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Local viewers not wild for March Madness, but Beilein should help

If you were at KeyBank Center a week ago, you might have thought Western New York was heavily engrossed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

But the local TV ratings indicate that with only two exceptions, the Buffalo games and a game with a WNY coaching angle were really the only ones that were must-see TV here during the first two rounds of March Madness.

Only six of the 48 games in the first two rounds had higher than a 5 rating here. All six were on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate, and three were played at KeyBank Center.

Naturally, defending national champion Villanova and Notre Dame were big local draws, which could be a bad omen for the rest of the tournament since both were eliminated in the second round in Buffalo.

Villanova's first-round victory over Mt. St. Mary's Thursday night had a 5.6 rating here and its second-round upset loss to Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon had a 6.9 rating, which was the second highest locally for the tournament..

Notre Dame's first-round victory over Princeton on Thursday afternoon had a 4.5 rating and its second-round loss to West Virginia had a 5.1 rating.

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The ride into the Sweet 16 by Michigan and its WNY coach John Beilein, which continues at 7 tonight with a game against favored Oregon carried by Channel 4, led to one of the highest local ratings for the tournament.

The Wolverines' upset of Louisville Sunday afternoon had a 6.3 local rating, perhaps driven by the area's love for the former Canisius College coach and Newfane native. However, Michigan's first round win over Oklahoma State only had a 2.3 rating here on Friday afternoon.

The two exceptions of highly-rated games not played here or involving Michigan involved nationally-known programs. The top-rated game in WNY in the first two rounds was Kentucky's escape over Wichita State. It had a 7.5 rating Sunday afternoon.

Kansas' demolition of Michigan State had a 6.6 rating, aided by the fact it blended into prime time when some viewers may have expected to see "60 Minutes." Kansas' game tonight against Purdue also is being carried by Channel 4.

The games on the Turner channels – TBS, TNT and Tru TV – last week had limited viewership here.

Oregon's last-minute victory Rhode Island Sunday night had a 2.6 rating on TBS, South Carolina's upset of Duke Sunday night had a 2.3 rating on TNT, North Carolina's late win over Arkansas Sunday had also had a 2.3 rating on TNT and Xavier's upset of Florida State Saturday night had a 2.2 rating on TNT.

Other than that, most of the cable games had ratings here in the 1's or even lower. The lowest-rated game was Gonzaga's first-round romp over South Dakota State. It had a 0.1 on TBS. That's a zero point one. Virginia's first-round victory over UNC-Wilmington on Thursday afternoon on TruTV and Butler's first-round win over Winthrop on TNT. They had a rating of 0.2. That's a zero point two.

The elimination of Duke probably hurts CBS and the Turner channels even more than the losses of Villanova and Notre Dame because the love-or-hate Blue Devils are usually a big TV draw.

The good news for area fans since Channel 4 is easier to find than the Turner channels is that the semifinals April 1 and the April 3 championship game have returned to CBS.

It would even be better for Channel 4 if Beilein's Cinderella team – which survived a plane crash on a runway before the Big Ten tournament -- makes it to the Final Four.

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