On Sunday, the UConn women’s basketball team will begin its regular season with a home game against Arkansas. UConn, who demolished Fort Hays State in an exhibition game last week, is currently the No. 2 ranked team in the country and the No. 1 ranked team in the Big East.
The team comes into the season with fans eagerly anticipating the impact of star players like Paige Bueckers, who dominated in her freshman season last year, and Azzi Fudd, a freshman many hope will follow in Bueckers’ footsteps and further bolster the team. They’re joined by experienced players like Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams, as well as other players like Dorka Juhász, who transferred from Ohio State.
This game against Arkansas is not the hardest game the Huskies are going to play this season, or at least it shouldn’t be. Arkansas did win their season opener on Wednesday, 85-33 over Tarleton State, and also beat the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith by 59 in an exhibition game, but UConn is a different beast for the unranked Arkansas lineup.
This is a UConn team for which really any more than one loss, if that, will be considered a failure. This is a team which, for the second year in a row, has the No. 1 ranked prospect, this Azzi Fudd, who is hoping to show up this season and outperform last year’s iffy postseason.
The game against Arkansas is the first test, though certainly not the last, for the Huskies. It is their first game at the XL Center this year, which brings in a larger crowd than Gampel. It’s the first game that matters, even if it isn’t one fans are likely to remember at the end of the season, because it’s against a team that at least got votes for the top 25 rankings, even if it didn’t make it in.
Not only is this a test to of the UConn team’s talent, but it’s also a chance to get a look at what its player situation. Who starts? Who plays the most minutes? The most interesting aspects to examine, should UConn win, will likely be how they won and who won for them — the information that sets the stage for the rest of the year.
Will it be the younger players, like Fudd and Bueckers, or the older players, like Williams and Nelson-Ododa, who carry the team to victories? What will this team look like against upcoming threats? UConn has a packed schedule that includes games against current rank No. 1 South Carolina and No. 6 Louisville.
But for now, the Huskies’ eyes are on Arkansas. They can’t win their season on Sunday, but they can set the stage. Or if the unthinkable, in the eyes of fans, happens, they can lose it, too.