The stage is set for March Madness' Sweet 16, for both men's and women's college basketball. The Sweet 16 is an important marker in the month-long tourney, allowing for even the most casual of fans to effortlessly come back into the fold without all the chaos of the first four and free-for-all of initial rounds. From year to year, the tournament stands as one of the most exciting in all of the NCAA — especially when it comes to women's sports. Best of all, Women's March Madness is more popular than ever. ESPN is reporting an increase of 46 percent in viewership, which should come as little surprise for avid fans.
Of course, you should be watching Women's March Madness and following just as intensely as you'd tune into a NCAA Men's Basketball game. Elite athleticism certainly isn't exclusive to the men's division. Just watch the expert play of Baylor's Kalani Brown or UConn powerhouse guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson, who may very well bring the dynastic team yet another March Madness victory.
Rookies like Saumelson and Brown essentially flip the script of the popular NCAA Men's Basketball storyline in which outgoing seniors are the ones to watch. After Malcolm Brogdon and A.J. English have left the venue of college ball, fans may be left scrambling to find their next favorite players. Not so with the recent rookie crop in the women's division.
Brown's stats certainly aren't something to shrug at, nor is her pedigree. The daughter of former NBA center/power forward P.J. Brown, Kalani's rookie season marks some of the best play in her division, as she's leading the Big 12 by going 134 for 218 in shots from the field. The fact that her 9.4 points per game puts her in third on the Lady Bears shows an incredibly strong team poised to beat Florida State on Saturday. The Big 12 champs are the odds on favor in that game thanks to players like Kalani, Nina Davis, and Alexis Jones.
Though ESPN's numbers have improved in terms of Women's March Madness viewership, the 343,000 average is still nothing compared to the millions watching men's Division I match-ups. NCAA Men's March Madness numbers appear to be down, however. The fact that women's college basketball may certainly be its own commentary on just how competitive women's games have been compared to their male counterparts, even in the face of epic upsets. March Madness excitement transcends gender. Finally, it appears that viewership is starting to affirm that claim.