Live from the play show yet not overly ostentatious studios of CBS Sports Radio here in beautiful New York City sitting on top of the 10th floor of 345 Hudson Street. Welcome on in to a Championship Monday edition of the Zach Gelb show across all of our great local CBS Sports Radio affiliates Sirius XM, Channel 158 and that free Odyssey app. You can always get at me on Instagram where I'm straight flexing or via the good old cesspool of Twitter at Zach Gelb.
That's Z-A-C-H-G-E-L-B. Coming up 20 minutes from now, the head basketball coach at Marquette who just won the Big East tournament this year, Shaka Smart, is going to be stopping by so we'll chat it up with coach as we do have a national championship game tonight featuring the Huskies of UConn and the Aztecs of San Diego State. Fun weekend of hoops when you go into the games on Saturday. Clearly the first game ended up being the better game down right to the wire where Lamont Butler from San Diego State almost steps out of bounds. If you see that shot, his toe was so close to being out of bounds before coming back in and then hitting the game winning shot to send San Diego State to the championship game tonight. And then you have the historical great run of FAU just come to a stop so suddenly in heartbreaking fashion. And really it's weird to criticize FAU because what Dusty May did was remarkable and what that team did was remarkable.
And it's weird to call it a missed opportunity because no one would have thought they would have got to the Final Four before the start of the tournament. But to be leading the entire second half and for San Diego State to only lead on that final shot, that is just gut wrenching and it does feel as if they choke that game away. I hate to say it that way because that team gave you so many awesome moments throughout the tournament but when you get to the Final Four, I don't care if you're Cinderella, I don't care if you're the favorite to win it all. You go into that game saying to yourselves, you win this one, you're playing for the championship on Monday night and then anything can go down. So heartbreak for FAU, a crazy victory for San Diego State and when you get to the other side of the bracket, UConn and Miami, that was the game that I was looking forward to. I was not expecting it to be a blowout but shame on me. Not that I guess I was doubting UConn because UConn has just been unbelievable all throughout the tourney and we know how dominant of a team they were.
Really only went through one rough patch this entire season after starting the year undefeated. But it was just more so the respect that I had to Miami and I thought a lot of people were overlooking Miami heading into the Final Four and especially with the way that they were able to take down Texas. Basically doing what San Diego State did to FAU before that. You look at what Miami was able to do to just get here and how they were down big and the way that they came back in that second half, I thought that was going to be a heavyweight fight between the Huskies and between the Hurricanes. And it just ended up not being that where UConn is starting to look like the team that we saw a few years ago in Baylor when no one really made them break a sweat in this tourney.
And then also Villanova, the second go round for Villanova where none of those games were close. That is what UConn is making you feel and right now, five minutes after the hour as we're about like three hours and change to the start of this game, I don't see how anyone right now picks against UConn. Like you could pick against UConn multiple times through this tournament.
I have done that and I've had a lot of egg in my face. I've done it twice when I said, okay, everyone's taking UConn over Gonzaga. I'm going to go with Gonzaga. Wasn't even close. Everyone's taking UConn over Miami. I'm going to go with Miami.
Wasn't even close. And you just see the bigs for UConn even if Sonogo goes off the bench. Clingan comes in and he is just a force to be reckoned with and he's still growing if you can believe that and still developing into his body.
And then we all know how great of a player Hawkins can be. This UConn team is just so deep. I don't think San Diego State, who we all know has a tremendous offense, defense. I just don't think offensively, even if UConn struggles a bit tonight, they're going to be able to outscore the UConn Huskies. But hey, how many times this tournament have we said something so defiantly, like I think this team is definitely going to win.
