The 2022-23 UConn women’s basketball season was truly relentless. Injury after injury hit the team, starting months before the opening tip and never letting up. Even though the Huskies had a stellar season by most teams’ standards, hitting their typical bar for success wasn’t in the cards. They lost in the Sweet 16 for the first time in decades and broke their 14-year Final Four streak. With a fresh slate to start some new records and a fully loaded team, let’s take a look at the top-four returnees, the first-years and what the team can do.
There is no introduction needed for the 2021 NPOY. Bueckers is coming back from a brutal ACL tear that she suffered playing pickup basketball in August and will come back to a team that has gained a ton of experience playing without her. Even with Nika Muhl stepping up big time in Bueckers’ absence, her generational talent was missed frequently, especially when the team crumbled under Ohio State’s press defense. A whole article could be written entirely on the return of Bueckers, but in short–she takes the team to the next level.
Edwards was far from a surprise in terms of the idea that she’d make a jump, but few–if any–predicted that she would become the Huskies’ 26th-ever All-American. After a lackluster sophomore season, the Canadian got in the gym and really refined her craft, maximizing her potential. Barring anything crazy, Edwards will anchor the Huskies’ interior attack, especially with Dorka Juhasz gone. She’ll look to build on her 17-point, nine board season and will benefit from having another great passer in Bueckers on the floor with her.
Fudd battled injuries all year, and although she was there at the end she clearly wasn’t herself. In the early season, the sophomore shot the lights out with three 25+ point games in wins over top-10 teams, but rolled her ankle shortly after. With the rest of the roster forced to pick up the slack, they were tired when she came back, and Fudd wasn’t acclimated or healthy enough to make up for it. She would greatly benefit from an injury-free season, something that she hasn’t accomplished in her two years as a Husky.
The Croatian point guard had an incredible campaign in 22-23, even though the Huskies didn’t meet their expectations. She shattered Sue Bird’s season record for assists by 53 and was tough to take off the floor with her steady hand and strong defense. With Bueckers back, she’ll likely scale back her overall workload, so don’t expect any records to be broken. However, last season will end up being great exposure for Muhl, as she’s much more ready to take pressure off Bueckers and will make both of their workloads more sustainable.
The Huskies have a monster first-year class coming in and it’s clear that they need the depth. KK Arnold headlines the class as the No. 6 player nationally and a McDonald’s All-American. She’s a point guard, so that puts her pretty short for minutes with Buckers and Muhl in the fold already. Ashlynn Shade will also have an uphill battle for serious playing time, but is uber-talented as the other McDAA and the No. 15 prospect. Quadence Samuels is a bit closer to the middle of ESPN’s top-100 and may have to wait until some of the other wings — mainly Aubrey Griffin — graduate to get much time. The most intriguing option as a potential instant-impact is Jana El Alfy, the Egyptian that’s already been with the team for a semester. Having those extra few months of practice is proven to help, and in an unproven frontcourt she could find herself playing early.
If all goes right, this is the team to beat for the national championship. Aaliyah Boston has departed South Carolina and even though she didn’t win it all last year, the title still ran through Columbia, SC. A healthy UConn is better than either finalist from this past year–both LSU and Iowa. The Huskies have it all: a former NPOY, an All-American big, a great recruiting class and role players that know their job. If the Huskies stay healthy and don’t bring home a 12th championship to Storrs, that would be perplexing with all the talent on the team. They’re deep and it’s up to coach Geno Auriemma to put their talent together like he has so many times before.
This year’s roster does have a lot more substance throughout than last year’s did, but with the program’s injury history and women’s basketball getting tougher each year, there are few sure things. Granted, it’s hard to see them not running the Big East regardless — especially with Villanova’s Maddie Siegrist in the WNBA draft. With that said, an exit during the first weekend feels near impossible, but with the perfect storm of horrible luck, another Sweet 16 exit is plausible.
All said, this team has the chance to go down as an all-time great. They have all the pieces they need, now all that’s left to do is to bring home the hardware — and maybe bubble wrap the players just to be safe.
Ct needs bigger post. Players
Uh…. Carolyn Duescharm? Really. You call yourself. a basketball knowledge. A player who has proven when healthy, just like everyone else you mentioned, can make her own shot, rebound, pass and hit the three as well as display a basketball iq ? Please, enough of getting drunk on Azzi, if I am alone with no one on me, lights out Fudd. I really like Azzi but she ain’t and never will be Paige. How about dome fair and intelligent reporting. Or else, just go away. Enough already.
Teach Amari the Kareem sky hook.
They need to get in the portal!