Even after losing the championship, Caitlin Clark’s legacy has not been tarnished

losing the championship
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losing the championship

After South Carolina had the game in hand on Sunday, and was close to winning its second national championship in three seasons and ending the 10th undefeated season in the history of women’s college basketball, the ESPN on ABC cameras watched Iowa’s Kaitlin Clark, Joe was leaving the court for the last time as an NCAA player. She had just been out, and the Hawkeye-heavy crowd in Cleveland gave her a proper ovation. The TV screen pointed to the many records she set as a collegian: all-time leading scorer in NCAA D1 history regardless of gender, most points in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, to name a few.

SEE ALSO : The Caitlin Clark Effect has made women’s basketball the hottest ticket

South Carolina, which beat Iowa 87-75, had a lot to shout about. The Gamecocks have an incredible 108-3 record over the last three seasons. This is not a typo.

But during the team’s on-court celebration, coach Don Staley – whose defensive adjustments and lineup changes had slowed Clark and the Hawkeye offense after Iowa’s hot start – saw fit to berate Clark.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for elevating our game,” Staley said. The game and we appreciate you.

When was the last time a national-championship coach got this excited by calling the other team’s star immediately after the buzzer? I will never go along.

That’s the Caitlin Clark effect. Even in defeat, he is the center of attention. Because Staley is right: She has taken the women’s game to new heights. To wit: Iowa’s 71-69 win against UConn in Friday’s NCAA Final Four game drew 14.2 million viewers, the most in women’s-college-basketball history. Reaching 17 million viewers, the game attracted more viewers than each World Series and NBA Finals game combined in 2023. It was the most-watched basketball game in ESPN history, beating Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the Boston Celtics.

Iowa–UConn broke the women’s college viewership record set just days earlier, when Iowa’s win over LSU in the Elite Eight drew 12.3 million viewers. This Iowa-South Carolina audience could be even bigger.

Clark was looking at the appointment. He converted one of his three-pointers, from near the half-court logo, during his 18-point first-quarter outburst on Sunday. His passing on the court is fantastic. At times Sunday, his Iowa teammates couldn’t handle some of his needle-and-thread play during fast breaks.

This won’t happen as much in the pros.

After Clark’s fast start, South Carolina made adjustments. The Gamecocks made more efforts to hold on to him. South Carolina proved too big for the Hawkeyes. South Carolina’s 6-foot-7 senior center Camila Cardoso, who grew up in Brazil, outshone Iowa’s frontcourt players and finished with 15 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks. Freshman Tessa Johnson got a hot hand off the bench, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the third quarter, giving the Gamecocks some relief.

The Gamecocks will be remembered as outstanding champions. Clark left college without a title, having lost in the championship game the previous two seasons. South Carolina forced him to shoot 10 of 28. She finished with 30 points. Every shot looked competitive. What Clark hit – a near-logo shot, a first quarter three on a very spread Cardoso, a few close ones with defenders around him – were impressive.

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Clark can now look ahead. The Indiana Fever will take him as the first overall pick in the 2024 draft. There is already a Clark mural in Indy. The two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces have already announced that they will move their July 2 home match against the Fever from their 12,000-seat home arena to the 18,000-seat arena used by the city’s NHL team. Will give. The WNBA is on the rise: The 2023 season is the most watched in 21 years. Viewership on ABC, CBS and ESPN networks increased 21% year-over-year.

Clarke is almost guaranteed to continue that momentum.

South Carolina showed that it is human. Hats off to South Carolina second-year guard Raven Johnson, who shot 1-11 for the game but troubled Clark all night. Johnson offered a blueprint on how to stop Clark. The WNBA is definitely watching.

Clark would take him to the pros. But right now, let’s be like classy Dawn Staley, acknowledge the influence of Caitlin Clark, and never forget what she’s done.

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