I think that team is definitely going to win. And this is a tourney, which you all know, have seen a 16-1, a 15-2, and then we have seen a 13-4. And we've had a final four of a nine, two fives, and a four. So anything can truly happen tonight. But Hickey, I think it's clear right now, it would be a big time upset as UConn is already up to a seven and a half point favorite. And I bet you that number does increase a little bit from now until tip off by a half point or maybe even a full point. I think we would all be shocked if we're coming in tomorrow and we're leading the show with Brian Dutcher and his excellent team and what he has taken over after Steve Fisher did leave San Diego State and what they have been doing for a long time, even back together during their time in Michigan. I think everyone, unless you are a booster of the San Diego State program, unless you donate money or you're a fan or your kids play for the San Diego State team, I think the expectation tonight in a big time way is that UConn is going to win and probably UConn is going to roll and cover that seven and a half point spread we're at currently.
By the way, producing this extravaganza today, let's not rob him of his moment of fame, is the great Hot Take Hickey. I apologize about that. It's a Monday. I'm supposed to be in a good mood and I almost forgot to introduce the man riding shotgun with me. So go ahead on UConn and San Diego State tonight. Thank you for the grand intro. Don't know what I would have done without that.
Thank you, sir. Unfortunately, I'm with you. I've been rooting, not rooting against UConn, but I've been basically doubting that they can continue to play their best basketball game in and game out because the NCAA tournament, we've just seen it so hard to be consistently dominant.
You rarely see it outside of the two recent examples you said, especially with Villanova in 2018 where they were the last team that just controlled from start to finish almost every game. But I've been wrong every basically single game so far and predicting against it. So I will wave the white flag.
I will say uncle. I will say this is a game where I will not think UConn will kind of show up and play poorly and kind of hit a wall finally. I'm with you and 95% of the country UConn will win and win handily. OK, now let's move to the women's tournament, which ended yesterday. And there was a lot of buzz for the first time in a long time that I could remember about the women's championship game in the NCAA tournament.
Like, don't get me wrong. Dawn Staley has done a remarkable job. We know what Gino Oriemma has done throughout the years, the late great Pat Summit as well.
There has been games that we have talked about. Kim Mulkey, who just added another championship and we know what she did prior to get into LSU at Baylor. But what Kaitlyn Clark did throughout this tournament, I think it made a lot more people, including me, watch that would usually never watch. Now, with that, it does get dangerous because what happens and I hate it in the media. I hate it with fans as well.
I hate it with Twitter and social media. You could not watch 95, 96, 97, 98 percent of the season. And then you watch a game or two and you start to become or you try to portray yourself to be an expert. So let me preface that before I make my comments on the culmination of the women's college basketball season with LSU and Iowa.
So I think there's a lot of people today that are trying to be know-it-alls and they're trying to overanalyze and they're trying to be experts. So I'll first I'll say it first and foremost, after that game, because this is what now it becomes, is when you have a moment like that and the game is more so of a blowout, you're always going to find a way for people to overreact to things. One thing I thought was fair and the other thing, I could see both sides of the argument. The first part was finally when Iowa had a pulse in the game and they started to get back in the game, not that the officials impacted the game in terms of win loss, but with the way momentum was shifting for the first time in that game and maybe opening the door for Iowa.
I don't see how the officials and I don't usually kill the zebras unless they deserve it. But that was let's make it about me because when Kaitlyn Clark is giving the ball back and she just throws it behind her back and it doesn't really go that far past the baseline, that should not have warranted a technical. So that's the first part that I see. But the biggest thing is when the game is wrapping up and you know LSU has won, Angel Reese is doing the John Cena you can't see me if you're a wrestling fan in the face of Kaitlyn Clark. She's not even acknowledging it, Clark.
And then Angel Reese to her finger goes, I'm putting a ring on my finger right in her face. I could see in the moment when you are basically following Clark, why that is viewed as excessive. And at first I'm like, oh wow, that's excessive. Not that I usually have a problem with people showing emotion when you win a championship like that, especially in the short build up to the game when every Tom, Dick and Harry is picking Iowa. And you know that LSU really fed into that. But when you're following around Kaitlyn Clark, I thought it was a bit much.
