Thank goodness that Duke survived Baylor yesterday, otherwise we would’ve been stuck with a lackluster Final Four in college basketball. Why is that important you ask? Just look at the numbers…Duke drew a 10.0 rating as opposed to the Butler/Kansas State game that drew a 5.0 rating. In a contract year for NCAA basketball, CBS is still going to be hurting from the lack of team star power. While many preach that parity is good for the college game, it is not good for the bigger schools and CBS (or whatever other network might pick up the NCAA tournament in future years).
Let’s face it, big schools draw bigger ratings, resulting in more cash and revenue. Butler has never been to a Final Four, never had a storied past (only 3 NBA players ever went to Butler), yet most fans want to root for the underdogs. While it might be the American way to be the giant killer (after all we did fend off the English to gain independence) but CEOs hate this. I, as well, do not like small schools in the mix. All the big schools like a Kentucky, Duke, or North Carolina are pretty much guaranteed to have at least one future NBA-er on their team. Sure we want to see a “team game” and love the “spirit of competition”. But in order to market the college games, you need stars, which is sorely lacking this year. Almost every Elite Eight team had at least one key injury, some of the being their best player? So when you factor the best player on each team not playing and combine that with being a small school, that is a recipe for a ratings disaster.
There’s nothing that can be done about this, it’s just the way college sports are. But if you are a true fan of sports, this is the greatest time of year. You have the opening of baseball this Sunday, March Madness for both men and women, and the Masters golf tournament (multiplied because of the return of one Tiger Woods). For CBS, had Duke been eliminated yesterday evening, I guarantee that they would’ve rather carried a Tiger-less PGA event than the NCAA tournament. Ironically, I had guaranteed a Duke win to a friend simply because I believe in the conspiracy that is you need at least one huge name in the final four. And I was right. Not to say that the call was bogus, but the late “charge” that wasn’t called on Duke, I think, was because the refs knew that the game needs Duke in the mix.
While I still that CBS will renew its contract to carry the NCAA tournament, the deal becomes even more dicey because of the increased talks of expanding the tournament from 65 teams to 96 teams. That means more teams would have a chance to be dream-killers and bracket-killers. I mean if you had a perfect bracket going into the Sweet 16, you knew nothing about college basketball. What’s ironic is that we as a culture pride ourselves on “equality” yet still set up a system that is advantageous to the big schools. I went to a big school in a powerhouse conference so perhaps I am partial to seeing the big boys play. But if you told me that two 5 seeds, West Virginia, and Baylor were going to be playing for the national championship, I would’ve told you I’m going fishing this weekend.
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