If you weren’t one of the millions of people who watched the NCAA women’s basketball tournament over the last month, you really missed out.
There were so many fantastic games, and people across the country showed through TV ratings that yes, we do care about women’s basketball.
The Sweet 16 matchup between Iowa and UConn drew 1.559 million viewers on ABC, and Baylor vs. Michigan drew 1.223 million viewers. The championship game that Stanford won over Arizona averaged 3.6 million viewers on ESPN and peaked at 5.3 million.
And that was on ESPN. Imagine if the game had been on ABC at primetime.
I don’t know what other proof one needs to be convinced that people will watch women’s basketball if they are given the opportunity.
NBA games this season have averaged 1.06 million viewers across several cable networks. It’s not a direct comparison, but it just shows the interest in women’s basketball right now is higher than it’s ever been and it’s only going to grow.
The idea that women’s basketball is boring and no one wants to watch it is completely false at this point, as well as wildly sexist. Anyone watching this tournament would tell you they were some of the most exciting games of March. There’s some serious, young talent in women’s basketball right now. Players like Paige Bueckers, Aari McDonald, Sedona Prince, Caitlin Clark, Haley Jones and so many more are becoming household names.
Watching their level of play has been incredible, the women’s game has seen huge developments. Sue Bird went on ESPN talking about Bueckers, saying that women’s players in college now play a completely different game than when she was in college. She said it’s likely because players now grew up watching players like Diana Taurasi and Steph Curry. Part of Bueckers popularity is due to her being just plain fun to watch. “To me… it’s the swag. It’s the confidence. She’s cocky out there. I love it,” Bird said on ESPN.
The competition level of the women’s game is much more spread out now, it’s not just UConn, Baylor and Tennessee anymore. There are so many good programs now and the competition as a whole has risen. And with it, so has the interest.
During Iowa vs. UConn game the interactions on Twitter with the #ncaaW hashtag skyrocketed. There were over 9,600 posts about the Elite eight matchup between UConn and Baylor during the game and the engagements with those posts doubled those of the men’s games happening that night. Even Lebron James was tweeting about the last play of the game when Baylor guard DiJonai Carrington was blatantly fouled by two UConn players on the would be game-winning shot.
Can we please normalize this moving forward? Can regularly we have and promote conversations on women’s basketball on Twitter, TV and ESPN? Women’s basketball fans are some of the best out there, and they clearly showed it this March.
The NCAA needs to televise and promote the women’s tournament the same way the men’s tournament is. I love having my Twitter feed be all about the women’s games. I have always loved March Madness, but this year I loved it even more, watching as many women’s games as I could. They should be able to use the March Madness branding and get the same level of respect as the men’s tournament.
This year has clearly shown what the NCAA thinks of its women’s teams, and it’s disgusting. They were treated as an afterthought, as if they didn’t matter. Hopefully the backlash from this year results in real change moving forward.
As fans and viewers, though, we can’t forget about women’s basketball now that March Madness is over. Remember to watch them in the regular season next year, and until then, watch the WNBA this summer. Support women in basketball, you’re in for a ride.