But then this is what I'm talking about, things that we're not experts on that everyone tries to be an expert on. The moment when whoever it was starts to blast Angel Reese in that moment, you then all of a sudden see, oh well Kaitlyn Clark has done the you can't see me before, not directly in the face of a player as she's walking away. So therefore, if you want to say it's kind of a healthy back and forth of trash talking, that did go on. I could see both sides of the argument. I know people are trying to make this a racial issue. I don't see it that way.
But in this case, this should not be the story, but it is the story because people either think Angel Reese did nothing wrong or people are either incense that Angel Reese, they think that she crossed the line. For 98 percent of the people that are commenting on this, you don't really care that much. I'm sorry, you don't. Because if you did, you would be watching the majority of the women's regular season and the majority of the women's NCAA tournament. And I can guarantee if there was a way to track it, the overwhelming majority of people that are commenting on this, including yours truly, and I'm not trying to be an expert, have not watched much of the NCAA tournament, the women's side or much of the women's regular season to begin with.
You know, maybe at most two or three games. But I'll say this, I did not expect myself to be this involved in this tournament. But the story of LSU, and I've said this before, Kim Mulkey, a tremendous coach. I think she is crazy at times. I don't know how she did not get a T in that game talking about technical fouls, but she wanted to go back home to LSU. She wanted to win to the state of Louisiana. She wanted to win a championship for that university, and she does that in year number two. We all know what she did at Baylor as well, winning three championships. We know she's a phenomenal coach.
The story should be about LSU winning it all, and then also how many fans Kaitlyn Clark did bring to the women's game. But that's not the way it is, just because of whatever this back and forth is, where it's either zero, as you don't care, or 100, you care so much. And personally, I can't get that overworked about this.
Like, I'll say it, in the moment I thought it was excessive. I did. But am I going to sit here, bitch, and complain, and just freak out over something that, in all honesty, I really don't care that much about?
No, I'm not. Hickey, give me your thoughts on this whole Clark-Reese exchange that everyone is chiming in with their expert opinion on the matter. Frankly, it's stupid. I'm with you. This whole thing is overblown. It's ridiculous.
Look, you can't have it both ways. So many people want athletes to get upset at athletes so they don't care enough, that they're only there to cash a paycheck, and they only care about individual awards and not focus on winning a championship. And here we have a woman who is very excited that she is about to win a championship. Again, would I have celebrated the way Angel Reese has celebrated?
No. I'm more introverted, I would say, in terms of that, and I would not kind of go to the level she did. But she's excited because she won a championship. So I'm not going to kill any player that's showing emotion that's excited for a team goal, when, again, I feel like so many people love to complain about the selfishness and individualization of sports, that I'm not going to get upset, overworked about how someone was quote-unquote classless when it comes to celebrating winning a national championship. Yeah, the only thing that I had a problem with is if you want to do the ring on your finger, you want to do the you can't see me, fine, you're entitled to do that. If you feel like you're going to throw it back in someone's face because they did it earlier and it's all about other players that you thought got disrespected, to me that's a little bit of a stretch, but if you want to do the celebration and point that you're going to have a ring on your finger, no problem. I just didn't think she needed to circle pretty much Clark around the court.
But Clark basically didn't even realize it. She even said it. Let's listen up afterwards. This is Kaitlyn Clark on if she'd notice Angel Reese taunting her at the end of the game.
Honestly, I have no idea. I was just trying to get to the handshake line and shake hands and be grateful that my team was in that position. That's all you can do is hold your head high, be proud of what you did, and all the credit in the world to LSU. They were tremendous. They deserve it. They had a tremendous season. Kim Wolke coached them so, so well. She's one of the best basketball coaches of all time, and it shows. She only said really kind things to me in the handshake line, so I'm very grateful for that too, but honestly, I have no idea. So whether how much you believe that or not is a totally different story, but from what she said publicly, she didn't even realize that she didn't even care either way.
