This March Madness, the women’s basketball tourney is must-see TV

OPINION: The Final Four matchup Friday night between Dawn Staley's South Carolina team, who's vying for a historic undefeated season and back-to-back championships, and Iowa, which features Caitlin Clark, the hottest player in the tourney, almost feels like the championship game.

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks on during the first half against the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 25, 2023 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The women of March Madness are hooping like it’s nobody’s business, Some of us have noticed.

They’re raising the roof and smashing records in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. ESPN set highs for viewership in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, bringing us to a Final Four with an unfortunate twist: The matchup everyone longed for is in the semifinals, Friday night.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Aliyah Boston square off in what feels like the title game. Clark won this season’s award for Associated Press National Player of the Year; Boston won it last season. For those who don’t watch a lot of college basketball, Clark and Boston are worth paying attention.

Naturally, we’ve watched as Boston and coach Dawn Staley seek their second straight national title. Doing so would also give South Carolina the first perfect season in school history. The stakes are always high for Staley, the three-time National Coach of the Year whose program exudes HBCU vibes. 

Like John Thompson and Georgetown were for a lotta Black folks in the ‘80s, Staley and South Carolina are the de facto squad if you don’t have a rooting interest. The Gamecocks get all our love for being an extension of their super-cool coach.

Clark gets her share of love with a “You see that?!” style of play, brilliance built for modern hoop heads and viral videos.  She’s a showstopper with the attributes of fabled blacktop legends: unlimited range, audacious passing and dramatic flair. Her rank as the sport’s most exciting player was certified in the Elite Eight when she hit Louisville with a historic 40-point triple-double (41 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists). She’s the game’s new darling, garnering tweets from LeBron JamesIsaiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, among others.

The contrast between Boston and Clark couldn’t be greater, adding another layer of intrigue, the punishing power forward versus flashy point guard. Both are dominant but do their damage in opposite ways. 

“People compare Caitlin to Aliyah, and to me, that’s apples to oranges,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “It makes no sense. They are completely different players. They are completely different positions. They’re both great at what they do, but what they do is different. So I don’t think you can compare the two of them.”

Sure we can. Happens all the time. But no matter which one you prefer, the fruit is good.

Boston anchors a big, deep team that leads the nation in rebounding and blocked shots. The Gamecocks’ physical presence can be intimidating and the defense is usually suffocating. Their average margin of victory in the tournament is 22 points and only five teams all season have been within double digits. They are the immovable object.

Clark and the Hawkeyes represent the unstoppable force, leading the nation in scoring at 87.6 points per game. They boast a free-flowing, fast-paced attack that’s heavy on oohs and aahs. It makes for greater visuals and entertainment than South Carolina’s more deliberate, beat-em-into-submission approach. 

Aliyah Boston, left, and Caitlin Clark (Andy Lyons/Getty Images; Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

But as the saying goes in boxing, styles make fights. And there’s crazy anticipation for this one. “Everybody has been talking about this matchup for a really long time,” Boston said Thursday. “It’s exciting that it’s happening in the Final Four. I think it’s just a great game for women’s basketball.”

It’s great timing, too.

More eyes than ever are on women’s college hoops. ESPN reported that the Sweet 16 enjoyed a 73% increase in viewership from 2022. Iowa-Louisville in the Elite Eight drew was almost 2.5 million viewers, more than any NBA game on ESPN this season. As a whole, the tournament has drawn 42% more viewers than in 2022.

More records could fall in a game that resembles “two Americas” doing battle. The cultural difference you might expect is evident in the team pictures, with little melanin among Iowa players and mostly sistahs for South Carolina. Unsurprisingly, the Gamecocks have endured tired, racist stereotypes about being so big and physical (and so Black). They were likened to non-basketball players by UConn coach Geno Auriemma in February.

“We’ve been called so many things and I’m sick of it,” Staley said. “I’m sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings the game has ever had.”

She coaches some of the best ballers as well. Boston is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft on April 10. But first, she’ll go against Clark, predicted to be the top pick next year. Some observers detect a whiff of 1979 in the atmosphere when Magic and Larry Bird met in the NCAA title game and proceeded to revitalize the NBA.

Forget the fact that they play women’s basketball. The clash between Boston and Clark is great for the sport, regardless of gender. 

These women are balling out.

Deron Snyder

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!