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.
CBS will broadcast Big Ten Semis + Champ game 1 week earlier in 2018 w/ Big Ten games returning to Selection Sunday weekend on CBS in 2019
— CBS Sports PR (@CBSSportsGang) May 23, 2017