This Week In Hot Takes for March 16-22.

Welcome back to This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re looking at the hottest sports media takes from March 16-22, which revolved around the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments.

5. Dan Shaughnessy can’t find, or spell, truTV: Every year around the NCAA Tournament, many people wonder how to find truTV, and that’s fair. Despite even clever promotional efforts like “truTV Awareness Month,” it’s still not a channel that many sports fans regularly watch. But it has impressive carriage; as per the Nielsen March cable coverage estimates (via Sports TV Ratings), truTV is in 86.5 million homes. Amongst sports channels, that’s more than NBCSN (84.6) or FS1 (83.8), way more than league networks like NFLN (69.8), BTN (57.1) or NBATV (46.7), and only a couple of hundred thousand behind ESPN (86.7).

So putting games on truTV actually isn’t keeping them from too many people, as long as those people can use Google or a channel guide. And suggesting that “no one can see” games on truTV when you don’t drop the same sort of takes for games on those less-carried networks suggests an ill-informed overreaction based on personal knowledge rather than facts. Good god, that’s Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy’s music!

If you want to make an argument that the UMBC-Kansas State second-round game should have received a more prominent slot and/or network, that’s one thing; the other games at the time (7:45 p.m. Eastern last Friday)  were #7 Nevada vs #2 Cincinnati on TNT and #5 Clemson vs #4 Auburn on TBS (CBS was about to move on to its Friday night scheduled programming), and there’s a case that underdogs UMBC, the first 16 seed to ever beat a #1 seed in the men’s tournament, might have had a bit more national appeal than Nevada-Cincinnati (although that game wound up being closer and more exciting in the end, thanks to Nevada’s amazing 22-point comeback).

Quibbling over TNT versus truTV feels a bit silly, though. The former channel is in 90.3 million homes, so 3.8 million more, which is something, but it’s far from the world’s biggest deal. The vast majority of viewers with cable were able to watch the UMBC game, as long as, unlike Shaughnessy, they were able to find truTV. And dropping “no one can see it” and spelling the channel wrong rather than doing even a modicum of research is a poorly-informed take that’s right up Shaughnessy’s alley.

Rating: ??

4. Chris Broussard claims UMBC’s 16-over-1 win wasn’t the biggest upset in tournament history: Speaking of the UMBC Retrievers and their incredible upset of #1 Virginia last Friday, let’s check in on Chris Broussard’s alwaysreliable sources:

First, evaluating college teams based on players’ pro projections is a terrible idea, but maybe to be expected from a “NBA insider” like Broussard. This is also an incredible underrating of Virginia’s season; the Cavaliers went 31-3 overall (17-1 in the tough ACC, the first team to ever win 17 ACC games) and won the ACC Tournament, were the first overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and entered the AP poll at #18 in Week 4 and were there every subsequent week, reigning as #1 from Week 15 (the first time they’d hit #1 since 1982) through the final poll in Week 19. Yes, they didn’t have the hot NBA prospects of some other teams, but that doesn’t always mean a ton in college basketball (for example, LSU didn’t even reach the NCAA Tournament with Ben Simmons), and yes, they faced some challenges heading into the tournament (specifically with ACC sixth man of the year De’Andre Hunter breaking his wrist in the conference tournament championship game), but they were still heavily, heavily favored here, and deservedly so.

Beyond that, let’s compare the specific other upsets Broussard’s discussing. Yes, the NC State Wolfpack’s 1983 title game win over Houston was a huge upset, and the fourth-biggest upset by point spread in championship game history) but it was a sixth seed (and the 16th-ranked team by the AP) over the top seed, not a #16 (so, about the 64th to 68th-best team) over the top seed. And even by his (bad) NBA criteria, that might not be as big; NC State didn’t have Hakeem Olajuwon or Clyde Drexler, but many of their players got at least a brief NBA look, something that seems unlikely for much of the UMBC roster. And yes, Villanova’s 1985 title game win over Georgetown was also big, and those eighth-seeded Wildcats (unranked by the AP) remain the lowest-seeded team to win a national title, but it’s tough to put that on the same level as a 16 beating a 1.

Rating: ???

