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Fact or Fiction: FAU vs. San Diego State Will Be A Ratings Disaster

Fact or Fiction: FAU vs. San Diego State Will Be A Ratings Disaster article feature image

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Alijah Martin of Florida Atlantic cuts down the nets after FAU advanced to the Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

The ratings for FAU vs. San Diego State in the Final Four on Saturday night are going to be a complete dumpster fire.

That, at least, is the prevailing thought.

“You need the blue bloods in these games.”

“Upsets are great, but these guys got too far.”

“The CBS guys have to be so upset about this one.”

But here’s the thing — the data doesn’t show that.

The Action Network looked at 20 years of ratings data and there’s one thing you definitely don’t want: A blowout.

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To make sure we were comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, we looked at the early window CBS Final Four games as opposed to the late ones.

Top Five Least Watched, Early Window Final Four Games In The Past 20 Years

1. Baylor vs. Houston, 2021, 8.3 million viewers

2. Kansas vs. Marquette, 2003, 9.8 million viewers

3. Villanova vs. Oklahoma, 2016, 10.4 million viewers

4. UConn vs. Florida, 2014, 11.6 million viewers

T5. Memphis vs. UCLA, 2008, 11.7 million viewers

T5. Kansas vs. Villanova, 2022, 11.7 million viewers

Surprised to see Kansas in there twice? UCLA? UConn?

Where is the Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago game from 2018 or the Florida vs. George Mason game from 2006? Let me give you a hint. Those games drew much better than these did.

So what is it?

Viewership is due more in part to game flow as opposed to game pedigree.

Unlike the Super Bowl, where audience is guaranteed no matter the gameplay or teams involved, the Final Four tends to have more general sports fans who are on the fence about tuning in. If the game gets out of hand by the second half, those casual fans won’t take the time to watch.

And in the era of social media, it’s much easier to be drawn in when everyone starts talking about an exciting game.

Five of those six games aforementioned? Absolute blowouts.

Baylor beat Houston by 19. Kansas beat Marquette by 33. Villanova beat Oklahoma by 44. Memphis beat UCLA by 15. Kansas beat Villanova by 16.

Now we’ve never had two mid-majors — FAU and San Diego State — play each other in the Final Four in recent history. But it’s not all about the school.

When George Mason played against the Florida in 2006, more than 14 million people watched. In fact, it outdrew 15 of the 18 early games on CBS over the last 20 years.

If there’s a close battle between the Owls and the Aztecs, a lot of people will be surprised at the number of people who tune in. But don’t be.

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