March Madness: Are Underdogs Good for Ratings?
A couple years ago, all four number one seeds made it to the Final Four.
Contrast that with this year where at least two of the final four teams will be a five seed or worse, with a number two seed and possibly a number three. There will be no number one seeds represented should Baylor upset Duke today.
I love this scenario and find myself more attentive to the tournament than ever before, much more than when all four number one seeds made it.
I listen to the herd on ESPN radio on a regular basis. I love listening Collin Cowherd's takes, whether I agree or not. Usually I agree, but on this topic, we couldn't disagree more.
He states that losing the big schools in the tournament is bad - bad for ratings. He backs up his argument with statistics, but for me, I find myself wanting to stay inside to see these schools you rarely hear about and see if one has it in them to pull off a Cinderella story.
Perhaps it's the underdog effect that lures me to see if a school like Cornell can take out Kentucky.
The more and more upsets I see, the more and more I starting feeling that these games featuring Murray State, Washington, or Tennessee are worth my time. No longer do I get the feeling that watching the University of Northern Iowa vs Kansas will end up like a lop sided Tyson fight. I actually find myself tuning in and staying tuned in, because well....anything can and has been happening - at least this year.
The problem with having a lot of small schools advancing is this that you still need to have a giant in the mix to make it compelling in the end.
Most of us enjoy rooting for David to slay Goliath, but if you end up with two Davids in the end, where's the drama? If the finals end up being Butler vs Baylor, I'll still watch, but will everyone else?
But tell me it's Butler vs Duke, and you've got a real David vs Goliath on tap. So as much as I'd love to see Duke get knocked off by Baylor today, I actually think it would be better for the sport to see at least one mainstream school make it to the final four, if for nothing else than to give people like me something to root for.
Take the Superbowl this year with the Saints and Colts. While the Colts have been a perennial playoff team for years since Manning took over, most people don't really "hate" the Colts. How can you? They have a humble QB, a humble coach, and they haven't really dominated in the playoffs to the point where you're just sick and tired of them always winning, because well...they've only won one SB with Manning.
And then you had the Saints. How could anyone be rooting against them considering the feel good story associated with them.
Consequently, in my opinion, I found the game to be just OK. It had no team I was really passionate about seeing win or lose. I thought of it as the apathetic SB. At least when the Giants and Cowboys were making it to the SB, as much disdain that I have for both, it gave me a reason to watch, hoping to see them unravel on the biggest stage in football for my own personal enjoyment. Granted I was disappointed every time they won, but at least I looked forward to the game and watched it.
In the elite eight, I am pulling for Michigan State, Butler, Baylor, and West Virginia. So far, two of them made it to the Final Four. If all four make it, I'll have no team to root against in the last three games of the tourny.
For that reason alone, a part of me actually wants to see Duke get in and make it to the finals, although admittedly I won't be rooting for them at any point. I just need that one team to root against.
So in the end, I guess what I'm saying is that seeing the underdogs advance is a good thing, but having nothing but underdogs in the end is just as bad for grabbing my attention as having nothing but favorites. I think you need to have a little bit of both sprinkled in to make it live up to the hype of March MADNESS.
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