It’s that time of the year – all tickets to the Big Dance are punched, and fresh brackets are hot off the presses for both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA March Madness college basketball tournaments. Men’s and women’s tournament games get underway this week.
While overall March Madness interest appears down from a year ago, where does the interest currently stand for each tournament? What does interest in NCAA women’s basketball look like today?
The gap between men’s and women’s tournament interest is wide.
The latest CivicScience data reveals interest among U.S. adults favors the men’s tournament, with 30% planning to follow the men’s tournament ‘somewhat’ or ‘very closely.’ When it comes to the women’s tournament, 17% say they’ll follow the games at least somewhat closely, only 5% of whom said ‘very closely,’ which is less than half that of the men’s side (11%).
The overall decline in March Madness interest seen previously bears out in the individual tournaments as well — the men’s tournament interest is down six percentage points year-over-year, but the decline for the women’s games is even more significant, falling nine percentage points from 2022.
Gen Z still loves Women’s March Madness the most, though far fewer plan to follow it this year.
Previous CivicScience polling ahead of last year’s March Madness festivities found Gen Z adults led the way in interest in the women’s games. Not only did they lead all other age groups, but they also showed more interest in the women’s tournament than the men’s side of things.
According to the latest CivicScience data, Gen Zers are still the most likely to have an interest in the women’s games, but that percentage fell dramatically since last year. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Gen Z adults aged 18-24 plan to follow the women’s tournament at least ‘somewhat closely’ – a figure five percentage points higher than the next closest age group, 55+ (19%). That percentage is down a staggering 36 percentage points from the 60% seen in 2022.
Despite declining March Madness interest, NCAA women’s basketball interest is on the rise compared to other women’s sports.
Though interest in the women’s tournament is down, women’s college basketball as a whole is showing signs of growth. Among all women’s sports, both collegiate and professional, women’s college basketball is not only tops among all leagues, interest in watching it has grown by five percentage points since CivicScience’s last data check-in.
Just a March Madness bump? Not so fast.
Although March Madness may put women’s college basketball in the spotlight more than it might be in the regular season, recent viewership milestones suggest that interest in the sport isn’t solely a result of the tournament’s popularity. Notably, a recent game between the undefeated University of South Carolina and Louisiana State University garnered the largest TV audience for a women’s regular season game in 13 years. The Big Ten Network also reported its women’s coverage this season broke records, including a 25% increase in viewership of last week’s Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament.
March Madness tip off is the tip of the iceberg in an eventful March for the sports world – a month that will also feature the World Baseball Classic, NBA and NHL playoff pushes, and MLB opening day. Want to know how your consumers will engage with the biggest sporting events like these? Let’s chat.