On Zion, Tom Izzo says Final Four is bigger than any one player | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / May 25.
  • On Zion, Tom Izzo says Final Four is bigger than any one player

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    The TV ratings for the Final Four will likely take a hit without Zion Williamson and Duke, but Tom Izzo says not to worry.

    “It’s not going to change anything at the Final Four,” the Michigan State coach said Monday on a conference call. “When you have a player like Zion Williamson, and everybody knows is maybe a once-in-a-generation player, sure, that probably changes a little bit of it as far as the way people look at it. But the Final Four is bigger than a player, it’s bigger than the coach, and it’s bigger than a program.”

    There won’t be a single one-and-done player in the Final Four, although there are stars and projected NBA lottery picks like Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver — both sophomores.

    But one-and-done factories Duke and Kentucky were eliminated in the Elite Eight on Sunday, while other blue bloods like North Carolina and Kansas are also out.

    The 6-foot-7 Williamson captured the nation’s imagination as perhaps the most unique college player in a generation. He drew comparisons to LeBron James, Charles Barkley and even Bo Jackson.

    His absence figures to impact the TV ratings for the games on Saturday and Monday.

    “With the most ballyhooed college baller in years gone, along with the team everyone loves to hate, final four viewership could drop a couple ratings points,” said Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising. “We’re now left with only one top seed and no marquee players—little to attract casual viewers. But maybe with everyone’s bracket busted, the randomness of these last 3 games could keep up fans’ curiosity and maintain the ratings momentum.”

    Sean McManus, President of CBS Sports, said it would have been nice to have Zion in the Final Four, but he’s confident the event will draw viewers.

    “Zion was one of, if not the biggest story, of the college basketball year,” he said. “It would be great to have him in Minneapolis. Having said that, I think the momentum that we have going with this tournament will carry right through the Final Four games on Saturday and the championship game, so at this point in my life I’ve worried about things that I can’t control.

    “Zion’s not going to be there but I think we’ll still have an outstanding Final Four and championship game and I think we’ll do really good numbers.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.