3. Myron Medcalf questions if Kentucky wants to get to the Final Four “against this competition,” calls the South “the weakest regional I’ve ever covered”: It was quite the week for ESPN college basketball writer Medcalf, who started things off with the exceptional take of suggesting that Kentucky might prefer not to advance to the Final Four because their path involved supposedly-weak teams:

Yes, teams never want to win if they don’t have to play top-seeded opponents. That’s why you see so many teams just forfeiting if they don’t like the opposition. Right. Medcalf then went on to blast the South regional (featuring five-seed Kentucky, seven-seed Nevada, nine-seed Kansas State, and 11-seed Loyola Chicago) as the “weakest” he’d ever covered:

At least Medcalf added those opinions into his reranking of the Sweet 16 teams. The only problem for him? All the teams he bashed won Thursday, including Kansas State over Kentucky. (Maybe the Wildcats really did throw in the towel!)

Sheesh. So, if Medcalf calls it the “weakest ever,” that might be a sign that it’s going to be good.

Rating: ????

2. Darren Rovell says “there’s no good argument that complete domination like this is good to grow the game”: The hottest takes this week covered the UConn women’s team, and unsurprisingly, ESPN’s sports business writer and apparent bad women’s basketball opinion-haver Darren Rovell was involved. Rovell was previously seen asking “Does a UConn fan even find this enjoyable?” when the Huskies led the AAC championship game 43-5 at the half earlier this month, and he brought back the takes Saturday after UConn beat St. Francis of Pennsylvania 140-52 in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament:

What’s particularly dumbfounding about this take is not just that Rovell’s arguing that a dominant team (which, it should be noted, didn’t even win the NCAA title last year thanks to a great Final Four upset from Mississippi State) is bad for women’s basketball, but also that there’s no opposing argument. There absolutely is one, and a sports business writer in particular should know better. Dominant teams have led to some of basketball’s most popular moments, from John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins to Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics to the 90s Chicago Bulls to the 1992 Dream Team to the current NBA superteam era, and they’ve been tremendous for growing the game.

Dominance is regularly praised on the men’s side, and that 1992 Dream Team is a particular case in point; they beat their Olympic opponents by an average of 44 points, including a 68-point win over Angola, a 51-point semifinal win over Lithuania, and a 32-point gold-medal win over Croatia. Did that destroy interest in international men’s basketball? Absolutely not. Piece after piece has been written about that team’s role in inspiring tremendous worldwide growth in basketball, which has in turn led to at least somewhat more even international competitions.

And the same is absolutely true for UConn. Their level of play is inspiring to many, and their dominance has produced a lot of coverage of women’s basketball that might not have existed otherwise. This is just more concern trolling from Rovell, and it’s a bad look. But hey, at least his bad-take dominance isn’t bad for his numbers of Twitter followers.

Rating: ?????

1.  Josh Peter calls UConn’s win “a loss for women’s basketball,” says “Embarrassment would have been more appropriate”: Amazingly, Rovell didn’t even have the worst take on that UConn win. That comes from USA Today‘s Josh Peter, who wrote just an incredibly bad column titled “UConn’s 88-point win in the NCAA tournament is a loss for women’s basketball.” Here are some lowlights:

After the Connecticut women’s basketball team beat Saint Francis of Pennsylvania 140-52  Saturday in Storrs, Conn., in the first round of the the NCAA tournament, coach Geno Auriemma was in celebratory spirits.

Embarrassment would have been more appropriate.

Auriemma, in unleashing his superior players, exposed what dilutes his accomplishments — the disparity between the best and the rest in women’s basketball is so significant, they could use a mercy rule. Or a coach who knows how to show mercy.

…UConn outscored the No. 16 seed 96-10 in the paint while improving its record to 33-0 and, for at least a game, making the women’s tournament look like a farce. Early round games feel beyond inconsequential with teams losing by 88 points — a result embarrassing even on the high school level.

…As a result, UConn’s win on Saturday was a loss for women’s college basketball.

First off, just because Peter doesn’t like an 88-point differential doesn’t mean it’s “embarrassing” or that a mercy rule is required. Fortunately, rules aren’t determined based on “What a USA Today columnist thinks.” But beyond that, his “a coach who knows how to show mercy” line is particularly hilarious and shows how little thought, effort or research he put into this dumpster fire of a take. As our Alex Putterman noted, Peter ignores the similar blowouts in men’s basketball, ignores that UConn played their subs down the stretch, and just generally shows an amazing level of disregard for the game:

The author writes as if No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups are supposed to be close. As if the men’s bracket doesn’t routinely feature 40- and 50-point routs (including a 44-point romp in the Final Four just two years ago). As if an 88-point scorching is materially any different from a 40-point one. As if someone who would sit through, say, the Kansas men’s team’s 100-62 spanking of UC Davis last year would run away from a UConn broadcast because the Huskies are too good.

