A March Madness for the Ages

Ellie Duffy ’26 in Sports | April 12, 2024

          The 2024 Women’s NCAA March Madness Tournament has been one for the books. The popularity of the women’s game has skyrocketed, with the Final Four matchup between Paige Bueckers’ University of Connecticut (UConn) squad and Caitlin Clark’s Iowa team reaching record viewership numbers on ESPN. The NCAA March Madness Tournament came to an end last Saturday, with South Carolina defeating the Iowa Hawks in a close 87-75 win. Though Caitlin Cark lost in the final, she, along with other collegiate superstars such as South Carolina’s Kamilla Kardossa, Louisiana State University’s Angel Reese, and the aforementioned Beuckers, have changed the female sports industry as a whole. With Clark and Reese declaring for the WNBA draft, the popularity of Women’s Basketball will only continue to grow.

          The 32 Division 1 (DI) Colleges that made up this year’s NCAA Tournament only had one goal in mind: the Championship. After the first two rounds of the tournament, only eight teams were left: South Carolina, Oregon State, Texas, North Carolina State, Iowa, University of Southern California (USC), and UConn. Reese and Clark became two of the most discussed athletes in the country ahead of The Elite Eight matchup between LSU and Iowa. The rematch of last year’s National Championship game averaged almost 12.3 million viewers on ESPN—an all-time record for a Women’s College Basketball game on the network. Iowa was able to secure the 94-87 win over LSU, booking a matchup with UConn and the 2024 Big East Conference Women’s Player of the Year: Paige Bueckers. Clark led Iowa to a very tight 69-71 win over The Huskies, as the team secured a ticket to their second National Championship game in a row. South Carolina and North Carolina also matched up in the Final Four, with South Carolina triumphing by a score of 78-59 victory.

          Coach Dawn Staley’s powerhouse South Carolina team, led by stars Cardossa and Raven Johnson, came ready to play in The NCAA Tournament Championship against an Iowa team led by Clark and Coach Lisa Bluder. Though Iowa fought hard, South Carolina squeezed out a 87-75 win to become champions. While Clark may not have achieved National Championship glory, she did break the record for the most career 30-point scoring games in either Men’s or Women’s DI Basketball in the last 25 seasons. She totaled 58 games of at least 30-points, 13 of which were 40-point games. Other stars of the game also solidified their names in history: Paige Bueckers came back from an ACL injury this year and became a first-team All-American, while Reese, LSU’s center, led both the SEC division in scoring and rebounding. Reese, Clark, and Cardoso, have all declared for the WNBA draft and will hopefully continue to build their lasting legacies as professionals. 

          This year’s tournament was arguably one of the most competitive and talented NCAA competitions ever, changing the Women’s Sports Industry for good. Players like Reese and Clark have enabled a new era of College Sports and have raised the bar for what fans can expect from these games. With this year’s NCAA season coming to an end and the WNBA draft coming soon, the future of the women’s game looks brighter than ever.