When Kentucky won nine consecutive SEC basketball championships from 1944 through 1952, it was a huge deal. The Wildcats were a basketball dynasty and the rest of the conference stayed out of their way.
Duke won five straight ACC championships from 1996 to 2001. Ohio State captured five Big Ten titles in a row from 1960-64. And how about the 10 straight Big West championships won by UNLV from 1983-92?
But what’s happening with Kansas and its stranglehold on the Big 12 is beyond crazy.
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Every season is the season when one of the other teams in the Big 12 will finally step up and dethrone the Jayhawks, who have won 11 consecutive conference championships.
Well, it’s going to be 12 soon. With three games left in the conference race, KU has a two-game edge over Oklahoma and West Virginia. A 12th consecutive championship isn’t locked up, but it’s being held in captivity.
This is such a remarkable run that words to describe it aren’t sufficient. It’s not like Kansas is playing in some downtrodden league where opponents don’t have enough money to keep air in the basketballs.
This is the Big 12, where basketball is … a distant second to football, if we’re being honest.
But it’s still big. It’s still important. There are probably going to be seven teams from the Big 12 in the NCAA Tournament this season, so it’s not like anyone is dropping men’s basketball to start a backgammon program.
Every season, it seems, there is some team ready to take over as No. 1. This season, it looked like Oklahoma was primed with the great Buddy Hield leading the way.
Through a conference marathon of 18 games, though, consistency is difficult. Lulls happen and the Sooners went through a tough stretch.
So, too, did Kansas. The Jayhawks lost 3 of 5 Big 12 games during a 15-day stretch in January to fall to 5-3. They’ve won seven straight conference games since to get to 12-3.
KU is ranked No. 2 in the country and will ultimately be judged by how it does in the NCAA Tournament. That’s part of the price for wearing “Kansas” across the front of your uniform.
That doesn’t diminish, though, the Jayhawks’ dominance of their conference. If these were schoolkids in a playground game, somebody would scream that Kansas isn’t playing fair.
UCLA’s record run of 13 consecutive conference championships from 1967-79 was so long that the conference had three names during the Bruins’ run of dominance. That’s a Joe DiMaggio, 56-game hitting streak kind of record, one that most thought would never be approached and probably not broken.
Kansas will be one season away from that record after this season. Am I making myself clear?
The UCLA dynasty went far beyond winning conference championships, of course. It included eight national championships in nine seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 through 1973.
Kansas has won one national championship during its reign of Big 12 terror, in 2008. And, as any KU fan will tell you over and over again, there have been too many times when the Jayhawks have been knocked from the NCAA Tournament earlier than expected.
Interested in seeing how this KU run stacks up, I checked the longest win streaks in other conferences.
Except for rare cases, the normal run of dominance in a conference lasts four or five years. There is a cyclical nature to these things but it occasionally does not apply. Every now and then you get a UCLA, a UNLV, a Gonzaga or a Kansas.
Not only have the Jayhawks won 11 — soon to be 12 — Big 12 championships in a row, but they won in 2001-02 and 2002-03. So it’ll be 14 of 15 when Kansas wraps this one up and 16 of 20 since the Big 12’s inaugural season in 1996-97.
There’s just one word for that. WowWee!
Longest conference streaks
America East — Northeastern and Drexel, 4
Atlantic Sun — College of Charleston, 5
Atlantic 10 — UMass, St. Joseph’s, Xavier, 5
ACC —Duke, 5
Big Sky — Weber State, 6
Big South — Coastal Carolina and Winthrop, 4
Big Ten — Ohio State, 5
Big West — UNLV, 10
Colonial — James Madison, 5
Conference USA — Cincinnati, 7, includes division titles; Memphis, 4
Horizon — Butler, 5
Ivy — Dartmouth, 7
Metro-Atlantic — Siena, 3
Mid-American — Cincinnati, 5
Mid-Eastern — Coppin State, 7
Missouri Valley — Cincinnati, Kansas, 6
Mountain West — BYU, 4
Northeast — Rider, Robert Morris, 3
Ohio Valley — Murray State, 7
Pac-12 — UCLA, 13
Patriot — Bucknell, Colgate, Lafayette, 3
SEC — Kentucky, 9
Southern — Davidson, 6
Southland — Lamar, 4
Summit — Valparaiso, 5
Sun Belt — Western Kentucky, 3
SWAC — Alcorn State, 4
WAC — UTEP, Nevada, 5
West Coast — Gonzaga, 11