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Deciphering Metrics: From NCAA Women’s Basketball to Cyber Trends

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark clearly propelled NCAA women’s basketball viewership. But what do past numbers teach us about future expectations — in both basketball and cyber metrics?

Caitlin Clark warming up at the NCAA Women's basketball finals 2024
Flickr/Erik Drost
Everyone agrees, Caitlin Clark is a superstar athlete. On March 3, 2024, Ms. Clark became the all-time NCAA Division I scoring leader in basketball, breaking the late Pete Maravich’s 54-year-old record.

More than that, she was so popular across the U.S. while playing for the University of Iowa’s basketball team that she drew capacity crowds and record TV audiences while playing a sport that has historically received only a fraction of the attention of men’s college basketball and other men’s sports.

Consider the following media coverage:

NBC News: Caitlin Clark says goodbye to Iowa fans as school announces her jersey number will be retired
“The Hawkeyes sold out every home game, drawing 238,620 fans during the regular season, and that total doesn’t include the 55,646 fans who showed up for the ‘Crossover at Kinnick’ outdoor exhibition game in October at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium that set the women’s basketball single-game attendance record.”

The Hollywood Reporter: Men’s NCAA Final Falls Short of Women’s Title Game for First Time
“Sunday’s women’s championship game between South Carolina and Iowa brought in 18.87 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, a record for women’s basketball in the United States and the most watched hoops contest of any kind in five years. The women’s final boasted a 90 percent increase over the 9.92 million who tuned in for the 2023 game. The women’s Final Four games averaged 7.17 million and 14.42 million viewers, with the latter game (Iowa vs. Connecticut) setting an all-time record for women’s hoops, until it was broken two days later with the final game.”

Wall Street Journal: NCAA Women Beat Men in Finals’ Ratings for First Time—but Got 99% Less TV Money
“Women’s basketball championship game drew 18.9 million viewers vs. 14.8 million for the men’s final, fueled by Caitlin Clark’s emergence as a superstar.” Iowa's Caitlin Clark wins second consecutive Wooden Award
“Record-breaking Iowa star Caitlin Clark continued to collect awards in streaks on Tuesday as she won the John R. Wooden Award as the most outstanding women's college basketball player for the second consecutive season.

“Clark was named the Naismith National Player of the Year last week before her Hawkeyes played in the Women's NCAA Tournament Final Four. Iowa defeated UConn in the semifinals before losing in the title game for the second straight year as South Carolina completed an undefeated championship season.”


Taking Clark’s recent success to an even higher level, her metrics are off the charts. That is, her record-breaking scoring, audiences attracted (both live at events and on TV), popularity beyond expected fans and much more, cannot be questioned and are beyond reproach.

So where are the disagreements?

Put simply, what’s next? What will happen, or not happen, on many levels when Caitlin Clark departs Iowa City? More specifically, what will happen to game attendance and TV attention next season for the Iowa women’s basketball team? How about the NCAA March Madness Tournament in 2025?

Will the women’s TV rating continue to grow (or even beat the men) in 2025 or 2026 or 2027?

Or was Clark a once-in-a-generation NCAA player with a set of accomplishments that won’t be repeated for another decade or more?

According to, “Kim Reynolds says Caitlin Clark, Iowa women's basketball 'changed women's sports forever'”: “Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday the University of Iowa women's basketball team has 'changed women's sports forever' with the enthusiasm they generated in their NCAA tournament title-chasing season.”

And this interview with La Quita Frederick from Georgetown University shares the viewpoint that “This is not just an anomaly but rather the beginning of a new era.”

Others are not so sure. This discussion with Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger shares the viewpoint that women’s college basketball and the WNBA will likely get a slight boost in attendance in the upcoming seasons, but the incredible surge of interest and viewership will generally drop back to pre-Caitlin Clark levels.

Before I go any further, many readers are probably asking: What does any of this Caitlin Clark discussion have to do with cybersecurity metrics, trends, scenarios and reporting?

I think we can all learn quite a bit by analyzing technology and cybersecurity subtopics like reporting, metrics, predictions, forecasts and “connecting the dots” by examining the related analogies in sports and other areas that are much better understood in society. I have used similar analogies in the past. Here are just a few examples you can go back and review to better understand correlations in such areas as football, basketball and more:

But more important than any of the historical examples and analogies that may or may not be relevant, there is an ongoing debate in cybersecurity (and other areas of technology, such as generative AI) about metrics and future trends.

