Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark mania reaches WNBA before draft, 2024 season

The women's basketball landscape is reaching new heights in response to the "Caitlin Clark Effect"

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The anticipation and buzz around Caitlin Clark is taking the women's basketball landscape to new heights.

Between shattered NCAA records and graced sold-out games across the country, the Iowa guard has managed to captivate the attention of the WNBA and its fans, especially since declaring for the draft in February.

Clark, who has long been projected as the No. 1 pick, will likely jumpstart her professional career in Indianapolis playing for the Indiana Fever. The Fever, after finishing 13-27 last season and a combined 18-58 over the last two seasons, won the WNBA Draft Lottery held on Dec. 10. Indiana was one of only four teams eligible for the lottery after missing the playoffs, joining the Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm.

In response, fans are already securing their tickets to watch Clark on the big stage. The Las Vegas Aces announced on Friday that its July 2 game vs. the Fever would be moved to T-Mobile Arena from Michelob Ultra Arena, which can host up to 18,000 people for basketball games. This relocation just further reflects the vast interest Clark has ignited throughout the basketball world.

Clark, who set the NCAA scoring records for both men and women in her four seasons at Iowa, has significantly spiked interest in women’s basketball both in-person and on television. The WNBA announced in March that it is moving the April 15 draft from South Street Seaport studios in Manhattan to the larger Brooklyn Academy of Music. For the first time since 2016, 1,000 fans will be in attendance.

“We are focused on creating elevated events that WNBA fans won’t want to miss, at a time when the energy for the WNBA has never been higher,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “Last season resulted in our most-watched-regular season in over two decades, our highest total attendance in 13 years and set record figures across WNBA digital and social platforms.”

Ahead of the draft, Clark has been all in on the Hawkeyes' March Madness run -- and so have the fans.

The showdown between Iowa and the LSU Tigers in Monday's Elite Eight game drew 12.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game of all time, according to ESPN. Not only was it a rematch of the 2023 championship game but fans were captivated by Clark and Tigers star Angel Reese going head-to-head.

After Iowa's thrilling Final Four victory over UConn on Friday, the Hawkeyes are set to clash with undefeated South Carolina in the final on Sunday. For Clark, this game marks her farewell as an amateur player, as the Hawkeyes aim to secure their first national championship title.

As millions of fans eagerly anticipate whether Clark will secure her first championship, this moment marks the dawn of what could be an unparalleled year in the WNBA.

The South Carolina Gamecocks and Iowa Hawkeyes won their Final Four matchups and are set to face off in the 2024 women's national championship in Cleveland on Sunday, April 7.
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