Just because you’ve (probably) already trashed your March Madness bracket in frustration doesn’t mean you should skip out on Final Four weekend. The biggest reason to tune in is the historic dominance of Iowa women’s basketball player Caitlin Clark.
Clark, a junior, is college basketball’s biggest star after recording the first triple-double with 40 or more points in the history of the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments on March 26. In doing so, she led the Hawkeyes to their first Final Four since 1993; they face defending national champion South Carolina during one of Friday’s semifinal games in Dallas.
Although the chaos of March has made Clark more prominent than ever, the 21-year-old guard has been one of basketball’s elite players for quite some time. Here’s everything you need to know about the Iowa standout.
Early Life and High School Career
Clark was born January 22, 2002, and grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa. She is the daughter of Brent Clark and Anne Nizzi-Clark and has two brothers, Blake and Colin. Her father played baseball and basketball at Simpson College, while Blake is a reserve quarterback and the holder for the Iowa State football team.
According to Inside the Hawkeyes, Clark grew up playing sports with her brothers in their backyard. Because of limited opportunities for girl basketball players, she played on an all-boys team in elementary school.
Clark tried many different activities—including volleyball, soccer, softball, tennis, and piano—but fully committed to basketball around sixth grade, according to Hawk Central. She joined the All Iowa Attack travel program, a powerhouse that produced at least six NCAA Division I recruits in the high school class of 2023, and continued to excel.
She played against high school seniors in eighth grade and was one of the top basketball prospects in the country by her sophomore year at Dowling Catholic High School. Clark was the Gatorade Iowa Player of the Year her junior and senior seasons and became a two-time MaxPreps and USA Today All-America selection. She also won a gold medal with the United States U19 national team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019.
ESPN ranked Clark as the No. 4 recruit in the class of 2020, and she committed to Iowa on November 12, 2019, over Notre Dame and Iowa State.
Clark’s Career at Iowa So Far
As a freshman at Iowa in 2020-21, Clark picked up right where she left off in high school—starting 30 games and leading the country in points scored, total assists, 3-pointers, and total field goals. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and first team all-conference, in addition to second team All-America by the Associated Press.
Her sophomore season, Clark became the first NCAA women’s player to lead Division I in points and assists per game with 27 and eight, respectively. She was a finalist for the Naismith Women’s Player of the Year, given annually to the top player in the country, but lost to South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston.
Clark also recorded back-to-back triple doubles with 30 points, something only NBA greats Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Luka Dončić, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have accomplished since 2000.
But success in the NCAA tournament eluded Clark and Iowa. The Hawkeyes reached the Sweet 16 in 2021 before falling to perennial title contender Connecticut. Then in 2022, the Hawkeyes were among the favorites as a No. 2 seed but shockingly lost to 10th seed Creighton in the second round. Clark had a miserable game as the Jays constantly rotated defenders; she made only four of her 19 shots and scored 15 points.
Which brings us to this year’s big dance…
Clark’s Historic NCAA Tournament
Clark averaged a double-double with 26 points and almost 11 rebounds per game over the Hawkeyes’ first three NCAA tournament wins this March but saved her record-setting performance for the Elite Eight game against Louisville on March 26. She had 41 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists—a stat line Iowa coach Lisa Bluder called “mind-boggling”—in Iowa’s 97-83 win.
Clark’s 41 points were the most of any NCAA tournament triple-double and second-most of any triple-double in women’s Division I history. LSU’s Cornelia Gayden had 43 on January 2, 1995, according to ESPN. The record-setting performance also made Clark the first Division I men’s or women’s college basketball player to pile up 900 points and 300 assists in a single season.
“When I came here, I said I wanted to take this program to the Final Four, and all you’ve got to do is dream,” Clark said after the win over Louisville, according to CNN. “And all you’ve got to do is believe and work your butt off to get there. That’s what I did, and that’s what our girls did, and that’s what our coaches did, and we’re going to Dallas, baby.”
The junior also went viral for directing John Cena’s famous “you can’t see me” gesture toward Louisville player Hailey Van Lith during the game, earning a shoutout from the actor and WWE superstar on Tuesday. And with 3:11 left and Iowa up 15 points, cameras caught Clark apparently pointing at the scoreboard and telling Van Lith to “shut up” during an exchange. Don’t worry—the two are friends from their time with the Team USA U19 program in 2019, so the smack talk was likely all in good fun.
The second-seeded Hawkeyes now face their biggest test yet in No. 1 South Carolina, which enters the Final Four undefeated at 36-0. Only time will tell if Clark can bolster her already legendary tournament run with another Iowa victory and a spot in this Sunday’s national championship.
How to Watch Iowa versus South Carolina
The Hawkeyes and Gamecocks square off Friday, March 31, at 9 p.m. ET. The game airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.