Simply stated, there is intense discussion about what’s going to happen next. So just because data breaches or ransomware attacks, or vulnerabilities, or nation-state attacks were up last year, will they be up next year or for the next decade? Are surges in metrics even relevant for where we will be in a few years? And yes, the results are vitally important.

For example, consider these cybersecurity stories:
World Economic Forum (WEF): 3 trends set to drive cyberattacks and ransomware in 2024
“Following two years of high but stable activity, 2023 has seen a worrying resurgence in ransomware and extortion losses, as the cyberthreat landscape continues to evolve. Hackers are increasingly targeting IT and physical supply chains, launching mass cyberattacks, and finding new ways to extort money from businesses, large and small. It’s little wonder that our customers and clients rank cyber risk as their top concern in the annual Allianz Risk Barometer survey.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ): If Companies Are So Focused on Cybersecurity, Why Are Data Breaches Still Rising?
“Organizations are spending more money than ever on cybersecurity—an estimated $188 billion globally in 2023, a figure expected to grow to almost $215 billion in 2024—yet hackers always seem to stay a step ahead.

“The number of reported data breaches in the U.S. rose to a record 3,205 in 2023, up 78% from 2022 and 72% from the previous high-water mark in 2021, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. Trends are similar in other parts of the world.”

Security Intelligence: AI reduces data breach lifecycles and costs
“The cybersecurity tools you implement can make a difference in the financial future of your business. According to the 2023 IBM Cost of a Data Breach report, organizations using security AI and automation incurred fewer data breach costs compared to businesses not using AI-based cybersecurity tools.

“The report found that the more an organization uses the tools, the greater the benefits reaped. Organizations that extensively used AI and security automation saw an average cost of a data breach of $3.60 million, compared to $4.04 million for those reporting limited use of AI and security automation. Organizations that did not use AI and security automation at all experienced significantly higher breach costs at $5.36 million.”

U.S. Government Accountability Office: OMB Should Improve Information Security Performance Metrics
“Federal agencies' implementation of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA) continued to be mostly ineffective. Although some improvement was reported from 2021 to 2022, inspectors general (IG) of 15 of the 23 civilian agencies found the information security programs to be ineffective (see figure). IGs reported various causes for the ineffective programs, including management accountability issues and gaps in standards and quality control. Addressing the causes could improve the federal government's cybersecurity posture.”

In summary, there is tremendous debate in both the public and private sectors regarding metrics. When headline-grabbing cyber attacks occur, causing data breaches or system outages, are these trends or one-off events? While it may seem obvious that these are tech and cyber trends that will continue, there has been wide variance in different years, sectors and other techniques.

Many of those same questions occur in sports and other areas of life. A key question is whether given a large set of circumstances that will change, will the metrics continue or change? This is true in sports and technology, including cybersecurity. It is also what statistics, predictions and even betting are based on. Various outcomes can be tested with various exercise scenarios, in the same way that sports teams practice various game scenarios.


So back to the original story. There are different views regarding how Caitlin Clark will perform when she joins the Women’s NBA next season. Nevertheless, most people believe she will, at least initially, draw big crowds when she joins the Indiana Fever in the upcoming season.

What’s clear is that there is a lot at stake. As this article points out, women’s basketball is a business and more than just a game: “The world of sports continually evolves, adapting to new talents, technologies, and societal changes. One of the most remarkable transformations in recent years is the rise of women’s college basketball.”

But how do leaders plan for the future of that business? What facts and assumptions need to be modeled? Are recent successes or failures going to continue? Those same questions apply to cyber attacks (and related metrics) as well.


On a personal level, I really enjoyed watching Caitlin Clark play basketball for Iowa. Her story is exceptional, heart-warming and fun. She did “change the paradigm” — at least for a few seasons. Despite the reality that I almost never watched women’s basketball prior to this “Caitlin Clark era,” I found myself looking at schedules and planning my ESPN viewing habits around some of their games.

Will that continue when she is in the WNBA? Probably not, but we’ll see.

To this point, the Caitlin Clark metrics are undeniable. Is this a lasting trend or, like the excitement of the recent solar eclipse in the U.S., a once-in-20-year exception?

Only time will tell, but cyber pros can watch and learn.
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.