Fever Dream

By Todd Brommelkamp/1600 ESPN

The Indiana Fever won the lottery, but like most who come in to sudden fortune the WNBA franchise may wind up regretting its victory.

After all, it’s Caitlin Clark that holds the winning ticket.

For the second time in as many years, the Fever will make the first selection in the WNBA Draft after winning the right to do so during Sunday’s lottery. The franchise took South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston No. 1 overall in 2023.

Fever fans immediately began dreaming of a franchise turnaround led by the 2022 and 2023 National College Players of the Year in Boston and Clark.

There is one hold up though and it traces back to 2020 when the Covid pandemic turned the world upside down. Because the virus led to the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020 college calendar – including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments – the NCAA granted every student-athlete an extra season of eligibility.

Clark, while a senior eligibility-wise, could in theory return to Iowa for a fifth season. Given her massive earning potential thanks to Name-Image-Likeness (NIL) deals with everyone from Hy-Vee to State Farm, it’s completely possible she foregoes the WNBA for one more year and returns to Iowa City. Those deals alone are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t be affected by her return to the college ranks. In fact, another year as the face of women’s college hoops may only lead to more revenue-generating opportunities for the West Des Moines native.

The highest paid WNBA players take home less than $250,000 per season.

What will Clark do? She has said in the past that when the time comes, she’ll do what she so often does on the court and rely on instinct.

“I’m going to go based off of my gut. At the end of the day, that’s the biggest thing that I think I should trust,” she said.

ESPN college basketball analyst Stephanie White wondered recently during a broadcast if Clark could become bored with the college game. Taking her game to the WNBA would certainly be a new test for Clark, who recently became just the 15th player in women’s college history to score 3,000 career points. She will easily surpass  Kelsey Plum’s scoring record of 3,527 sometime this season.

Clark and her fellow college players are allowed to wait until the completion of their seasons to announce their draft intentions. She’s not the only notable name with a decision looming. Stanford’s Cameron Brink, LSU’s Angel Reese, Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers and South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso are all expected to be WNBA first round picks should they pass up the chance to use their additional year of college eligibility.

The WNBA Draft will be held April 15, just one week after the NCAA championship game in Cleveland.

In the meantime all the Fever and the rest of the country can do is watch in awe as Clark continues her assault on the college record books. The only question is when will that charge end?

Clark is the only person who can answer that question and she’s in no hurry to do so.

Todd Brommelkamp is the host of “The Todd Brommelkamp Show” and can be heard weekday mornings on 1600 ESPN from 6:30-9:00 AM. He has covered Iowa football in various forms since 2000. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @toddbrommelkamp