Women’s college basketball continues to be a sport on the rise, and the women’s national title game surpassed the men’s final for the first time ever this year.

On Monday, UConn cemented its second straight run of dominance through the NCAA Tournament with a 75-60 win over Purdue. The Huskies’ chase of history averaged 14.82 million viewers across TBS and TNT according to Nielsen, representing a 4% increase over last year’s national championship game between UConn and San Diego State on CBS.

However, those numbers from Monday night were not enough to surpass Sunday’s championship game on the women’s side between South Carolina and Iowa. That matchup averaged 18.87 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, a record-setting broadcast as the most-watched basketball game at any level for ESPN since 2019.

Last season, the men’s final drew 14.7 million viewers while the women’s side drew 9.9 million. The women’s national championship game has exploded in the past few seasons, rising from 4.1 million viewers in 2021 all the way to 18.9 million this season.

Storylines matter

At the end of the day, the intrigue involved in the championship matchups matter. The men’s side had its fair share of intrigue with UConn chasing back-to-back titles and 2-time Player of the Year Zach Edey looking to topple Dan Hurley’s juggernaut, but that still paled in comparison to the women’s matchup.

Iowa, led by the generational talent Caitlin Clark, entered a second straight national championship game and a rematch against South Carolina. Clark’s Hawkeyes spoiled South Carolina’s perfect season in the Final Four a season ago, and the Gamecocks were once again chasing perfection against Iowa.

With the win, Dawn Staley punched her ticket as one of the all-time great coaches with her 3rd national title and a 2nd in the last 3 seasons for South Carolina. Meanwhile, Clark played the final game of her illustrious Iowa career and opened the contest with an electric 1st-quarter performance.

The growth of women’s basketball has been a sight to behold in this era, but it will be an interesting number to track heading into next season at the collegiate level. Clark was not alone in elevating the sport, but she is the once-in-a-lifetime talent that played a massive role in taking things to new heights, particularly at a program like Iowa.