The two most compelling figures in women’s college basketball — Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark — lit social media on fire throughout the NCAA Tournament. They led their respective teams to the national championship game, where the viral moments continued as they faced off for the first time ever.
Reese and LSU ended up easily defeating Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes to claim the national title, and had more people were talking about the women’s tournament than the men’s in the days following. NBA commentator and basketball analyst Doris Burke had mixed feelings about the controvesry that surrounded Reese’s taunt toward Clark at the end of the title game.
“Nobody’s talking about the gender piece of this. If a guy had done it, would we have even blinked at it? I don’t know the answer to it,” Burke told Front Office Sports. “But here’s what I think unequivocally. My first thought was I hated that basketball, which was incredible, seemed to become secondary.
“Then I thought, you know what, maybe this isn’t a bad thing. Because if it fosters productive conversation around important topics, that’s probably more important than basketball. Right?”
Reese and Clark’s starpower has since trenscended the gender norms of the college basketball world and put eyes on the women’s game that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. Putting their names on the marquee on the biggest stage college basketball had to offer drew in fan’s interest, and ultimately did not dissapoint.
Clark scored a game-high 30 points in Iowa’s 102-85 loss to the Tigers, while Reese finished the championship with a 15-point and 10-rebound double-double — her 34th of the season, which broke the single-season NCAA record.
“You’ve got NBA players, professional athletes, everybody is tuning in to watch this young woman play,” Burke said about Clark, but the same goes for Reese as well. “It just warms my heart to be perfectly honest with you.”
The national title game averaged 9.9 million viewers, which made it the most viewed NCAA Women’s National Championship game in television history, according to ESPN. The average was a 27 percent increase from 2022. For comparison, the men’s tournament final averaged 14.7 million on CBS.
Even better for college basketball — both Reese and Clark will be returning to school for the 2023-24 season. Their presence can (and will) influence ticket sales, game markets, viewership, fan involvement, etc. Their contributions to the growth of the game has seen Reese ($1.4 million) and Clark ($808K) earn two of the top-three On3 NIL Valuations in women’s college basketball.
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