Self’s six-year run the best of the modern era

Bill Self is about to put himself in a class by himself, and this has nothing to do with his eight straight Big 12 championships.

With a win on Saturday against Texas, Kansas will have the second-most wins in a six-year stretch of any team in the history of college basketball. The Jayhawks also have a chance to become only the second team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to be a No. 1 seed in five out of six years.

Duke is the other team that was a top seed for five out of six seasons. In fact, Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils went eight out of nine years falling on the 1-line. Unless Shabazz Muhammad signs to be a Jayhawk, I’m not sure Kansas will get there. Of course, I would have said you were crazy if you had told me KU would be in the running for a one seed this season.

Krzyzewski had his best six-year run from 1998 to 2003. During that stretch, Duke was a No. 1 seed the first five seasons and went 190-26.

The Jayhawks sit at 190-27 over the last six seasons, and they have a shot to reach Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV teams from 1986-1991 that went 196-27. If the Jayhawks beat Texas and win the Big 12 tournament, they’ll be at 194 wins. That would mean an Elite 8 run would give them the record.

It should be noted that college basketball teams play more games than they used to; however, Self’s six-year run stacks up with just about any coach in the history of college basketball.

Here are some of the greats and their best runs.

Roy Williams, Kansas(1993-98): 179-32
Krzyzewski, Duke (1998-2003): 190-27
Rick Pitino, Kentucky (1992-97): 183-30
Dean Smith, North Carolina (1982-87): 175-32
John Thompson, Georgetown (1984-89): 171-34
Bob Knight, Indiana (1972-77): 141-31
John Wooden, UCLA (1967-72): 175-5
Adolph Rupp, Kentucky (1946-51): 187-17
Phog Allen, Kansas (1922-27): 97-11

Nobody, obviously, compares to the run Wooden had at UCLA. He won the title every season during that stretch. Rupp won an NIT title and three NCAA titles. Bob Knight’s run included a perfect season, and Pitino won a title and made three Final Fours.

Self’s run is certainly not the best six-year run of all time, but it’s in the conversation. And no one in the modern era, outside of Coach K and John Calipari, has won as consistently in the regular season in a major conference as Self. Tarkanian’s run was in the Big West.

Calipari has actually won more games in the last six seasons — he sits at 197 — but he’s done it at two schools and three of those years he coached in the C-USA. That’s not to take anything away from him. What he’s done is amazing. But if there were an award for best coach of the last six years, Self forces OT with a miracle 3-pointer at the buzzer and pulls out the win.

How Self does it

My intention when I started writing this post was to break down why Self has been so successful in his nine years at Kansas. The fact that he’s had great players and he’s developed his guys is the best explanation. But other programs go through stretches where they have great players too, and they don’t win as consistently.

What Self has been able to do is win almost every game at home and win the games against lesser competition.

If Davidson wins the Southern Conference tournament, which is likely considering Davidson won the regular season title by four games, and if KU beats Texas and wins its quarterfinal game against OU or Texas A&M, it will mark the third straight season KU has gone undefeated against non-NCAA tournament teams.

During the current six-year run, Kansas has lost only five games total to non-tournament teams, and three of those losses came during the 2008-09 season when Self did not return one starter.

Here’s how Self’s first eight seasons breaks down.

vs. NCAA tourney teams

vs. non-tourney teams

2003-04

5-7

19-2

2004-05

10-6

13-1

2005-06

5-5

20-3

2006-07

8-4

25-1

2007-08

14-2

23-1

2008-09

11-5

16-3

2009-10

14-3

19-0

2010-11

13-2

22-0

Total

80-35

157-11

This season it’s pretty simple to guess which of KU’s opponents will make the tourney and which will not. From the Big 12, the locks are Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State. Texas is on the bubble and I went ahead and counted the Horns as not making it. Out of KU’s non-conference opponents, the only bubble teams are Davidson and South Florida. Since Davidson is a heavy favorite to win its conference tourney and South Florida is 12-5 in the Big East, I counted both of them in.

Using my bracketology logic, KU has gone 10-5 against teams likely to make the tournament and 15-0 against non-tourney teams.

During the last six years — again, using my tourney projections — Kansas is 60-17 against tourney teams and 105-5 against non-tourney teams. Six years ago, it should be noted, was the first year that Self coached a team that was all players he had recruited.

Self’s success at Allen Fieldhouse is just as impressive. He has only lost seven games at home in nine seasons and only four conference games. The first three conference home losses — Iowa State in 2005, K-State in 2006 and Texas A&M in 2007 — came by a combined nine points. Kansas lost by 11 last season to Texas, but that loss came a day after the death of Thomas Robinson’s mom.

