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Daniel Wilco | | March 17, 2019

The 8 longest NCAA tournament appearance streaks of all time

Kansas Athletics Kansas basketball Kansas owns an active 30-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances — the longest of all time.

Kansas picked up its 30th straight NCAA tournament appearance in 2019, which extended its lead for the most consecutive appearances across all of Division I.

The Jayhawks are also one of four teams to have a streak ranked in the top 10 all-time that is still active. The others are Gonzaga, Michigan State, and Duke.

Four teams are tied for ninth place with 14 straight appearances: Arizona (1985-98), Cincinnati (1992-2005), Georgetown (1979-92), and Texas (1999-2012)

Here's the full ranking of the eight longest NCAA tournament appearance streaks, both current and historical.

8: Kentucky — 17 (1992-2008)

Under Adolph Rupp, Kentucky made 20 NCAA tournaments, winning four. But it wasn’t until Rick Pitino that the Wildcats compiled this streak. In his third season, Pitino led Kentucky to a 29-7 record on the way to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats would make the NCAA tournament the next 16 seasons in a row, winning the title in 1996 and 1998, until a 22-14 season in 2009 (where Kentucky went 1-4 against ranked teams), saw it end.

7: Indiana — 18 (1986-2003)

Were it not for a 19-14 season in 1985, Indiana would be No. 4 on this list, but 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances isn’t shabby. The first 15 of these appearances came under Bob Knight, who had 24 tournament appearances at Indiana. The 18-year streak saw some ups and downs for the Hoosiers, who won the 1987 championship and made three Final Fours, but lost in the first round eight times, and the second round thrice more.

6: Wisconsin — 19 (1999-2017)

Aside from the ones still active, Wisconsin has the most recent streak on this list. In 1999, the Badgers made the NCAA tournament for just the third time since 1947 — a period that included a 46-year streak of missing the tournament. But Wisconsin wouldn’t miss out again until last season, when they went 15-18, finishing ninth in the Big Ten. During their streak, the Badgers made three Final Fours, advancing to the championship game just once, when they lost to Duke 68-63 in 2015.

5: Gonzaga — 21 (1999-present)

Mark Few has been the head coach at Gonzaga since the 1999-2000 season. In that entire span, the Bulldogs have not missed a single NCAA tournament, making them one of just four teams to have made every NCAA tournament this century. But getting to the tournament and having success in it are two different animals. Gonzaga has only made one Final Four — in 2017, when they lost to North Carolina in the championship game. Still, the Bulldogs have only lost in the first round three times in this span.

4: Michigan State — 22 (1998-present)

In his entire coaching career, Tom Izzo has only missed out on the NCAA tournament twice — his first two seasons at Michigan State. Since then, he and the Spartans have become synonymous with March. Michigan State has made seven Final Fours since 1999 (including three in a row from 1999-2001), though they have only won the title once, in 2000.

3: Duke — 24 (1996-present)

In 1995, coach Mike Krzyzewksi left the team midway through the season due to a back injury. Duke finished with a 13-18 record — the team’s first losing season since 1983 — and failed to make the tournament after 11 straight appearances. That broken streak was almost more impressive, with seven Final Four appearances and two championships in 11 years. That season stands as the lone blemish in the past 35 years for Duke, who have made the NCAA tournament every year since. The Blue Devils have been to four Final Fours in the current streak, winning titles in all but one.

2: North Carolina — 27 (1975-2001)

When Dean Smith first took over at North Carolina, he posted a mediocre 66-47 record through his first five years, leading to fans hanging the coach in effigy. He would go on to take the Tar Heels to 27 NCAA tournaments, 11 Final Fours, and two championships. Of those 27 appearances, 23 came in a row before Smith retired. Bill Guthridge continued the streak for three years before handing off to Matt Doherty, who took UNC to one more NCAA tournament before going 8-20 in 2002 and ending what was at the time the longest NCAA tournament streak ever.

1: Kansas — 30 (1990-present)

Speaking of North Carolina coaches, it was Roy Williams who started what is now the longest NCAA tournament appearance streak in history. In his second year as Kansas’ head coach, in 1990, Williams led the Jayhawks to a 30-5 record and the second round of the NCAA tournament. Kansas hasn’t missed an NCAA tournament since, going to 14 under Williams and 16 under current coach Bill Self. In that span, the Jayhawks have gone to seven Final Fours, though won just one title, in. Still, you can almost always count on Kansas sticking around for the weekend. In the 30 years, the Jayhawks have lost in the first round just twice.

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