CBS earned an 8.5 overnight Nielsen rating for its two NCAA men’s basketball Regional Final games yesterday. Kentucky’s win over North Carolina, which gave the Wildcats their first trip to the Final Four since ’98, drew a 9.7 overnight from 5:00-7:15pm ET yesterday, down 2% from the comparative window in ’10 but up 26% from ’09. The day’s first game, which saw No. 11 seed VCU stun top-seeded Kansas, drew a 7.5 overnight from 2:15-4:45pm. That game was even with the comparative game last year and up 27% from ’09. Meanwhile, Butler’s upset of Florida on Saturday to earn the school’s second straight Final Four trip earned a 6.6 U.S. rating from 4:20-7:06pm, while UConn’s win over Arizona drew a 5.8 U.S rating from 7:06-9:27pm (THE DAILY).
MID MAJORS, LOW RATINGS? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes VCU and Butler "not surprisingly … got the early time slot" of 6:09pm ET for their Final Four game Saturday, "as brand names Kentucky and Connecticut get the marquee later slot." Hiestand asks, "Will the masses really flock to a VCU-Butler tango?" CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco said, "It's going to be fine. Butler is such a big story and was such a big story last year in getting to the championship game. And the teams have two young coaches, and nobody remembers two coaches this young doing anything like this" (USA TODAY, 3/28). ESPN's Mike Golic said of the VCU-Butler game, "Regular season, I wouldn't watch. But this is the Final Four. How do you not watch it?" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 3/28). In N.Y., Dick Weiss writes, "Well, America, you wanted mid-majors in the Final Four, and you got 'em. Now the question is, will anyone watch? … All we can do is hope the Final Four is a celebration of the greatness of college basketball and doesn't turn into a non-event, with two lesser-known programs heading to Houston" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/28).
THREE'S A CROWD: TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr will join Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg for CBS' coverage of the Final Four and the national championship game, and in N.Y., Bob Raissman wondered, "Why force a three-man booth?" Nantz and Kellogg "have been together for two seasons," and they "have developed chemistry and their own way of doing things." Kerr worked with Kellogg and Nantz "on a couple of Big Ten tournament games and two of the first round NCAA tourney tilts," but Kellogg and Kerr "bumped into each other." Raissman: "They tried bogarting the microphone. Nantz had trouble playing traffic cop." Raissman also noted CBS and Turner "merged mouths for the Sweet 16, adding TNT's Reggie Miller to the CBS team of Gus Johnson and Len Elmore," which "wasn't a disaster but was awkward." The announcers "forced things," and Miller and Elmore "seemed more concerned with staying out of the other guy's way." Johnson's presence "made their task harder," as he "likes to talk and didn't adjust his game to accommodate his partners" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/27).
HOP OFF THE BUS, GUS: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Johnson's performance during Butler-Florida Saturday was the "latest pity in an endless series." He "shouted nonsense for 2 ½ hours," and Elmore and Miller "were again forced to work around him, not with him." Mushnick: "Though he applied lots of hip basketball phrases, he again was clearly unsure of what he was hollering about. Yet he screamed his way right through and then past the game and its overtime" (N.Y. POST, 3/28). Mushnick yesterday reviewed Johnson's performance during Thursday's Florida-BYU Sweet 16 game. With the game tied and "15 seconds left in regulation," Johnson asked, "If you're BYU, do you foul?" Elmore responded, "No! Why would you foul? It's a tie game." Meanwhile, during Thursday's Butler-Wisconsin game, Butler G Chase Stigall "was called for a blocking foul" when Wisconsin F Mike Bruesewitz "nailed him in the chest." But Johnson "saw Stigall's involuntary landing as an acting job, impishly equating it with Miller's 'flopping' during his career." Mushnick: "Johnson so badly misread the moment as a 'flop' and so badly missed at making merry, that Miller at first seemed confused as to what Johnson was talking about" (N.Y. POST, 3/27).
SUCCESSFUL SWITCH TO COLLEGE: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes any concern that TNT's NBA announcers "would not be able to handle covering college basketball has been silenced." Miller and Kerr "have been especially good on game broadcasts," as both have "shown a sense of humor and have been particularly strong on strategy and breakdowns." Studio hosts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley "not only entertain, but educate." Jones: "Their perspectives, along with the consistently good Greg Anthony, have been fresh and sharp" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/28). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Barkley has "cut down on his 'show biz' persona and has worked hard as a more serious analyst." Barkley picked Kentucky to beat Ohio State prior to their Sweet 16 matchup and "predicted Arizona, down six points at halftime, would come back and beat heavily favored Duke" in the Sweet 16 (DENVER POST, 3/28).
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MONITORING THE MADNESS: In Indianapolis, Dan McFeely reports Ball State Univ.'s Sports Link program is working "behind the scenes to keep social interaction flowing smoothly on the NCAA's official March Madness website." The students in the program, through an agreement with Turner Sports, "have taken the lead in monitoring what fans are saying -- using multiple methods of searching key words … and then feeding the best stuff" to the March Madness On Demand website. Each student "has been assigned a team to follow, so they work together monitoring a single game being shown on the TV sets, while keeping a close eye on their laptops" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/28).