When three different coaches have combined to win five national championships at one men’s college basketball program since 1999, it means they’re one of the sport’s blue bloods. But, you know that question that goes, “If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one around to hear It, does it make a sound?” Well, if every time you play for an NCAA Tournament Championship and no one cares to watch — or you need a crutch to bring viewers in — do you have as much juice as you think you do? This is the Connecticut predicament.
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The Huskies are in the same room with Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina, but they’re sitting at the kid’s table.
According to SportsMediaWatch, Monday night’s matchup between UConn and San Diego State was the lowest-rated and least-watched national title game of all time, as it had a 7.8 rating and only pulled in 14.69 million viewers. To make matters worse, this year’s game was on CBS which is easier to access than Turner and TBS. The game’s poor performance also came a day after the women’s national title game between LSU and Iowa was the most-watched game in women’s college basketball history.
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UConn is the only program in the men’s game to have multiple championship games in the bottom five of the sport’s history, as their 2004 matchup with Georgia Tech only pulled in 17.09 million viewers.
We knew the ratings were going to be bad, but not this bad. And unfortunately for UConn, there’s more bad news.
Things get worse when you realize that UConn’s other three championship game appearances have better television ratings because of who their opponents were.
When Jim Calhoun and the Huskies won the program’s first national championship in 1999, more than 26 million people tuned in. However, a lot of that had to do with UConn being an underdog to a Duke team that entered the game with a 37-1 record and a roster that featured eight High School Parade All-Americans.
In 2011, the Huskies defeated a Butler team who had become America’s favorite Cinderella after falling to Duke in a nail-biter the year before, as over 20 million people watched. But, that UConn/Butler contest was arguably the worst championship game of all time. The Bulldogs shot 18.8 percent from the field, while the Huskies made 9.1 percent of their three-pointers. It was so terrible that Butler missed 21 of 23 shots during one 13-minute stretch and were 1-for-8 on layups in the game.
And in 2014, almost 22 million tuned in to watch UConn win their fourth national title as they defeated a Kentucky team that captured the country’s attention as they were the first team since Michigan’s Fab Five in 1992 to start all freshmen in the season’s final game.
With a history like that, now we know why 15 people were arrested and charged with crimes, while another 16 were taken to the hospital, on UConn’s campus after Monday’s night win, as students lost their minds over the victory.
UConn is a school where great basketball is played. The women’s program has 11 national titles and the men have five. But for some reason, and despite the men’s team having as many championships as Duke, fans turn the TV off whenever they’re playing for a chance to win it all. They’re a beautiful model that gets ignored on the catwalk.