CBS Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) Sports delivered the most-watched First Round of March Madness… ever, per Nielsen Fast Nationals with OOH viewing. There’s going to be commentary around the cause of this record-breaking Thursday and Friday. Some people will attribute the growth to the legal gambling market, a hypothesis proposed by sports gambling writer and analyst @SportsbkConsig on Twitter.
His assessment is that the tremendous numbers are a direct result of constant live games on TV across four different platforms, along with the popularity of posting your bracket online. I tend to agree with this assessment. It’s amazing that there is a more regulated gambling market in the United States. One of the perks of this involves more consistent fan engagement for sports viewership. At OnlineGamblers.com, we absolutely support a regulated gambling market.
But this particular March Madness has quite a few justifiable reasons for a noticeable uptick in viewership. It could be because of gambling reasons. It could also be for the relatively high number of upsets in the first two rounds – people love a Cinderella story. There’s also a decent number of games that have come down to the wire.
But before I delve too much into that, let’s recap parts of a wild first week for “the Big Dance.”
I’ve mentioned this in a past article, but Furman’s shocking upset with the University of Virginia right out of the gate was a stunner. Virginia has been snakebitten in the last half-decade by a variety of different double-digit seeds. Outside of their 2019 championship victory, they’ve lost four separate times to teams seeded 10th or worse at the tournament.
Meanwhile, Princeton not only upset Arizona in the first round, but they also beat 7th-seeded Missouri in round 2. Yes, Arizona has somewhat of a track record for losing games like this. Arizona became the first program in NCAA tournament history to lose multiple games in the first round as a 2-seed.
New Jersey dominated the headlines, with Princeton and FDU upsetting higher-ranked squads. For those of you keeping score, those two teams joined last year’s Cinderella squad (Saint Peter’s) as fellow Jersey schools making mincemeat of everyone’s bracket.
Imagine hearing that a player in March Madness is averaging 22 points, 11.5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals per game. After hearing that, you learn that this player is shooting 53% from the field, 42% from the three-point range, and 90% from the free-throw line. Surely, this player is going to be an NBA lottery pick, right? Kansas State’s guard Marquis Newell is that player, and he’s… 5’7″.
Gonzaga is quietly having another dominant tournament run because Drew Timme is once again playing bully ball. It feels like Timme has been at Gonzaga forever, and he’s averaging an absurd 24/3/7/2 through two NCAA tournament games this year. Oh, and he’s shooting 58% from the field, 100% from three, and 66% from the charity stripe.
Bet the under! Through the first 52 games of the NCAA tournament, the under has hit a 67.3%. That’s 35 of 52 games going under. Will this trend continue? Unclear, but it’s something worth watching.
What to know about March Madness, revisited:
I wrote an article talking about March Madness and which teams to watch out for prior to the tournament kicking off. The results are… mixed?
Two of my four favorites have already been knocked out.
Purdue was knocked out in the first round by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), one of the 16-seeds. I had mentioned in my write-up that turnovers could have been an issue for Purdue, though. Lo and behold, the Boilermakers coughed up the rock twice as much as FDU did (16 turnovers). FDU converted those turnovers into 15 points out of their 63 points.
I also had the Kansas Jayhawks as one of my favorites, but my concerns around them were largely about their inability to hit threes outside of Gradey Dick. This was not really the issue when they lost to Arkansas, a one-point defeat where they shot 38% (5-13) from three-point range. The far bigger issue was shooting only 72% (18-25) from the free throw line.
Two of my top challengers have also been eliminated.
I’ve talked about Arizona quite a bit now, but my concern with them was around their problematic defense. Considering Princeton only shot 41% from the field, 16% from three, and 60% from the free throw line, you might’ve thought Arizona would’ve won easily. Instead, Arizona’s offense (which was on fire as of late) went cold and cost them dearly.
I really thought that the Duke Blue Devils could make a run, but their 13-point loss to Tennessee exposed some cracks in their foundation. They only shot 27% (6-22) from three-point range. They were outmuscled by a bullying Volunteers squad. Tennessee’s upperclassmen squad (four seniors) outshined Duke’s stars. Duke’s talented center Dereck Lively, was not only held to zero points but zero shots as well.
Three of my Jekyll & Hyde acts have vanished.
I supposed that’s the thing about Jekyll & Hyde. Sometimes you’ll be happy. Sometimes you’ll be sad.
The Indiana Hoosiers were always going to go as far as star Trayce Jackson-Davis could carry them. He actually played well in a second-round loss to the Miami Hurricanes. He put up 23 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 5 blocks. The issue? His teammates combined for 46 points, and Miami beat Indiana by 16. Indiana was outshot, outrebounded by 16 boards, and gave up an astonishing 46 points in the paint.
The Virginia Cavaliers… well, we know.
The Iowa State Cyclones were one of those teams that I thought could get hot… but I also mentioned could totally bow out in the first round to a team like Pitt. Pitt beat them by 18 points and held them to only 41 points total. Iowa State shot 23% (14-60) from the field. Yikes.
All four of my sneaky upset picks have been eliminated.
This one is pretty straightforward. I was flat-out wrong with these, as three of my four upset picks were knocked out in the first round. Can’t win them all.
All four of my genuine Cinderellas were eliminated in the first round… and other upsets happened.
This one perfectly encapsulates what you have to love about March Madness. I picked Colgate, Charleston, Drake, and Oral Roberts as my Cinderellas. None of them won in round 1. Instead, we got upsets involving Princeton (15-seed), FDU (16-seed), Pittsburgh (11-seed), Florida Atlantic (9-seed), and Penn State (10-seed), among others.
Re-seeding the remaining teams:
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Houston Cougars
- Texas Longhorns
- UCLA Bruins
- Tennessee Volunteers
- UConn Huskies
- Kansas State Wildcats
- Gonzaga Bulldogs
- Xavier Musketeers
- Creighton Bluejays
- Arkansas Razorbacks
- Miami Hurricanes
- San Diego State Aztecs
- Michigan State Spartans
- Princeton Tigers
- FAU Owls