North Carolina-Duke Instant Classic Was the Most-Watched Final Four Matchup Since 2017

by Jonathan Howard

North Carolina and Duke played a game for the ages and it ended up being the most-watched Final Four game since 2017. That’s not a coincidence, of course. These are two of the most storied programs in the history of the NCAA. On top of that, they are likely the most intense rivalry in the sport as well. Throw in the significance of Coach K’s last season and Hubert Davis’ first year, and it’s a recipe for a great game.

Thankfully, with all the pressure and hype around the game, it lived up to it all. Hell, it exceeded expectations. This game was back and forth. Duke took the lead into halftime, but rebounds and three-point shots ended up pushing the Tar Heels past the Blue Devils.

By the time the game was over, 16.3 million viewers tuned in. Along with the matchup between Kansas and Villanova that picked up 10.3 million viewers, it was a night worth celebrating. Compared to last year’s tournament, it was a 9% increase in viewership.

Watching the battle between Armando Bacot and Paolo Banchero was stunning. Both of those players, and more mind you, battled to the very end. Bacot grabbed 21 rebounds and even went down with an ankle injury at one point. This game was the epitome of a made-for-television competition. If you had written this story, it would seem too heavy-handed and cliche. However, that’s how it really went down.

Now, this story did not have a happy ending, depending on what side you were rooting for. Still, it was a great game and it wasn’t just TV viewers that tuned in by the masses. March Madness Live had 1.4 million streams on top of those TV numbers. The most ever of any game on the platform.

North Carolina and Duke Most-Watched Since 2017 on Coach K’s Last Night

When the season began, we all knew what was coming. At some point. Coach K was going to coach his final game as the head man at Duke. A career that has been as illustrious and successful as anyone else in modern basketball history was going to come to an end. There was pomp and circumstance. Fervor and emotion from the loyal Blue Devils fans.

Despite making a Final Four, the season might be looked at as a letdown. Duke failed to win the ACC Tournament Championship, and UNC beat them twice this year. In perhaps the two most important games of the year. Coach K’s last home game was a blowout loss to UNC despite the relatively close score. And then, this Final Four game. The run that the Heels have been on is nothing short of amazing after the beginning of their season.

As far as rivalries go, this win is the ultimate win to have. No matter what a Duke fan says to a UNC fan…81-77 is all they have to say.