KU Basketball

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KU Jayhawks Basketball
The University of Kansas’ basketball team first began play in 1898, and since then has built a reputation as one of the most successful and storied programs in the nation. Kansas’ first coach was the inventor of the game – Dr. James Naismith – and the program was built into a national power by Forrest Clare “Phog” Allen. Kansas has won three NCAA tournament championships, claiming the title in 1952, 1988 and in 2008. The program also captured two Helms Championships under Allen, and has been to 14 Final Fours. Every head coach at Kansas since the inception of the NCAA Tournament has guided the Jayhawks to at least one Final Four berth.

KU Basketball Streaks and Records

Kansas has the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (23), the second-longest current streak of winning seasons (29), the most winning seasons in Division I history (93), the most non-losing seasons (.500 or better) in NCAA history (96), the most conference championships in Division I history (55), the most First Team All Americans in Division I history (20), the most First Team All American Selections in Division I history (28), is third in Division I all time winning percentage (.720), and is second in Division I all time wins (2,070). ESPN recently ranked the KU Basketball program second on its list of the most prestigious programs of the modern college basketball era.

The Jayhawks have also traditionally been the best team in their conference, winning an NCAA record 55 conference championships in 104 years of conference play. In the 16 year history of the Big 12, Kansas has won 12 conference titles and eight conference tournament titles. Kansas also owns the best conference record with a 262-44 record in conference play and a 32-8 record in conference tournament play.

KU Basketball History

KU Basketball Coach James Naismith
James Naismith and the Birth of a Program
Naismith invented the sport of basketball in 1891, and arrived at the University of Kansas six years later. He was not hired to coach basketball, rather the University intended him to be a chapel director as well as a physical education instructor. Early Kansas teams would mainly compete against local YMCA teams, and nearby colleges such as Haskell Indian Nations University and William Jewell College. Eventually, KU began playing Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas State, who would eventually become conference mates of the KU Jayhawks.

Kansas’ first official season was 1898-1899, in which the team posted a record of 7-4. Despite inventing the game, Naismith did not find a great deal of on-court success with the KU basketball program, and compiled a 55-60 record over his nine years as head coach. While his record was slightly below average, Naismith would have a profound impact on the development of the sport, and influenced future Kansas coach Phog Allen, who played under Naismith and would later become one of the most celebrated coaches in the history of college basketball.

KU Basketball Coach Phog Allen
Phog Allen Turns Kansas into a Power
After playing for Naismith, Allen became the Jayhawks coach in 1907, leading Kansas to an 18-6 record and winning the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Allen’s team would fare even better the next season, going 25-3 and once again winning the MVIAA, however the coach decided to leave the sidelines in order to study osteopathic medicine.

William Oliver Hamilton replaced Allen, and served as the KU basketball coach from 1910 to 1919. Under Hamilton, KU compiled a 125-59 record and an 83-46 conference record. The Jayhawks won five Missouri Valley Conference championships, including three straight from 1910-1912. Hamilton decided to resign from his position as head coach, opening the door for Allen to return to Lawrence.

Upon resuming the position of head coach, Allen’s Jayhawks quickly became a national power. The team won consecutive Helm’s National Championships in 1921-22 and 1922-23 and won their conference from 1921-22 through 1926-27. Kansas won many conference titles over the next decade, as Allen’s teams were routinely one of the best in the nation.

After coming close but failing to win the title several times, Allen’s Jayhawks finally broke through in 1952, winning the NCAA Tournament and claiming a national title in the first tournament to feature a final four format. Kansas was led by Clyde Lovellette, who had led the nation in scoring that season. The following year, the Jayhawks once again had an impressive year, but wound up finishing as the NCAA runner-up. Allen would coach three more seasons before retiring. He finished his career with a 520-219 record at Kansas, with three national championships.

KU Basketball Player Wilt Chamberlain

KU Basketball - Dick Harp Era

After Allen’s retirement, Harp was hired to be the fourth coach in Kansas history. Harp had served as a player and an assistant under Allen, most notably serving as a starting guard on the 1940 team that lost to Indiana in the NCAA final.

Harp’s best years as coach early on when Wilt Chamberlain, who had been recruited by Allen, played on the varsity team. Chamberlain quickly became the best player in the nation, and lead Kansas to the 1957 national championship game against the University of North Carolina. In what is considered one of the greatest title games in basketball history, Kansas narrowly lost to the Tar Heels in triple overtime, 54-53. This would be the closest the Jayhawks would get to a national title under Harp. Overall, Harp coached for eight seasons in Lawrence, compiling an overall record of 121-82 and a conference record of 53-45.

