Caitlin Clark celebrates during the final seconds of Iowa's second-round NCAA Tournament win over West Virginia. Credit: USA TODAY

Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes got a scare from the West Virginia Mountaineers in Monday night’s second-round matchup in the 2024 NCAA Women’s Tournament. However, ESPN executives were anything but frightened by the ratings numbers.

Monday’s showdown between the 1-seed Hawkeyes and 8-seed Mountaineers was all tied up with five minutes to play before Iowa started to pull away, eventually earning a 64-54 victory and moving on to the Sweet Sixteen. Clark racked up 32 points and eight rebounds in the hard-fought victory.

The game, broadcast on ESPN, averaged 4.9 million viewers, making it the largest pre-Final Four audience in women’s tournament history, per Sports Media Watch. Peaking at 6.4 million viewers, the game delivered the third-biggest audience for any women’s tournament game in 20 years, behind only Iowa’s Final Four and national championship games last season.

That record smashes the mark Clark and Iowa set in their previous game. The Hawkeyes’ win over Holy Cross in the first round on Saturday averaged 3.23 million viewers on ABC, which stood as the pre-Final Four record for two whole days.

For those keeping score, the pre-Final Four record-holder before this season? Last year’s Elite Eight matchup between Iowa and Louisville, which averaged 2.5 million viewers.

Suffice it to say, a lot of people are going to tune in for Saturday’s tip between the Hawkeyes and the 5-seed Colorado Buffaloes. If Iowa wins that game and the LSU Tigers win their Sweet Sixteen matchup, we’ll get a rematch of last year’s national title game, and all bets might be off on the ratings for that one.

While the notion of a women’s tournament final outdrawing the men’s tournament final still seems highly unlikely, it remains in the realm of possibility so long as Clark and Iowa are still dancing.

[Sports Media Watch]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to