March Madness: First two rounds of women's NCAA tournament easily break last year's attendance records

Iowa's first-round game also drew over 3 million viewers

The popularity of the NCAA women’s tournament continues to grow.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that attendance for the first two rounds of the 2024 women’s tournament exceeded 292,000 at the 16 sites hosting games. That mark breaks the previous first- and second-round attendance record set last year when nearly 232,000 fans attended the first two rounds.

People are watching at home, too. Saturday’s game between Caitlin Clark’s No. 1 Iowa and No. 16 Holy Cross had over 3 million viewers on ABC. It was the most-watched non-Final Four game in women’s tournament history.

"We expected the historic success and quality of play and high level of competition from the regular season would carry through into March Madness. Our championship is again delivering," NCAA vice president of women's basketball Lynn Holzman said in a statement. "Record crowds, ratings, incredible performances and evolving storylines will continue to make the next two weeks a must-see for fans across the world."

Unlike the NCAA men's tournament, which has eight neutral sites that host eight teams apiece over the first two rounds of the tournament, the women’s tournament plays the first two rounds at the home venues of the top 16 teams in the tournament. Iowa’s second-round win over West Virginia on Monday night was Clark’s final home game.

The NCAA noted in its release that Iowa had the biggest crowds among the host sites. Carver-Hawkeye Arena had nearly 29,000 total fans for the first and second rounds.

You can expect strong television ratings for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight too. Both Iowa and defending champion LSU are scheduled to play on ABC on Saturday afternoon in their Sweet 16 games before the Elite Eight games in the men’s tournament begin. The four Sweet 16 games on Friday will be played on ESPN and the winners of those games will meet in the Elite Eight on ABC on Sunday.