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Jeff Eisenberg

CBS, NCAA win big with best title game ratings since 1999

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A classic back-and-forth title game between a perennial juggernaut and a celebrated underdog delivered huge ratings for CBS.

Duke's 61-59 victory over Butler on Monday night earned a 16.0 overnight rating and 25 share, the highest for a national title game since underdog Connecticut topped the Blue Devils in 1999. This year's ratings were 34 percent better than last year's title game clunker between North Carolina and Michigan State.

According to Sports Media Watch, Monday's title game drew a higher overnight than every Major League Baseball game since the Red Sox clinched the 2004 World Series and every NBA game since the epic Kings-Lakers Western Conference Finals in 2002. Aside from the NFL, the Olympics and the BCS title game, the Duke-Butler overnight is the highest for any sporting event in almost six years.

Although CBS executives will surely celebrate these ratings heading into another likely bonanza this weekend with Tiger returning at the Master's, the NCAA is the real winner here.

The NCAA can opt out of its current tournament broadcast contract with CBS after this season, so ratings like and the impending tourney expansion will only drive up the price of the new contract to a previously unthinkable figure.

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