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Apr 8, 2024 - Sports

Hawkeye women's basketball expected to draw crowds, even after Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark holds up a basketball

Caitlin Clark looks on during an open practice ahead of the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four. Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Even after Caitlin Clark leaves for the WNBA draft this month, Iowa's women's basketball program will continue to draw crowds and ticket sales — although maybe not as feverishly as this season, local analysts say.

"No one's going to see another Caitlin Clark at Iowa, but I think the glass ceiling has been broken," Kathy Bresnahan, author of "The Miracle Season," tells Axios.

Why it matters: While women's sports have been historically undervalued, this March Madness proved they have star power and deserve the support and financial backing that comes with it.

State of play: The "Caitlin Clark effect" on women's basketball helped with record ticket sales and viewership.

Yes, but: Even without her next year, Bresnahan says she expects the attention on Hawkeye women's basketball to continue.

  • The program has already recruited splashy names like Addison Deal, a five star guard from California who's in the class of 2025.
  • And Bresnahan says head coach Lisa Bluder and Iowa's marketing team have done a good job promoting a positive culture for fans

Zoom in: Nancy Abrams, a marketing professor at the University of Iowa, says the university needs to capitalize on the moment moving forward.

  • She expects Clark will be a "loyal and gracious" alumna and be invited back often.
  • "We have little girls who this is their hero of their childhood," Abrams tells Axios. "And that sustains."

Reality check: Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu was the face of women's basketball from 2017-2020. While her profile kept rising after she went to the WNBA, the college's women's basketball program did not keep the same attention in the immediate years after her graduation.

  • But the collegiate level has a number of rising stars including Paige Bueckers at UConn, Juju Watkins at USC and Hailey Van Lith who's starred at Louisville and LSU and is now in the transfer portal.

What we're watching: Much like Ionescu, Clark's shooting has become the trademark of her game. Ionescu participated in the 2024 NBA All Star weekend in a three-point shooting contest against the Warriors' Steph Curry.

  • It's very possible Clark makes an appearance at the 2025 event in San Francisco, home to Curry's Warriors.
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