How crazy has this year's NCAA tournament been? Of the 5.9 million brackets submitted to ESPN.com, only two correctly predicted that UConn, Kentucky, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler would make the Final Four. 70.3 percent of users don't have a single team left alive.
Average viewers haven't been bothered by this fact. Busted brackets and all, the total ratings for this year's games are the highest since 1993 and up 15 percent over last year's numbers, according to a Nielson press release. So why isn't there more optimism that these ratings will hold for the Final Four? CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell believes fans will be chased away by an unglamorous VCU-Butler matchup. "Basketball fans, who would already watch the matchup, love the thrill of the Cinderella," reasons Rovell. "But Cinderellas don't exactly bring in the casual fan, who are more likely to get drawn in by a big name."
More to the point, writes NPR's Linda Holmes, it might have been great fun to watch rebuilding powers UConn and Kentucky and mid-majors Butler and VCU overachieve en route to the Final Four, but their presence guarantees this year will "not [be ] the same kind of great tournament where you wind up with incredibly powerful teams facing off in the championship." Fans may "love the idea of NCAA Cinderellas," concedes USA Today's Michael Hiestand, but they'd rather have "wicked power-conference stepsisters" playing for a title.
Thus far, the people most bothered by this year's results are college basketball prognosticators like Sportsline's Garry Parish, who compared the tournamernt to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and grumbled that "nothing that happened during the regular season that suggested this was realistic."