Quantifying ESPN’s Imbalance In Covering Texas Tech vs. Trae Young

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Trae Young /

Fans around the Big 12 have grown tired of ESPN’s love affair with Oklahoma’s Trae Young.  Tuesday, Texas Tech fans had to sit through a Trae Young love-fest despite his poor performance on the night.  Just how imbalanced was the coverage?  The numbers are shocking.

For quite some time, ESPN (and most other sports media outlets) have been moving away from covering teams and sports and towards covering individuals. The cult of personality has driven ratings and programming decisions since the 1990’s when Michael Jordan was in his prime.  Since then, the media has made stars like Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, LeBron James and Steph Curry more important than the games themselves.

The ESPN love affair with individual stars has reached an unimaginable crescendo with the network’s obsession with Oklahoma point guard Trae Young.  Texas Tech fans were understandably frustrated by the overt promotion of the Sooner point guard during Tuesday’s 88-78  Red Raider win.

So let’s take a look at just how imbalanced the coverage was.  To quantify ESPN’s Trae Young anointing, let’s compare the coverage of him with the coverage of Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans.  Both are the best players on their respective teams and both are in the group of 20 players up for the Wooden Award as the nation’s best player.

On the night, Evans had 26 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block while committing just one turnover.  Young scored 19 points while dishing out 7 assists.  He had 1 rebound, and no steals or blocks while committing six turnovers.  In the two games between Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Young outscored Evans 46-45.

Thus, logic would suggest that both players deserve relatively equal billing.  But ESPN does not operate in logic when it comes to Trae Young.

As we look into the numbers, obviously, keep in mind that these calculations are inexact as trying to count the Trae Young mentions was akin to trying to count the stars in the night sky.  However, these numbers will provide some clear context to the discussion.

Also, these numbers include the pre-game and halftime studio portions of the broadcast.

The first measure to consider is simply how many times Trae Young and Keenan Evans were mentioned.  Evans, who played 34 minutes of the game, was mentioned 59 times in the broadcast.

On the other hand, Young, who played 39 minutes was mentioned an astronomical 156 times.  Consider this, the broadcast ran approximately 125 minutes in length meaning Young’s name was said 1.25 times per minute.  However, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Young was also highlighted ad nauseam in special features, especially when the broadcast was coming back from commercial breaks.  ESPN’s game lead-in was of course a Young feature and he was the focal point 14 times as the broadcast went to or returned from commercial.  Keenan Evans was featured once and Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard was featured once.

That number is mind-boggling when you consider that there are approximately 11-14 commercial breaks in a normal college basketball broadcast.

And naturally, the bias bled over into game action.  On 24 different occasions, the ESPN camera crew cut to a shot of Trae Young when he was not part of the play.  For example, at one point in the second half, Texas Tech’s Niem Stevenson shot two important free throws and the broadcast crew talked about…you guessed it…Trae Young the entire time Stevenson was at the line.  They did not say Stevenson’s name once and before, in-between and after the two foul shots, it was not Stevenson on camera.  This was a common occurrence regardless of which player was at the foul line.

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Next, I attempted to total up how much arbitrary air time Trae Young received.  By arbitrary, I mean, the amount of time he received when he was not part of the play or no action was taking place.

On the night, Young was on screen in non-game action (replays, isolation shots during dead balls, highlight packages etc.) for close to nine minutes.  In other words, 7.2% of the broadcast was dedicated to one player.  That is unheard of.  Meanwhile, Keenan Evans was featured by ESPN for only 47 seconds.

And if these numbers were not enough to make you sick, the comments made by the broadcast team will make anyone not wearing crimson and cream vomit.

The broadcast team was Bob Wischusen and Fran Fraschilla, the latter of whom has been effusive in his praise of the Red Raiders this season.  But what this veteran broadcast team did on the broadcast last night would have been disgusting had it come from the OU broadcast team, much less the supposedly non-biased national TV crew.

Aside from comparing Young to a major league pitcher and NFL quarterback, Wischusen and Franschilla constantly made excuses when Young made a poor play.

Consider the play below.

After Young’s careless turnover on a simple inbounds play, Fraschilla said, “that was a case of Young being an ambitious passer.”  He then went on to talk about Young’s creativity never once saying that the play Young just made would get even a middle school player benched.

Later, Keenan Evans blew by Young to score an easy bucket and Fraschilla had Young’s back again. According to Fraschilla, “Young is not going to foul in the first half” so he let Keenan Evans go by him.  He followed up by calling Young a “conscientious objector” on defense.

Part of that remark is true.  Anyone can see that Young does object to playing defense but it isn’t because he’s trying to keep from fouling out.  He knows he won’t foul out as Tuesday night’s four fouls assessed to him were a season high.

Finally, after the play in the video below, in which Evans hits a three in Young’s face (watch the tough defense by Young), Young went down the court and threw up a 30-foot jumper without passing the ball once.

After that horrible shot by Young, Fraschilla said that Young’s shot was a result of his “competitiveness” because he wanted to keep up with Evans.  If Young only took such shots occasionally, that might be a somewhat defensible comment.  But many of Young’s 9 misses from three on the night were from way behind the line and not within the flow of any offense (except maybe a Lavar Ball designed offense).

I could go on and detail so much more from my three full pages of notes documenting Trae Young love (such as the instance in which Evans and Young were featured in a “head-to-head” graphic and Fraschilla  said, “We are back as we watch Trae Young and (pregnant pause) we have two great players here” failing to mention Keenan Evans who was in the graphic) but the point is clear.

Next: Texas Tech A No. 3 Seed In NCAA Bracket Preview

ESPN has lost all objectiveness when it comes to covering sports in an accurate and balanced manner.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in the network’s shameless and blatant promotion of Trae Young, which made Texas Tech’s win on Tuesday night all-the-more satisfying.