Paige Bueckers' dominant performance for UConn vs. Syracuse is why she'll be WNBA Draft's No. 1 pick in 2025 (2024)

UConn was on the ropes. The Huskies hadn't missed a Sweet 16 since 1993, and it was starting to look like that decades long streak might come to a close.

Late in the fourth quarter of their 72-64 win in the second round of the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Monday night, starting point guard Nika Muhl had fouled out and Syracuse had cut UConn's lead to just two points with an 8-0 run. That's when Paige Bueckers took control of the situation.

First, with just under two minutes to play, she sized up the defense at the top of the key, got to her spot in the mid-range and buried a jumper to push the Huskies' lead back to four points. A minute later, down on the other end of the floor, she dove on a loose ball and wisely called timeout to get her team an extra possession. Then, on the ensuing play, she drew a triple team and made a perfect pass to KK Arnold, who buried a 3-pointer to seal the game.

Bueckers' three game-saving moments were a microcosm of her brilliant overall performance. She finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals on 14-of-25 shooting to send UConn to the Sweet 16 for a record 30th consecutive year. In the process, she showed why she'll be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2025 WNBA Draft.

Last month, after UConn's win over Georgetown on senior night, Bueckers addressed the adoring crowd inside Gampel Pavilion and told them exactly what they were hoping to hear: she had decided not to turn pro and would return to school for the 2024-25 season. That ensured more nights like Monday, but Bueckers will eventually leave for the WNBA. When she does, she'll be one of the best perimeter prospects to ever enter the league.

Bueckers can truly do it all, and it starts with her scoring. As we saw against Syracuse, she can create her own look at any point, and is comfortable and efficient at all three levels. She's averaging 21.5 points, and the only reason she is not going to join the 50/40/90 club this season is because she's shooting only 84.6% from the free throw line.

Her off-the-dribble prowess, especially from the mid-range -- 49.2% on pull-up two-pointers -- makes her extremely difficult to stop. At six-feet, she has the size to see over any perimeter defender, and once she gets to her spot there's not much you can do besides hope that she misses. Against Syracuse, that didn't happen very often.

When she needs to, Bueckers can turn it on and really pile up the points. For the most part, though, she picks and chooses her spots, and makes sure to get her teammates involved. Don't let her career-low 3.8 assists per game fool you, that number undersells her vision and passing ability.

Just look at these two feeds. On the first, she gets into the teeth of the defense, reads the big stepping up and delivers a perfect drop-off bounce pass to Aaliyah Edwards for a bucket. Later, she once again draws multiple defenders with a dribble drive. This time, she kicks the ball out to the corner and Ashlynn Shade buries a 3 to beat the buzzer.

Bueckers' defense is the most underrated aspect of her game. She may not rack up awards on that side of the ball, but she has great size and length on the perimeter and understands the game. That alone can get you pretty far, and Bueckers combines it with a real desire to make an impact on defense.

Early on against Syracuse, Bueckers made an impact off the ball by jumping into passing lanes. But down the stretch, after Muhl had fouled out, she became the primary defender on Dyaisha Fair, the Orange star who became the third-leading scorer in Division I women's basketball during the game. Bueckers shut her down, which helped ensure the victory.

"We have the best player in America," UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. "Just saying that because the numbers, in this world of analytics, say that she is. And the stat sheet says that she is. And everybody that watched knows it."

Whether Bueckers is actually the best player in the country could be up for debate. What's not is that very few players, at any level, have her combination of size, skills and feel for the game. When she does decide to make the leap to the WNBA, she should be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 draft.

Paige Bueckers' dominant performance for UConn vs. Syracuse is why she'll be WNBA Draft's No. 1 pick in 2025 (2024)


Is Paige Bueckers good at basketball? ›

Bueckers earned national player of the year honors from multiple outlets, including Naismith and the Associated Press, following the 2020-21 season, while Clark shared WBCA national freshman of the year honors with her. Bueckers ascent got temporarily derailed in what would have been her sophom*ore and junior seasons.

