Every year, there’s always a player who does a little more than expected for the UConn men’s or women’s basketball teams. Whether it’s a freshman who picked up the slack for an injury, a late-blooming upperclassman or anywhere in between, there are always surprises. Last year, it was Caroline Ducharme, who had an unexpected stretch of high production in the absence of Paige Bueckers. Another example is Isaiah Whaley, who went from benchwarmer to starter in a very short period of time during the 2019-20 season. Who will that Whaley or Ducharme be this year? The Daily Campus Sports section discusses:
Associate Sports Editor
I’m going to go with Patterson here, largely because the talk about her has been quiet compared to many other players on the roster. The 6’2’’ forward is going to be a force to be reckoned with this year, even if she has to do so in an off-the-bench role. She has all the tools to succeed as a college player. She’s tall and incredibly athletic, allowing her to pull down rebounds over most others. Although this UConn team is among the premier shooting squads in the country, the ability to gain second chances is incredibly important and could be the difference between wins and losses against top 10 opposition. There’s a lot of talent ahead of Patterson in the rotation, but in the right situations, she’ll put herself in prime position to shine.
Lou Lopez Sénéchal
With Lou Lopez Sénéchal only having one year of eligibility with UConn after playing four years at Fairfield University, it gives her that much more of a reason to play a large role this season. At Fairfield, she was the go-to player. Plays were created around her and she was the player that the team looked at when they needed a basket. She led the Fairfield Stags to the MAAC Championship and a NCAA Tournament appearance. She also led the team in scoring for the four years she was there, totaling 1,598 points in her career. Hopefully, all of this will culminate into an intense level of success at UConn. She adds versatility by having experience as a guard and a forward, which will help UConn fill the gaps left behind in Paige Buckers’ and Ice Brady’s injuries. Lopez Sénéchal gave a glimpse of her offensive abilities when she dropped 18 points in the first half against Kutztown in the team’s exhibition game. She joined Azzi Fudd in being one of the team’s top scorers — a title that should only continue through the season. This is just the start for Lopez Sénéchal, and I can see her being an offensive weapon for the Huskies this year.
During the 2020-21 season, the last time she stepped onto the court in a non-exhibition game, Griffin averaged 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. In the exhibition against Kutztown this past Sunday, Griffin posted six points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes while receiving a plethora of applause from the XL Center crowd. After two seasons where she averaged six points per game, Griffin has the potential to post career numbers in her redshirt junior season, especially with the injuries that UConn is experiencing and the departure of players such as Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The best way that Griffin will control the game is when she comes off the bench, as the Huskies already rely on Dorka Juhász and Aaliyah Edwards in their frontcourt. Even if Griffin plays small forward, she can make an impact on defense with her ability to block shots and force turnovers. Head coach Geno Auriemma’s teams are known for their depth, which has been proven in recent seasons. Griffin will surely add to that case as the season progresses.
I think a lot of people were very surprised during Monday’s win against Stonehill when Diarra came off the bench and put up 11 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes of play. In the end, Diarra would play more minutes than starting point guard Tristen Newton, a player he battled with throughout the offseason for the UConn starting point guard job. Even if Diarra comes off the bench for the rest of the season, he’ll still be an important part of this team for the rest of the season. What sticks out to me with Diarra are his abilities to find his teammates for efficient scoring and prove excellent defense off the bench — two crucial areas that this UConn team must succeed in to compete well. While the Stonehill game was just a small sample of Diarra’s skillset, I’m predicting that he’s going to be surprising people throughout the season.