In 2015, Kentucky’s bid for its first perfect season since 1954 was thwarted by Wisconsin in the Final Four after 38 straight wins. It was an extremely impressive run, but it’s not even half of the longest winning streak in Division I history.
Here are the five longest:
5 — Texas: 44
Ended by: Rice, 24-18
In 1908, due to a lack of funding, Texas disbanded its basketball team, but a student and player-led campaign brought the sport back after a one-year hiatus. Five years later, coach Theo Bellmont led the Longhorns on a 11-0 campaign in what would be the first of three undefeated seasons. In 1913, the Texas’ 14-0 season was capped off with the inaugural Southwest Conference championship. Bellmont stepped down after that season, but newly appointed coach Roy Henderson kept the streak alive with a 12-0 season in 1915. After Rice’s 24-18 win in 1917, Texas’ streak would stand as the NCAA record for 40 years before San Francisco would break it.
4 — UNLV: 45
Ended by: Duke, 79-77
Under coach Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV became a national powerhouse in the 1980s, with a 247-39 record (.864 win percentage) from 1982-1990. They went to eight straight NCAA tournaments in that span, never losing before the second round. In 1990, the preseason No. 1 Running Rebels lost three games to unranked opponents, but finished the season on an 11-game winning streak, beating Duke 103-73 for the national championship. The next year, the two teams would meet again, this time in the Final Four. UNLV hadn’t lost since the first matchup with Duke, riding a 45-game winning streak into the semifinal. But Christian Laettner’s 28 points — including two free throws to take the lead with 12.7 seconds left were too much to overcome.
3 — UCLA: 47
Ended by: Houston, 71-69
UCLA’s first-ever undefeated season came in 1963-64 — the first of back-to-back national championship runs. But in 1965, the Bruins had their worst season in four years, going 18-8 and missing the NCAA tournament. Anyone who thought that lull signified a turning of events in Los Angeles was sorely mistaken. The following year, sophomore Lew Alcindor was finally eligible for the varsity team, and behind his 29 points and 15.5 rebounds per game, the Bruins went undefeated again, capturing their third national title. The next season in 1968 would start with 13 straight wins, including a 109-73 thrashing of No. 10 Bradley. But in the second ranked matchup of the season, UCLA would travel to No. 2 Houston for the “Game of the Century.” That matchup was the first regular season college basketball game broadcast nationwide in prime time, with Dick Enberg and Bob Pettit on the call. The game would live up to the hype, with Houston taking a 71-69 lead with under two minutes to play, and holding on for the streak-snapping upset.
2 — San Francisco: 60
Ended by: Illinois, 63-33
After coach Phi Woolpert took over San Francisco in 1950, the Dons suffered three straight losing seasons, and were 44-48 over four years. Expectations were not high in 1955, and an early-season loss to UCLA didn’t help. But junior Bill Russell followed up a strong sophomore campaign by averaging 21.4 points and 20.5 rebounds per game, helping San Francisco win out on the season and capture its first national championship with a 77-63 win over La Salle. Russell averaged 20.6 points and 21 rebounds his senior, as the Dons went undefeated and take the national title again with an 83-71 win over Iowa. Russell and star guards K.C. Jones and Hal Perry would graduate the following year, and the streak — the longest in NCAA history at the time — would end in the fourth game of the season at No. 7 Illinois.
1 — UCLA: 88
Ended by: Notre Dame, 71-70
From 1966-1973, UCLA went 205-5, and won the national championship seven years straight. There’s never been a greater stretch of success in college basketball history. After a 18-2 season in 1969-70 (the worst record during those seven years), UCLA “bounced back, going a perfect 30-0 through the next two seasons. The next season had an early-year scare with a 65-64 win over No. 4 Maryland, but continued with 13 straight wins. Then came the road game against No. 2 Notre Dame. It was almost exactly three years to the day from when No. 9 Notre Dame beat No. 1 UCLA 89-82 in 1971 — the last time the Bruins had lost. But with 3:22 left in the game, UCLA led 70-59. All seemed in line for the streak to move to 89. It would not: