UNC Basketball: North Carolina-Duke record-breaking ratings for ESPN

North Carolina-Duke ACC semifinal game ranks first among Championship Week games watched on ESPN

When the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils faced off in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Friday, the college basketball world stood at attention.

Apparently, a lot of other people did, too.

The tilt between storied rivals — the third of the season, and 250th of all-time. — drew the largest television audience for a Championship Week game on ESPN in the history of the network.

According to a press release from the network, the game drew a 3.0 overnight rating, the highest rating for a Championship Week game, or any other conference championship game, since ESPN began broadcasting college basketball.

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Ratings for the game peaked at 3.6 from 11:30 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. EST, which was in the closing minutes of the second half. It was around that time that the Tar Heels and Blue Devils exchanged control of the lead several times, leading to a frenetic finish that ended with North Carolina getting multiple opportunities at a game-winning bucket. The Tar Heels fell to the Blue Devils 74-73, ending their run in the 2019 ACC Tournament one day shy of the league’s title game.

The two ACC semifinal games (UNC-Duke, Virginia-Florida State) averaged a 2.1 overnight rating, the highest-rated semifinal games in ESPN history. Virginia and Florida State brought in a 1.3 overnight rating for their Friday night bout, one that saw the underdog Seminoles take down the top-seeded Cavaliers 69-59.

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