Move over Jets — DePaul's postseason drought is even longer

It has been 19 seasons and counting since the Blue Demons made the NCAA tournament

DePaul guard Jaden Henley (10) shoots past Texas A&M guard's Jace Carter, back, and Manny Obaseki (35) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
It has been 19 years since DePaul made the NCAA tournament, and with a 2-8 start to this season, it doesn't look like the Blue Demons are close to ending the streak. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Excuse DePaul men’s basketball fans if they rolled their eyes at Sunday’s headlines proclaiming the New York Jets as the most cursed team in American sports.

The Jets’ 13 seasons without an NFL playoff appearance don’t compare to the nearly two decades of despair that Blue Demons supporters have endured.

When DePaul last made the NCAA tournament in 2004, Usher's "Yeah" was unavoidable on the radio. Velour tracksuits and Von Dutch trucker hats were tacky-chic. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were America's most beloved couple. Facebook was a new website your parents hadn’t yet discovered.

DePaul’s 19-year NCAA tournament drought is the longest among the 80 men’s basketball programs that compete in power-six leagues. Only Washington State and Boston College also haven’t made it in more than a decade. The other 77 programs have each earned one or more NCAA bids since 2014.

Whereas the Jets have at least flirted with the playoffs a few times during their run of futility, DePaul has seldom threatened to make the NIT. The Blue Demons have won barely 20% of their league games since joining the Big East entering the 2005-06 school year. Eleven times since 2006, DePaul has finished last in the Big East standings. Every time the program seems to hit rock-bottom, it finds a way to drill down deeper.

DePaul has done nothing so far this season to suggest that this year's team will be the one to end its NCAA tournament drought. The Blue Demons enter Saturday’s Big East opener against Villanova with a dismal 2-8 record. They’re 216th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, second-to-last among power-conference teams and wedged right between the likes of Pepperdine and Wyoming.

To fans of a certain age, it’s stunning to see DePaul sink to these depths. Before the Blue Demons became the laughingstock of men’s college basketball, they were once the biggest basketball draw in a city that had yet to witness Michael Jordan win his first scoring title or claim his first NBA championship.

Under legendary coach Ray Meyer and his son, Joey, DePaul went to the NCAA tournament 14 times from 1976 to '92. Heralded recruits flocked to play for the Blue Demons, with WGN beaming their games coast to coast.

Chicago talents Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings came to DePaul. So did nationally renowned prospects such as Rod Strickland and Tyrone Corbin.

Eventually, cable TV blew up, and DePaul lost its recruiting advantage. A booster’s violations also led to NCAA penalties and uncertainty about Joey Meyer’s job security. Rival programs pounced, and DePaul began to slip, all at about the same time that the Jordan-led Bulls asserted themselves as the NBA’s premier team.

For a while, DePaul still sporadically seized the spotlight. Like in 1998, when McDonald’s All-American Quentin Richardson and fellow Chicago recruits Lance Williams and Bobby Simmons chose to play for Pat Kennedy. Or in 2004, when a DePaul team guided by Dave Leitao pulled off a feat that now seems unfathomable.

DePaul claimed a share of the Conference USA title that season, back when that was an achievement to be celebrated. In those days, C-USA teemed with coaching icons, from Bob Huggins at Cincinnati to John Calipari at Memphis to Rick Pitino at Louisville to Tom Crean at Marquette.

When the 2004 season ended with a second-round NCAA tournament loss to powerful UConn, standout forward Quemont Greer didn’t mourn for long. Greer returned home convinced that the Blue Demons’ 22-win season was the precursor for even greater success.

“I thought the program was going to keep building and growing,” he told Yahoo Sports this week.

Had someone told him DePaul wouldn’t return to the NCAA tournament for at least 20 years, Greer said he would've been “shocked and in disbelief.”

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 20:  College Basketball: DePaul Quemont Greer (45) in action, making dunk vs Marquettte Travis Diener (34), Rosemont, IL 1/20/2005  (Photo by Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)  (SetNumber: X72722 TK1)
DePaul's Quemont Greer, pictured creating a poster dunk to the chagrin of Marquette's Travis Diener in 2005, laments his alma mater's current NCAA tournament drought. (Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Why did the cracks in DePaul’s foundation become chasms? How did the Blue Demons go from powerhouse to punch line? Chicago-area prospects desiring to leave the city certainly had a lot to do with it. So did failed coaching hires, substandard facilities and a lack of resources.

Playing 15 miles off campus at 17,000-seat AllState Arena might have made sense in the heyday of Aguirre and Cummings, but the venue’s cavernous size and suburban location soon became an albatross. DePaul averaged fewer than 2,000 fans per game in its final season before moving downtown to newly built WinTrust Arena in 2017.

Former longtime DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto also drew criticism for repeatedly hiring retread coaches who generated little to no buzz and excitement. In March 2018, fresh off another 20-loss season, a group of “concerned students and alumni” purchased a full-page ad in the Chicago Sun-Times, describing Ponsetto as the “common thread” in DePaul’s struggles and calling for her firing.

A long-overdue infusion of energy, urgency and ideas finally arrived in 2020, when DePaul plucked Calipari’s right-hand man, DeWayne Peevy from Kentucky, to replace a retiring Ponsetto. Peevy made headlines after his hire when he set a goal of building the DePaul program to a level at which making the NCAA tournament was the floor, not the ceiling.

“Our generation knows the brand,” Peevy told the Chicago Tribune in August 2020, “but if we don’t hurry up and take advantage of that, there will be no generation who has seen that success.”