KU Basketball - Ted Owens Era

After Harp, Kansas yet again promoted a current assistant, naming Ted Owens the fifth coach in the program’s history. Owens’ teams enjoyed mixed success until the 1970-71 season, when they went 27-3 and made the NCAA Final Four. After two losing seasons to follow, the Jayhawks again made the Final Four in 1974-1975. Unfortunately, Owens’ Kansas teams would never build off the success they enjoyed in the early 70’s, as the furthest Kansas would advance in the NCAA tournament during the rest of Owens’ tenure was the NCAA Sweet 16. Owens also failed to find a good deal of consistency, often following up successful seasons with a losing campaign.

Kansas posted two straight losing seasons under Owens in 1981-82 and 1982-83, leading to the University’s decision to fire the coach after 19 seasons. Overall, Owens compiled a 348-182 record and a 170-96 Big Eight Conference record. Kansas won six conference titles under Owens, and made the NCAA tournament seven times.

KU Basketball Player Danny Manning

KU Basketball - Larry Brown Era

After spending time in the NBA, Larry Brown was hired to be Kansas’ head coach in 1983. Brown was able to immediately turn KU’s program around, as the Jayhawks enjoyed winning seasons in 1983-84 and 1984-85 while advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament each year. Kansas would take an even bigger step the following season, posting a record of 35-4 and winning the Big Eight conference. In the 1986 NCAA tournament, Kansas won several close games to advance to the Final Four, where the team narrowly lost to Duke. Kansas would regress a bit the next season, but still managed to finish second in the Big 8 conference and advance to the NCAA Sweet 16.

In 1988, Kansas got off to a mediocre 12-8 start, including a 1-4 mark in conference play. However, the Jayhawks quickly rebounded due to the great play of senior Danny Manning. Kansas would ultimately finish 27-11 during the regular season and enter the NCAA tournament as a six seed. KU went on one of the most memorable runs in the history of the NCAA tournament, crashing the title game and eventually defeating heavily favored Oklahoma to capture the NCAA title. The team is often referred to as “Danny and the Miracles.”

After winning the title, Brown elected to become the next coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding his departure, as Kansas would eventually receive NCAA sanctions and a postseason ban from the 1989-90 tournament due to recruiting violations. Brown’s overall record at Kansas was 135-44, including two Final Fours and one National Championship.

KU Basketball - Roy Williams

KU Basketball - Roy Williams Era

Following Brown’s departure, KU hired former North Carolina assistant Larry Brown. While under NCAA Sanctions, Williams’ first Kansas team struggled, although he quickly turned things around and began what would ultimately be 15 years of success. In 1989-90, Kansas won 30 games and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. The following season, the Jayhawks won their first league championship under Williams and advanced all the way to the NCAA title game, where they lost to Duke. The Jayhawks would win the Big 8 conference in four of the next five seasons; however the program failed to get back to the Final Four.

In 1996-97, KU joined the newly formed Big 12 conference, and compiled one of the most dominating teams in modern college basketball history. The Jayhawks were led by four future NBA players, most notably Paul Pierce, and cruised through the regular season and conference play. However, Williams’ Jayhawks once again were upset in the NCAA tournament, falling to eventual national champion Arizona in the Sweet 16. Kansas had nearly as good a season the next year, once again entering the NCAA tournament as a one seed after a dominating regular season. The Jayhawks fell in the second round, the first of three consecutive second-round losses for Kansas in the NCAA tournament.

Kansas would eventually rebound, and in 2001-02 the Jayhawks went undefeated in Big 12 play and entered the NCAA tournament as a favorite to win it all. After advancing to the Final Four, KU lost to eventual national champion Maryland. Kansas returned several players the next season, most notably Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. The Jayhawks once again made a deep NCAA tournament run, this time reaching the championship game against underdog Syracuse. Kansas wound up losing to the Orange, 81-78, as Williams once again failed to capture a national championship.

Following the loss, Williams accepted the head coaching position at his alma mater, North Carolina. In his 15 seasons as Kansas’ head coach, he compiled a 418-101 record, winning 9 conference championships and advancing to three Final Fours and two NCAA championship games. Despite a tremendous amount of success, Williams is often remembered more for his team’s shortcomings in the NCAA tournament, as well as the controversial manner in which he left the KU basketball program. Williams would go on to win two national championships at North Carolina.