Is Paige Bueckers black? ›

Bueckers uses her platform for advocacy.

After winning the ESPY for Best Women's College Athlete in 2021, Bueckers used her acceptance speech as an opportunity to advocate for Black athletes. “As a white woman who leads a Black-led sport,” she said on stage, “I want to shed a light on Black women.

Who declared for WNBA draft 2024? ›

LSU's Angel Reese declared her intent for the draft through her own profile in Vogue. Clark and Reese are joined by Stanford's Cameron Brink, South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso, Tennessee's Rickea Jackson and Connecticut's Aaliyah Edwards.

Is Caitlin Clark going to the WNBA? ›

Clark brought an entire town, an entire state, an entire country together to watch women's basketball at unprecedented levels. Now, she's off to the WNBA, and is expected to do the same thing in Indianapolis as she is picked by the Fever on Monday night. And the Fever is the team that needs it the most.

Is Paige Bueckers a millionaire? ›

Paige Bueckers, as per online sources has an estimated net worth of approximately around $1.5 million as of April 2024. This net worth is because of her skills as a collegiate basketball player which helps her in accomplishing an ever increasing list of NIL deals.

Why is Paige Bueckers so famous? ›

Bueckers finished as Hopkins' all-time leader in points (2,877), assists (795) and steals (574). Bueckers has been regarded as one of the best players in Minnesota girls' high school basketball history.

What was Paige Bueckers GPA? ›

Daughter of Amy Dettbarn and Bob Bueckers; has two younger brothers, Ryan and Drew, and one younger sister, Lauren. Boasts a 3.78 GPA.

Is Paige Bueckers religious? ›

Such profound faith has been an intrinsic part of Bueckers' narrative, transcending the confines of the basketball court. Vocal about her beliefs, she frequently shares scriptures and attributes her successes to the grace of God. Proverbs 3:5-6 adorns her Instagram bio, a testament to her unwavering conviction.

How much does Paige Bueckers average? ›

As a Sophom*ore (2021-22): Played in 17 games with 13 starts ... averaged 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game ... had 14 points and six rebounds in NCAA Championship game vs.

Is Angel Reese going to the WNBA draft? ›

The WNBA invited 15 players to the draft Monday, including Clark, Reese, Brink, Jackson, Cardoso and Kitley.

Did Angel Reese get drafted? ›

LSU star forward Angel Reese announced Wednesday that she is declaring for the 2024 WNBA draft. Reese will enter the pros as one of the sport's biggest names.

Is there an age limit for the WNBA draft? ›

The league requires domestic draft entrants to be at least 22 years old during the year in which the draft takes place and to have no remaining college eligibility or to renounce any future college eligibility. These rules have been in place since 2014.

Does Caitlin Clark get paid? ›

A key difference between college basketball and the WNBA for Clark is that she will actually be paid for playing basketball. The rookie scale for the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft starts at $76,535 in the first season, according to Spotrac.

Where is the 2024 WNBA draft? ›

The 2024 WNBA Draft begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York — and it serves as the passage to the pros to many of the stars of the last month.

Where will Caitlin Clark get drafted? ›

The scene is being repeated in Indianapolis, where excitement has reached, well, a fever pitch, as the Indiana Fever will -- barring an unfathomable change of direction -- select Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark with the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft Monday night.

How many championships does Paige Bueckers have? ›

Gold Medals: 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, 2018 Youth Olympic Games, 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. International Tournament Titles: 2018 Latvia U17 International Invitational, 2018 Spokane Hoopfest (3x3), 2018 USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship.

Is Paige Bueckers going pro? ›

“I know everyone wants me to address the elephant in the room,” Bueckers said. “Unfortunately this will not be my last Senior Night here at UConn.” Bueckers was projected a top three pick in the 2024 WNBA draft and is choosing to forgo that and use her remaining year of eligibility at Uconn.

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