Let's hear Angel Reese and why she taunted Kaitlyn Clark after the game. The narrative, I don't fit the narrative. I don't fit in the box that y'all want me to be in. I'm too hood.
I'm too ghetto. Y'all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y'all don't say nothing. So this was for the girls that looked like me.
That's going to speak up on what they believe in. It's unapologetically you, and that's what I did it for tonight. It was bigger than me tonight.
It was bigger than me. Twitter is going to go in a rage every time, and I mean, I'm happy. I feel like I've helped grow women's basketball this year.
I'm super happy and excited. So there you have it. I think a lot of this is just being overblown. The only thing I'll say on the Angel Reese part, were the people that were saying these things about you, were they like journalists?
Were they media members? And once again, this is me not watching a lot of women's college basketball, so I don't know what the narrative is about Angel Reese to begin with, or was this just egg-faced like 2-3-4-6 on Twitter? Because if that's the case, not that it's always easy to ignore egg-faced 2-3-4-6 on Twitter, but I don't think if it's just an egg-face saying it to you, it's the same as, oh, this is the narrative being built by the media and by journalists, but maybe I'm wrong because I did hear what Dawn Staley, the legendary Dawn Staley, did say after her team did lose with the run that they had at South Carolina. Alrighty, this is the Zach Gelb show on CBS Sports Radio. We'll take a break. When we come on back in five minutes, Shaka Smart is going to join us. We'll talk a little bit about his Marquette team from this past season and delve into the national championship game tonight as UConn is going up against San Diego State.
National championship game tonight between UConn and San Diego State that comes your way at 9.20 p.m. Eastern, 6.20 p.m. Pacific. Let's head out to the guest line right now and talk to a man that does coach in the Big East, won the Big East this year as the head coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles, and that, of course, is Shaka Smart. He's kind enough to spend a few moments with us right now on the Zach Gelb show on CBS Sports Radio. Coach, appreciate you doing this. How are you? I'm good. Thanks for having me.
Well, I appreciate you coming on. So let's first talk about your team before we get into the matchup and this tournament so far. How do you look back at the season Marquette just had this past year?
Well, with appreciation. You know, really grateful for everything that our guys did, really starting this time last year. We made the decision to really trust and invest in the returning players that we had. And, man, they really, you know, made us look pretty good with that. They got better and better, every one of them.
Three incoming guys, you know, played great roles. And it was fun to watch our team grow over the course of the season. You talk about that growth before the year you guys, and I know the Big East is sensational, were picked to finish ninth. When did you start to realize ultimately winning the Big East that you had a group that people weren't giving you enough credit for, that were going to be better than what they were being said about them? Well, really, like I said, going back to the spring, you know, we had some guys that, you know, played support roles on our team last year that we felt like could take a big jump.
Oso Iguodaro, Stevie Mitchell, David Joplin, Cam Jones. We had Tyler Cola coming back, who was our starting point guard the year before that we thought was a lot better than people gave him credit for. So, you know, we just felt like the relationships that these guys have with each other was a real advantage for us. And if we could work really hard together, we'd be able to win some games and be really competitive.
I know you talked about the growth. This was a team that a lot of people thought were definitely going to get to the second weekend. Was it at all feeling a little bit like a missed opportunity as well not being able to get to that second weekend? Do you ever coach in the NCAA Tournament, Zach? I know how difficult it is. Of course it's a missed opportunity. The great thing about the NCAA Tournament is the same thing that makes it really, really tough, which is, you know, it's win or go home.
And I don't care what seed you are. If you're in the NCAA Tournament, you're a good team and you feel like you can win in advance. So if you don't, you absolutely feel like you should be playing or you would have still been playing if this would have happened or that would have happened.
