The History of NCAA Triple-Doubles
We've gathered all 592 triple-doubles in NCAA Division I history in a handy dashboard and solved the mystery of six missing games using some detective work.
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Triple-doubles are the pinnacle of stat-sheet stuffing. Most people know about the Triple-Double Queen, Sabrina Ionescu, but a surprising amount of triple-double history hasn’t reached the general public. Players like Danielle Carson and Shakyla Hill have put up incredible stats themselves, but the proof isn’t as easy to find as it should be.
The NCAA does a good job of cataloging each triple-double in their annual record book PDFs and since assists first began being tracked officially in 1985-86 there have been 592 triple-doubles recognized by the NCAA. However, even for those who know of the document’s existence, that list of games is in a format that isn’t conducive to easy analysis and there are six games that the NCAA has been unable to find details for.
To resolve those shortcomings, we set out to digitize the data to make it more widely available and used our detective skills to seek out the six missing games. The resulting work has been placed in this interactive dashboard that we invite everyone to check out, but we will also summarize our findings below. We may add the dataset to our website in the future, but for now, this dashboard is the only way to view it all in one place.
As previously mentioned, there have been 592 recognized triple-doubles in Division I history. The trend line above shows that the rate of triple-doubles has picked up noticeably over the past decade, and one obvious player accounts for a large piece of that acceleration: Sabrina Ionescu.
Ionescu, the NCAA’s leader in career triple-doubles among both men and women, notched them in an astounding 26 games, which comes out to a jaw-dropping 4.4% of all triple-doubles. The Oregon alum accounts for more triple-doubles on her own than all but five conferences, including the Ionescu-less Pac-12. Simply removing her from the trend line, the acceleration looks far more gradual.
The Early Years
However, before Ionescu, there were other names dominating the triple-double leaderboards. Danielle Carson of Youngstown St. was the original holder of the triple-double crown, racking up Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 7 in NCAA history. No. 3 and No. 5 went to fellow OVC player Chris Moye of Tennessee Tech, giving the conference a blistering start on the conference leaderboards.
Around the same time as Carson was getting out to a comfortable lead, Penn State’s Suzie McConnell (now McConnell Serio) emerged as a challenger to the throne. But, this is where things get a little grey.
The Mystery of the Missing Games
McConnell-Serio has long been credited with seven career triple-doubles, which was the outright or tied record for nearly three decades. The grey area comes from the fact that six of these seven triple-doubles were lost to time and incomplete record-keeping. This left just one game fully accounted for, and the others listed as empty rows in the official record books.
After some lengthy digging (and a newspapers.com subscription) I was able to track down press clippings for each of the six games and added them to the digital record I have created of every triple-double ever.
In theory, this will allow the NCAA to move closer to etching these six games in stone. However, there is a catch. Three of the discovered triple-doubles included steals before the 1987-88 season when steals (and blocks) were not officially tracked. Therefore, those games might not be allowed to remain “official” triple-doubles. Until then, we will count them because we love stats and we have the receipts to prove they happened.
About two decades after McConnell-Serio’s seventh triple-double, Louella Tomlinson of St. Mary’s (CA) arrived in the leaderboards with her first career triple-double. Tomlinson went on to match McConnell-Serio’s record of seven, all of which being point-rebound-block games. Tomlinson’s seven such games account for 8.5% of all point-rebound-block triple-doubles.
The Golden Era
Ionescu was a significant reason for the explosion of triple-doubles in the late 2010s, but multiple players contributed to the boom. Lamar’s Chastadie Barrs was overshadowed by the unprecedented rate that Ionescu put up triple-doubles, but Barrs “quietly” managed to rack up nine triple-doubles to finish her career ranked second all-time.
Meanwhile, another type of royalty emerged out of this era: The Quadruple-Double Queen Shakyla Hill. Prior to Hill, there had been three quadruple-doubles in Division I history. The first was by Loyola Chicago’s Veronica Pettry against Detroit in 1989, in one of the most impressive games you probably have never heard of.
Pettry dropped just 12 points and 10 rebounds, but she also threw in an other-worldly 22 assists and 11 steals. To dish out 22 assists alone is incredible, it is currently tied for the second-most in a game in Division I history. To add an entire triple-double apart from that is mind-blowing.
Over the course of 13 months, Hill put up two quadruple-doubles to finish her collegiate career accounting for 40% of all quadruple-doubles ever after a 25-year drought throughout Division I.
Looking at the breakdown of triple-doubles by conference (at the time of the game), the Pac-12 stands far ahead thanks largely to Ionescu, with some additional help from Stanford. Defunct conferences have not been rolled up with their contemporaries, so the Big Eight’s five triple-doubles have not been assigned to the Big 12. Including those would put the Big 12 second among conferences.
Once again, no surprises at the top with Oregon ranking No. 1 despite Ionescu being the only player in program history with even a single triple-double. Iowa comes in at No. 2 with six games coming from Samantha Logic between 2011-12 and 2014-15, who leads the Big Ten all-time and is tied for fifth among all players, and an additional three from current Hawkeye Caitlin Clark. Barrs carries Lamar to No. 3 with nine of their 10 triple-doubles in program history. South Carolina and Duke lead with seven different players recording one or more triple-doubles.
Taking a look at the breakdown of triple-doubles by type in Division I history, the “conventional” triple-double of point-rebound-assist leads the way with 441 games. There is a big drop to point-rebound-block triple-doubles at 82, followed by 46 for point-rebound-steal and 31 for point-assist-steal games.
There are also six rebound-assist-steal games in NCAA history, five of which were quadruple-doubles that involved points as well. The lone rebound-assist-steal game was from Memphis’ Kalara McFadyen in 2002 against Charlotte, the only triple-double with fewer than 10 points in Division I history. Not only did McFadyen not score in that game, but she didn’t even attempt a shot from the field or a free throw.
We will continue to update this dataset and the dashboard as more triple-doubles are recorded. We expect the 600th all-time triple-double to happen sometime this season, as we’re only eight (or 11 if you’re being strict) away from the milestone mark.