NCAA vs. CIAU? No contest. Last month, the CIAU basketball playoffs came and went, with little fanfare. TSN picked up the men's and women's final, but the playoffs received little press attention. The NCAA tournament, on the other hand, is a network bonanza--games can be found on several Canadian networks and the nightly news is packed with highlights. Some feel the lack of attention given to Canadian basketball by the Canadian media is unfair, relative to the press the NCAA tournament receives. However, supply and demand dictates the coverage is fair as the media is merely giving the public what they want. Should TSN in future years cover the CIAU playoffs to the degree CBS covers March Madness, expect to see the ratings hit rock bottom. This begs the question: should there be more public desire for national coverage of CIAU basketball? Probably not.
The NCAA tournament is generally hailed as one of sports greatest spectacles. Fans who could normally care less about the NBA, and basketball in general, find themselves glued to their TV sets. The set-up of the tournament creates excitement in itself. The first two days of March Madness feature 64 teams going at each other, creating a frenzy. One loss sends a team home, developing an atmosphere where top ranked teams no longer seem invincible. Sure, there are blow-outs, but the number of games occurring at the same time means there are plenty of others to tune in to. There is a lot of hype going into March, but the games always seem to back it up.
CIAU and NCAA games differ in one major way--the level of play and the players themselves are much better down south. Any Canadian basketball player good enough usually tries their luck in the us, where the best opponents are. Of the 350 players in the NBA, only a handful are Canadian, and none of these came from the CIAU ranks. If the level of play in the CIAU matched that of the NCAA, this figure would be much higher. Obviously fans want to see the best university players, therefore they tune into the NCAA's games.
Not only is the talent better in the NCAA, but it carries over into the actual game play as well. Players with better passing, shooting and ball-handling skills make the game more enjoyable to watch. The CIAU, on the whole, features sloppier play simply because there is less talent.
None of this is to say CIAU basketball should be ignored in Calgary. Watching basketball on TV is nothing like the atmosphere of a live game, and supporting the school team should be the goal of every student. There is nothing quite like the buzz of the home team's gym, sitting 10 feet from the action. Outside of this though, and barring the Dinos being in the finals, why would I watch the CIAU playoffs on TSN? National pride should have nothing to do with it. St. Francis Xavier vs. Brandon, or Duke vs. North Carolina? No contest.