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Michigan State Basketball: How impressive is NCAA Tournament streak?

We don’t appreciate just how impressive this streak is.

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Michigan State basketball
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Michigan State basketball NCAA Tournament streak puts into perspective just how great the program truly is.

As Michigan State basketball fans, I don’t think we fully realize just how lucky we are. We have been extremely fortunate when it comes to the success our basketball program has achieved. All of the Big Ten titles and Final Fours are amazing, but arguably the most impressive feat accomplished by our program is our NCAA Tournament streak.

Michigan State’s NCAA Tournament streak currently sits at 25 consecutive appearances. This dates back to 1998 when it began. The younger generation of Spartan fans likely has never experienced missing the tournament in their lives. That includes myself since I was born in 1998 just after this streak began.

Michigan State’s streak compared to the country

How does this streak stack up with the rest of the country? Currently, Michigan State’s streak of 25 is second-best in the country behind only Kansas. The Jayhawks’ streak sits at 33, which is eight better than the Spartans. Gonzaga is not too far behind the Spartans with 24. After Gonzaga, there is a massive drop-off, with the next closest active streak being eight from fellow Big Ten school Purdue.

Some of the best programs in the country like Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky aren’t even able to achieve what MSU has.

Including all the streaks that are no longer active, Michigan State’s streak is still third-best all time. North Carolina had a streak of 27 which ran from 1975-2001. So give Tom Izzo and Michigan State three more seasons and they will then pass the Tar Heels.

Michigan State’s streak compared to the Big Ten

Michigan State’s streak looks even more dominant when you compare it to the rest of the Big Ten. No Big Ten team even comes close to the Spartans’ current streak, with Purdue being the closest at eight.

Here is a list of all Big Ten teams’ current NCAA Tournament streaks:

Michigan State: 25
Purdue: 8
Iowa: 4
Illinois: 3
Indiana: 2
Northwestern: 1
Maryland: 1
Penn State: 1
Rutgers: 0
Michigan: 0
Wisconsin: 0
Nebraska: 0
Ohio State: 0
Minnesota: 0

Some fanbases, I’m looking at you, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, like to act like they are on the Spartans’ level. This list proves that they truly aren’t even close to us.

Even when you expand the data to include each team’s longest streak ever, only a couple of Big Ten teams even get close to Michigan State. Wisconsin had a streak of 19 from 1999-2017 and Indiana had a streak of 18 from 1986-2003. Comparing Michigan State to our in-state rival, Michigan’s best streak is only six. This was accomplished twice by the Wolverines from 1985-1990 and 2016-2022.

MSU accomplishments during streak

All of these tournament appearances are great, but do they truly mean anything if you don’t accomplish anything? Thankfully Michigan State doesn’t have to worry about that because we’ve accomplished a lot.

During this streak, Michigan State has made it to 15 Sweet 16s as well as eight Final Fours and one national championship. This means that Izzo has gotten Michigan State to the second weekend 60 percent of the time and the Final Four 32 percent of the time. Both of these are extremely impressive stats when you think about it.

However, the most impressive accomplishment of all is where Izzo stacks up all time compared to other coaches. After making it to the tournament this past season, Izzo set the record for most consecutive NCAA Tournaments by a single coach. The record was previously held by Duke’s Coach K at 24. Kansas’ current record and North Carolina’s best streak of 27 all occurred between multiple coaches, so Izzo’s current streak of 25 is the best ever for one coach. We are extremely lucky to have him as our coach and this stat only adds to that sentiment.

How long will this streak continue? Nobody knows the answer to that question, but I feel confident saying it will last as long as Izzo is head coach.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.

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