KU Basketball - Bill Self Era

Following Williams’ departure, KU hired Bill Self, who had been very successful as the head coach for the University of Illinois. The transition for the players was a bit rough at first, as Self’s defensive-oriented style clashed with Williams’ players, who were used to a more open running-style game. Still, Kansas made the Elite 8 in Self’s first year, and returned most of its team for the 2004-05 season. KU started the season ranked first in the polls and shot off to an impressive 20-1 start, however the team soon entered a tailspin and they lost six of their final nine games, including a shocking first-round upset to Bucknell in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. In 2005-06, a young Kansas team started slowly, but soon matured and won the Big 12 regular season title and Big 12 tournament title. Despite ending the season on a hot streak, Kansas once again was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament, this time to Bradley.

In 2006-07, Kansas enjoyed a dominating regular season, winning the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles once again. Kansas captured both crowns by defeating the Texas Longhorns, who were led by future NBA star Kevin Durant. Kansas advanced to the Elite 8, where its season was ended by a talented UCLA team.

KU Basketball - 2008 NCAA Champions
In 2007-08, big things were expected of the Jayhawks, and KU responded with one of the most memorable seasons in the program’s history. Kansas once again won both the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament, and advanced to Bill Self’s first ever Final Four. The Jayhawks handily beat North Carolina, led by former Kansas coach Roy Williams, 84-66 before a national championship showdown with the Memphis Tigers. After falling into a nine point deficit against the Tigers, led by future number one pick Derrick Rose, Kansas staged one of the most memorable comebacks in NCAA history. The Jayhawks tied the game with 2.1 seconds remaining on Mario Chalmers’ three pointer, forcing overtime. Kansas never looked back, winning the game 75-68 and delivering Self his first national championship.

Kansas won the league title again the following season, despite losing most of its players from the title team. In the 2009-10 season, the Jayhawks were favored by many to win another national title, but were upset by Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament after a dominating regular season. In 2010-11, KU won the league and tournament titles once again, yet lost in the Elite 8 to Virginia Commonwealth.

Little was expected of the Jayhawks entering the 2011-12 season, as the team had lost six of their top eight scorers. However, the Jayhawks were able to once again capture the Big 12 regular season championship. In one of the most memorable regular season games in the program’s history, Kansas erased a 19 point deficit to beat Missouri at home in the final meeting between the two rivals. The Jayhawks went on another deep March run, advancing to Self’s second Final Four after defeating the Williams-led Tar Heels in the Elite 8. Kansas beat Ohio State 64-62 in the Final Four, erasing a 13 point deficit in the first half. In the championship game, the Jayhawks lost to the heavily-favored Kentucky Wildcats, 67-59.

Self currently has an overall record of 269-52 and a conference record of 124-24. He has two Final Fours and one National Championship, and his Jayhawks have won the Big 12 regular season title for eight straight seasons. His .835 winning percentage ranks first amongst all KU basketball coaches.

KU Basketball - Venue 

KU Basketball Venue - Allen Fieldhouse
Allen Fieldhouse
Located on the University of Kansas’ campus, Allen Fieldhouse was named after legendary KU coach Phog Allen. It is known as one of college basketball’s most historical and prestigious building, and Kansas has been nearly unbeatable for most of its time playing in the building. Since the opening of Allen Fieldhouse in 1955, Kansas is 683-107 at home, and since February 20 of 1994, KU has only lost 13 regular season games in the Fieldhouse.

ESPN named Allen Fieldhouse as the loudest college basketball arena in the country, and many have voted it has the best home venue for a college basketball team in the country.

The team has had several notable home winning streaks since the opening of Allen Fieldhouse in 1955. The Jayhawks won 69 consecutive games from February 3, 2007 through January 17, 2011, having their streak snapped by Texas. Kansas has yet to lose at home since their streak was snapped. The Jayhawks also compiled a 55 game winning streak from February 22, 1984 through January 30, 1988, which set the Big 8 record.

KU Basketball - Team Records

Where Kansas Ranks In Notable Areas:

Seasons with a Winning Record
Seasons with a Non-Losing Record
First Team All-American Selections
Consensus First Team All-Americans
Regular Season Conference Championships
NCAA Elite Eight Appearances
NCAA Sweet 16 Appearances
NCAA Tournament Appearances
NCAA Tournament Games Played
NCAA Tournament Wins
NCAA Tournament Win %
No. 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament
Weeks Ranked as AP No. 1
Weeks Ranked in AP Top 5
Weeks Ranked in AP Top 10
Weeks Ranked in AP Polls
Seasons with 35 Wins or More
Seasons with 30 Wins or More
Seasons with 25 Wins or More
Seasons with 20 Wins or More

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