Gonzaga reached its first Final Four on Saturday by dominating Xavier 83-59. While it was a great story for Mark Few and the Bulldogs, no one seemed to care nationally. The ratings for the West Regional final were the worst for an Elite Eight game since at least 1997.
The Gonzaga-Xavier game scored a 3.7 final rating, with 6.0 million viewers. The contest was on TBS, which certainly limited its reach, but it was down 20 percent in ratings and 21 percent in viewership from the Oklahoma-Oregon game on CBS last year (4.6, 7.7 million). It was also down 29 percent in ratings and 31 percent in viewership from the Wisconsin-Arizona game on TBS from 2015 (5.2, 8.8 million).
In some ways this makes sense. The game featured a pair of small catholic schools with limited fan and alumni bases. In fact, the two schools have fewer than 15,000 students combined. That said, Xavier had been this tournament’s biggest giant killer and Gonzaga has long been a national underdog darling.
In general, the ratings for this year’s NCAA Tournament have been outstanding, but the fact that Gonzaga’s game didn’t rate is a concern. If the Bulldogs reach the championship game against, say, Oregon, will anyone tune in? If a traditional power like North Carolina makes it, the ratings will likely be fine. But Gonzaga and the Ducks may not draw viewers nationally.
That has to be a serious concern for CBS and the NCAA.