Elle Duncan, Andraya Carter, and Chiney Ogwumike have drawn rave reviews. Screengrab via ESPN.

It’s not often during a broadcast of a nationally televised sporting event that the focus is keenly on its studio team. It’s the players and the teams and the actual game that draws the attention. The analysts in the studio for pregame, halftime and postgame commentary are usually an afterthought, unless something controversial is uttered.

Very rarely does the grouping of three or more sports personalities work so seamlessly, producing a conversation so intriguing and fun, that it becomes part of the event’s conversation on social media. 

Outside of the TNT Sports studio team featuring Shaq, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Candace Parker and the venerable Ernie Johnson, most lack the unique and rare combination of chemistry, humor, valuable insight, colloquial analytic breakdown and cohesiveness. TNT set the bar and the rest have been figuring out how to level up.

But ESPN’s women’s college basketball studio show featuring Elle Duncan, Andraya Carter and Chiney Ogwumike has arrived. They’ve got all the ingredients of an all-star, can’t miss lineup. Forget running to the refrigerator for snacks during halftime, waiting until the game tips with the sound off, or turning off the television once the games end to go to sleep.

These three are ESPN’s new “three to see,” only they aren’t on the basketball court. 

Duncan’s veteran presence, wit and ease as the host, and Carter’s court vision and easy-to-digest analysis paired with Ogwumike’s flair, one-liners and enthusiasm blends together so perfectly, you’d think ESPN hired the best writers in the business to create the perfect script for a show.

But it’s not scripted, and that’s the best part. The way they each flow and feed off one another organically and spontaneously is so infectious, social media has been abuzz.

Carter, who played college basketball for Tennessee, is a rising star. She made that loud and clear during the 2023 WNBA season. The way she talks about the game, her comfort in front of the camera, and her basketball knowledge and IQ is the complete package. She also has crossover potential, and has already appeared on other ESPN shows, such as First Take and Get Up.

Ogwumike has been around the studio block, despite being one of the youngest commentators in the game. Pulling double-duty as a WNBA player and seasoned basketball analyst, she signed a multi-year contract with ESPN in 2018. In August 2020, she became the first Black woman and WNBA player to host a national radio for the network.

Add in Duncan, who is at home in the host role in the studio as she kicking back on her couch with her feet up, sipping on a beverage while watching sports, and this is a team worth watching.

The pop culture references, ability to connect with audiences when breaking down the game, plus the energy and insight have led to clip-worthy highlights and quotes on social media. More significantly, the overall assessment has been positive. And the crowd is cheering for more.

Needless to say, ESPN has got something special on their hands. It’s not only good for the network, it’s good for the fans and women’s basketball as a whole. Heading into the WNBA season, it would be advantageous for ESPN to put these three on a weekly WNBA show of some kind, in addition to covering big ticket games throughout the season. And if they aren’t already part of the upcoming 2024 WNBA Draft programming, they should be. Part of growing the sport means lifting it up from all angles. Giving it the proper window it deserves — pregame discussion, halftime breakdowns and postgame analysis and reactions are a part of that. But to keep people engaged, particularly new fans, there needs to be an engaging crew to get it done. Carter, Duncan and Ogwumike are just that.

On Get Up this morning, Carter was discussing LSU head coach Kim Mulkey’s puzzling decision to assign Hailey Van Lith as the primary defender on Caitlin Clark during the Elite Eight matchup versus Iowa (weren’t we all?) and how it felt “criminal.”  The explanation, the breakdown, the vernacular hit its mark. At one point, Carter said, “Caitlin was already in HER BAG.”

Clark wasn’t the only one. Carter, Duncan and Ogwumike have been in their bag from the start of the Women’s NCAA Tournament. Now it’s up to ESPN to keep them rolling. Breaking up this tandem and not taking advantage of its appeal and reach would feel similarly to putting Van Lith on Clark — criminal.

About Lyndsey D'Arcangelo

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a seasoned sports writer, author and women’s sports advocate. She previously wrote about women’s basketball for The Athletic and is the co-author of Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League.