Bruins, Bucks are latest top seeds to fall short
Early exits for the Boston Bruins and Milwaukee Bucks surely sting the Boston and Milwaukee faithful. But history says that even as No. 1 seeds, they were unlikely to reach their respective finals.
By the numbers: The National Football League is the only major North American sports league whose top-seeded teams have reached the championship round at a better-than-50% clip over the last 20 completed seasons.
- 🏈 NFL: 21 of the last 40 No. 1 seeds have played in the Super Bowl.
- ⚾️ Major League Baseball: 15 of the last 40 No. 1 seeds have played in the World Series.
- 🏀 National Basketball Association: 13 of last 40 No. 1 seeds have played in the NBA Finals.
- 🏒 National Hockey League: 6 of the last 40 No. 1 seeds have played in the Stanley Cup.
Between the lines: The Bruins and Bucks weren't just No. 1 seeds — they had their leagues' best regular-season records. But even that, it turns out, isn't exactly a recipe for championships.
- Only three of the past 20 Stanley Cup champions had the best regular-season record that year.
- The NFL, MLB and NBA have each had six such teams over the past 20 seasons — double the NHL's tally, but still fewer than you might think.
Wild stat: The Bruins' early departure means that the best regular-season team in the history of each Big Four league failed to cap their historic season with a title.
- 🏈 NFL: 2007 New England Patriots (16-0): Lost in the Super Bowl.
- ⚾️ MLB: 1906 Chicago Cubs* (116-36-3): Lost in the World Series.
- 🏀 NBA: 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (73-9): Lost in the NBA Finals.
- 🏒 NHL: 2022-23 Bruins (65-12-5): Lost in the first round.
The bottom line: It's really hard to win a championship.
*The 2001 Seattle Mariners matched the Cubs' 116 wins but had more losses (46) in a longer season. They also failed to win the title.