Making the NCAA tournament is an extremely impressive feat. Currently, only 19 percent (68 of 353) of all DI teams make the field every year.
But making the tournament doesn’t mean you’ll be there for long. Since the third-place game was abolished in 1982, there’s been no margin for error. Lose one game, and your season is over.
That makes the teams in this list — the ones that have the highest NCAA tournament winning percentage throughout their entire program history — that much more impressive.
Here are the top nine teams in March:
Records were taken from the official NCAA record book, and were updated through the 2019 tournament. Teams must have played a minimum of 20 NCAA tournament games to qualify for the list.
9. UConn — 66.3%
Total games: 86
UConn’s four national championships rank sixth all time, behind UCLA, Kentucky, UNC, Duke, and Indiana. In 1951, UConn made its first NCAA tournament appearance, losing to St. John’s in the first round. In its first 13 tournament appearances, UConn only made it out of the first round four times. But that tournament performance took a turn when Jim Calhoun took over in 1986-87, and led the Huskies to four Final Fours and three championships before retiring in 2012.
8. Michigan State — 68.3%
Total games: 101
After Tom Izzo made his first NCAA tournament appearance with the Spartans in 1998, Michigan State hasn’t missed a single NCAA tournament. That 22-year streak of appearances puts them in third place behind Kansas (30) and Duke (24) for the current record.
7. Michigan — 68.4%
Total games: 79
Michigan is the only team on this list that hasn’t won more than one national championship. In 1989, assistant Steve Fisher was promoted to head coach before the NCAA tournament, and led the Wolverines to six straight wins and an 80-79 win over Seton Hall for the title. Apart from that one 6-0 performance, Michigan is 48-25 (65.7%) in tournament play.
6. Kansas — 69.7%
Total games: 155
Kansas holds both the current and all-time record for consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, having not missed the tournament since 1989. That streak has also seen them become one of just five teams with 100 tournament wins.
5. Florida — 71%
Total games: 62
Compared to the rest of the teams on this list, Florida’s NCAA tournament history book is quite light. The Gators have only played 62 games, but they’ve played them well. In 2007, Florida became one of just seven programs to win back-to-back championships, joining the ranks of Oklahoma State, Kentucky, San Francisco, Cincinnati, UCLA, and Duke.
4. Kentucky — 71.3%
Total games: 181
No team in college basketball history been to more NCAA tournaments or played more NCAA tournament games than Kentucky. The Wildcats have been a part of March Madness 58 times, and somehow won almost three quarters of their games across that entire span. With that performance, it’s no surprise that Kentucky has won eight national championships — second-most all time.
3. UCLA — 71.6%
Total games: 141
Over the course of 11 years, from 1964-1975, UCLA went 44-1 (97.8 percent) in NCAA tournament play, winning 10 national championships. That’s what John Wooden can do for you. During his 27 years with the Bruins, Wooden led the team to 16 NCAA tournaments, and went 51-11 in tournament play (82.3 percent). In all of UCLA’s history sans-Wooden, the Bruins are 50-29 (63.3 percent).
2. North Carolina — 72.8%
Total games: 173
As of 2019, North Carolina is one of just two schools with 50 NCAA tournament appearances, with Kentucky as the only other. Those appearances span eight decades, with at least one Final Four appearance in each, and a championship in five. So yeah, that’s a lot of sustained success.
1. Duke — 75%
Total games: 152
With 13 straight NCAA tournament wins from 1991-1993, Duke sits behind UCLA’s record in the category — just a hair short of the 38 straight UCLA strung together from 1964-1974. But no one stands in front of the Blue Devils when it comes to full NCAA tournament history. Duke has won an astounding three quarters of all NCAA tournament games it’s played in school history.