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Where Could Villanova Basketball’s Fourth Consecutive Outright Conference Championship Rank In NCAA History?

It would be a first for the school and the conference, but how could Nova’s achievement stack up against the rest of basketball?

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Butler Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Wright and the Wildcats are on the verge of history. Never before has Villanova won four consecutive outright titles. In fact, no team has ever reached that accomplishment as a member of the Big East. But if Villanova can win just one of their remaining three games, starting at the Pavillion on Wednesday, that’s exactly what they will have done. Fittingly, that game is against Butler, who is the only other current Big East team to ever reach this particular milestone. So as Nova looks to make this accomplishment official, I thought it would be a fun exercise to take a look at how rare this achievement actually is.

First, I’d like to note that Villanova isn’t the only school looking to hit this milestone this season. Kansas is on the verge of winning its 4th consecutive outright Big 12 championship, a part of what would be 13 straight years with at least a share of the title. This would be Bill Self’s second run of four consecutive outright titles during that stretch. Gregg Marshall is also going for his fourth consecutive outright championship in the MVC, although the Shockers have just a half game lead right now. And lastly, first year head coach Kyle Keller is trying to extend Stephen F. Austin’s reign alone atop the Southland conference for a 5th consecutive season. But since none of those have actually been clinched yet, let’s focus on the teams that have already achieved this milestone.

In over 100 years of basketball, a four year or more streak like this has only occurred 33 times by 26 schools and 23 coaches. Not only have some of those coaches had multiple 4+ year streaks, but some schools have had multiple coaches over the course of a single streak. Frankly, it’s a lot more than I thought I’d find, but when you break down the numbers a little more, it’s easy to figure out why.

Only 12 times has the streak occurred with an average of 9 or more teams in the conference during the team’s championship reign, meaning just over 13 of the time. All four of the teams going for the streak this season would do it in conferences of 10+, but that has proven to be very hard to do. Only three times in history have two or more schools been able to achieve a 4th consecutive outright conference title in the same season. But enough of general statements, let’s take a look at some of the best of the best.

Most Consecutive Outright Conference Championships By A School

  • Team (Conferences): UCLA (AAWU, PAC-8, PAC-10)
  • Seasons (Years): 13 (1966-1979)
  • Avg. # of Conference Teams During Streak: 8.1
  • Coaches: John Wooden (9), Gene Bartow (2), Garry Cunningham (2)

This is, without question, the greatest dynasty in all of college basketball. Even the UConn Women’s team never put up 13 consecutive outright regular season championships. The majority of the credit, deservedly, goes to John Wooden and the program he built. Not to say that Bartow and Cunningham weren’t good coaches, but they certainly were able to extend the streak in large part due to Wooden’s legacy.

Most Consecutive Outright Conference Championships By A Coach

  • Team (Conferences): UNLV (PCAA, Big West)
  • Seasons (Years): 10 (1982-1992)
  • Avg. # of Conference Teams During Streak: 9.9
  • Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

While Wooden was the coach of the 60’s and 70’s, Tarkanian was the coach of the 80’s. No one, not even Wooden, put together as many consecutive championships as he did out in the desert at UNLV. Not only did his teams dominate the regular season, but they won 7 out of 10 conference tournaments during that time as well. During that span Tarkanian took his team to three Final Fours, winning the National Championship in 1990. And as if that wasn’t enough, Tarkanian is the only coach to have two of these streaks, both of which lasted at least 6 seasons.

Highest Average Number Of Conference Teams During Streak

  • Team (Conference): NC State (Southern)
  • Seasons (Years): 5 (1946-1951)
  • Avg. # of Conference Teams During Streak: 16
  • Coach: Everett Case

Long before the Big East and ACC had 16 teams, the Southern Conference was the biggest in the country. During the 1931-32 season, the Southern reached its largest point with 23 teams, including the core groups that now make up the SEC and ACC conferences. During NC State’s run, the conference included notable programs like UNC, Sourth Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson, and Maryland. Quite the impressive bunch to rule over for 5 years.

More Fun Facts

  • Cincinnati and Kansas are the only two schools to have three separate 4+ year streaks alone atop their conferences. While Cincinnati did it in three different conferences (MAC, MVC, C-USA), Kansas can break the tie with a fourth streak this year.
  • The Ivy League has seen the most of these streaks. Penn (2), Dartmouth, Harvard, and Princeton have combined for 5 runs atop the conference for 4+ seasons.
  • The first of these streaks was by Phog Allen and Kansas from 1907-1911. The most recent, and only active streak, was Stephen F. Austin starting in 2012 and featuring coaches Danny Kaspar and Brad Underwood.
  • Five schools have won National Championships during their 4+ consecutive outright conference title runs: UCLA (8), Kentucky (3), San Francisco (2), Cincinnati, UNLV. Villanova would be the sixth school to join this group with one more regular season victory.
  • Four coaches have had two 4+ season streaks: Phog Allen (Kansas), Adolph Rupp (Kentucky), Jerry Tarkanian (Long Beach State, UNLV), John Calipari (UMass, Memphis). Bill Self will become the fifth coach to join this list if Kansas wins the Big 12 outright this season.

4+ Consecutive Outright Conference Championship Streaks

School Conference Avg # of Schools Consecutive Outright Conf. Champs. Years Coach NCAA Championships During Streak
School Conference Avg # of Schools Consecutive Outright Conf. Champs. Years Coach NCAA Championships During Streak
UCLA AAWU/PAC-8/PAC-10 8.1 13 1966-1979 John Wooden(9), Gene Bartow(2), Gary Cunningham(2) 8
UNLV PCAA/Big West 9.9 10 1982-1992 Jerry Tarkanian 1
Kentucky SEC 11.3 9 1943-1952 Adolph Rupp 3
Gonzaga WCC 8 8 2002-2010 Mark Few 0
Dartmouth Ivy 6.7 7 1937-1944 Ozzie Cowles(6), Earl Brown (1) 0
Weber State Big Sky 6.6 6 1967-1973 Dick Motta(1), Phil Johnson(3), Gene Visscher(2) 0
Davidson Southern 7.6 6 1967-1973 Lefty Driesell(2), Terry Holland(4) 0
Penn Ivy 8 6 1969-1975 Dick Harter(2), Chuck Daly(4) 0
Long Beach State PCAA 6 6 1969-1975 Jerry Tarkanian(4), Lute Olsen(1), Dwight Jones(1) 0
Kansas MVC 9.4 5 1922-1927 Phog Allen N/A
NC State Southern 16 5 1946-1951 Everett Case 0
Charleston A-Sun 11.4 5 1993-1998 John Kresse 0
Kansas MVC 5.7 4 1907-1911 Phog Allen N/A
Penn Ivy 5.7 4 1917-1921 Lon Jourdet(3), Edward McNichol(1) N/A
Cal PCC 8.7 4 1923-1927 Earl Wright(1), Nibs Price(3) N/A
Cincinnati MAC 5.7 4 1947-1951 John Wiethe 0
San Francisco CBA/WCAC 7 4 1954-1958 Phil Woolpert 2
Cincinnati MVC 7.7 4 1957-1961 George Smith(3), Ed Jucker(1) 1
Duke ACC 8 4 1962-1966 Vic Bubas 0
Kentucky SEC 10 4 1967-1971 Adolph Rupp 0
Missouri Big 8 8 4 1979-1983 Norm Stewart 0
Missouri State Mid-Cont 8 4 1986-1990 Charles Spoonhour 0
Coastal Carolina Big South 7.25 4 1987-1991 Russ Bergman 0
Princeton Ivy 8 4 1988-1992 Pete Carril 0
Umass A-10 8.7 4 1991-1995 John Calipari 0
Valparaiso Mid-Cont 9.5 4 1994-1998 Homer Drew 0
Cincinnati C-USA 12 4 1996-2000 Bob Huggins 0
Duke ACC 9 4 1996-2000 Mike Krzyzewski 0
Butler Horizon 8.5 4 1999-2003 Barry Collier(1), Thad Matta(1), Todd Lickliter(2) 0
Memphis C-USA 12 4 2005-2009 John Calipari 0
Kansas Big 12 11.5 4 2008-2012 Bill Self 0
Harvard Ivy 8 4 2011-2015 Tommy Amaker 0
Stephen F. Austin Southland 12.5 4 2012-2016 Danny Kaspar(1), Brad Underwood(3) 0