The Tournament the NCAA Needed

The NCAA scandal that shook the men’s basketball last year has worked its way in and out of the headlines. Sean Miller, coach of the Arizona Wildcats, was the latest this year pre-tourney on the hit list. A video released in early March, showed Miller discussing offering Deandre Ayton a $100,00 payment to sign with the Wildcats. Since then, it seems that the scandal, for now, is gone. Now, this isn’t an article to dismiss the allegations and write-off the scandal but the tournament needed to give some sort of redemption.

Sure, the traditional powerhouses like a Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina had some sort of a significant run. Three of the four made it to the Sweet 16 but only two of the four made it as far as the Elite Eight. Perhaps, the only true number one seed in this tournament was Villanova as their margin of victory averaged out to 18 points in their six tournament games. The Wildcats from Philly won each of their game this tournament by double digits. The combined talent of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman only featured one freshman, which is Spellman. No one and done theme here for Jay Wright.

Prior to the 2018 tournament, a 16th seed has never defeated the 1st seed. Fast forward today and the 2018 record books now gloat the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). UMBC become the first 16th seed to defeat the Virginia Cavaliers 74-54 in their first-round match-up. The celebration did not last long for UMBC as they were ousted by Kansas St. in the next game.

Oh, I definitely will not forget about Sister Jean and her Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. The Ramblers become the fourth, that’s right the fourth 11 seed to make the Final Four. After a span of 7-years, as VCU was the last 11th seed to achieve this milestone. Most might remember the 2006 George Mason team that went all the way to the Final Four only to lose to Florida, who eventually went on to win the tournament.

Given these few moments of history in the tournament, it was just enough to distract us away from the dark cloud that loomed over college basketball since September of 2017, when first announced. Alabama, Duke, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Michigan State, NC State, North Carolina, Seton Hall, Texas, USC, and Washington were all potential teams involved with preferential treatment for players and their families.

Out of those schools, there are a few active players which some were in the tournament impacted from the FBI probe. Alabama, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, South Carolina, Texas, and USC were on the list. Sure enough, Duke reached the furthest of these alleged teams while Alabama, Kentucky, and Texas failed to reach the Elite Eight.

Did Sister Jean and few upsets help boost ratings and interest in this year’s tournament? Per Alex Putterman from Awful Announcing, the Final Four saw an increase on TBS:

Viewership for TBS’ Final Four coverage Saturday were always going to be down from last year, when the event aired on CBS. But in encouraging news for Turner Sports, the numbers were up 15 percent from the last time the national semifinals aired on TBS, in 2016.

• Loyola-Michigan on Saturday evening was up a whopping 29 percent from Villanova-Oklahoma in 2016, with an average minute audience of 13,445,000 viewers across all platforms. This makes some sense given that 1) Loyola has been a ratings draw all tournament long and 2) that Nova-OU game was a 44-point blowout that was fully decided by halftime.

• Villanova-Kansas on Saturday night saw a comparably modest three percent bump from North Carolina-Syracuse two years ago, with an average of 13,309,000 viewers across all platforms. This one is more or less an apples-to-apples comparison. Both the 2016 and 2018 games featured a pair of marquee college-hoops powers, and both games were fairly lopsided, with the favorite eventually winning by double digits.

The one disclaimer of this comparison is that Turner is using total viewership in 2018 instead of television-only in 2016.

Putterman’s article as outlines that despite the 2016 increase the 2017 comparison drew a few negatives:

For what it’s worth, Loyola-Michigan was down about 8.5 percent from last year’s Gonzaga-South Carolina matchup on CBS (which has a significantly broader reach than TBS), while Villanova-Kansas was down about 29 percent from North Carolina-Oregon. Overall, semifinal viewership was down 20 percent from 2017.

Okay, so maybe from a numbers perspective there might be a few lapses until the Monday night championship game ratings are decided. The NCAA has pushed the streaming on devices such as the AppleTV, Firestick, Google Chrome and also smartphones. The increase is expected to grow when including these methods of viewership. So if there is a significant decrease, was it the lack of interest in the teams in the Final Four vs the scandal that drew people away from this year’s tournament?

Regardless, the NCAA needed a redemption year and a better look for those schools who did decide to play fair. A Loyola-Chicago, a University of Maryland Baltimore County, Sean Miller out in the first round, and a little bit of tournament dominance from Villanova’s upperclassmen. Of course, the very early preseason rankings will come out and feature your Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Villanova.



Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times Contributor

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