How Paige Bueckers’ injury affects the UConn Huskies and the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season

UConn Huskies star guard Paige Bucker suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, which will sideline her for the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season and cause a ripple effect throughout the sport.

One of the game’s marquee players, Bueckers was the No. 1 overall rookie for the Class of 2020 and helped UConn reach the Women’s Final Four in each of the past two seasons. The Huskies fell in the championship game to the South Carolina Gamecocks in April in Bueckers’ home state of Minnesota.

The 5-foot-11 Bueckers, who turn 21 in October, had a phenomenal freshman season for the Huskies and were the consensus 2020-21 National Player of the Year. She underwent surgery on her right ankle after that season but returned ready to go for 2021-22. However, Bueckers was injured near the end of UConn’s win over Our Lady on December 5, suffering from an anterior tibial plateau fracture and a torn lateral meniscus, also in his left knee. She missed 19 games, then returned in late February.

Bueckers averaged 20.0 points and 4.9 assists as a freshman and 14.6 and 4.0 as a sophomore. We take a look at how Bueckers’ injury will affect the Huskies and the National Championship run this coming season.

How does Bueckers’ injury impact UConn for the 2022-23 season and what adjustments will the Huskies make without her in the roster?

A team that was one win away from winning the national championship four months ago undoubtedly faces a tougher battle as they seek to get back to a 15th straight Final Four. Losing three WNBA draft picks – Olivia Nelson OdodaChristine Williams and Eve Westbrook, whose first two were three- and four-year-old starters, respectively — was going to be an as-is fit. But Bueckers’ absence takes away a transcendent point guard and passer, phenomenal shooter and team leader from a program that is on its longest stretch without a national title since winning its first in 1995.

Huskies have just four healthy players left in the backcourt: Year two Azzi Advantagesecond Caroline Ducharmejunior Nika Muhl and transfer of Fairfield graduates Lou Lopez-Senechal. And only Muhl is a real leader.

There were times last season when, with Fudd and Bueckers sidelined for several months, UConn played with just three healthy guards. It can’t be ruled out that something like this could happen in 2022-23 if the Huskies suffer more bad luck. Either way, this lack of depth is pretty much ideal for the more guard-focused system that Geno Auriemma likes to use. Also note that Ducharme is coming off of an off-season hip injury and Fudd was participating in team practices on a limited basis while trying to fully heal from the foot injury that has hampered her for most of her career. first year.

Muhl has shone defensively the past two seasons but will need to be as reliable as ever to lead the point with solid decision-making and clean play. (And then who will be the reserve playmaker? Fudd?) Ducharme, who helped carry the team when Fudd and Bueckers were out, will quickly need to reassert themselves as a go-to option as they have during this time. aforementioned.

And then there’s Fudd, a close friend of Bueckers and a No. 1 overall rookie. With so many veteran players graduating and Bueckers sidelined, Fudd is now tasked with more offensive responsibilities than expected in what she hopes will be her first healthy full season at Storrs. She will quickly need to become the superstar many expect her to eventually become if the Huskies are to achieve many of their same goals this season.

It’s not like the Huskies don’t have good players in 2022-23, but their ceiling is significantly lower without a player like Bueckers, who is not only talented individually but makes her teammates better. — Philip

How far does UConn fall in the preseason polls?

In the most recent ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25 Rankings on June 14, we had the Huskies at No. 2 behind defending champion South Carolina, with the Cardinal of Stanford, Tennessee Lady Flights and Texas Longhorns completing the top five. Bueckers is a key part of the team, obviously, but the Huskies went almost three months without her last season. And since this injury is at the beginning of August, the team does not have to adapt along the way to his absence.

Still, the Huskies will fall, likely even out of the top five. For now, that would be a reasonable spot for UConn — say at No. 6 or 7 — given the Huskies also lost veterans Williams, Westbrook and Nelson-Ododa. — bullshit

UConn plays Texas, NC State, Duke, Notre Dame and either Iowa or Oregon State in the first month of the season. How could the Huskies get out of this schedule?

Last season, the Huskies nearly beat Louisville without Fudd and Bueckers and managed to defeat Tennessee without Bueckers, so it is not excluded that they can compete with quality teams without Bueckers. Still, it wouldn’t be shocking if UConn’s early 2022-23 slate looked somewhat like how 2021-22 went: experiencing several bumps in the road as the Huskies tried to figure things out without Bueckers (and Fudd at the time), but then finding more rhythm as the season progressed, even regardless of Bueckers returning.

The timing isn’t exactly on their side, at least when it comes to focusing their top-flight competition on the first month of the season, as the team will have to reinvent itself essentially without Williams, Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook and Bueckers. . UConn will likely have a better understanding, however, in the rematch of the national title game against South Carolina on Feb. 5. – Philip

How does Bueckers’ injury impact the national championship race this season?

UConn won an epic regional final against NC status last season to advance to its 14th consecutive Final Four. It was widely thought the streak would end last year, as some confidence waned among the Huskies while Bueckers was out. But as soon as she got back, it seems like they quickly got back on track.

It’s a different picture this season with Bueckers sidelined. The Gamecocks, with last season’s National Player of the Year Aliyah Bostonwill be a very good choice to repeat, as well as the best team in the SEC (although Tennessee could be a challenger).

Stanfordthe 2021 champion, is still able to reload quickly after personnel losses, and it will be the case again this season after losing guards Lexie Hull, Lacie Hull and Anna Wilson. With stars like haley jones and Cameron Brink return, in addition to adding 6-7 Lauren Betts, the Cardinal will be a favorite in the hunt for the championship. Tennessee and Texas have both attracted a lot of talent to the transfer portal, as have Louisville, NC State and USL. Iowa and Iowa State both are returning much of their talent from last season, and both will be among the top teams in their respective conferences.

The last of UConn’s 11 NCAA titles was in 2016, and Bueckers’ absence makes a continuation of the drought more likely. However, this was already going to be a very competitive group of the most likely contenders, even with healthy Bueckers. — bullshit

What impact does this have on the 2023 WNBA Draft, which Bueckers was eligible for? And what does that mean for his future at UConn, where he has three years of eligibility left?

Bueckers turns 22 in October 2023, which means she can leave college early and enter the 2023 draft. WNBA rules state that players who turn 22 during the same calendar year of the draft are eligible even if they are not seniors.

But Bueckers has previously said she has no plans to enter this upcoming draft. She’s been one of the best players to cash in on name, picture and likeness deals, and the association with the UConn brand is greater, frankly, than that of any WNBA team.

NIL opportunities allow Bueckers to make the most of his popularity with the Huskies and college basketball. Most therefore expected her to play the next two college seasons and enter the 2024 draft, and she indicated that was her plan as well. However, due to the extra year of student-athlete eligibility due to COVID-19, she may actually stay until 2025.

Now, with her 2022-23 season lost, will Bueckers still be in the 2024 draft, having played just three seasons at UConn? It depends on how she heals and how she feels. If she wants to have all four seasons in college, we won’t see her until the 2025 draft. Or she could stay until 2026. She has stated a strong desire to win a national championship, which could also be taken into account. — bullshit

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