Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese Fuel Record-Setting Women’s Basketball Betting Numbers

  • The Iowa-LSU Elite Eight game broke women’s basketball handle numbers across the board
  • At Caesars, the game beat last year’s NCAA championship game by 20%
  • The game was also the most watched women’s college basketball game ever
  • All-time NCAA scoring leader Caitlin Clark and other stars have driven interest
Caitlin Clark passing
Bettors flocked to the Iowa-LSU Elite Eight game, setting women’s basketball betting handle records. [Image: / John Mac]

Bettors flocked to Iowa-LSU game

Women’s college basketball may be at a watershed, as sports fans are seemingly finally discovering the excitement and fun of the game. One indicator of its popularity is the volume of bets placed on the Iowa-LSU Elite Eight game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, which became the most-bet women’s basketball game of all time.

the highest handle on a women’s game that I can remember”

A rematch of last season’s championship game, the contest featured the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer (men or women) in Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and the 2023 tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, LSU’s all-world Angel Reese. Clark’s must-see performance every game plus a bit of on-court bad blood between the two stars last year created what Red Rock Resort Sportsbook Director Chuck Esposito told the Las Vegas Review-Journal was “the highest handle on a women’s game that I can remember.”

Caesars Sportsbook Vice President of Trading Craig Mucklow said the Iowa-LSU game, which Iowa won 94-87, beat last year’s meeting in the title game by 20%. And it wasn’t the only game that brought in the wagers. At BetMGM, both Monday night games – UConn-USC was the other – attracted both more bets and handle than every NBA game that day and UConn-USC was the operator’s third-most bet women’s game ever.

BetMGM took in nearly six-figures in wagers on Iowa-LSU in Nevada. Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons told the Review-Journal that his book accepted a $10,000 bet on Iowa, as well as multiple four-figure bets.

Television viewers couldn’t stay away

And it is not just the betting that is at all-time highs. Women’s basketball television viewership has soared on the back of Clark, Reese, and other high-profile college stars like UConn’s Paige Bueckers, undefeated South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, and USC’s freshman sensation JuJu Watkins.

With 12.3 million viewers on ESPN, the Iowa-LSU Elite Eight game became the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history and one of the most-viewed games in any sport other than the NFL in the past year. It beat the Texas Rangers’ World Series-clinching Game 5 and four of the five games in the NBA Finals.

The Iowa-LSU game also now holds the record for the most-watched college basketball game – men’s or women’s – on ESPN. It more than doubled the eyeballs of the 2002 women’s national championship game between UConn and Oklahoma, which drew 5.68 million viewers.

The previous record-holder for the most-viewed women’s college basketball game was the 1983 NCAA title game between USC, led by the legendary Cheryl Miller, and Louisiana Tech, whose point guard was current LSU coach Kim Mulkey. 11.84 million people tuned in for that game.

Including other networks, only the men’s NC State-Duke Elite Eight matchup on CBS this past weekend beat the Iowa-LSU women’s game, with 15.1 million viewers.

The world is Caitlin Clark’s

While we mentioned some of the big stars in the women’s game, the one who really is driving everything is Caitlin Clark. She has not been a secret – Clark was one of the top five recruits in her high school class, along with Bueckers, Reese, Cardoso, and Stanford’s Cameron Brink. She led the NCAA in scoring her freshman year, became the first player to lead the nation in points and assists her sophomore year, and won all major player of the year awards her junior year en route to runner-up finish with Iowa in the NCAA tournament.

But for whatever reason, it really took until this season of Clark to absolutely draw the attention of the sports world.

Clark has broken countless records in her time at Iowa and she still has one or two games remaining. Her most eye-popping accomplishment was breaking “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s 54-year-old NCAA scoring record a month ago. She also set the NCAA women’s record for most points in a single season and most three-pointers in a season by any men’s or women’s Division I player.

Her litany of other records includes several in the NCAA tournament: most career three-pointers, most threes in a game, most career assists, and the first player in tournament history with three career 40-point games.

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