BIG EAST Women's Basketball

Paige Bueckers Is Not Leaving UConn. Could More Skip The 2024 WNBA Draft?

Paige Bueckers Is Not Leaving UConn. Could More Skip The 2024 WNBA Draft?

Paige Bueckers, a projected top 3 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, announced her return to UConn next season. Here's a look at other potential picks.

Feb 19, 2024 by Deondre Hayes

Paige Bueckers announced her decision to return to UConn for another season following her senior night against Georgetown on Feb 16.  Her announcement was highly anticipated as the regular season comes to an end and teams begin to prepare for the postseason.

Prior to her decision, Bueckers was the projected 3rd pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft across multiple draft boards. She was forecasted as high as No. 2 in December. 

The decision for Bueckers to return was not only sentimental, as she was thankful for the support of her team and UConn throughout her ACL injury process during the 2022-23 season; Returning to UConn also is a viable financial decision considering how much she can earn in NIL contracts. For perspective, Bueckers has an estimated $643,000 valuation which is double that of the highest WNBA player contract.

With Bueckers being the first of WNBA lottery picks to publicly announce whether she would pursue the WNBA or return to college for next season, speculation has now begun for other potential lottery picks' decisions. 

This year's biggest names in NCAA Women’s Basketball such as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, and Cameron Brink are all projected top 10 picks in the 2024 WNBA Draft. What these women also have in common is the option to return to college for the 2024-2025 season, thanks to the 2021 COVID eligibility rule. These athletes are some of the biggest faces in college basketball allowing them to take full advantage of NIL to their full benefit. 

With partnerships and deals with brands such as Nike, Reebok, Gatorade and more, the decision to return to school vs. pursuing the WNBA with a smaller market cap becomes increasingly more complex.

Here’s a look at the biggest names in NCAA Women’s Basketball and how their decisions could Change the 2024 WNBA Draft. 

2024 WNBA Mock Draft

Here’s a look at some of the names in the 2024 WNBA Mock Draft who still have NCAA eligibility for the 2024-2025 Season. 

A large number of 2023-24 seniors still have 1 year of eligibility from the 2020-2021 season affected by Covid-19.

  • Caitlin Clark (Iowa): 1 year remaining
  • Cameron Brink (Stanford): 1 year remaining
  • Paige Bueckers (UConn): 2 years remaining 
  • Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina): 1 year remaining
  • Aaliyah Edwards (UConn): 1 year remaining
  • Angel Reese (LSU): 1 year remaining
  • Georgia Amoore ( Virginia Tech): 1 Year remaining
  • Haley Van Lith (LSU): 2 Years remaining

Will Caitlin Clark Enter The 2024 WNBA Draft?

Clark has not announced her decision following this season at Iowa. She has one year of eligibility remaining and is also the projected No. 1 pick on every WNBA 2024  mock draft.

NIL Deals amongst NCAA Women’s Basketball

Here’s a look at the estimated valuations of some of women’s hoops biggest names. (Via On3):

  • Angel Reese (LSU) : Estimated $1.7M
  • Caitlin Clark (Iowa): Estimated $818K
  • Paige Bueckers (Uconn): $652K
  • Deja Kelley (UNC): $262K
  • Cameron Brink (Stanford): $232K
  • JuJu Watkins (USC):$212k

Paige Bueckers NIL Deal

Bueckers ranks as one of the top earners in the NIL space with a $652,000 valuation, despite missing a year from injury. The highest paid WNBA player has a salary of $252,450 per year.

Here's a look at some of the company's Paige Bueckers has signed NIL deals with.

NIL Deals: 

  • Nike
  • Gatorade
  • StockX
  • Chegg
  • Go Army
  • Leaf Trading Cards

WNBA Highest Paid Players in 2024

These are the top paid WNBA players as of the 2023-24 season. 

  1. Arike Ogunbowale    $234,936    Dallas Wings
  2. Diana Taurasi    $234,936    Phoenix Mercury
  3. Jewell Loyd    $234,936    Seattle Storm
  4.  Elena Delle Donne    $234,350    Washington Mystics
  5. DeWanna Bonner    $234,350    Connecticut Sun
  6. Skylar Diggins-Smith    $234,350    Phoenix Mercury
  7. Natasha Howard    $227,900    Dallas Wings
  8. Cheyenne Parker    $216,100    Atlanta Dream
  9. Alyssa Thomas    $212,000    Connecticut Sun
  10. Jonquel Jones    $211,150    New York Liberty
  11. Brionna Jones    $208,000    Connecticut Sun
  12. Kelsey Mitchell    $206,000    Indiana Fever
  13. Kahleah Copper    $205,000    Chicago Sky
  14. A'ja Wilson    $202,155    Las Vegas Aces
  15.  Napheesa Collier    $202,154    Minnesota Lynx

When Does The 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Start?

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will begin with Selection Sunday on March 17, followed by the First Four on March 20-21. 

After the opening round is complete, the field will be set with the top 64 teams and the first round will start on March 22.

What Is Selection Sunday?

Selection Sunday is the day the NCAA committee releases the full tournament bracket initial seeding of all 68 teams. 

32 teams will automatically qualify for the tournament by winning their conference tournament. 

That leaves 36 other teams fighting for an at-large bid from the selection committee, which is considered through multiple stats and rankings to determine who receives the at-large bid.

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