LSU Lady Tigers forward Angel Reese (10) shoots the ball against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first half during the final round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament at the American Airlines Center. Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The epic showdown between the Iowa Hawkeyes and LSU Tigers in the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship delivered as an instant classic game as well as a ratings bellwether for what was to come.

Angel Reese and LSU’s championship victory over Caitlin Clark and Iowa garnered an average of 9.9 million viewers and peaked at 12.6 million on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN+, making it the most-watched NCAA women’s basketball game in history. It also had people calling for a rematch the following season.

Rarely do those kinds of opportunities come to fruition, but here we are in the 2024 NCAA Women’s Tournament, and Iowa and LSU are meeting in the Elite Eight tonight for the right to return to the Final Four. It’s everything women’s basketball audiences, and ESPN, could have hoped for.

Caitlin Clark has taken the sports world by storm this season, drawing massive ratings whenever she and the Hawkeyes play. The Hawkeyes’ win over Holy Cross in the first round averaged 3.23 million viewers on ABC, which stood as the pre-Final Four record for two whole days before Iowa’s second-round showdown against West Virginia garnered an average of 4.9 million viewers. As of the time of this writing, we don’t have the numbers for Iowa’s Sweet Sixteen win over Colorado but they were likely just as high if not higher. There’s a reason people have openly wondered if a national title game featuring Clark and Iowa could outdraw a men’s final.

Meanwhile, LSU and head coach Kim Mulkey have somehow pulled focus from Clark thanks to some well-timed profiles and commentaries that, depending on your outlook, either paint them as the villains or as a redemption story in the face of intense and unfair criticism.

With all due respect to undefeated South Carolina, there are no two college basketball teams in the country, men’s or women’s, that are currently more discussed and more intriguing than Iowa and LSU.

So the question is, just how many people will tune in Monday night to ESPN to watch this highly anticipated showdown?

Andrew Bucholtz – 7.5 million viewers

This rematch taking place in the Elite Eight rather than the championship, coming on cable ESPN rather than broadcast ABC, and coming in a Monday primetime slot rather than a Sunday afternoon one makes it seem unlikely to top last year’s title game record. But I expect it to handily beat most other women’s basketball marks given the attention on Caitlin Clark and Iowa and Kim Mulkey and LSU.

Ben Koo – 7.2 million viewers

The interest is there in Clark as well as LSU as the returning champ and the recent Washington Post brouhaha has only helped put them and tonight’s game on people’s radar. If this game was at 8 p.m. on ABC instead of 7:15 on ESPN, I think it very well could have pushed over 8 million viewers, but this will be another impressive data point showing the growing interest in women’s basketball.

Ken Fang – 13.3 million viewers

With interest in women’s basketball at an all-time high, this is the type of star power that the men’s tournament cannot buy. With Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark in the first game and then JuJu Watkins and Paige Bueckers in the nightcap, ESPN should not only win the night on all platforms but set another viewership record for women’s basketball.

Sean Keeley – 9.1 million viewers

I can understand the reluctance to assume the numbers will be significantly lower than last year’s title game. But I don’t think the fact that this game is in the Elite Eight matters. Given the magnitude of the players and coaches involved, the storylines surrounding them, the demand that’s been built up for a year, and the national coverage both teams have received in the last few weeks, I think we’re due to a massive jump from the previous Iowa games to this one. Now, being on ESPN instead of ABC certainly caps how high we can go, but everything around women’s college basketball for the last year has been leading up to this game. If there’s any game people are tuning in for, it’s this one.

Ben Axelrod – 8.3 million viewers

I don’t think it can be overstated how telling it is that this game led the A-block of shows like First Take on Monday. I’m not saying that will drive audience — although it can’t hurt — but it speaks to the palpable buzz surrounding this matchup. I’d even argue that this game being the Elite Eight makes it every bit as intriguing as it would be in the Final Four, as the loser will be falling well short of their goal for the season. The timeslot isn’t perfect, but it also isn’t a major obstacle. I’m optimistic that the ratings will reflect the anticipation.

Brandon Contes – 10.1 million viewers

Women’s college basketball is in unprecedented territory right now with more star power and national intrigue than men’s college basketball, and that popularity should appear in tonight’s viewership. The fact that it’s an Elite Eight matchup instead of a title game shouldn’t matter. America is pumped to watch Iowa vs LSU play with their respective championship aspirations on the line. The fact that it’s not on ABC will matter. But even without ABC, this highly anticipated matchup still has a great chance of being the most-watched NCAA women’s basketball game in history, and I think it gets there.

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