AMNA NAWAZ: Tonight, the Final Four games in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament get under way in Dallas.
And, arguably, there's even more excitement and anticipation around these games than the men's Final Four.
Jeffrey Brown looks at why that is.
JEFFREY BROWN: There may not be a more anticipated matchup than tonight's big game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and defending champions South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina is undefeated and coached by Dawn Staley.
That game also features the current national player of the year, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, going against last year's national player of the year, forward Aliyah Boston.
The other match tonight pits LSU vs. Virginia Tech.
Ratings for the women's tournament are way up this year, 73 percent higher than a year ago during the Sweet 16.
And an Iowa game last weekend at higher ratings than any NBA game on ESPN this season.
Christine Brennan of USA Today joins us once again to talk about the games, the players and this moment.
Christine, welcome back.
So let's start with that marquee matchup and marquee stars in that matchup.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: Yes, I don't think we have ever seen a more anticipated women's basketball game ever.
This is that big of a deal.
And its time has certainly come.
And it's Iowa with Caitlin Clark, who is one of the great stars, the player of the year, just a magician on the court with her threes from the logo and just hitting every shot and winning as in the last second, and Iowa, a team that has been together for a long time, and her passes as well, not just, of course, her shooting, against the formidable South Carolina Gamecocks.
Dawn Staley is their coach, three-time Olympic gold medalist herself, one of the greatest coaches ever in the college game, And won last year.
They haven't lost in over a year.
And she has got not only Aliyah Boston, and a great, great supporting cast, but people in the bench who can come in, just waves and waves, as one coach said, of players that she can bring in.
And that's going to be tough for Iowa, just because you have got just so many great stars on the South Carolina bench as well.
But if anyone can pull it off, it would be Iowa, the way we have watched them play.
But it's going to have to be Caitlin Clark, really one of her finest hours, against a team that is very, very deserving, South Carolina, of that number one ranking.
JEFFREY BROWN: The other game gets less attention, but one storyline of course, Virginia Tech.
It's their first time in the Final Four.
And, of course, there are plenty of stars in that game too.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, there are, and the coaches as well with Kenny Brooks.
He's only the third Black male to be coaching in the women's Final Four.
And that's historic and the diversity there as well.
That's for Virginia Tech.
And then Kim Mulkey for LSU.
And she's only in her second year at LSU after winning three national titles with Baylor and a long career there.
And that game should be physical and also excellent, overshadowed only because of the brilliance of the Iowa-South Carolina matchup.
JEFFREY BROWN: What about this moment for the women's game?
What are you seeing?
What are you feeling?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Yes, Jeff, this reminds me of the 1999 women's World Cup in soccer in the Rose Bowl July 10, 1999.
I was there covering that.
That whole week leading up to it, it was Mia Hamm.
It was Julie Foudy.
It was Briana Scurry, Brandi Chastain, of course, with the penalty kick, whipping off her shirt.
The nation absolutely riveted, the cover of "TIME," "Newsweek," people on "Sports Illustrated."
No story ever has done that.
That was in '99.
Now here we are just nine months after the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
And I think we're seeing the same kind of thing.
It's not just about girls and moms and dads cheering for this team and young women.
It's about men.
It's about hard-bitten male sports writers who I have known forever who are -- who are tweeting about this, talking about it, writing about it in a way I never would have imagined.
When you get the guys, when you get those, I hate to it, but sexist guys, call and say, you know what, the best game of both the men's and women's Final Four is actually this game, the women's, I don't know that I ever thought I would hear those words.
But this is the ticket that anyone, male or female, would want to go to that Iowa South-Carolina game.
JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I do want to ask you.
We talked about this earlier in the week with the -- on the men's side, the NIL, the name, image likeness rule, which allows compensation for student athletes, the impact it's having on the men's side.
But it's clearly now having an impact on the women athletes as well, right?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Oh, for sure.
And, of course, we're seeing it throughout the Olympic sports, gymnastics and others, but basketball.
For example, Caitlin Clark, she's going to have a decision to make.
Does she want to go to the WNBA or does she want to stay at Iowa?
Well, my guess is she will stay at Iowa, because the money that she can make from all those companies, national and, of course, in Iowa, where she is just the queen of the world, why wouldn't she stay in college and then make those hundreds of thousands of dollars?
We saw it with the Miami players.
We see it over and over again with these athletes on the women's side, who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, just like the men, deservedly so, because they truly are the stars of their sport.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK, a lot of us are looking forward to this.
Christine Brennan, thank you very much.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Jeff, thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: Going to be some great games.
Can't wait to watch.