The South Carolina Gamecocks have played in the two most-watched women’s college basketball games this season.
But USC’s Final Four matchup on Friday against Iowa might be record-setting, according to college basketball TV analyst Debbie Antonelli. The Gamecocks and Hawkeyes are scheduled to tip off after 9 p.m. on ESPN following the Virginia Tech-LSU game.
USC opened as an 11.5-point favorite for the game, according to BetMGM.
“South Carolina and Iowa will be the highest-rated game in history of women’s basketball,” Antonelli said Monday near the end of the ESPN broadcast of the Gamecocks’ Elite Eight win over Maryland.
The South Carolina vs. Iowa matchup is full of intrigue and has created a buzz among national pundits and from fans on social media.
The Gamecocks (36-0) have been the top-ranked team in the country all season and are looking for their second-straight national title. They’re also looking to become the first team to complete a perfect season since Connecticut in the 2015-16 season.
The game also features two of the brightest stars in women’s college basketball in South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. Boston is the reigning National Player of the Year and is looking to cap her decorated career with a second championship.
In Iowa’s regional final against Louisville, Clark became the first player in NCAA Tournament history to record a 40-point triple-double with 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Clark has drawn praise from the likes of Kevin Durant Durant and LeBron James for shooting ability.
“It’s not close. She’s the most exciting player in the game right now, and has been for a couple years, and that 40-point triple-double she had,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas said Monday on the Dan Patrick Show. “And that’s the thing, you watch the women’s game, and they don’t allow them to grab and hold and chuck cutters and bully each other. It’s a cleaner, better game.”
All those storylines make for what could be a record rating for a women’s basketball tournament game. Iowa’s Elite Eight game drew 2.5 million viewers on Sunday night.
During the regular season, the Gamecocks’ game against Connecticut on Feb. 5 drew 1.09 million viewers. USC’s home matchup Feb. 12 against LSU had 1.47 million viewers on ESPN, the largest audience for a regular-season women’s game since Stanford-UConn drew 2.1 million in 2010.
USC’s 2022 championship win over UConn drew 4.85 million viewers, the most-watched title game since 5.58 million watched the UConn-Tennessee title game in 2004.
According to sportsmediawatch.com, the most-watched women’s championship game was UConn-Oklahoma in 2002, when 5.68 million viewers tuned in for that game.
Women’s Final Four schedule: Friday games
▪ No. 1 Virginia Tech vs. No. 3 LSU, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
▪ No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 2 Iowa, approx 9 p.m., or 30 minutes after the first game ends (ESPN)
Aliyah Boston vs. Caitlin Clark
South Carolina vs. Iowa.
Could be the most-watched Women’s College Basketball game of all-time.
— David Eickholt (@DavidEickholt) March 28, 2023
Aliyah Boston vs. Caitlin Clark.
Last year’s National Player of the Year vs. this year’s National Player of the Year.
South Carolina vs. Iowa on Friday at 9pm ET.
This might be the most watched women’s college basketball game ever.
A March masterpiece.
— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) March 28, 2023
You want my truth? Just mine, not law but my truth? Maryland and Iowa ate really really good BUT when South Carolina is playing top hoops… NO ONE can beat them. They can only beat themselves. ♀️ I’m not trying to fight https://t.co/01wfG2mkG3
— Coach Yo (@YolettMcCuin) March 27, 2023
Iowa-South Carolina will be the highest viewed women’s basketball game ever.
— taylor diveley (@taylordiveley) March 28, 2023