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NCAA Women’s Basketball is Catching Up to Its Male Counterparts

Credit: Darron Cummings/AP


In the ever-evolving landscape of collegiate athletics, a compelling narrative is taking centre court - the surge of NCAA women’s basketball. Historically overshadowed, women’s basketball is now commanding attention and respect as a new wave of generational female talent comes through the NCAA system and puts the basketball world on notice. 


Women’s college basketball has gained a massive surplus in viewership over the past couple of years, highlighted especially through the historic 2023 March Madness tournament which saw blockbuster ratings for the women’s side of the sport. Highlighted by their competitive nature and outstanding performance throughout the national tournament, the female collegiate athletes managed to draw in record-breaking viewership that topped several professional male sports - specifically the title game between Louisiana State University and the University of Iowa which averaged 9.9 million viewers.  


The title game’s audience matched or exceeded every game of the 2022 NBA playoffs, except for the NBA Finals. It topped every game of the 2022 Major League Baseball Postseason except for the World Series, every NASCAR race since 2017 and every NHL game in more than 50 years, including the Stanley Cup Finals. It was the most-watched women’s college basketball game to date and the most streamed sporting event (women’s or men’s) to date on ESPN+. Despite a lack of coverage, promotion and deprioritization stemming from certain networks, the women’s title game still dragged in some of the most impressive numbers collegiate sports have seen in the past decade. 


But what is the reason for this sudden spark in viewership for women’s NCAA basketball? 


A huge surge of generational female talent has come through the NCAA scene in the past couple of years and completely reshaped how women’s basketball is viewed and how women’s sports are viewed and respected in general. From star players who run the court and drop NBA calibre numbers throughout the season, to stacked benches filled with superstar role players, the overall talent and depth within women’s NCAA basketball has become a must-watch spectacle for all basketball fans.


Angel Reese vs. Caitlin Clark

Credit: Lance King & Morgan Engel/Getty Images


Two players have changed the course of women’s NCAA basketball permanently through their unwavering dedication to the sport and prolific talent. Caitlin Cark of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Angel Reese of the LSU Tigers. The two faced off in the title game of 2023’s final four, which was the main reason for the massive 9.9 million viewers draw. 


Caitlin Clark is considered one of, if not the best NCAA basketball player of all time (men’s or women’s). She has broken countless records and continued throughout her Iowa stint to put women’s NCAA basketball on the map through her talent. This season, Clark has shattered numerous records, further cementing her status as one of the greats. 

In November, Clark became Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Megan Gustafson with 2,805 points. She became the first Division-1 player to reach 3,000 points, 900 assists and 800 rebounds in a career, while also passing Samantha Prahalis to become the Big Ten’s all-time assist leader. In January, she became the all-time leading scorer in Big Ten history, while also climbing to second on the all-time NCAA scoring list for women with 3,520 points.


Clark now only sits seven points behind Kelsey Plum who currently holds the all-time scoring record for Women’s NCAA basketball, a record she is set to break in her next game. When she passes Kelsey Plum, she will also move up to third in the all-time NCAA career point standings, sitting behind Antoine Davis who has 3,664 points and Pete Maravich who has 3,667 points. Soon enough, Clark will pass the two players and hold the all-time NCAA scoring record.


Despite her evident greatness, Clark is not the only one who is putting women’s NCAA basketball on the map. Angel Reese of the LSU Tigers, faced off against Clark in the 2023 title game and handed Clark a heartbreaking defeat while gifting LSU their first-ever NCAA championship. Through her extroverted personality and outstanding basketball talent, she has landed multiple NIL deals and further pushed women’s NCAA basketball toward the fame it so deserves.


Reese was outstanding throughout the entire tournament, ultimately leading LSU to their ever national championship where she was awarded most outstanding player. That same season, Reese set the NCAA single-season record in double-doubles with 34, the SEC single-season record for rebounds with 555 and the SEC record for free throws made with 240.


Following this remarkable season, Reese was named 2023 first-team All-America, 2023 Greenville Regional 2 All-Tournament Team, Greenville Regional 2 MVP, 2023 First Team All-SEC and 2023 SEC All-Defensive Team. Outside of basketball, she was awarded the 2023 BET Sportswoman of the Year, 2023 Best Breakthrough Athlete at the ESPYs and the 2023 Sporting News Athlete of the Year.


NCAA Women's Basketball

Credit: Morgan Engel/Getty Images


Not only have the two players in Clark and Reese shown off their remarkable talents on a national stage, but more importantly they have reeled in millions of viewers and shone some light on women’s NCAA basketball. 


And yes, while women’s NCAA basketball may lack certain aspects of the men’s division in the monstrous dunks or massive upsets as the women's teams tend to play closer to their expectations, the women’s game offers things that the men’s game doesn’t. The women’s game is the more mature of the two. More effort on defence as players are not so offensively minded as they are in the men’s division. More fundamentals on display resulting in fewer lowlights and mistakes which are so common in the men’s division. More team-centred play as the women are less worried about their stats and more worried about winning, something lacking in the men’s division.


When you watch these women, you’re not tuning in for madness, you’re tuning in for greatness. 


As the 2024 March Madness tournament approaches once again and the female talents have only gotten stronger and more competitive from the previous year, fans should expect the upcoming tournament to elevate the stature of women’s NCAA basketball to new heights, compounding on last year’s progress and demonstrating why they deserve to have the same respect and coverage as the men.



Edited By: Josh Reidelbach



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