Top 10 NCAA College Team Streaks of Consecutive Tournament Appearances
Only 19 NCAA College Basketball teams have appeared in 10 or more tournaments consecutively. Of these, only five teams are currently on streaks of 10 or more tournament appearances. Given the hundreds of teams in Division I, clearly any school that manages a 10 plus streak is worthy of a great deal of merit. Here are the top 10 streaking teams in NCAA history.
#1 North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina remain holders of the longest ever streak of tournament appearances. The Tar Heels made the competition field consecutively for 27 years. Their streak began in 1975 and under the coaching of the legendary Dean Smith, made the tournament for the next 23 years. After Smith’s retirement, Bill Guthridge coached the Tar Heels through their next 3 appearances. Guthridge himself retired in 2000 and was replaced by Matt Doherty. North Carolinas record streak ended in 2002, after a disastrous season.
#2 Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks are pushing hard to take the record away from North Carolina. They are currently on a 24-year streak, which began in 1990, when the newly arrived Roy Williams coached them after they’d suffered a ban on post-season play in 1989. Williams’ Jayhawks made 14 consecutive tournament appearances under Williams, before he accepted a position at UNC. He was succeeded by Bill Self in 2003, who has brought the Kansas team through March Madness every year since.
#3 Duke Blue Devils
Another team currently on a streak is Duke Blue Devils. Duke has been at the tournament every year since 1996, for a total of 18 consecutive appearances. Coach Mike Kryzewski has been head coach throughout. Indeed, he’s been coaching the team for 33 years.
#4 Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers also made an 18-appearance streak at the NCAA tournament. Unlike Duke though, their 18-year run ended in 2004 following a very poor 2003/2004 season under Coach Mike Davis. From 1986 until 2003 though, Indiana were there in the tournament. Davis took the team to three of these. The previous appearances were all under the auspices of Bob Knight, who coached the team until his controversial dismissal in 2000.
#5 Kentucky Wildcats
Next on this honors list is Kentucky Wildcats. They went on a 17-tournament streak from 1992 to 2008. Rick Pitino was the head coach who took the school to the 1992 NCAA Championships after pulling them back from the doldrums following a recruiting scandal a few years previously. He would take Kentucky to 5 more tournaments before leaving to coach the NBA Boston Celtics team. Tubby Smith replaced Pitino in 1997 and took the school to a total of 10 consecutive tournament appearances.
After coming under criticism for poor recruiting decisions, Smith left UK in 2007 and was succeeded by Billy Gillispie. Under Gillispie, the Wildcats went to the NCAA tournament again in 2008. The following year though, their playing performance fell away during the season and they missed the 2009 tournament. Gillispie was subsequently fired, ostensibly over disagreements with the college, rather than anything related to team performance.
#6 Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans are currently on a 16-tournament appearance streak, which began in 1998, two seasons after Tom Izzo joined the school as head coach. Izzo has presided over the Spartans during an incredibly successful period for the Michigan State team. Since becoming head coach in 1995, Tom Izzo’s teams have been known for their excellent rebound performance and defensive abilities.
#7 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga began their current streak of 15 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in 1999. When Dan Fitzgerald retired as Gonzaga’s head coach in 1997, Dan Monson was promoted to head coach. In 1999, Monson oversaw the Bulldogs progression to the tournament Elite Eight, where they lost marginally to Connecticut. Monson moved on, though in the same year, and was succeeded by Mark Few. Few made sure the Gonzaga team didn’t remain a one-trip pony and under his tutelage, the Bulldogs have been in the tournament every year to date.
#8 Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin too, appeared for the fifteenth successive time in 2013. Before the arrival of Coach Dick Bennett, the Badgers had only shown in the NCAA tournament three times over 97 years. That infrequent rate of appearances ended in 1999 and Bennett’s team made the tournament in 2000 as well. Dick Bennett retired shortly after and his assistant, Brad Soderberg stepped up as Head Coach.
Although the Badgers made the NCAA first round in 2001, they went out early and Soderberg too, went out as head coach within the year. His replacement was William Francis “Bo” Ryan Junior. Bo Ryan has led every Wisconsin team to the March Madness event since his arrival.
#9 UCLA Bruins
Aside from UCLA’s seven year run as tournament champions, they continued to appear in the tournament for another eight consecutive years after their winning streak came to an end. When the “Wizard of Westwood” John Wooden retired as head coach in 1975, his successor, Gene Bartow continued leading the Bruins to the NCAA tournament. Not only did he take them to the tournament: in his two years as coach, his UCLA team made 3rd place overall (1976) and reached the Sweet Sixteen (1977).
When Bartow moved on, Gary Cunningham took over and continued to ensure the Bruins were at the tournaments in 1978 and 1979. In 1980, under new coach Larry Brown, the Bruins went to the final four where they were defeated by Louisville. This appearance was later struck from the records after two of UCLA’s players were found to have been ineligible. The Bruins made it into the tournament again in 1981, but weren’t there in 1982, their appearance streak ending after 15 years.
#10 Texas Longhorns
Of the five collegiate teams that have managed streaks of 14 appearances at the tournament, the Longhorns’ was the most recent to come to an end. They were in the NCLAA after-season event every year from 1999 to 2012.