The start of the season is just around the corner for the UConn women’s basketball team. Official practice has been ongoing since early October, but they are now less than a week away from their first exhibition game against Kutztown on Sunday, Nov. 6.
Undoubtedly, injuries have been a consistent occurrence with this team in the past year. Last season, the program dealt with more injuries and illnesses than possibly any other year ever. Due to recurring issues, 10 of UConn’s 12 players missed two or more games last year. Some primary examples are Paige Bueckers, who missed 19 games due to a tibial plateau fracture, and Azzi Fudd, who missed 11 games last year with a foot injury. Nika Mühl dealt with an ongoing foot injury that kept her out for three games and Carolina Ducharme was sidelined for four games, then had to undergo hip surgery in the offseason. Lastly, Aubrey Griffin got back surgery to repair a disc injury and in the Elite Eight, Dorka Juhász suffered a season-ending wrist fracture.
As listed previously, the team was loaded with injuries and there was never really a time where the problems were limited. Unfortunately for UConn, this trend seems to be continuing over to this season, which has made some question the status of the program and their potential for title contention this year. Making it to the Final Four last season, then losing in the championship game to South Carolina, fans are wondering if they still have the strength to make it back to that point.
Starting with the obvious, Paige Bueckers tore her ACL in the middle of the summer, causing her to get surgery that would keep her sidelined for the entirety of the upcoming 22-23 season. Just recently, the injuries expanded, with Ice Brady undergoing season-ending knee surgery after she dislocated her right patella in practice. This is just another blow for the team, as Brady is a top recruit and has continued to show promising young star qualities.
“It’s so heartbreaking because they put so much time and effort into being the best player they can be,” head coach Geno Auriemma said on the current injuries. “When that’s taken away – regardless of how long they’re out – to not be able to play is unfortunate. Ice has made so much progress since she’s been here and I’m really confident that when she does come back, she’s going to be better and more impactful than she already has been.”
Brady and Bueckers will miss the 22-23 season with knee injuries. The main question is how the Huskies are going to overcome these setbacks?
Although the injuries are putting UConn in a difficult position, the 2022 national runner-ups’ goal of winning the National Championship remains the same. They are coming into the season as the No. 6 team in the AP Poll and the Big East unanimous preseason favorites.
A player to watch will be freshman Ayanna Patterson, who came into the program with Ice Brady but understandably won’t take the court together this season. Recruiting Patterson, the intention was to have her be comfortable playing in multiple positions. The forward was selected as the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year. Coach Auriemma emphasized that he is confident that Patterson will be productive wherever she is placed on the court and likely to have a quality amount of minutes this season.
Sophomore forward Amari Deberry is also an option as she has the height and power to do damage, though the concern is that she needs to prove that she can play valuable minutes after making a small impact in her freshman year. Additionally, Mühl is the opposition’s worst nightmare on defense after being named the 2022 Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The junior guard is now projected to be one of the main ball-handlers on the team, coming off being a fantastic complimentary piece.
Star Fudd is about to start her second season with the Huskies and the expectation is that she will fill some of the holes that will be missed in Bueckers’ absence. The sophomore guard is the only double-digit scorer that is returning to the team. Missing some playing time last season, she was still able to lead the team with a 43% 3-point shooting mark, and even made the 2022 Big East All-Freshman Team.
At this year’s Big East Media Day, hosted at Madison Square Garden, UConn earned multiple Preseason honors. Junior Aaliyah Edwards, sophomore Caroline Ducharme and Fudd were named to the Preseason All-Big East Team and Dorka Juhász was selected as a Preseason Honorable Mention.
Despite the disappointing injuries that have arisen, the UConn women’s basketball team is still very promising with some new and old faces on the team. Additional new players include freshman Inês Bettencourt and graduate student Lou Lopez Sénéchal, who dominated at Fairfield University. There’s tons of anticipation regarding seeing the team back in action. Although there have been some bumps along the way, there is a standard surrounding this program and the environment of winning has not changed.