Just days after Caitlin Clark made history with her 11th career triple-double, she was in Dallas picking up the 2023 Naismith Player of the Year award. Her jaw-dropping 41 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds against Louisville in the Elite Eight propelled the Hawkeyes to the Final Four for the first time since 1993.
With a rising tide of fans behind them and an increase of sports bettors in Iowa sitting up and paying attention to their run in the tournament, the Hawkeyes, win or lose in the Final Four, have had a season for the ages.
The Caitlin Clark Effect
Clark, a 6-0 junior guard for West Des Moines, began garnering national headlines as a freshman when she averaged 26.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game.
In Iowa’s game notes, her accolades for this season alone take up a full page. That was before the Final Four and the remaining schedule of postseason honors like the Naismith. Her national statistical rankings are astounding:
- No. 1 in total assists, assists per game, total made three-pointers, three-pointers per game, and triple-doubles.
- No 2 in free throw attempts, free throws point, three-point attempts.
- No. 3 in field goals, points per game.
- No. 4 in field goal attempts
And she’s not just a baller. She is also an Academic All-American this season.
Fans keep joining the bandwagon
The reverberation of Caitlin Clark’s star power ripples across the Iowa sports universe. The Hawkeyes have broken attendance records at home and in the Big Ten tournament in March, when the team won its third tournament title.
With a quick turnaround after the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Iowa fans packed up and headed to the Seattle region for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Thousands of them were in the stands and helped set regional attendance records in Seattle. The sacrifice the home state fans made to travel to a city that is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States was not lost on head coach Lisa Bluder or Clark.
“It’s not unusual for us to have sellouts,” Bluder said, “But yeah, when you are traveling, buying plane tickets and hotels and etc., now you’re really having to invest. And when you have to invest in something, it’s worth a lot more. So, I think people understand that the Iowa Hawkeye women’s team is worth investing in.”
Clark said of the traveling Iowa fans: “This is like their pro sports.”
“It didn’t surprise me that we had such a turnout in Seattle. I’m lucky enough that I get to represent them.”
Final Four ticket price bonanza
The lowest ticket price for the Women’s Final Four is higher than that for men’s semifinals down the highway in Houston.
“It’s pretty incredible,” said Clark when asked about the ticket prices. She said she thinks women’s college basketball is starting to get “the viewership, the attention” that it deserves.
“When people turn on the TV or sit in the seat, they understand how good the product is.”
Make no mistake, the Hawkeyes program and the Big Ten are well aware of Clark’s impact, from attendance to TV viewing and even Iowa sports betting.
Iowa’s supporting cast
Of course, Clark can’t do everything on her own. The Hawkeyes have other talented players who help make her job easier. The other starters:
- Fifth-year forward center Monika Czinano puts up 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds per game, and shoots 78% from the free throw line.
- Senior guard/forward McKenna Warnock averages 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest.
- Redshirt senior Kate Martin produces 7.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per outing
- Senior guard Gabbie Marshall scores 6.2 points per game.
Clark and the Hawkeyes are underdogs Friday
No. 2 seed Iowa (30-6, 15-3 Big Ten) takes on overall No. 1 seed South Carolina (36-0, 16-0 SEC), Friday, March 31, at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET. South Carolina is an 11.5-point favorite in Friday’s contest, where a spot in the national championship game is on the line.