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Kansas men's basketball team ranks high on 'bridesmaid' list


I was fascinated when I received an e-mail from Kansas fan Scott Zwink earlier this week.

Zwink, a 1985 KU graduate, did some extensive research on one question: Which men’s basketball teams have lost the most times in the NCAA Tournament to the eventual national champion?

Let's call it our own "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride" list.


Zwink started researching the topic after watching KU have so many close calls between 1988 and 2008.

Without looking at the numbers, it seemed like KU should be pretty high on the list. The Jayhawks lost to Syracuse in 2003, Maryland in 2002 and Arizona in 1997. Whether it was by luck or not, the Jayhawks have frequently seemed to lose to the team that eventually went on to win it all.

Zwink didn’t settle for wondering. He pulled brackets from all the NCAA Tournaments held and charted every team that has lost to an eventual national champion.

The results?

KU actually does rank high on the list, as the Jayhawks are tied for second with 10 losses to eventual national champions.

You can see the full list in an Excel spreadsheet here*.

* — More information can be found by clicking on the plus signs on the left next to each team. When you do, you can see the years and eventual national champions that each team lost to. Also listed is the round in which each loss occurred. This is a little tricky because in 1939 there were only three rounds. Scott chose to always give the championship game No. 1, so the higher the number, the earlier the two teams played in the tournament.

Let’s take a look at KU’s losses to eventual national champions.
1940 — Indiana (Championship)
1953 — Indiana (Championship)
1957 — North Carolina (Championship)
1966 — UTEP/Texas Western (Elite Eight)
1971 — UCLA (Final Four)
1991 — Duke (Championship)
1993 — North Carolina (Final Four)
1997 — Arizona (Sweet 16)
2002 — Maryland (Final Four)
2003 — Syracuse (Championship)

Kansas State is second in the Big 12 with six LTENCs*. Nebraska is the only league school to have never lost in the tournament to an eventual national champ.

* — Losses to eventual national champions

In case you were wondering, Duke leads all teams with 11 losses to eventual national champions. That means, if Michigan State takes the title this year, KU could tie the Blue Devils. If Villanova wins, Duke will have a two-game lead on the field.

As mentioned before, the Jayhawks are tied for second with 10 LTENCs.

Any guesses as to the team they are tied with?

North Carolina? Kentucky? UCLA?

Actually, none of the above. Surprisingly, Utah also has 10 LTENCs, with five of them coming in the 1950s and ’60s.

If history is any indication, then Villanova should be the favorite this weekend. As Zwink pointed out to me, the Wildcats have beaten teams with the highest combined number of LTNECs: American (0), UCLA (9), Duke (11) and Pitt (2).

This also brings me to another question: If you’re a KU fan, do you cheer for Michigan State on Saturday? (Vote here.)


Do you feel better if your team is beaten by the eventual national champion? Or is it frustrating to see that team advance, all the while thinking that it could have been KU?

And is it any consolation when your team loses to the national champion? Is that a form of twisted comfort? Or is it additional agony?

Thanks again to Scott for sharing his research.


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