In another exciting season of UConn basketball, there’s plenty to talk about with both the men’s and women’s roster. Could the men’s program do what hasn’t been done since 2007 and repeat as national champions? Could the women’s program earn their 12th ring this season? While that remains to be seen, it will also be interesting to see which player from either of these rosters has a breakout season. There’s some obvious candidates, such as Donovan Clingan, but there’s also some underrated picks that could be mentioned. With plenty of options to choose from, our team of writers will give their takes in this week’s edition of the Daily Campus roundtable.
Beginning her career with Preseason Big East Freshman of the Year honors, Patterson had a subpar freshman campaign where she averaged 2.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10 minutes while missing seven games because of a concussion. The Fort Wayne, IN, native scored more than seven points in two contests last year, but Dorka Juhász’s departure opens the opportunity for significant improvement. Patterson missed the first few weeks of practice while recovering from an offseason procedure on her knee, but at full strength, she can play a pivotal role as one of the first forwards off the bench. Whether that involves grabbing rebounds or scoring in the paint, the 6-foot-2-inch sophomore can provide a spark on the boards that most opponents cannot answer. How she looks during the exhibition against the Southern Connecticut State Owls on Saturday and the season opener versus the Dayton Flyers four days later will not fully define her sophomore season, but this is the year Patterson shows what made her a top-five recruit in the Class of 2022.
It’s been a rough tenure thus far for Johnson in the blue and white. While he struggled to get minutes during his freshman year, last season was supposed to be the year where things started to click for the 6-foot-10-inch big man. But, an early season injury to his foot deterred hope for a bounce-back year. That leaves 2023 and Johnson’s not only healthy, but he’s also reportedly been doing well in both team’s secret scrimmages. He’s not going to start over Alex Karaban, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a pivotal member of the team’s bench unit. If Johnson is able to stay healthy and take advantage of the work he’s put in over the offseason, he’s an easy bounce back candidate for this roster.
During UConn’s mini slump in December and January, a stretch where the Huskies lost six of eight games, starting point guard Tristen Newton served as a popular scapegoat for the team’s poor play. During the 2-6 slide, Newton struggled to get anything going offensively and in the passing game with just 9.6 points and 3.6 assists per game over that stretch. Following the team’s home loss to Xavier on January 25, Newton averaged 10.5 points and saw his assists per game jump to 5.5 over the remainder of the season. With the departures of Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, and Andre Jackson Jr. to the NBA, the graduate guard is expected to be more involved offensively while continuing to run the offense. Newton is capable of scoring at all three levels and I would not be surprised to see him finish with more than 14 points and six assists this year and possibly earn an All-Big East selection.
Ice Brady missed her entire freshman season in 2022-23 due to a knee injury so it is still a bit of a mystery as to how she will perform for the Huskies. However, Brady was the No. 5 recruit in 2022 on the ESPNW100 ranking and still has plenty of talent that will allow her to be successful this season. Prior to coming to UConn, Brady won gold at the 2022 FIBA U18 Americas Championship where she averaged 13 points and 7.5 rebounds per game which is one of the reasons why she was such a coveted recruit last year. At 6-foot-3-inches, Brady is one of the tallest players on the roster which will be very useful for getting rebounds under the net. Even though the Huskies have a deep roster this season, Brady should be able to get a good amount of playing time that will allow her to become one of the better players on Geno Auriemma’s roster.
After the championship, UConn fans were sad to see the departures of Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson Jr. and Adama Sanogo, best known as the nucleus that delivered the Huskies’ fifth banner. For the Huskies to return forward Alex Karaban, he is the perfect building block in the quest for back-to-back titles. It feels as though Karaban has been around forever as he enrolled at UConn a semester early and in his first year he played in 39 games for an average of 28.9 minutes per game. It was a stellar freshman campaign that saw him average 9.3 points and 4.5 rebounds, numbers that landed him on the 2023 Big East All-Freshman Team. With that championship experience and an elevated role this coming season, the redshirt sophomore is primed for another impactful season. Keep an eye out for Karaban as one of the best power forwards in the NCAA this season.