And in blaming Auriemma for Saturday’s final score, the USA Today writer appears ignorant (willfully or otherwise) of the fact that UConn ran down the shot clock throughout the second half and that only reserves saw the floor in the fourth quarter. It begins to seem that his goal wasn’t to craft a thoughtful argument about the implications of a lopsided game but rather to exploit a tired storyline for clicks.

In most cases, the people fretting about UConn’s dominance do not watch women’s basketball and do not particularly care about women’s basketball. If they did, they might find beauty in UConn’s crisp, clinical dismantling of their first-round opponent, and they would certainly look forward to seeing the Huskies face South Carolina in the Elite Eight and maybe one-loss Mississippi State (the team that famously knocked them out last spring) in the final. They might also pay half an eye to other dramatic women’s hoops contests, such as Georgia’s tight win against Mercer or Villanova’s overtime victory over South Dakota State, instead of dwelling on one laugher.

Because in the end, if you are turned off from women’s basketball by a blowout win in the first round of the Tournament, you probably never gave the game a chance to begin with.

Well said. Blowouts are not uncommon in the women’s game (indeed, Peter does note that Baylor beat Texas Southern by 87 in last year’s women’s tournament), but they’re not uncommon in the men’s game either. And the big question for all these “show mercy!” people is what exactly they want to see. UConn already isn’t trying their hardest in these games, especially in the second half, so what are you calling on them to do, just intentionally brick shot after shot? That’s going to be obvious, and the claim that it’s somehow more respectful to the competition is ridiculous.

These games are on the schedule, and UConn shouldn’t have to give a half effort throughout the game just because their opponent isn’t as good as they are; they need to prepare for the tougher competition they’re going to face, and their players need to compete for playing time. There might maybe be an argument that UConn should dial it back a little if they were playing starters late in the game and stomping on opponents’ throats (and even that’s debatable; there’s an argument for giving it your utmost at all times too), but they aren’t; they’ve already shown the mercy Peter claims they don’t have. Oh, and the constant ranting and raving about how top teams in women’s basketball are too dominant feels a bit much, considering that the women’s tournament gave us a 16 over a 1 (Harvard over Stanford, 1998) long before the men’s side did. But this is just one more case of a sports columnist trying to insist that the world play by that columnist’s sense of justice and fairness, regardless of what’s actually fair and what’s actually good for the sport in question or the people involved. And, as such, it is a burning hot take.

Rating: ?????

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 180
Skip Bayless – 141
Phil Mushnick – 116
Colin Cowherd – 49
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Rob Parker – 29
Doug Gottlieb – 22
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Ray Lewis – 16
Albert Breer – 16
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Keith Olbermann – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Dan Shaughnessy – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Danny Kanell – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Josh Peter – 5
Darren Rovell – 5
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
Steve Simmons – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Britt McHenry – 5
Chuck Modiano – 5
Joel Klatt – 5
Steve Buffery – 5
Joe Morgan – 5
Michael Felger – 5
Howard Eskin – 5
Nancy Armour – 5
Richard Justice – 5
John Middlekauff – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
John McGrath – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Mike Bianchi – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Myron Medcalf  – 4
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Andy Benoit – 4
Bill Livingston – 4
Michael Irvin – 4
Shawn Windsor – 4
Brock Huard – 4
Byron Tau – 4
Maggie Gray – 4
Michael Powell – 4
Mark Spector – 4
Chad Forbes – 4
Gary Myers – 4
Mark Schlereth – 4
Andy Gray – 4
David Fleming – 4
The Sporting News – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Cathal Kelly – 3
Justin Peters – 3
Elise Finch – 3
Kevin Skiver  – 3
David Bahnsen – 3
Harold Reynolds – 3
Kevin Reynolds – 3
Mike Sheahan – 3
Bob Ford – 3
Steve Greenberg – 3
Matt Burke – 3
Malcolm Gladwell – 3
Mike Milbury – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Jason Smith – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Max Kellerman – 2
Gareth Wheeler – 2
John Cornyn – 2
Tony Dungy – 2
Bruce Jenkins – 2
Chris Wesseling – 2
Seth Greenberg – 2
Doug Smith – 2
Newsweek – 2
Teddy Cutler – 2
Will Cain – 2
Bill Cowher – 2
Paul Finebaum – 2
Charley Casserly – 2
Amin Elhassan – 2
Jim Henneman – 2
Mitch Lawrence – 2
Nick Wright – 2
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.