Which cities loved college basketball the most last year?

The city of Louisville. Looks all right. I should've gone with a My Morning Jacket pic, I think. (AP)

When it comes to regular-season college basketball coverage, ESPN spans the map. And thank goodness for that. There are other networks, like CBS of course, who do a great job delivering and packaging the sport, but no one is able to give the time, space and money for the sport from November through mid-February like ESPN. Diehard hoopheads like you and me are ever-thankful for this.

I've said it before and will say it again. Among every single medium ESPN does, from print to website to sports programming to commentary to you name it, the way it presents college basketball in general is among the best things the company pulls off. And considering how many games are taken into account and all the commentators and people needed to do this, it's all the more impressive.

Back to the subject at hand now. Because ESPN puts so much effort into college basketball, of course it has to track its markets to see where the sport is thriving. Who's continually giving their eyes and hours to watching college basketball? This week, we found out.

The numbers below come from Eric Crawford of the Louisville Courier-Journal, who got them from ESPN. It should be noted that Lexington doesn't qualify as a "metered" market, so we don't have a gauge on how fervent the locals there were, though we generally get the idea that Lexingtonians love their basketball.

Since ESPN and its satellite platforms like ESPN3 televise, what, 90 percent of the regular season? We get a good idea of which areas care the most about hoop. It's relevant info, certainly.

The top 10:

1. Louisville 4.5
2. Greensboro-High Point 3.5
3. Kansas City 2.8
4. Columbus 2.7
    Raleigh-Durham 2.7
6. Charlotte 2.3
7. Cincinnati 2.1
8. Dayton 2.0
9. Indianapolis 1.8
    Knoxville 1.8

Louisville's long been among the most fervent college basketball cities out there. It should be noted that plenty of UK fans live there, no doubt helping inflate that impressive 4.5 number. Outside of that, what's the most surprising city here? Kansas City? You've got a strong Jayhawk contingent there, so it can't be KC. Charlotte? No ... plenty of UNC, Duke and N.C. State alums head to west Carolina.

I'll go with Knoxville. Football town in general, but it still clung to the Vols despite losing its most popular coach in school history and failing to make the NCAAs.

Other data from last season: 1) UNC-Duke on March 3 was the most-watched game on ESPN, which I find so surprising considering it's normally the first game, the one in early February, that has more gravity and suspense to it. 2) As a whole, ESPN claims its viewership of the sport rose by 10 percent. 3) If you're curious about CBS and the title game and how it relates to the regular-season numbers ESPN garnered, Kentucky-Kansas earned a 12.3 rating and 19 share, which was a 5 percent increase from the 11.7/18 UConn-Butler gave us in 2011.
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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