Does it matter if an NFL team is the only team in their division to win 10 or more games? Does it matter if a team wins a divisional title by five or more games? If a team is one of three in their division to win 10 or more games, do they have a better chance to reach the Super Bowl? Do teams that win their division by one game or less (or tie for the divisional title) have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than say a team that wins their division by five or more games?
Let’s try to answer these questions. Back in 2002, the NFL went to a four-division format in each conference. That gives us 11 years of past history to analyze divisional races and how they affect the Super Bowl teams (and winners). The following stats reflect the past 11 NFL seasons, 88 different divisional races.
1. In 43 of the 88 divisional races since 20002, the race ended with only one team in the division winning 10 games or more. In 33 races, two teams in the division won 10-plus games; in nine races, none of the teams win 10-plus games; and in three races, three different teams won 10 or more games.
2. Of the 22 teams that played in the Super Bowl since 2002, exactly half (11) came from a division that had only one team with 10-plus wins; nine of the 22 came from a division with two 10-plus win teams. Two teams came from a conference that had no team winning 10 or more games. Since 2002, none of the three divisions that had three teams with 10-plus wins has made it to the Super Bowl.
3. Seven of the 11 Super Bowl champs since 2002 came from a division with two teams with 10 or more wins.
4. Fifty-six of the 88 division races since 2002 (63.6 percent) finished in a tie or the first place team won the division by two games or less over the second place team. Eighteen teams since 2002 won their division by five games or more over the runner-up.
5. The last three Super Bowl champs came from divisions that were decided by one game or less.
6. Teams that won their division by one game or less are 5-2 in the Super Bowl since 2002. Teams that won their division by 1.5 to four games are 6-3 in the Super Bowl. Teams that won their division by five or more games are 0-6 in the Super Bowl in the last 11 years.
Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on the stats that go beyond the numbers.
Scan the list and you see names that are synonymous with greatness in the sport of basketball… Russell, Chamberlain, Baylor, West, Alcindor, Magic and Walton. Look a little closer at the same list and you discover names that you may or may not remember… Cleaves, Kotz, Hogue, Givens and Sheppard.
What all these players have in common is that they were selected as the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) is an NCAA men’s Final Four. We can see that an MOP was a step towards greatness for some and not so much for others. That’s the beauty of the NCAA tournament: greatness from the expected… and the unexpected. Who will be the MOP of this year’s tourney? A player destined for greatness in the NBA, or someone who will have their career moment this weekend?
Here’s a few stat lists regarding the MOPs. First, a look at those MOPs who went on to Hall of Fame professional careers (and those who were also MVP in an NBA Finals). Next is a look at those MOPs who played less than 20 games in the NBA. Finally, a quick review of the MOPs this century and where they are today in their careers.
Final Four MOPs that are in the Basketball Hall of Fame
Year(s) as Final Four MOP, Player
1945-46: Bob Kurland
1952: Clyde Lovellette
1954: Tom Gola
1955: Bill Russell
1957: Wilt Chamberlain (MVP of 1972 NBA Finals)
1958: Elgin Baylor
1959: Jerry West (MVP of 1969 NBA Finals)
1960-61: Jerry Lucas
1965: Bill Bradley
1967-69: Lew Alcindor (MVP of 1971 & 1985 NBA Finals)
1972-73: Bill Walton (MVP of 1977 NBA Finals)
1974: David Thompson
1979: Magic Johnson (MVP of 1980, 1982 & 1987 NBA Finals)
1981: Isiah Thomas (MVP of 1990 NBA Finals)
1982: James Worthy (MVP of 1988 NBA Finals)
1983: Hakeem Olajuwon (MVP of 1994 & 1995 NBA Finals)
1984: Patrick Ewing
Fewest NBA games by players who won a Final Four MOP award
NBA games, Player, Year of MOP
0: Bob Kurland, 1945, 1946 (Never played professionally, instead choosing to play AAU ball; is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame)
0: Irwin Dambrot, 1950 (Choose a career in dentistry instead of basketball)
0: B.H. Born, 1953 (Played AAU ball)
0: Anderson Hunt, 1990 (Played professionally overseas)
0: Donald Williams, 1993 (Played professionally overseas)
2: Keith Smart, 1987 (Has been the head coach of two NBA teams)
3: Hal Lear, 1956
5: Miles Simon, 1997
18: Jeff Shepppard, 1998 (Also played professionally in Italy)
So how have the MOPs from this century done in their professional careers? Here’s a quick update.
Kemba Walker, 2011, UConn: Averaging over 12 points and four assists as a point guard for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Kyle Singler, 2010, Duke: Playing for Real Madrid in Spain
Wayne Ellington, 2009, North Carolina: In his third season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Career average of over six points per game.
Mario Chalmers, 2008, Kansas: In his fourth season with the Miami Heat. Averaging just under 10 points per game this season.
Corey Brewer, 2007, Florida: In his fifth NBA season; currently with Denver. Career average of about nine points per game.
Joakim Noah, 2006, Florida: In his fifth season with the Bulls. Key member of the team who averages about 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Sean May, 2005, North Carolina: Played 119 games in the NBA. Currently playing in Italy.
Emeka Okafor, 2004, UConn: In his eighth NBA season. Currently with New Orleans. A double-digit scorer and rebounder.
Carmelo Anthony, 2003, Syracuse: Playing in his ninth NBA season. Has a career average of over 24 points per game.
Juan Dixon, 2002, Maryland: Played in 436 NBA games. Last played in the NBA in 2008-09. Playing professionally in Turkey.
Shane Battier, 2001, Duke: Has played in over 800 NBA games. A key free-agent signing for the Miami Heat this season.
Mateen Cleaves, 2000, Michigan State: Played in 167 NBA games in his career. Last played in the NBA in 2006.
SIX STATS… is a bonus feature of Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’
1. The Badgers football team has never won 10 or more games three seasons in a row. They won 11 in 2010; 10 in 2009.
3. The last losing season for the Badgers was in 2001 when they went 5-7. Their longest streak of losing seasons was 10 from 1964-73.
4. Their current streak of nine straight winning seasons is not a record. The school had 18 straight winning seasons from 1892-1909.
5. Bret Bielema has started his career as head coach with five straight winning seasons. Three other head coaches had winning seasons in their first six seasons (or more). Phil King had eight straight winning seasons to start his coaching career at Wisconsin from 1896-1905. Two other coaches had six straight winning seasons to start their Wisconsin head coaching careers… JR Richards (1919-24) and Ivy Williamson (1949-54).
6. The highest the Badgers have been ranked in a preseason AP poll was #4 in 2000. The highest the team has been ranked in the AP poll at the end of a season is #2 after the 1962 campaign.