NCAA Tournament MOP trends
There’s no “i” in team, but there is an “M-O-P” in championship. Each year at the conclusion of the NCAA tournament, the Associated Press names one exceptional athlete the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Most often, the honoree comes from the championship team, but that hasn’t always been the case throughout history. Here we dive into the Most Outstanding Player award and uncover key trends behind the winner ahead of March Madness 2020.
Most Outstanding Player by position
The MOP award has been a part of the NCAA tournament since the inception of the postseason competition in 1939. Jimmy Hull, a forward at Ohio State, earned the first MOP, before fellow big men Marvin Huffman, John Kotz, and Howie Dallmar each took home the honor.
In the past decade, the Associated Press has been much kinder to the guard position. A forward has won only three times since 2010, while a guard has been recognized every year since 2014. The last two MOPs, Donte DiVincenzo and Kyle Guy, played shooting guard, and the three winners before them each ran point.
Kyle Guy of Virginia just became the third Indiana Mr. Basketball winner (2016, Lawrence Central) to win Final Four Most Outstanding Player - joining Kent Benson of New Castle (1973) and IU (‘76), and Sean May of Bloomington North (2002) and UNC (2005).— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) April 9, 2019
Most Outstanding Player by age
Dating back to 2010, the average age of the Most Outstanding Player is 20.9.
A junior has been named MOP five times since 2010. In that time span, seniors and freshmen have each collected two awards, and a redshirt sophomore has won once.
Going back to the 1980s, only four freshmen have earned the honor: Pervis Ellison of Louisville in 1986, Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse in 2003, Anthony Davis of Kentucky in 2012 and Tyus Jones of Duke in 2015.
Starter vs. bench player
In 2013, Luke Hancock of Louisville became the first reserve to win MOP. Donte DiVincenzo became the second in 2018, when he helped Villanova defeat Michigan in the championship game.
Does the MOP have to play for the championship team?
The last time a player from a losing team won the MOP was 1983, when Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Cougars received the award after the North Carolina State Wolfpack upset his team in the final.
The first MOP winner, Hull of Ohio State, also played for the national runner-up. The Oregon Webfoots (now the Ducks) beat the Buckeyes 46-33 in the championship game.
In total, 11 players on a non-winning team have been named MOP. Another Ohio State player, Jerry Lucas, won MOP as runner-up to the Cincinnati Bearcats in 1969. Twice a Kansas Jayhawk member won the award despite losing in the final—B.H. Born in 1953 and Wilt Chamberlain in 1957.
Best player on the team?
We now know that only two reserves have won the MOP, but do average minutes and scoring indicate the most likely candidate to get the award?
|Scoring rank on team (full season)||# of MOPs since 2010||Minutes rank on team (full season)||# of MOPs since 2010|
Since 2010, no player who ranked sixth or lower in scoring on his team has earned the MOP. The top team scorer on the season has won four times in the last decade, while the players with the first or second most minutes have won eight of the past 10 MOPs.
Back-to-back MOP winners
You have to search way back to the '70s, when players couldn't jump early to the pros, to find a back-to-back winner of the MOP. In 1972 and 1973, Bill Walton won the award with UCLA. Before that, Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) became the only player to accept three consecutive MOPs, from 1967-69.
The only other men to win MOP back to back are Bob Kurland of Oklahoma A&M (1945 and 1946), Alex Groza of Kentucky (1948 and 1949) and Jerry Lucas of Ohio State (1960 and 1961).