When the basketball finally slipped off the rim and the buzzer sounded, ending UCF’s second-round upset hopes against Duke, the game instantly became a classic in a 2019 NCAA Tournament that, well, hasn’t had very many of them.
Outside of perhaps LSU’s last second win over Maryland, and Tennessee’s near collapse after letting a 25-point lead over Iowa evaporate before regaining their composure in overtime, many much-hyped matchups through the first weekend of the tourney have turned out to be duds. Ja Morant couldn’t keep Murray State from getting smoked by Florida State. Villanova had no shot against Purdue. And Kansas got run out of the gym by an Auburn team that barely survived their first round matchup.
That hasn’t stopped people from watching, though.
The 2019 iteration of the tourney is the second-highest rated tournament through the first weekend since 1991, per Nielson, and is up 8 percent in viewership from 2018. Duke’s aforementioned nail-biter over UCF also became the second-highest rated game in its time slot (5:15 – 9:15 p.m. eastern) in 29 years, as well. That time slot also saw a 35 percent increase in viewership over last year.
NCAA March Madness Live, the online streaming site that let’s you watch whatever game you choose, also set “all-time records in live-streaming and live hours of consumption,” per Nielsen. And according to a CBS release, the streaming platforms saw an increase of more than 25 percent in viewership, yet another sign that cord cutters (or people watching in the office) continue to find ways to take in the tournament outside of traditional television.
The Sweet Sixteen kicks off on Thursday night, and start times, matchups and announcers for the games are all set.