During the last six years, the loss to A&M and the loss to Texas are Self’s only losses at the Fieldhouse. Self has the best home-court advantage in college basketball to work with, but his ability to get his teams ready for every game is admirable. It’s how you go six straight seasons without losing back-to-back games, another accomplishment the Jayhawks are closing in on.

Next year could finally be the finish to this run and it could get ugly. Duke lost 11 games the season after its amazing nine-year run; KU lost 10 games after Raef LaFrentz graduated and Paul Pierce left for the NBA; North Carolina missed the NCAA tournament after a three-year run of one seeds (2007-2009) and Tarkanian’s team was banned from the postseason in 1992.

I have a feeling Self will find a way to make the tourney. He found a way to give this team a chance at a one seed when he had one starter returning, one guy who played 14.6 minutes per game the year before expected to become the star, a former walkon as a sixth man and three starters who had never been more than fringe rotation players.

That alone is almost as impressive as all the wins he’s piled up in the last six seasons. Almost.

About The Author

C.J. Moore is the Lead College Basketball Writer at Bleacher Report. He is a University of Kansas grad and a basketball nerd. You can follow him on Twitter @cjmoore4.

9 Comments

  1. David says:

    I think you are severly underestimating next years team. Withey should have a big year and will have plenty of depth to help him down there. Yes, we will be young, but we will have more options then this year. Releford and Johnson are back so there is 3 starters back and insert Ben McLemore who would have been the second best player on the team this year and Perry Ellis and are starting 5 doesn’t miss a beat. Then you have White who will come in and be a 3 point specialist most of his freshman year to contribute right away. Peters, Lucas, Traylor and possibly Tony Parker all there to rebound and eat up post minutes. Anino Adams a big guard who can play right away and Nadir Tharpe another year in. We will win our 9th straight next year. Book it now.

  2. Kevbo says:

    The run might end next year but I’m not so sure. Obviously we’ll be losing our two best players but we’ll still have Elijah, Travis and Jeff as starters. Ben and Perry will probably slide into the starting line up. Bench will be White, Lucas, Peters, Traylor, Tharpe and Adams (if he qualifies). There is certainly a greater depth of talent and I didn’t even include Kevin Young. We might not be a one seed but we should be a top 4 seed

  3. Matt Friederich says:

    Good read! Just because KU won’t have an All-American or two don’t assume that they will struggle to make the NCAA tourny next year! They will just have to do with 95% of all other college basketball teams have to do….win without players that won’t be 1st team All-Americans…haha…KU will still be in the 4-6 seed range next year at worse

  4. C.J. Moore says:

    I don’t doubt KU can compete for another Big 12 title. I do have my doubts about getting another 1 seed. Was simply pointing out that these historical runs usually end w/ a double-digit loss season.

    Next year’s team kind of reminds me of 05-06. The vets will be better (EJ, Releford, Withey > Hawkins, Moody), but the incoming class is not as strong as Rush, Chalmers, Wright and Downs. Maybe the ’13 class will be. The bench should at least be stronger next year than this year.

  5. john says:

    Since Duke got destroyed yesterday and Shabazz was there, that seems like it might make him lean towards KU since he was here for the Mizzou game.

  6. Craig Schmidt says:

    Who is there to be afraid of in the Big 12? Baylor might have the worst coach in the country. K-State, OSU, & OU will be better, but not by much. ISU and Texas might cause some trouble. Texas Tech is really bad. Mizzou and A&M gone. WVU and TCU? No.

    I will never doubt Bill Self when it comes to coaching up a team. Next years squad will be very young, but lead by 3 seniors. While Elijah running the point makes me nervous, I think he’ll handle it just fine.

    Either way, I say we enjoy the ride this season and watch two All American’s carry this team to a championship.

    • C.J. Moore says:

      You’re right that the team coached by Bill Self has to be the favorite until someone else wins the league. Texas has a good recruiting class coming in and J’Covan will be a senior. If Royce White comes back, Iowa St. could be a contender. He’s probably gone, but that’s an odd dude. You never know. K-State will be solid w/ everyone back except for Samuels.

      And one of these days Scott Drew has to find an assistant that can teach some D and demand toughness. Right? Right? Anyway, Bears will be most talented. That doesn’t always translate to great success when Scott Drew is your coach.

  7. [...] it’s just that you cannot hate on Bill Self. The man has won eight straight Big 12 titles. As I wrote last season, KU won more games over a six-year period than any school in the history of college basketball. [...]