But the great thing about it is shoulds or would have, that really doesn't do anything for you. It's who's able to play their best basketball at the very, very end. We played great in the Big East Tournament, you know, well enough to beat UConn. And we just, you know, did not, we weren't at our best against Michigan State in that second round game and they obviously have a terrific team. I know you may not look at it this way in the moment, Shaka Smart, but making the tourney the last two years, and I know how quickly things change in the sport now with the transfer portal and all that. How valuable is that experience that your guys gained the last two years? Well, it's what you come to college to do, is to play in the NCAA Tournament. And I think more importantly even than playing in the NCAA Tournament is the experience of what it takes and what it takes to win close games. You know, at the start of this past year, we lost some close games. We went to Purdue and played really well and lost a close game.
We lost to Mississippi State early, Wisconsin early in close games. And our guys really grew up, you know, they learned how to finish those kind of games. So that's what propelled us to be able to be an NCAA Tournament team. And hopefully as a program, there's a residue that comes from the success that we did have. I know what you guys are chasing at Marquette.
You've won it all in 1977, haven't been back till Final Four since 2003. When you look through these first two years and what you guys are starting to do, where do you think the culture is at with this program as you guys are already starting to move on into your number three? Growing. Our culture is growing. You know, we're on the court today doing some skill work with our guys and particularly our sophomores and juniors, just looking at them out on the floor. You know, I thought to myself, man, this looks like two guys this looks like guys that have been here for two years.
And our freshmen, of course, just got done with their first year here. But, you know, that's really what you want. You want continuity. You want guys that have learned our way.
Everyone has a different way of doing things. We have our Marquette way and we happen to believe in it. So our culture is growing. I mean, culture is just how you act, how you interact, and how you respond. That's all it is. And the number one component of that is the people in your room.
We feel really good about the people in our room. Let's delve into this game tonight. You guys played UConn three times this year. You were able to post a 2-1 record against them. What was the emphasis to your squad when you went up against them because you guys did have a lot of success against UConn? We had success in two games and in one game we got blown out. And really the biggest difference in the two wins versus the loss was, you know, their physicality, their aggressiveness, their offensive rebounding overwhelmed us in the game at their place.
And then in the game at our place and the game in Madison Square Garden, we were able to hang in there and be tough enough and stand up enough. The way our team is made up, we're never going to be the greatest rebounding team. We're a little bit more skill-based, but we were able to neutralize them to some extent in those areas where they're so good and then really, really do our best to defend Hawkins. He is an elite, elite shooting guard.
I think someone that will play for a long time in the NBA. The two games we won, we did a heck of a job on him, made him inefficient. The game that we lost, he really got off. And if you're able to contain Hawkins, which is very tough to do, you have Sanogo and then even if you contain him or he gets in foul trouble, then Clingan comes in. Those bigs down low and the depth that this team has, coach, that's what stands out to me the most is just the depth of this team. No question.
I'll tell you what, though. All the guys we just mentioned are terrific. I actually think the key to their team is Andre Jackson. And I think when he plays well, they're darn near unbeatable. He's such a dynamic athlete. He's a great passer. He's a terrific defender.
He's someone that has great size and length for that position. But if you look at some of the games where they have lost, and they only lost in the Big East, they literally haven't lost to anyone outside of our league, teams were able to either get him in foul trouble or neutralize him in some way. And if San Diego State can do that, they've got a better chance. How much is it mental going up against UConn? Because watching them just in this NCAA tournament, it's like you know the avalanche is eventually coming, even if there is a point where they look like they're keeping it close and maybe it's a game that's going to go down to the wire.
It's a great point, Zach. It's absolutely mental. UConn is a team, and this is a compliment when I say this, they're a team with a good kind of arrogance. I'm not saying bad arrogance. As much as anyone, they know they're good. And so as a team going against them, you've got to match that with a level of toughness and motivation and a brand of confidence yourself that you can and will beat them.
And as the game goes and there's different runs, you've got to be able to sustain that. We were able to, when we played them here, I think they were like number four and number six in the country, but when we played them in the garden, they were riding high as well. We were able to kind of take on a little bit of an underdog mentality even though we were ahead of them in the standings. I'm sure San Diego State will adopt that tonight, but they're going to have to have the requisite confidence to go with that. And how about what Coach Dutcher has done? I know him and Steve Fisher are always going to be linked together, but to have San Diego State in this national title game, I know the last few years is the way these tornies have gone, Coach.
