The Last Time Kansas Missed the NCAA Tournament None of the Current Players Were Alive

Jayhawks basketball is forever linked to the sport’s history. Brought into the NCAA with the basketball inventor’s help, the Kansas Jayhawks have been a staple of the basketball world ever since. They’ve had highs and lows. But, along the way, Kansas has typically been there for March Madness. However, the team kicked off Roy Williams’ reign with an NCAA ban. 

Kansas Jayhawks’ basketball history

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One cannot tell the history of basketball without telling the history of Kansas’s basketball program. According to Kansapedia, Dr. James Naismith, the Canadian YMCA worker who invented the game, was trying to get the sport into the mainstream. He created the sport to shake things up at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, but as it spread throughout the country, it was labeled as a woman’s sport. 

Naismith wanted something bigger. Women’s sports were not yet a moneymaker, and while basketball was growing in its stature, it was a long way off from being what the NBA is today. In 1898, however, Kansas looked to become one of the first schools to offer basketball as a sport, and it called on the man who invented it to make it happen. 

With only three championships in its history, Kansas has a relatively small number given the program’s importance to the sport’s history. Many of the biggest names in playing and coaching got their starts at the school. They won their last title in 2008 but remained in contention nearly every year. 

When did they last miss the tournament?

Coach Roy Williams of the Kansas Jayhawks talks to his team in 1998
Roy Williams of the Kansas Jayhawks in 1998 | Stephen Dunn/All

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Championship-winning coach Larry Brown took off for another shot at the pros in the late ’80s. Roy Williams, an assistant for several years, was his replacement. Still, when Brown took a job with the Spurs, he didn’t leave the team in an extraordinary situation. Brown, whom Sporting News noted as having a history of less-than-legal dealings with recruits at the college level, left the team on the verge of a postseason ban in 1989. 

Despite future NBA talent in Mark Randall and Kevin Pritchard, Williams had to watch from afar as he paid the price for Brown’s misdeeds. According to Basketball-Reference, Williams kicked off a brand new streak the following year. While Williams left the school in 2004, the school has remained in the hunt for NCAA glory every year since the initial ban.

Bill Self took over after Williams left and has remained there ever since. He led the team to the 2008 Championship and got close several other times. Kansas remains a factory for NBA talent, and this year appears slated to continue that trend. 

Will they continue the streak? 

Kansas might not have a roster filled with surefire NBA talent, but the school appears poised to make the tournament -once again. Standing at a 19-8 record, the team was 13th on the March 1st AP Poll. Self continues his trend of allowing his players to thrive inside his system and adjusting to whatever comes their way. 

Adding title No. 4 may be a pipe dream — at least this season — but Self’s perfect record with the school shows why he’s been there since Williams left for UNC. Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Bryce Thompson, and the rest of the team show plenty of promise. A deep run this season could give them the NBA stock they need to make it to the next level. 

Time will tell how long the Kansas streak will continue. Still, the program’s commitment to greatness has kept them atop the standings for much of its century-plus run in college basketball