Stanford’s 54-53 national championship win over Arizona ended the way a number of women’s tournament games have this year: a nail-biter that came down to the final buzzer.
Despite not receiving equal resources, women’s players delivered top performances throughout the tournament.
Ratings reflected the quality of play. The women’s tournament notched several viewership milestones even before the epic Final Four.
The first-round Tennessee-Middle Tennessee game on ABC earned the biggest audience during any women’s first-round game since 2010, according to Sports Media Watch. The women’s Sweet 16 had 66% more average viewers than it did in 2019, per SMW.
The UConn Huskies beat ratings from their 2019 tournament appearances, before Aari McDonald and Arizona stunned them in the Final Four.
The championship-caliber Elite Eight matchup between UConn and Baylor had 1.7 million average viewers on ESPN, a 32% increase from the 2019 UConn Elite Eight game, per SMW. Before that, UConn’s Sweet 16 win over Iowa, on ABC, marked a 129% increase from its 2019 Sweet 16 game.
These ratings follow a pattern of consistent growth for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in recent years. In fact, it’s that “ever-growing popularity” which convinced ESPN to air the entire 2021 tournament nationally for the first time, FOS College previously reported.
After South Carolina was eliminated, coach Dawn Staley said that anyone who watches women’s basketball will “fall in love with our game.”
And to those who didn’t join the millions of viewers? “You’re missing out on some great basketball.”