There are many people who like knowing what the records are. Total NCAA basketball wins is a good record to have. Two points I'd like to make. 1. It really bugs me how a lot of people make a big deal of that great head start KU had in basketball. Several schools began a basketball program before KU. Temple is one of them having started in 1894. They've had a good basketball program across the years and at the end of 2021 were ranked # 5 in total wins with 1945, a ways behind us. Yes, KU started before UK, 1898 and 1902, four years difference. So that must have given KU at least 100 wins or more over UK. Actually, KU played 42 games before UK started and had 19 wins. So, wow, a really great head start! 2. At the close of the 1979 season, KU was 52 wins behind UK. At the close of the 2021 season, we were 4 wins behind. Not only do we thank Roy and Bill, but we also thank Larry and Phog as well as the other four coaches who contributed. We've gained 1 win on them this season. So we have the opportunity to close that gap to 2 this Saturday evening. Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU do it Saturday! It is an important record to be # 1 in. If it's not, then why keep track of any records at all? We do because records are measuring factors.

Peter Miles 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I think that Most Wins of All Time is a bragging right that is an important and effective recruiting tool. Does anyone honestly think that Kentucky doesn't beat that into recruits' heads, time after time after time?

Chad Smith 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I didn't really care all that much until Calipari became head coach at UK. He's super annoying and a scandalous fellow and now I just want to pass them up while he's there just because.

Joe Ross 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I understand why someone may say that all-times wins are not important for them...personally. But you have to be a tool to say that all-time stats don't matter. Let's burn the record books then!

All time NCAA championships? Stricken.

All time NCAA wins? Let's get rid of that too.

All time NCAA points scorers? We don't care anymore.

Hell, why not scrap the all-time points scorers at KANSAS? I mean if the fact that it doesn't really matter or affect how the game is played today is the standard, then NOTHING matters.

I don't normally call people out for dumb posts anymore, but you guys saying that the all-time winningest program in college basketball is not a bragging right to be brandished are fools, plain and simple.

Rant over.

Joey Meyer 3 months, 3 weeks ago

It's pretty basic, really - every game where there are blueblood programs playing against eachother they're defined by "all time wins" and who is the "winningest" program.

It wouldn't matter, except that's how the teams are literally always introduced when they square off.

For that reason alone, it matters. As a KU fan I'd much rather be the "winningest" program than #2...

Tony Bandle 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Random Thoughts:

Maybe when comparing programs you should expand the scope beyond just total wins.

1] Start with games played.

2] Total wins

3] Total National Championships.

4] Total number of All Americans.

5] Total number of players in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

6] Total number of coaches and former players who became coaches in the HOF.

7] Rupp Arena vs Allen Field House.

8] Conference Titles.

9] NCAA appearances.

10] Least number of suspensions.

11] Greatest Player. [Wilt vs ???].

12] Where did the inventor of the game come from?

In the end, it's all subjective and just a matter of opinion. Needless to say, however, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Indiana and UCLA are the cream of the crop and that, in its self, is enough for me.

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