This weekend, the UConn women’s basketball team will take on two opponents. First, on Friday, it’ll be facing off against Seton Hall. Then, it’ll come back to Connecticut for a matchup against No. 25 Notre Dame in its first home game since Nov. 14.
In both games, UConn will be missing freshman Azzi Fudd. The No. 1 pickup coming into this year is dealing with a foot injury. This week, coach Geno Auriemma said Fudd has been battling the “beginning of a stress reaction” in her foot. Auriemma went on to say, “It’s a long season, and even more importantly, it’s a long career for her,” explaining why Fudd will be out for at least the next two weeks.
But still, without Fudd, who has only seen limited time so far this season, the UConn Huskies look strong headed into this weekend. They’re ranked second behind South Carolina, who beat them by 16 a week and a half ago, while Seton Hall isn’t ranked at all.
Seton Hall is the team’s first Big East matchup of the year, but they’re also a sort of test for the Huskies. On paper, the game should not be close; Seton Hall is sitting at 3-2 with losses to Fordham and the University of Southern California, neither of which are considered favorites for the NCAA championship this year.
Their wins, meanwhile, come over opponents like Mount Saint Mary, Lehigh and Toledo, who they beat in their last game on Nov. 26. A 3-2 record isn’t bad but the teams this Seton Hall roster has played are not the same as the ones UConn has, which includes teams like the now No. 22 University of South Florida and South Carolina.
So far this season Seton Hall’s best player has been junior Lauren Park-Lane, who sits at 19 points per game. Park-Lane has averaged over 39 minutes a game, the same as teammate Andra Espinoza-Hunter, and has been a big part of the three wins Seton Hall has so far.
Espinoza-Hunter has also been strong, with an average of 18.2 points per game and 23 of 26 free throws made for an average of 88.5%. These two players will have to be exceptional if Seton Hall wants to overcome the Huskies — especially with UConn’s star player Paige Bueckers, who currently averages 36 minutes a game with an average of over 20 points per game.
The second game of the weekend, the home matchup with Notre Dame, seems the more interesting one. Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 25 but is 6-1, with their only loss coming in a close contest versus Georgia on the Nov. 26.
Notre Dame has looked pretty good in most of their wins, five of which were by a margin of at least 20 points, including the exhibition game against Emporia State. The one loss to No. 20 Georgia was in overtime by just four points. And while Notre Dame hasn’t been playing teams like South Carolina, they almost beat Georgia and did beat Oregon State, both of whom are ranked.
Notre Dame isn’t in a position to challenge UConn, who is currently tied for No. 2 with North Carolina State. But how this game goes could end up meaning more than the final score alone; if it’s a close contest for the Huskies, it’s pretty much a failure. This is a team more than twenty spots below them in the rankings, who they should, by all preseason accounts, be able to beat.
After this weekend’s games, we might have a better idea of what both UConn and Notre Dame can accomplish this season, despite. This isn’t the first test for UConn, but it’s only fans’ second chance to see the team in a real home game this season.