Nothing does surprise you, but this one is surprising for sure. Yeah, I mean, Coach Fisher was an unbelievable coach and built that program and all that, but he retired several years ago. It's not like Brian Dutcher is just stepping in. I mean, he's been there for a long time. He helped build the program as an assistant coach, and he's been the head coach there for a while.
He's consistently been one of the top defensive coaches in the country. They've consistently done a terrific job filling their roster with older, experienced players, and they've gotten their guys to truly play for one another. I was at the game on Saturday, and there was a couple of times where they were dead in the water, and they just kind of willed themselves to come back. So when you see a team with that type of competitive character, you know that there's always going to be a chance for them to win the game. And that's what makes the Torney awesome, Shaka Smart, because they didn't have a lead in the second half until they walked out of the building and the scoreboard had zeroes on it. That was really a wild second half between San Diego State and FAU, and you know this going on one of those runs. When you get there, you think you're going to win it all, but, man, that heartbreak, it doesn't matter if you miss the win or lose. It really gets at you, because I thought FAU should have been the championship game tonight.
Well, again, should have, could have, but it doesn't really matter. I mean, I think any team, any coach could say that. I actually thought the way that their players and coaches handled the loss, I mean, they just showed incredible class, because you're exactly right.
It's easy when you're in that situation to feel like something's been stolen from you or taken from you. But that's why we play 40 minutes, you know, and the young man from San Diego State, I can't recall his name right now, but just had unbelievable poise to know exactly how much time was on the shot, on the clock, and to, you know, get the shot he wanted, get separation, rise up and shoot it in. Yeah, it was a great play by Lamont Butler. Shaka Smart, before we let you run, just get him back to the Big East. We always know how great that conference is. Let me just hit you on a few coaching points. Rick Pitino joining the conference, going to St. John's back in the Big East.
That doesn't make anyone's life easier, right? Well, he's, in my opinion, you know, as good of a coach as there's been since I started following college basketball. So it's an unbelievable shot in the arm for our league. And then you've got, you know, Ed Cooley heading down to Georgetown, and we all know what type of program builder and what type of in-game coach he is. Kim English is going to have as much energy and as much charisma as anybody heading up to Providence. So our league, man, you know, I'm just a kid that played Division III basketball to be associated with this conference and be a part of it.
It's a ton of fun, and next year is going to be a heck of a challenge. Did that surprise you, that Ed left Providence to go to Georgetown? It did, to some extent. You know, I knew that, you know, obviously he's an institution up there at Providence being from up there and with what he's built. But, you know, at the same time, one thing that a lot of us have in common, particularly African-American coaches, is the way that we grew up and came up in the business revering that program and John Thompson and the brand of Georgetown basketball. So, you know, in some ways it's not surprising for someone to want to be there because with what Coach Thompson did, it's a larger-than-life grant. Coach, last thing I'll ask you, Ashaka Smart, who's done a wonderful job at Marquette, is here with us. We all remember what his VCU team did back in 2011. I just saw the numbers came out that the women's championship game between LSU and Iowa had 9.9 million viewers, which is a record breaker. Everyone's talking about the end of the game with Angel Rees celebrating in Kaitlin Clark's space.
Just give me your coaching view and how did you kind of react to that one? Well, I was one of those 9.9 million watching the game. So, I think, first of all, the coverage of women's basketball and the interest in women's basketball, it seems like it's exploding exponentially. And it is very, very well-deserved. I mean, watching players like the two players you just named is a lot of fun. I mean, they're competitors. They've got personality. And, you know, they've got unbelievable competitive character. In terms of the end of the game, I mean, there's a lot of emotions at different times. And I think, you know, one thing that's really, really interesting is how the media and fans maybe view different players in different ways, even when they're doing similar things.
