ESPN since 1996 has been the Women’s Final Four exclusive television home. Network officials are bragging that this year’s coverage of Friday’s semifinals and Sunday’s championship game will be “augmented with data-driven visualizations and enhancements, bringing fans closer to the live-action.” They are pledging an “immersive experience” for the viewer.
“We want to try new things,” declared ESPN Coordinating Producer Pat Lowry of the various bells and whistles employed in this year’s coverage. “We’ll have 40 cameras. We’ve got the super cam, the one that flies here and there and around [the arena] and makes everything look big and important. But also, what it does from a basketball perspective, is it shows you spacing.
“We’re adding real cam again this year,” she continued. “We used it last year for the first time, and that camera is the one that can show you the speed of the game from a viewer standpoint because it’s moving along the sideline at the same speed the student-athletes are going.
“We’re going to get some really interesting replays as well” using high-speed cameras that “don’t have to have cables connected to [them],” noted Lowry. “Our hope is…we’re gonna bring some of the emotion you see and reactions and everything to the viewer experience.”
The 2022 Women’s Final Four is expected to be distributed to over 200 countries around the world, ESPN announced.
“Viewers will be able to see real-time-enhanced stats,” said Lowry. “You’ll see player stats, team stats, along with the cameras and replays and the announcers. There will be a lot of different offerings this year.”
Notable women leading the way
This year’s Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis is being orchestrated by a significant number of women, especially Black females.
Duke Athletics Director Nina King was the chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, the group that selected and seeded the 68-team field. “It’s so great to be a part of the women’s basketball community [and] the game,” she told the MSR last month during a visit to the Cities. “I don’t think people realize the magnitude of the work.”
Five sistahs are on ESPN’s “A-Team” of studio analysts. “We have a new host for the tournament,” said Pat Lowry on Elle Duncan, “and we’re adding Nikki Fargus this year.” Duncan and Fargus join Monica McNutt and Carolyn Peck in the studio. “We’re adding a sideline analyst, Andraya Carter [a former player], from the University of Tennessee,” said Lowry.
Alystia Moore, ESPN’s director of programming and acquisitions, told the MSR that she expects viewership to be high: “Viewership trends [of WBB telecasts] have been really impressive,” up 45% from last year, she reported.
Lighting up Minneapolis
Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday’s national title game, buildings and landmarks throughout Minneapolis will be lit in the colors of the 2022 Women’s Final Four—blue and orange. These locations include the IDC Center, Minneapolis Convention Center, and the Nicollet Mall among others. Also, the I-35W and Lowry Avenue bridges will be lit in Final Four colors on Friday, April 1.
Indigenizing the Women’s Final Four
Bringing awareness of Native American people will be front and center throughout the Final Four this week, including an acknowledgment of their original possession of the land where the games are being played, to show the importance of the local Indigenous community to major sporting events. Over 200 tickets for both Friday’s semifinals and over 200 tickets for Sunday’s game have been distributed through local Native organizations.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.