NIT bigger on TV than NCAA hoops?
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
The NCAA says you’re not supposed to refer to its opening men’s basketball tournament action Tuesday as “play-in games.” No, they are first-round games.
OK, fine, so we’ll say this: NCAA first-round games weren’t as big of a TV attraction as National Invitational Tournament action Tuesday night.
Really. But here’s the asterisk: The Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky being upset by Robert Morris in the NIT on ESPN drew a 1.2 overnight rating, which translates into 1.2% of households in the 56 urban markets measured for overnights.
That wouldn’t normally be a rating to brag about. It wouldn’t even be all that great for regular-season college basketball.
But consider that the NCAA doubleheader on Turner Sports’ TruTV — better known for its shows such as Lizard Lick Towing and Full Throttle Saloon — couldn’t match the 1.2.
Turner spokesman Nate Smeltz says the rating for each of TruTV’s NCAA games Tuesday — North Carolina A&T’s 73-72 win over Liberty followed by Saint Mary’s 67-54 victory over Middle Tennessee — together averaged a 0.8 rating. That’s even compared to the four-game rating for TruTV’s first-round NCAA action last year. (The national rating for the two games was 0.7%, even with last year although total viewership was up slightly — which isn’t surprising given the U.S. population is always growing.)
Meaning, with BYU’s 90-79 win in the NIT after the Kentucky upset getting a 0.7 rating, the NIT doubleheader outdrew the NCAA doubleheader.
Given that the Wildcats now have free time, Is it too late for the NCAA to let Kentucky into its tournament field?… [For more on NIT bigger on TV than NCAA hoops -- with the right team, click here.]