So, I think you have two competitors, you know, two young women that have personality, you know, to spare. And, you know, they were competing and there was some trash talk and all that. But at the end of the day, it was a great game, you know. And I thought the semifinals were great games.
And it's great for the sport. Well, Coach, really do appreciate catching up with you. Good luck at your number three with Marquette. And thanks so much for doing this. You got it.
Thanks for having me on. You're listening to the Zach Gelb Show. Zach Gelb Show, CBS Sports Radio. I have a question about two NFL free agents in just a second.
But first, I said this number to Shaka Smart that just joined us a few moments ago. This is a tweet from ESPN's PR account. 9.9 million viewers is the record-breaking national championship thrilling number between LSU and Iowa that makes TV history. It's the most viewed NCAA women's basketball game on record. And it actually peaked at 12.6 million viewers. And it's the most viewed college event on ESPN Plus. So how about those numbers, Hickey?
And you know what? I know that these games are scheduled years in advance. Like how many times do you see so and so and so and so schedule a new three-game series beginning in like 2028 for basketball or when you do get into football.
And I feel like in football even more so. They schedule those things like all the way into already to 2030 or something like that. If I'm running women's basketball, if I'm running the NCAA, I'm doing whatever it could take to capitalize on this.
And most of the players are returning, the ones that you need to know of. I don't get how you don't start off the college basketball season or make it the first weekend or early on where it's LSU and Iowa. Because so many people that usually do not care are caring about this and are talking about this. And it's one thing to just see the buzz on social media because, as we're told, just because there's buzz on social media doesn't always translate into rating success. But when you see the numbers be 9.9 million viewers and it's a record breaker for LSU-Iowa, and let's call it what it is, most of that game was not a great game because of just how dominant LSU was. But with all the aftermath from this game and what the numbers are, this is a pivotal time in women's basketball.
And I'm not pretending to be an expert about this, but you see those numbers. There is clearly more than just a market for it. And I don't know if people are still going to be feeling this way come the fall. And maybe it just turns into the tournament each and every year and things like that. But if I'm running the NCAA, if I'm running women's basketball in the college ranks, I'm doing whatever it takes to get something on the fly. Guys, we've got to do this for our sport to continue this momentum wave that is just skyrocketing and hickey schedule LSU-Iowa. And not just the first week of this, to open up the women's college basketball season. Couldn't agree more because when you look at ratings for any sport outside of the NFL, because we know the NFL is king. Yeah, all football is king.
People I've showed you, they will watch if there's a villain, if there's someone of interest. And you see LSU, Kim Mokie is very polarizing. Angel Reese has been a star. Kaitlyn Clark is a star. It doesn't matter the sport.
People watch if there are names there that they are familiar with one way or another. And like I said, we're both coming back next year. If you are women's basketball, you have to make this opening weekend for whenever.
You've got to do it next year and, like I said, capitalize off the momentum and also continue to market some of the biggest names in your sport because people will watch names they know. Now, I've not seen a number yet from the games on Saturday for the men's Final Four with FAU San Diego State and then also with UConn and Miami. But this was via the Associated Press, Hickey, just through the regional finals.
So that is all the way through the Elite Eight. The tournament is averaging, the men's NCAA tournament is averaging 9.11 million viewers through the regional finals. This is per the Associated Press, which is down 6% from last year.
So think about that. 9.11 million viewers average through the first two weekends of the NCAA tournament, which we've all said maybe have been the most exciting first two weeks of the tournament that you could remember. We're talking about one game here where it's 9.9 million viewers and it peaked at 12.6 million for LSU Iowa. Look at that growth and those numbers. I think that also goes back for college basketball this year.
The one thing they did not have was a villain. You're not wrong. Coach K gone, obviously he didn't retire last year. There are a lot of, especially coaches, because that's really the ones who were there for more than three or four years. A lot of the big name coaches have gone out in recent time. Jay Wright, Roy Williams, Coach K. Bayhines now going to the curb. Right. A lot of those coaches that made you feel one way or another, but they got eyeballs on whatever game they're playing in.
