John is a former broadcaster, urban planner, comedy writer, and journalist living in Chicago.
Entering the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the Wichita State Shockers were seeded #1 in the Midwest Region with a 34-game winning streak dating back to their Final Four defeat in the 2013 tournament. The Shockers won their first round game against #16 seed Cal Poly to extend their record to 35-0, but lost in the second round to eventual national runner-up Kentucky. Had the Shockers run the table in the NCAA Tournament, they would have become the first men’s college basketball team to finish the season with a perfect record since the Indiana Hoosiers went 32-0 in 1976.
The 2014 Wichita State team compiled their perfect regular season record playing in a weaker than usual Missouri Valley Conference, but their streak was still an impressive feat. In the era of one-and-done men’s college basketball careers and more players transferring between schools than ever before, it doesn’t matter how competitive your conference might be when you’re talking about winning streaks of 30 or more. It’s simply exceptional.
No Undefeated Seasons for 40+ Years
The list of men’s college basketball’s longest winning streaks makes that point more clear. There hasn’t been an undefeated season in more than 40 years. The only time in history when there were two undefeated seasons back-to-back were in the sixth and seventh years of UCLA’s historic seven consecutive championships under John Wooden in 1971–72 and 1972–73.
UCLA's Unbeatable Streak
From January 30, 1971, through January 17, 1974, UCLA won every game it played—through three NCAA Tournaments, through four different seasons, at home and on grueling road trips, with ever-evolving player personnel. The 88-game winning streak was bookended by losses against the same team at the same venue—against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
UCLA’s 88-game streak shattered the previous winning streak record of 60 in a row, which was held by the University of San Francisco from 1955–1957. The Dons won two consecutive NCAA Championships in that span, coached by Phil Woolpert and anchored by basketball Hall of Famers Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.
Men's College Basketball Winning Streaks
Winning Streaks at Top College Basketball Programs
The University of Kentucky holds the record for the longest winning streak at their home court with 129 straight wins. The all-time home winning streak mark was set under legendary coach Adolph Rupp, beginning with a Jan. 4, 1943 win vs. Ft. Knox, and ending with a 59-58 loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 8, 1955. Twelve years without a home loss!
That 1955 home loss to Georgia Tech also ended Kentucky's longest overall winning streak of 32 games, beginning with an 86-59 win over Temple on Dec. 5, 1953. Kentucky did not participate in the 1953 or 1954 NCAA Tournament because of ineligible players from a point-shaving scandal.
The Indiana Hoosiers had a 34-game winning streak from Mar 15, 1974 through Mar. 22, 1975. Their streak was broken by a two-point loss to Kentucky on Mar 22, 1975 in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Hoosiers followed that loss with a 33-game winning streak from Nov. 29, 1975 through Nov. 27, 1976—giving them a 67-1 record over a span that included all or part of four seasons.
Duke's longest winning streak in school history was 32 games, from Dec. 2, 1998 through March 27, 1999. The streak was broken by a three-point loss to UConn in the 1999 NCAA Tournament final.
Duke also had a 20-game winning streak headed into the 1963 Final Four, which was broken by a 94-75 loss to eventual champion Loyola.
Since the advent of the NIT in 1938 and the NCAA Tournament in 1939, there have only been nine men's college basketball teams go undefeated on the season:
- 1939 LIU Blackbirds (24-0) Won NIT over previously-undefeated Loyola.
- 1954 Kentucky Wildcats (25-0) Ineligble for postseason play.
- 1956 San Francisco Dons (29-0) Won NCAA Tournament.
- 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels (32-0) Won NCAA Tournament Final in triple overtime.
- 1964 UCLA Bruins (30-0) Won NCAA Tournament.
- 1967 UCLA Bruins (30-0) Won NCAA Tournament.
- 1972 UCLA Bruins (30-0) Won NCAA Tournament.
- 1973 UCLA Bruins (30-0) Won NCAA Tournament.
- 1976 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0) Won NCAA Tournament.
Loyola-Chicago and College Basketball Winning Streaks
Loyola University Chicago has sometimes bizarrely played a key role in several of the longest college basketball winning streaks.
- Loyola was the team San Francisco defeated to establish their 60-game win streak record that stood for a decade and a half.
- In UCLA's 88-game win streak, Loyola was win #30 and win #60 to tie the San Francisco record.
- Loyola was also win #30 in UCLA's 41-game streak from 1968–69.
- Loyola was win #22 and #28 in BOTH Marquette's 39-game streak in 1970–71, AND in Wichita State's 35-game streak in 2013–14.
- Loyola was win #19 in UCLA's 47-game streak from 1966–68.
- UCLA player Larry Farmer's playing career from 1970–1973 resulted in a record of 89-1, and he later became head coach at Loyola from 1998–2004.
For its part, Loyola had a 31-game winning streak from 1928–30 (including an undefeated 1928–29 season), a 22-game winning streak from 1962–63, a 21-game winning streak from 1938–39 (broken in NIT Final), and a 19-game winning streak in 1985 (broken in NCAA Sweet 16).