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Mar 24, 2024 - Sports
TN50

NCAA women best men in star power

Three basketball players under a hoop

Angel Reese #10 of the LSU Lady Tigers, Caitlin Clark #22 and Gabbie Marshall #24 of the Iowa Hawkeyes vie for position under the basket during last year's title game. Photo: Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

This March Madness, the women have more star power than the men.

The big picture: There are no apparent once-in-a-generation talents taking the court on the men’s side, but the women have bonafide superstars in LSU’s Angel Reese and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark.

By the numbers: The 2023–2024 women’s basketball season was the most watched since 2008, with viewership surging 37% year-over-year, per ESPN.

  • The Big Ten women’s basketball tournament, which featured Clark, saw tickets sell out for the first time in its 30-year history.

State of play: A number of factors are coming together to take some of the spotlight away from the men.

  • The NCAA has diminished somewhat as the premier breeding ground for top NBA talent in recent years as a number of the league’s next generation of stars — like Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Victor Wembanyama — came from overseas.
  • Several legendary men’s college coaches who were synonymous with their programs have left in recent years, such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, UNC’s Roy Williams, Villanova’s Jay Wright, and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. That’s taken away an easy way for casual fans to connect with those schools.
  • The NIL era and new transfer rules has increased team turnover to a much greater degree. Fans have even less time to become familiar with players now that it’s more of a revolving door, with players in for a year or two before seeking out another school where they can get more money or playing time.

Case in point: NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal, who's also an LSU alum, said, ""I hate to say it, but the women players are kicking the men's butts. You've got my Angel Reese. You've got all the girls from South Carolina. You've got JuJu Watkins, you've got Caitlin Clark."

What to watch: Clark and Reese are on a collision course to have a rematch of last year’s national championship in the Elite 8 next Monday.

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