NC State, SC highlight the exploding popularity of women’s basketball

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The NCAA Women’s Final Four is set. North Carolina State faces off against South Carolina, while Iowa takes on UConn. The recent success of these programs and those they defeated in the tournament highlight the growing popularity of women’s college basketball.

For the first time in history, women’s sports are predicted to bring in more than $1 billion in 2024, according to economists with Deloitte.

Part of the economic spur comes from sports betting. Caesars Sportsbook executives said the total number of bets wagered on women’s college basketball quadrupled during the regular season. They said it has increased dramatically during the NCAA tournament.

“We treat it just as we treat an NBA Finals Game 7. The interest is there, the popularity is there, the skillset is there, so why wouldn’t we look after it just as much?” said Craig Mucklow, Ceasar Sportsbooks VP of Trading.

FanDuel analysts said the total bet count for the first two rounds of the women’s tournament is up 139% from 2023, while the total amount of money wagered is up 42%

DraftKings reports bettors wagered 14 times more on women’s play this year over last year. The gambling platform offered new pre-tournament prop bets, like which round Iowa’s Caitlin Clark would score her record-breaking 538th three-pointer.

More fans are packing arenas for the women’s collegiate teams. The tournament’s opening weekend drew 292,456 fans for the women’s games.

Ratings show last year’s championship between LSU and Iowa had more than double the TV viewers than the year before. A commercial spot during this year’s women’s final will cost about $500,000, according to Forbes.

That’s still half the price for an ad during the men’s game, but up from previous years’ cost of just $100,000.

After South Carolina’s win over Oregon State, a few of the team’s powerhouse players said it’s a special time to be a female athlete.

“Just being able to be here and being like role models for the younger generations, it’s, what Ashlyn said, special,” said Tessa Johnson.

“And I didn’t realize that women’s basketball just started being called March Madness,” said Ashlyn Watkins. “I didn’t realize that. Like, a couple of years ago, I didn’t know that.”

For decades, the name “March Madness” only applied to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It wasn’t until 2021 that athletes took to social media to call out discrepancies between the two sides of the tournament.

Athletes said there was a stark difference in the facilities, meals and overall care the men’s and women’s teams experienced.

“We’re not asking for anything crazy, we’re just asking for it to be fair,” said Missouri alum and Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham at the time.