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Biggest Loser in the Brandon Davies-BYU Saga? CBS and the NCAA Tournament

Brandon Davies’ suspension began last night, and the result was ugly: New Mexico 82, BYU 64. In Provo. Davies’ suspension, coupled with the loss, will cost the Cougars a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Final Four appears out of the question. CBS executives and NCAA Tournament committee members must be pissed.

How popular are the Jimmers (not to be confused with the “Michael and the Jordanaires”)? When given a national platform by CBS Saturday, BYU delivered.

The BYU-SDSU game drew a 2.0 rating/5 share. (A rating point equals 1,159,000 households; a share point represent 1 percent of the homes where someone is watching TV at a particular time.)

Significantly, BYU-SDSU attracted higher ratings than the game that preceded it on CBS (Syracuse-Georgetown, 1.2/3) as well as the one that followed them (Florida-Kentucky, 1.7/4).

The NCAA was probably drinking expensive scotch to toast how BYU could be a ratings juggernaut in March. Outdrawing two storied Big East teams? Legendary Kentucky? It was shaping up beautifully for the seeding committee – BYU gets a No. 1 seed, plays on Opening Night (after Duke?), and then gets a key slot in the second round Saturday (6 pm?) as a lead-in to Duke, the biggest draw in college basketball.

Then they were blindsided by the Davies’ suspension – it’s still unclear how/why Davies told the school he had sex with his girlfriend, but that’s what the Salt Lake Tribune said happened – and now CBS has to wonder if Jimmer can even get the Cougars out of the opening weekend (they lost last year in the second round to Kansas State).

This is devastating news for college basketball, which seemed to be bracing for Jimmer to pull off a Stephen Curry-led, Davidson-type run to the Elite 8. Jimmer had turned into the face of college basketball this season, and other than Ohio State, Kansas and Duke, compelling storylines and characters to reel in the average fan have been difficult to come by. Last year, Butler’s Cinderella run to the Title Game generated monster TV ratings (highest since 1997!). That could have been BYU this year. Final Four runs can have a lasting impact on the program and school. Ask George Mason.*

And now, for the eternal optimist’s take on things: BYU never plays New Mexico well. The Cougars have lost to them four times in a row! If anyone call pull this Final Four run off, Jimmer can! And hey, a No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament isn’t that bad. And Dave Rose is a good coach!

* George Mason will be this year’s Butler/Davidson.

 

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