Will UConn break its national title drought in 2023-24?
An outlook on the Huskies next season.
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Last week’s Weekly:
UConn to play exhibition against Southern Connecticut (Manchester JI)
UConn’s outlook for 2023-24
UConn’s 2022-23 season ended earlier than any other since 2005 after its loss to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen, but expectations aren’t changing. Geno Auriemma already said next year will be the Huskies’ best chance at a national title since 2016 and there’s no shortage of talent available to make that happen.
Griffin returned from back surgery without skipping a beat and had the best season of her career. As long as the back spasms that limited her during the postseason aren’t a sign of a deeper issue, she’ll once again be relied on as the team’s Swiss Army knife. Griffin still has room to grow — especially with her 3-point shooting and consistency — but even if she’s the exact same player, she’ll be a valuable piece for the Huskies.
After an All-American campaign, Edwards will return as the only sure thing in the post for UConn. Although the junior could afford to be a touch more consistent, the bigger question is whether she can make the leap from really good to great. To do so, she’ll either have to become the best in the nation at something or eliminate any remaining holes in her game.
With Bueckers back and Arnold coming in, Mühl won’t have to run the offense completely on her own. While that’ll knock down her assist numbers, she’ll still have a crucial role in the backcourt by allowing Bueckers and Fudd to play off the ball.
Bueckers will not only need to prove she can stay healthy after nearly two seasons on the sidelines, she’ll also have to show that she’s still the same All-American caliber player after missing so much time. If Bueckers can knock off the rust quickly, she’ll challenge Caitlin Clark for national player of the year.
Fudd’s success is entirely dependent on whether she can stay healthy. She’s a national player of the year talent when at 100%, but has a lengthy injury history dating back to high school and has only played in 50 of 73 possible games in her UConn career. But on the plus side: The combination of Fudd, Edwards, and Bueckers has the chance to be not only one of the best trios in the nation but in program history.
Through two years, Ducharme has proven that when healthy, she contributes. Unfortunately, she’s struggled in that regard — much of which is completely out of her control. Ducharme’s head has somehow become a magnet for contact, which has resulted in two major head injuries through her first two seasons. She could have a big impact as a junior, but it’s hard to be certain about that.
Through two seasons, DeBerry has shown flashes when on the floor — she had 3.4 blocks per 40 this season (which put her in the top 40 nationally) and hit a respectable 29% from three last year — but hasn’t earned the trust of the coaching staff to play meaningful minutes. With Dorka Juhász off to the WNBA, DeBerry has the opportunity to seize a larger role but will need to make major progress over the summer to claim it.
Patterson’s physical tools are unmatched and she’s regarded by players and coaches alike as the hardest worker on the team. Based on that alone, she should see more time as a sophomore, even if she needs to improve her touch around the basket and limit the foul trouble. It’ll also help that UConn has a hole in the post behind Edwards, and Patterson will be the most experienced option.
With Mühl and Ducharme returning, Bueckers and Fudd (hopefully) back to full strength along with the addition of Arnold, Samuels, and Shade, Bettencourt finds herself in a crowded backcourt — especially when it comes to ball-handlers. It’ll be difficult for her to play meaningful minutes barring a major leap over the summer or another run of injuries.
Despite being at UConn for a year now, Brady is still a mystery after missing her freshman season with a knee injury. She drew rave reviews before going down so as long as she made a full recovery, Brady will make an impact in the frontcourt.
Arnold has all the tools to be a day-one contributor. She likes to pass, can drive to the basket, defends well, and has the strength and athleticism to hold up physically at the collegiate level. She’ll eventually run UConn’s offense but as a freshman, she’ll likely be a role player while learning behind Mühl and Bueckers.
Jana El Alfy
El Alfy has all the makings of an instant-impact freshman. Auriemma has said that he expects her to play in the WNBA and she had a few months at the end of the season to get acclimated to the program after arriving early in January. At 6-foot-4, El Alfy also has more size than most of the frontcourt, which will come in handy.
Auriemma refused to pigeonhole Shade into a specific position when she signed her letter of intent in November, so it’ll be fascinating to see how she’s utilized. At the very least, that versatility should help Shade get on the court even with a crowded backcourt.
A tall, long athlete — think Aubrey Griffin but with more of a backcourt skill set — Samuels’ playing time as a freshman will likely depend on how well she can shoot. Even though athleticism always plays, UConn has Griffin and Patterson in a similar mold, so Samuels’ ability to stretch a defense will help differentiate her.
we still have no true center??
this is been 8 years still no center ?? LSU is number for a reason! they have a good center?
we get out rebounded all the time and do nothing about it??
Gino has to changes his ways,,
why we got no one off the transfer portal this year??
everyone else is trying very hard to do so ,, Gino wake up please, we need a good big girl
other teams are doing a better job then we are?? LSU UCLA SO CAROLINA !
There has been way too much emphasis in the recruiting over the last several years on backcourt and not enough on the front court . That in itself could be - besides the injury bug - the Achilles heel for a Final Four or national championship.
UConn should command the top spot in the Big East since none of the competition has a dominating front court presence. But against teams that have a strong , experienced front court of 6'5" or better will be the real test and the sooner that happens the better. The strategy against UConn will be to draw fouls on Edwards, mostly fake charging flops that for some strange reason always seem to go against the visiting team, (check out last years game at Providence when Edwards got into early foul trouble and ended up with single digit points because of questionable charging fouls.) Once she was on the sidelines the middle opens up and the other team changes to continual drives into the lane for points and/or fouls from an inexperienced and in some cases foul-prone replacements. Relying upon essentially first year and/or inexperienced players to help against an experienced team with a strong front court and back court like a LSU , SC or UCLA - and some other possibilities - is going to be the real test for whether UConn will succeed - and of course goes without saying whether the returning players can all stay healthy.
Good luck UConn women. We're with you all the way. Work hard. Play harder. Go Huskies!