Sun. May 26th, 2024

Image: Caitlin Clark, photo via The Wall Street Journal

“March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.” 

Not when it comes to March Madness.

The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) tournament is one of the most predominant sporting events in college athletics. It is where the sports world finds its newest superstars and successful programs. For these teams, it is one thing to qualify for a national tournament, but it is more impressive to get a whole month named after your competition. March Madness is one of the most popular sporting events in the world. Division I basketball programs from across the country battle it out to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. Although March Madness is widely known, which one are more people following: men’s or women’s?

In past years, many people would solely tune into the men’s tournament. This may be because the term “March Madness” was not originally referred to the women’s game. It was not until 2022 that the NCAA started using the term for the women’s tournament. This would differ from the men who have had the title for over 40 years. Differences like these can sway the audience to follow one tournament over the other. After all, viewers want to watch the program that is called “March Madness.” That is not the only change that the NCAA has brought upon the athletes, though. The 2022 women’s bracket grew from a 64 team bracket to a 68 max. This would expand the women’s tournament to match the men’s numbers who have had that maximum since 2011. Changes like these have helped the women’s game gain attention throughout the years.

Gender viewership has also been a major factor in the difference between men’s and women’s athletics. As of early 2024, 66% of US sports fans watch more men’s sports while only 3% prefer to watch women’s sports according to PlayToday.co. March Madness would also follow this trend as the majority aim their interests toward the men’s game. However, recent trends have shown that women’s basketball has been growing on national television. The 2024 Women’s March Madness tournament would exceed expectations from any other in the past.

One of the biggest games of this year’s Women’s March Madness included the battle between Caitlin Clark’s University of Iowa and Angel Reese’s Louisiana State University (LSU). Iowa would go on to win the game 94–87 against the LSU Tigers. Even before the game started, the matchup was recognized highly by the media because of its history. The Elite 8 quarterfinal would serve as a repeat of the 2023 championship game between the two teams. With LSU winning the national title over Iowa, Clark and the rest of her teammates looked for revenge over their season finale loss. That itself gave the game a substantial amount of hype. This event would become ESPN’s most-watched college basketball game ever with a record 12.3 million viewers according to NBC News. That is more than any other college basketball game, both men’s and women’s on the program. These numbers show the growth of women’s sports within the recent years. It shows that people are putting their focus on the women’s game more than they ever did before. With the tournament ending, a new team will be crowned the 2024 national champions.

The 2023–2024 basketball season would claim to be an impactful one for women’s athletics. Not many people would have expected the Women’s March Madness tournament to become one of the most highlighted sporting events of the year. Did you make a Women’s March Madness bracket this year? If not, consider this a sign to get your head in the game.

 


Billy Mills is a third-year Media and Culture Major with a minor in Communication Studies. WM970057@wcupa.edu

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