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NCAA Tournament breaks attendance record for second straight season

UConn fans cheer on their team during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion. (Sean Elliot/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The 2023 NCAA women’s basketball tournament already is setting records.

For the second consecutive season, the first two rounds of March Madness set a new attendance record, as 231,677 fans flocked to arenas across the country to watch the action. Last season, the first- and second-round games brought in 216,890 fans, which broke the previous high set in 2004.

Tickets for the first- and second-round games at Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye arena sold out in just 53 minutes when they went on sale the Monday before the tournament.

“I think it just shows the excitement in our community about women’s basketball, and that’s the excitement that it could be like that all around the country,” Iowa guard Caitlin Clark said.

Not only did the tournament see a 6.8% increase in attendance across the first two rounds, the first round also saw a 27% increase in viewership, up to an average of 257,000 per game, ESPN announced Tuesday. The games aired across ESPN’s networks and ABC.

No. 4 seed Tennessee’s win against No. 13 seed St. Louis on Saturday set the high-water mark, with an average of 639,000 viewers. No. 2 seed UConn’s win against No. 15 seed Vermont came in second, with an average of 636,000 viewers.

Of the games on ESPN’s networks, No. 2 seed Iowa’s win against Southeastern Louisiana brought in the most viewers, with an average of 560,000.

Across all the first-round games, viewers consumed a total of 875 million minutes of women’s college basketball, per ESPN.