Postseason basketball play brings unprecedented national exposure

NDSU's Tyson Ward goes for up a basket against top-seeded Duke in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
NDSU's Tyson Ward goes for up a basket against top-seeded Duke in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. –  The third full week of March will go down in the history books as the best ever for The Summit League in terms of the amount of national television exposure that the league received from its men's and women's basketball teams participating in NCAA postseason events. 

In fact, combined across all platforms, roughly 10 million people viewed Summit League postseason basketball on linear and digital networks throughout the month of March.

"Those numbers are tremendous," Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said. "The stars aligned for our programs to be on the national stage multiple times during March Madness and our programs were able to showcase the high quality of basketball that is played in our league on both the men's and women's side."  

The week started with the South Dakota State men taking on Texas in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament in a primetime game televised by ESPN (Tuesday, March 19). More than 650,000 people tuned in for the contest and, after digging themselves an early hole, the Jackrabbits went toe-to-toe with the Longhorns in a game that went down to the wire. Texas would go on to capture the NIT title in New York City.

On Wednesday, the North Dakota State men picked up the league's first NCAA Tournament victory since 2012 with a 78-74 victory over North Carolina Central in a First Four game in Dayton, which was televised nationally on TruTV. The viewership for that contest was 1.28 million and the Bison would go on to face top-seeded Duke Friday in Columbia, S.C. That game would become the most viewed NCAA Tournament first-round game since the current television format began in in 2011 with 6.22 million people tuned in.

On Thursday, the Denver women's team upset New Mexico on the Lobos' home court in the opening round of the WNIT during a game streamed on the Mountain West Digital Network. Then, for the first time since 1994, a pair of Summit League teams participated in the NCAA Women's Tournaments. 

That action started Friday (March 22) when No. 8 seed South Dakota played its first-round game against No. 9 Clemson in a primetime game televised on ESPN2 and streamed on Watch ESPN. No. 6 seed South Dakota State opened its tournament on ESPN2 as well, playing Quinnipiac in a Saturday morning tilt that was also streamed on Watch ESPN. The viewership for those windows drew more than 400,000 people.

The Jackrabbit women would carry the league's exposure into the next week as they became the first Summit League team on the women's side to advance to The Sweet 16 with a 75-64 victory over host Syracuse on an ESPN broadcast that Monday.  More than 800,000 people tuned into ESPN for their various women's basketball regional broadcasts that night.

The victory would send SDSU to Portland, Ore., where yet another national telecast awaited the Jackrabbits as they took on No. 2 seed Oregon on ESPN2 Friday night where more than 340,000 people tuned in to watch SDSU take on the Ducks.

All this exposure came on the heels of The Summit League Men's and Women's Basketball Championships that saw all eight quarterfinals and all four semifinals televised regionally by Midco Sports Network and streamed nationally on ESPN+. MidcoSN reported a record number of viewers for their 12 broadcasts as their viewership numbers were up nearly 20 percent and reached 200,000-plus.

On the digital side, for The Summit League Championships, more than 125,000 people viewed the 14 games on ESPN+.

The women's title game between South Dakota and South Dakota State on Tuesday, March 12 was televised nationally by ESPNU (67,529 viewers) and the men's title game between Omaha and North Dakota State was televised nationally by ESPN2 (212,094 viewers).

The data collected for this story is courtesy ESPN, Midco Sports Network and

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2018-19 Basketball Media Day
October 19, 2018 2018-19 Basketball Media Day