On Feb. 15, the NCAA DI Women’s Basketball Committee revealed its first 16 selections for the 2021 tournament, which tips off March 21 from San Antonio. The four No. 1 seeds are UConn, South Carolina, Stanford, and Louisville.
For the first time ever, every game of this year’s tournament will be aired on a nationally televised ESPN broadcast.
ESPN, which owns exclusive rights to the women’s tournament, will build on the recent increased ratings for marquee women’s basketball games.
The Tournament that Wasn’t
Last year’s tournament, which was canceled, would have been the first covered in full on national television.
The original 2020 decision was “a direct result of the ever-growing popularity of women’s college basketball,” Carol Stiff, ESPN vice president of women’s sports programming and acquisitions, said in a statement at the time.
The 2019 Women’s Final Four, for example, saw an 8% jump in ratings from the previous season.
UConn’s Broadcast Records
Women’s games, when televised widely, have proven they can attract impressive audience numbers. Last month’s game between UConn and DePaul was the first women’s college basketball game ever televised on Fox.
In early February, a prime-time matchup between No. 2 UConn and No. 1 South Carolina, which featured an overtime win starring freshman phenom Paige Bueckers, set a record as the most watched women’s college basketball game ever on FS1.
The matchup between fourth-ranked Ohio State and Maryland men’s basketball, programmed right after the UConn vs. South Carolina game, garnered fewer viewers than the women’s showdown.
More broadly, ratings for men’s games, from the College Football Playoff National Championship to Duke-UNC men’s basketball, have plummeted compared to previous years.