For years, CBS has broadcast the Big Ten Tournament leading up to the NCAA Tournament selection show, with the final serving as a lead-in to the bracket reveal.

But in 2018, the Big Ten Tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden, and since MSG is booked during Championship Week for the Big East Tournament, the Big Ten’s event had to be moved up a week. That meant CBS was left looking for a back-up option for the weekend of Selection Sunday and wound up with… the American Athletic Conference Tournament.

The AAC announced Tuesday that CBS will carry the semifinals and final of its tournament on March 10 and March 11, respectively. The final will air at 3 p.m. ET, in the same slot previously occupied by the Big Ten Tournament final, hours before the selection show. The first two days of the AAC Tournament will remain on ESPN, the event’s usual home.

For CBS, the drop-off from the Big Ten to the AAC is awfully steep. This year’s Big Ten final featured Michigan and Wisconsin, two basketball powers with huge fan bases around the country. This year’s AAC final, by comparison, featured Cincinnati and SMU, two good teams with solid histories but not nearly the same mainstream appeal. Though CBS is wise to have a basketball game on before the selection show, even if it’s not the network’s top choice, the AAC Tournament should bring a ratings decline.

CBS will air the 2018 Big Ten Tournament when it is played, a week earlier than usual. In 2019, the event will return to its usual weekend, and CBS will gets its selection-show lead-in back.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • jrwskw

    So what is the Big Ten doing March 4-15?

    • whittx

      So does this mean the B1G Women’s tournament is going to take place on selection weekend instead?

  • Walt_Gekko

    A better solution since the Big 10 tourney is a week early would have been to have perhaps the weekend the B1G Tourney normally is have a “wild card” weekend where some of the Top B1G schools play top schools from some of the lesser conferences (including Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and BYU from the West Coast Conference) that play their conference tourneys a week early in games that air in place of the Big 10 Tourney on CBS.

    That said, Wichita State is also now in the AAC and they have become a bit of a brand name in recent years. Another solid year from them and the dropoff won’t be as steep.

  • Michael Vernon

    Jesus Christ Alex is a hater. This isn’t a bad thing for anyone, especially CBS. The Big Ten tourney from NYC will do similar if not better numbers against less (read: no) competition the weekend before. The AAC for sure gets a bigger audience on broadcast than it would have on ESPN, who gets more money out of the deal. This is literally a win-win-win for both networks and conferences but Mr. Putterman is disappointed for some reason… Why you so mad bro!!