Iowa vs. LSU averages 12.3 million viewers, becomes most-watched college basketball game in ESPN history

On3 imageby:Nick Schultz04/02/24


Last year, Iowa and LSU drew record viewership in their national championship showdown. Angel Reese and the Tigers fought off Caitlin Clark’s Hawkeyes that day to bring home their first-ever national championship.

That set the stage for an epic rematch in Monday’s Elite Eight – and the ratings reflected the magnitude of the game.

Try Fubo for FREE today and don’t miss any of the action!

The game drew 12.3 million viewers, ESPN announced. That means it not only set the new women’s viewership record, topping the 9.9 million people who watched last year’s title game, but also became the most-watched college basketball game in the network’s history.

It also set a new record for women’s basketball viewership, which was previously set in 1983 when 11.8 million people watched the national championship, according to Sports Media Watch.

Clark rose to the occasion in a big way, dropping 41 points and accounting for more than 70% of Iowa’s offense to lead the Hawkeyes to the 94-87 victory to advance to the Final Four. It was a huge performance on the big stage as Iowa punched its ticket to Cleveland against UConn, which also won a highly anticipated matchup on Monday.

Former National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers went mano-a-mano with freshman sensation JuJu Watkins during Monday’s nightcap. UConn fought off a second-half surge from USC to ultimately come away with the victory and return to the Final Four, fueled by 28 points and 10 rebounds from Bueckers.

Now, it means Bueckers and Clark will battle it out with a spot in the national championship on the line. With so much ratings momentum through the tournament, Friday is shaping up to be another historic night for women’s basketball.

Caitlin vs. Angel steals Elite Eight show

Expectations were high for Monday’s ratings after last year’s title game shattered records with 9.9 million people tuning to ABC to watch LSU take down Iowa. In the year since, both Clark and Reese – not to mention many of their teammates – saw their profiles grow tremendously in the NIL space, which added to the star power of this year’s tournament.

As Clark broke record after record this year, her On3 NIL Valuation soared to $3.1 million to rank No. 4 in the On3 NIL 100, the first of its kind and defacto NIL ranking of the top 100 high school and college athletes ranked by their On3 NIL Valuation. She has an impressive portfolio of NIL deals with companies such as Nike, State Farm, Xfinity and Panini America, and is preparing to head to the WNBA Draft as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick.

Reese isn’t far behind her with an NIL Valuation of $1.8 million to rank No. 8 in the On3 NIL 100. She also inked some high-profile deals after the national championship, including partnerships with Reebok, Beats by Dre, and Topps.

Unlike Clark, her WNBA Draft decision isn’t as cut-and-dry. ESPN’s Michael Voepel projected Reese outside the lottery in his latest mock draft, and another year at LSU could help improve her stock to get a bigger payday. She has until Wednesday to make her decision.