NCAA women’s basketball experienced a growth spurt during the 2023 NCAA Tournament. BetMGM PA Sportsbook released statistics last week and saw a drastic increase in women’s basketball betting during the tournament, as well.
The sport has done a great job growing the women’s game over the last several years. With new stars and personalities expanding, the viewership also increased significantly.
More eyes on the sport attracts more bettors, especially new ones. The game should continue to grow going forward.
NCAA women’s basketball increased viewership
The National Championship game between LSU and Iowa marked a monumental NCAA Tournament for women’s basketball.
About 9.9 million people watched LSU’s dominant 102-85 victory over Iowa in arguably the best NCAA women’s tournament ever. The game peaked at 12.2 million viewers.
According to Boardroom, LSU-Iowa was the most viewed women’s college basketball game ever. The number is up 103% from last year.
Front Office Sports reported the 9.9 million viewers are more than the following sporting events:
- Any MLS game ever
- Any Stanley Cup game since 1973
- 2023 Orange Bowl
- 2023 Sugar Bowl
- Any Thursday Night Football in 2023
- 2021 NBA Finals
- 2020 World Series
- The finale of “The Last of Us”
- The most recent MLB, NBA and NFL All-Star games
Because viewership spiked so drastically, so did betting at PA sportsbooks, specifically BetMGM.
Christian Cipollini, Sports Trader at BetMGM, released the following statement on the increase in betting:
“With viewership of the women’s NCAA games being up, as was betting action throughout the tournament. BetMGM saw a 30% increase in handle on the women’s NCAA Tournament this year in comparison to last year. For the first time ever, action was comparable to an NFL game.”
Villanova women’s team a popular pick among PA sportsbook bettors
Villanova women’s basketball helped grow the game during the college basketball season.
The women Wildcats carried the torch this season, as it was the only Philadelphia-area school to reach the NCAA Tournament for both men and women. It joined Pittsburgh and Penn State men as the only Pennsylvania teams to make either tournament.
The Wildcats became a national story this year thanks in large part to Maddy Siegrist. The senior forward led the country in scoring, averaging 29.2 points per game. Also led by head coach Denise Dillon, Villanova finished with a program-record 30 wins. It went 17-3 in the Big East, but fell to Miami in the Sweet 16.
Pennsylvania bettors saw the threat that Villanova came to be. Here are some Villanova betting statistics from BetMGM:
- Ranked fourth in tickets and fifth in handle up until its Sweet 16 defeat against Miami
- In terms of handle, Pennsylvania was the top state in backing Villanova to win it all
- Nationally, Villanova was 13th in tickets and 11th in handle to win the title
There isn’t much that Siegrist didn’t accomplish during her time as a Wildcat. She became the school’s all-time leading scorer for men and women. She also became the all-time leading scorer in Big East play for men and women. Siegrist was named the Big East Player of the Year (for the second time) and earned first team All-American honors from the Associated Press.
Siegrist’s scoring prowess drew a lot of attention to Villanova and the women’s game as a whole.
Big personalities emerged in women’s college basketball
Part of the reason women’s basketball has increased in popularity is because of growing personalities.
The feud between Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese was the culmination of personalities rising at the top of the women’s game.
Whether you liked Reese’s antics towards Clark during and after the National Championship game or not, the basketball world talked about it the entire week following the game. Reese and Clark are two of college basketball’s best players with impressive resumes.
Reese, now an NCAA champion, averaged 23.2 points per game and 15.4 rebounds. The junior forward is a two-time All-American and was named to the 2022-23 All-SEC team.
Clark has been a force since she stepped foot on Iowa’s campus. She’s averaged at least 26 points per game in each of her three seasons at Iowa. She averaged 27.8 points, 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds per contest this season. Clark also became the first woman to record a 40-point triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game.
As Siegrist led the country in scoring, she also recorded a 50-point performance in February against Seton Hall. All of Siegrist’s accomplishments sent college basketball fans into a frenzy.
Hailey Van Lith led Louisville in scoring this season at 19.7 points per game, and is considered one of the better players in the country. Van Lith mixed it up with a Texas player in a postgame handshake line this year.
Then the Cavinder twins, Haley and Hanna, emerged in the NCAA Tournament, too. Haley is the better of the two as she averaged 12.2 points per game this season for Miami. The Hurricanes, a No. 8 seed, made the Elite 8 after taking down top-seeded Indiana in the second round and then Villanova in the Sweet 16.
The Cavinder twins also rely on Tik-Tok to build their brand. Their shared account has 4.5 million followers.
Trash talk and social media gets people talking beyond individual games.
Parity in NCAA women’s basketball
NCAA women’s basketball may have experienced some parity for the first time in years.
Two No. 1 seeds got knocked out before the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.
True blue bloods Connecticut, Stanford and Notre Dame did not reach the Final 4 and South Carolina lost to Iowa in the National Semifinal.
The Cavinder twins defeated Indiana 70-68 in a thriller in the second round, while No. 8 Mississippi beat top-seeded Stanford 54-49 to advance.
Improbable wins and upsets also provide a spark to the game.
Although Kim Mulkey isn’t new to winning NCAA championships, she brought LSU the program’s first-ever title in her second year. For the most part, the Final 4 featured new programs such as Iowa, Virginia Tech and LSU.
The game should continue to grow as players are more comfortable being themselves forming a larger personality. As it continues to expand, so will betting numbers in PA and across the country.