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NCAA tournament’s first week gets highest ratings in 23 years

Here’s the info, straight from the press release that Turner and CBS Sports sent out this morning:

[The first week averaged] a 6.3/14 overnight rating/share, the highest rating for the opening week of the NCAA Tournament in 23 years, when the tournament expanded to its current format, according to Nielsen metered market ratings.

The networks’ combined coverage, from the NCAA First Four to the completion of the third round, is up 5% vs. last year’s comparable 6.0/13 rating. [...] Sunday, March 24, averaged an overnight household rating/share of 7.6/15, the highest rating for the first Sunday of the NCAA Tournament in 20 years (8.5/20 in 1993). This year’s rating/share is up 19% compared with a 6.4/13 in 2012.

Those are some impressive numbers.

But they also will only support the argument made by people that believe that college hoops is strictly a one-month sport.

Why can’t college basketball pull in ratings like this during the regular season? What can the NCAA do to make the general public less focused on just one three-week stretch and more concerned with college basketball on a daily basis, from December through February?

Well, it’s not going to be easy with the NBA sharing the spotlight every night. And it becomes even more difficult when you factor in how the college game is becoming slower-paced with talent rushing off to the NBA as quickly as possible.

Regardless of what happens, the most important thing to remember is that no matter what happens to the regular season, devaluing the importance of the NCAA tournament, the conference tournaments and March Madness would be the worst possible thing for college basketball.

How many sports can say that they absolutely own the nation’s attention for an entire month?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.