With Peevy spearheading fundraising efforts, DePaul announced earlier this year that it has purchased property across the street from its athletics center. It intends to raze the buildings currently there and replace them with a stand-alone basketball practice facility for its men’s and women’s teams.

Slowly but surely, Peevy is working to transform the culture at DePaul and to give his basketball program a realistic chance of being competitive in the Big East. A program that for decades has traded entirely on its glorious past is at last looking to address its present and future.

Will DePaul return to the NCAA tournament before the New York Jets make the NFL playoffs? One recruiting coup can change everything, but for now, it still seems like the Blue Demons are further away.

The Jets might have the longest playoff drought in American professional sports. But not even they can match the futility of DePaul basketball.


These power-six conference programs have gone the longest without participating in March Madness.

5. Nebraska

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2014

Hopes of ending the drought this season: Surprisingly promising!

At last, Fred Hoiberg is producing the sort of results that many anticipated when Nebraska hired him five years ago. A Huskers team projected to finish 12th in the Big Ten entering the season is off to a 9-2 start punctuated by back-to-back upset victories over Michigan State and Kansas State. Nebraska outscored Kansas State 31-12 in the second half over the weekend en route to a dominant road win. Save for a Dec. 6 loss to struggling Minnesota, the Huskers have performed like an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

4. Stanford

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2014

Hopes of ending the drought this season: Don’t count on it!

Imagine if someone told you during the Mike Montgomery era that Stanford would make only one NCAA tournament appearance from 2008 to 2023. Jerod Haase has consistently recruited high-level talent to Palo Alto … and consistently finished in the lower half of the Pac-12 standings. This year’s team appears to be on a familiar trajectory. The Cardinal (5-4) have yet to secure a notable non-league win, and they’ve suffered double-digit losses to Santa Clara and Northern Iowa.

3. Boston College

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2009

Hopes of ending the drought this season: Dare to dream!

Not since the days of Troy Bell, Craig Smith and Jared Dudley has there been this much reason for optimism about Boston College basketball. The Eagles are 8-3 after maybe the most notable win of the Earl Grant era, an 86-80 victory over St. John’s in Brooklyn. A lower-level postseason berth is more likely for Boston College than an NCAA bid, but the program is trending in the right direction and poised to exceed modest preseason expectations.

2. Washington State

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2008

Hopes of ending the drought this season: Unlikely!

Kyle Smith deserves plenty of credit for restoring struggling Washington State to respectability, but the Cougars are still a long way from the heights of the Tony Bennett era. This year’s team is 8-2 but has yet to play a road game and has lost to the only two KenPom top-150 teams it has faced, Ole Miss and Santa Clara.

1. DePaul

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2004

Hopes of ending the drought this season: LOL

It has been 15 years since DePaul finished better than third-to-last in the Big East. Don’t expect Tony Stubblefield’s third team to end that streak. The Blue Demons (2-8) were no match for the likes of Purdue Fort Wayne, Long Beach State and Northern Illinois at home. What are UConn, Marquette and Creighton going to do to them?

MATCHUPS NOT TO MISS (all times Eastern)

  • Virginia at Memphis, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Florida vs. Michigan, Tuesday, 7 p.m. in Charlotte (ESPN)

  • Baylor vs. Duke, Wednesday, 7 p.m. in New York City (ESPN)

  • Oklahoma vs. North Carolina, Wednesday, 9 p.m. in Charlotte (ESPN)

  • Villanova at Creighton, Wednesday, 9 p.m. (FS1)

  • Arizona vs. Alabama, Wednesday, 11 p.m. in Phoenix (ESPN)

  • Kentucky at Louisville, Thursday, 6 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Arizona vs. Florida Atlantic, Saturday, 3 p.m. in Las Vegas (Fox)


How close did Alabama guard Mark Sears come to sinking a half-court buzzer-beater to force overtime against Creighton this past Saturday? The video doesn’t do Sears justice, but the photo below tells the story.

Sears had a team-high 19 points in Alabama’s 85-82 loss.


UCLA has played nine games this season. The Bruins have yet to beat an opponent ranked higher than 250th in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings.

A 67-60 neutral-court loss to Ohio State this past Saturday dropped UCLA’s record to 5-4. Marquette, Gonzaga and Villanova have also beaten the Bruins. The best team that UCLA has defeated is … seven-loss UC Riverside.

It’s no surprise that UCLA has struggled early, considering the roster turnover Mick Cronin’s program endured. The Bruins said goodbye to Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez and two other starters and replaced them with a collection of promising newcomers.

Still, UCLA’s margin for error has shrunk, with only home games against Cal State Northridge and Maryland remaining before Pac-12 play. The Bruins might need as many as 13 conference victories just to make the NCAA tournament.

Doable? Maybe.

But the cold-shooting, slow-paced Bruins are going to have to find a way to score more easily to make it happen.


The most hated player in Big Ten country refused to give opposing fans the satisfaction of knowing that their taunts and catcalls were bothering him. Kansas center Hunter Dickinson drew a laugh from teammates Kevin McCullar and DuJuan Harris with his response to the Indiana fans who rained boos down on him this past Saturday.

“I could probably save a baby out here in Bloomington, and they’d still boo me the next game,” Dickinson deadpanned.

In his first trip to Bloomington since he transferred from Michigan to Kansas, Dickinson added to his All-American credentials with 17 points and 14 rebounds. His performance helped the Jayhawks rally for a 75-71 road win.