And a lot of that is gone. You look at the tournament, it's been all great stories and we've been watching and enjoying it. There's not really one team or player where everyone has either had some sort of motion towards one way or another. And I said this at the time when Duke lost in the second round to Tennessee. And I am not a Duke hater. Hickey can't stand Duke and all this fake outrage and hatred directed towards Coach K, which we had to listen to last year. Which I thought was so classless by hot take Hickey just trying to basically stab Coach K in the back as he's trying to peacefully retire with no fanfare and really not making it about him.
And I say a lot of that in jest. But when Duke lost this year, Hickey, it was like, huh? All right, Duke lost.
Surprising. But it wasn't, I don't think, perceived. And people didn't really revel in the Duke victory like they normally would. And you're not wrong because I've always looked at college athletics, whether it's college football, college basketball, whatever it is, you remember the coaches more than the players. Now, college football is a little different because you've got to be there for three years outside of, you know, once you get out of high school, be free eligible for the NFL. But the last few years in college basketball, with the COVID year added in where everyone got an extra year of eligibility, I know there's a transfer portal, which it's all hell that breaks loose.
And so many people are in the transfer portal. But you've seen guys that have returned. But still, when you have some of those polarizing coaches for good or bad leave, it does take a little bit out of the NCAA tournament just because people have been accustomed now for like 20, 30 years for either rooting for those coaches or rooting against them, Ryan. And we kind of saw this coming right last week. We were talking about probably the ratings will be down. And the only thing that's going to stop the ratings talk is a great game, which we got between FAU and San Diego State. Look at those two schools. We just learned about Dusty May three weeks ago.
Brian Dutcher has been there and San Diego State has been a concept, but no one really has any sort of feelings towards it. Again, we got what we want. A great game. That's all that matters at the end. That's what people watch.
But it's also like there's no... They needed UConn Miami to be great. That game to me could have...
I don't know what the number was, obviously, but if that is a great game, I think it could have saved the ratings, I would imagine. But then yet again, it's tough because you're right, there's no villain there. Like Danny Hurley, I know he's a psycho on the sidelines, but he's like... I like the Hurley family.
And Jim Lyronaga, find me a person in America unless you lost him in the NCAA tournament that doesn't like Jim Lyronaga. Too nice. Everyone is too nice.
We need someone to go heal here. Come on. They went to your school. Say something controversial.
They went to the Ryan Hickey school of just be nice. Say, you know... That's what this tournament is. Let's start crushing people.
All right. Let's start talking down to other coaches. So now you want what happened with Angel Reese and Kaitlin Clark to happen in the men's game.
Please, please give me that all day long from opening tip. If you're UConn tonight, and let's say you win, or if you're San Diego State and you win, don't you got to do now the You Can't See Me celebration? Don't you got to have like a little fun and do it tonight? I think that would be a cool moment tonight after everyone freaks out in the women's game where Angel Reese is doing You Can't See Me and Kaitlin Clark's face. I think it'd be awesome tonight if they just have fun with it. Whoever wins at the end of the game is walking off the court and does the You Can't See Me by pointing to their finger and say, let's put a ring on it. I think that would be fun. I think it'd be good.
I will say this. I don't want to be on Twitter for that. That's the last thing I want to have people then fighting over and either contradicting themselves from yesterday or doubling down and have this whole thing start over again. If you want a good NIL deal and you win tonight, 1000% you could do that. You could send me the 10% later for the genius idea.
John Cena on line one. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. All right. It is the Zach Gelb show on CBS Sports Radio. We will take a five minute break when we come on back. Momentum is brewing for someone. Hickey does not want to be the quarterback of his football team. And also the number three pick by the Cardinals. It's open for business. Two teams rumored to maybe jumping up to three to potentially land either Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. We'll discuss next Zach Gelb show right here on CBS Sports Radio.
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