Men’s, Women’s Tournaments Highlight Continued Growth, Impact of College Basketball

Todd Greene 9ge J0h Pet Um Unsplash
Todd Greene, Unsplash

As millions of fans tuned into broadcasts and traveled to arenas, one of the world's most popular sporting events took center stage. Record-breaking ratings and crowds created yet another unforgettable March Madness season, highlighting the continued growth and impact of college basketball on a national scale. 

This growth and impact were especially evident on the women's side, as the Division I Women's Basketball Championship drew unprecedented audiences both on-site and on TV. For the first time, the women's title game drew more viewers than the men's, averaging 18.7 million viewers on ABC and ESPN and peaking at 24 million viewers. This made the game played between No. 1 seeds Iowa and South Carolina the most-watched women's college basketball game on record, as well as the most watched basketball game, men's or women's, since 2019. The 87-75 South Carolina victory was also the most-watched sporting event since 2019, excluding football and the Olympics. 

Although the women's championship game drew a larger audience, men's championship viewership increased slightly compared with last year, as an average of 14.82 million viewers tuned in on TBS and TNT to watch defending champions UConn defeat Purdue, 75-60, in another battle of No. 1 seeds. Last year's final drew an average of 14.69 million viewers.

Record-setting viewership came alongside record-breaking attendance, as the women's championship game drew a sellout crowd of 18,300 at the Cleveland Cavaliers' Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, while the men's audience of 74,423 in State Farm Stadium — home to the NFL's Arizona Cardinals — was the third highest in championship game history. The women's tournament also set an all-time total attendance record of 436,055 fans, which topped the record set last year by 78,513.

The opening rounds of the men's and women's tournaments showcased that the magic of March begins before the championship games.

A total of 292,456 fans attended first- and second-round games on the women's side, surpassing last year's attendance by 60,779 fans. This marked the third consecutive season that the opening rounds witnessed attendance records. It also marked the third straight year of sellout crowds at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The arena in Iowa City hosted 28,764 fans and led the way in attendance for first- and second-round games in the women's tournament. 

The first and second rounds of the men's tournament were also well attended, with nearly 260,000 attending first-round games and 131,073 attending second-round games. Seven of the eight host sites sold from 95% to 100% of available tickets for these rounds. 

As the stakes got higher for teams and players in the tournament, television viewership rose. On the women's side, the women's basketball viewership record was broken three times during the tournament. The Elite Eight matchup between Iowa and LSU drew 12.3 million viewers, while the Final Four matchup between Iowa and UConn drew 14.2 million, setting the stage for the record-breaking championship game between Iowa and South Carolina. 

On the men's side, Saturday second-round games drew an average of 10.8 million viewers across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, making it the most-watched first day of the second round ever. Additionally, CBS and TNT witnessed the most-watched Elite Eight games since 2019, led by the NC State-Duke matchup that drew 15.1 million viewers.

Two record-setting tournaments were capped off with victories that will go down in the history books, as the South Carolina women's team became the 10th team to complete a perfect undefeated season, and the UConn men's team became the first to win back-to-back titles since Florida during the 2006-07 seasons. 

Page 1 of 88
Next Page
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
AB Show 2024 in New Orleans
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Nov. 19-22, 2024
Learn More
AB Show 2024