Caitlin Clark's star power prompts more bettors to put their money on women's basketball

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The men's Final Four as recently as five years ago received 15 to 20 times the betting action compared to the women at Caesars Sportsbook.


It's more of a 2-to-1 ratio, according to Craig Mucklow, Caesars vice president of trading.

“Books have promoted a lot of the women's game,” Mucklow said. “We push it. We treat the women's game with the same importance as we treat any NBA game or any men's Final Four games. We're all hands on deck. We're focused on the wagers, the injuries, the news. You've got to get the price correct because people follow the game.”

They especially follow Caitlin Clark, who has led Iowa to the Final Four for the second year in a row. She has been the driving force in taking women's basketball to new heights largely because of her willingness and ability to shoot nearly from the time she crosses midcourt, causing opponents such as LSU's Hailey Van Lith to throw up her hands in frustration.

BetMGM trading manager Seamus Magee said there is an unmistakable trend in betting on the women's games closing in on the men's. The storylines Monday night, he said, drove the betting action.

In addition to Clark's masterful 41-point, 12-assist performance, LSU was cast by many into the role of the villain and had its own marquee player in Angel Reese, UConn had its 11 national championship under Geno Auriemma and a former national player of the year in Paige Bueckers, and USC had the potential heir to Clark's throne in freshman JuJu Watkins.

Iowa's 94-87 high-paced victory served as the perfect lead-in to UConn's 80-73 win.

“Iowa-LSU was our most bet-on women's sporting event ever, but USC and UConn is really up there," Magee said. “If anything, it's top three, so it definitely had a rollover effect. ... I think when you have nights like that, it keeps people wanting to come back.”

How many keep coming back after Clark leaves for the WNBA, where she is almost assured of being the top pick by the Indiana Fever, is the big question.

Maybe Watkins will keep the momentum going, and playing before a national audience Monday in which she scored 29 points against UConn could've elevated her even more into the public consciousness.

Mucklow was bullish on the betting trends going forward for the women's game, but Magee took a more wait-and-see approach.

“It's hard to say because it came quickly,” Magee said. “(Watkins) could be a player to fill those shoes. She's an electric player to watch on television, so I'm not going to sit here and say there's going to be a big drop-off because you never know what could happen in a year's time.”


Online sports betting became legal in North Carolina on March 11 — just in time for the madness of March in a basketball-mad state.

So it's no surprise that money has poured in on North Carolina State, which along with UConn, has teams in the men's and women's Final Four.

“It's been just insane to see what's happening in Carolina in the past three weeks,” Magee said.

Mucklow said Caesars bookmakers are “big UConn fans” on the men's side because of all the cash on the Wolfpack.

“Probably the worst time for a sportsbook to go live in a state when all their best teams are playing,” Mucklow said.


The women's Final Four semifinals are Friday and the championship is Sunday, making this a short week for bettors to lay action.

“You've lost two days of trading,” Mucklow said. “Everything's about the scheduling this week, unfortunately, where (Monday) they benefited. It's a shame, but regardless of the outcome, you're going to have a tremendous final. I'm pretty sure that the final will eclipse last year's double, no problem.”


If the Final Four plays out as the FanDuel Sportsbook odds suggest, don't expect a lot of drama.

On the men's side, Purdue is a 9 1/2-point favorite over N.C. State on Saturday, and UConn is favored by 11 1/2 over Alabama. The Huskies are minus-185 favorites to repeat as champions, meaning a $185 bet pays $100.

Likewise, on the women's side, South Carolina is an 11 1/2-point favorite over the Wolfpack. Oddsmakers expect a much closer game in the other semifinal, installing Iowa — which the casual bettors are betting heavily on — as a 2 1/2-point favorite over UConn. South Carolina is minus-200 to win the title.


FanDuel has a separate section devoted to Clark. Her over/under is 33 1/2 on points, 9 1/2 on assists and 6 1/2 on rebounds and 5 1/2 on made 3-pointers. There are other Clark wagers also available on the site.


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