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NCAA women’s tournament breaks attendance record for first and second rounds

The NCAA Tournament set attendance records over the weekend. (Photo by Kelly Donoho/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament broke an attendance record for the first two rounds that had stood for nearly 20 years.

The first- and second-round games, which were hosted by the tournament’s top 16 seeds, brought in 216,890 spectators, according to the NCAA. That number tops the previous record of 214,290 set in 2004.

A number of sites were sold out, including both rounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where No. 10 seed Creighton stunned home team No. 2 Iowa on Sunday. Iowa broke the single-site record for opening weekend attendance, Yahoo Sports reported.

Creighton coach Jim Flanery told Iowa coach Lisa Bluder before the second-round game, which brought in 14,382 fans, that the atmosphere was “incredible.”

“This is a great tribute to you, and your staff, and your program,” he said. “But also to the sport.”

Both attendance and viewership have risen in women’s college basketball. The 2018-19 season, the last one before the pandemic, brought in more than 8 million fans across all Division I games for the first time ever.

The 2022 postseason has seen that growth continue, with the Big Ten tournament setting attendance and viewership records. In the second round, 9,627 fans were in attendance at Indiana to watch the team advance to the Sweet 16. South Carolina had 9,817; UConn, 10,167; Louisville, 10,414.

Players can feel the impact.

“That was the most special environment I’ve ever played in, by far,” Creighton’s Payton Brotzki said after her team’s win Sunday. “It’s really, really special for the sport.”