The annual Duke-North Carolina game in Durham is always event television. The two teams have a long-standing rivalry that is bolstered by both proximity and inter-conference wrangling throughout each new college basketball season.
The showdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night between the No. 1 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina certainly delivered on the hype as there were plenty of fireworks both on and off (or rather near) the court.
Unfortunately, it started off with a collective gasp inside the arena after top NBA prospect Zion Williamson went down just 30 seconds into the contest with a knee injury after his sneaker blew out. Thankfully, it ended up being a mild knee sprain, but his absence was enough to let the Tar Heels get the 88-72 victory.
The team from Chapel Hill wasn’t the only group of winners on the night. It turns out the game set a new ratings record for the World Wide Leader. Via ESPN:
North Carolina’s win against Duke delivered a Nielsen reported audience of 4,343,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed weeknight men’s college basketball game in ESPN history*, surpassing the previous record of 4,140,000 viewers, which was set by another UNC-Duke matchup on February 18, 2015.
It was a star-studded affair inside the arena as well, headlined by former president Barack Obama, Spike Lee, Ken Griffey Jr. and many more. College basketball viewership remains up across the board on the network, which is good news as March Madness is just around the corner.