What do the NCAA Tournament’s record setting numbers say about the state of college basketball?


Have you had a chance to see the record setting numbers that this year’s NCAA tournament is setting?  Here is just a piece of that article from Turner Sports.

NCAA March Madness Live Sets All-Time Record with More Than 71 Million Live Video Streams

 The 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship continues to deliver record-setting numbers across multimedia platforms.  Turner Sports and CBS Sports’ exclusive coverage of the 2015 NCAA Tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV is delivering the highest average overnight rating in 25 years (since the current television format began in 1991). Through the Elite Eight, the NCAA Tournament is averaging a 7.2/15 overnight rating/share, up 11% through the same period last year, based on Nielsen metered market ratings.

Well from critics around the country, I thought the sport of college basketball was suffering from interest, quality of play, and plain ole boring styles of basketball. Those critics aren’t entirely wrong. A few things are at play here.

1) Compelling Story

Whether you like the Kentucky Wildcats or not, The Wildcats pursuit of perfection is one of the most compelling stories in college basketball in years.

2) The NCAA tournament is good basketball

Hey it’s not hard to figure out. The NCAA tournament features the best teams in the country with the best players… From Kentucky’s stifling defense, to Notre Dame’s offensive brilliance, Duke’s talented Freshman, to Tom Izzo’s coaching, and on and on.

3) Brackets

Don’t underestimate the power of the office pool in creating interesting in the NCAA tournament. It’s to college basketball, what fantasy football is to the NFL. There is an interest in every single game.

So what does this say about the state of college of basketball in general…

Take a look at the most highly rated college basketball games of the regular season.

The Duke/North Carolina rivalry was the top draw during the 2014-15 regular season, generating the two largest audiences on any network. The March 7 meeting led the way with a 2.6 rating and 4.2 million viewers, and the February 18 overtime clash drew a 2.6 and 4.1 million.

The Michigan State/Wisconsin Big Ten Tournament final ranked third, with a 2.6 and 4.0 million on CBS, and the Notre Dame/North Carolina ACC title game ranked fourth (2.2, 3.5M).

Kentucky’s matchup with rival Louisville in December rounded out the top five despite airing on ESPN2, earning a network record 2.1 and 3.5 million viewers. Duke and Kentucky combined for seven of the ten largest audiences during the regular season.

Each of those top 5 games features quality opponents, brand names, and high ratings. What we have learned is there is an audience for college basketball, when the quality of the game is high. One of the improvement suggestions was to shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds. I watched a few NIT games with the shortened shot clock… didn’t help.

What I would like to see is more coaches focus on offense. Don’t confuse this with a defensively elite team like Virginia. The Cavaliers are a sound offensive team as well. I am talking about the teams that use a slow down game, and emphasis on defense to try and overcome offensive shortcomings. Why not just become better at offense?

Possibly this tournament will prove to these coaches to go in that direction. 3 of the top 10 teams in offensive efficiency, Duke, Kentucky, and Wisconsin are in the Final 4. Notre Dame, Gonzaga, and Arizona were in the top 12  and made the Elite 8.

Wisconsin is a tremendous example. Once known for a brutal methodical style of play and almost un-watchable basketball, they are still are patient  on offense but now average 72 points. They have a much more appealing style of basketball without sacrificing their core identity. Other coaches should take note of that…

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