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The women’s college basketball world suffers even before the season begins.UConn star Paige Books ACL tear Expected to miss the entire 2022-23 season. This leaves a lot of uncertainty and void for Huskies to fill.

Bueckers isn’t the only player to watch in women’s college basketball, but her star power and impact on the game are undeniable. UConn has been a solid team for a long time with 11 national championships, but until earlier this year, the Huskies hadn’t been in championship contention since 2016. As it turns out, Booker’s arrival in 2020 is a push in the right direction UConn needs. However, Bueckers’ injury has created a lot of uncertainty for her and her team.

Excellent freshman season

The 5-foot-11 guard was a highly regarded rookie out of high school, and she lived up to her expectations as a freshman in the 2020-21 school year. She started 29 games and averaged 20 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from three. She’s the Huskies’ leading scorer and also leads the team in steals (66) and assists (5.8 per game). The Bueckers set the UConn freshman record for assists with 168 and set the school’s single-game assist record with 14 on February 27, 2021, against Butler.

Unsurprisingly, the Bueckers had 11 major honors that season. She is the first freshman to win the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, AP Player of the Year and USBWA Player of the Year.

After losing to Arizona State in the 2021 NCAA Women’s Championship semifinals, the Huskies finished the season with a 28-2 overall record. That’s not how UConn wants to end its campaign, but because of what Bueckers has accomplished as a freshman and what she can do with another year of experience, the limit for the program is the sky.

UConn’s only other loss that season came at No. 19 in Arkansas in late January, which left us…

Roller coaster sophomore season, first serious injury

The Huskies’ 2021-22 season started in Arkansas, and this time UConn was able to turn things around and beat the Razors 95-80. UConn’s first loss was the 4th Battle of Atlantis in the Bahamas last November, which South Carolina won 73-57. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, because the Gamecocks were – and still are – a great team.

Things seemed to be going well for the Huskies – but then it happened on December 5th.

Connecticut, then No. 2, defeated No. 24 Notre Dame 73-54, and the Bueckers led with a 22-point performance. With seconds left in the game, Books dribbled down the court and stumbled. The seriousness of the injury was immediately apparent as she had to be carried off the field. The following week, Bueckers underwent surgery for a fractured anterior tibial plateau and a torn left lateral meniscus.

The Huskies clearly need to regroup after that, as they lost 57-44 to Georgia Tech in their first game without the Bueckers. After the game, UConn coach Geno Auriemma Said the team felt “disorganized”.

Eventually, the Huskies were able to adjust as senior guard Kristin Williams became the leading scorer. The Bueckers missed 19 games before returning in late February. In her first game back, Books came off the bench and scored 8 points on 4-for-5 shooting in 12 minutes.

It took her a few weeks to get back to her previous level. In Connecticut’s Elite Eight game against North Carolina State, the Bueckers finally looked like they used to be. The Huskies, surviving two overtimes, won 91-87 — the first time in the Elite Eight — against the No. 1-seeded Wolves. Bueckers had just four points in the first half, but she finished the night with a game-high 27 — 15 of which came after the regular season.

In the post-match press conference, Williams explained their win in the simplest way she could.

“We have Paige Bueckers and they don’t,” she says.

UConn won its 14th straight Final Four and finally made it to the 2022 Women’s National Championship against South Carolina. The Gamecocks dominated from the start, though, and went 64-49 to claim the trophy.

Bueckers had 14 points and 6 rebounds against the Gamecocks, but she was the only UConn player to finish in double figures.

Nonetheless, it was a great learning experience for UConn.

“I like our chances,” Olemar said after the game. “If we don’t have to have a season like this year – knocking on wood – if we stay healthy, I hope to be back here next year.”

but now…

Although UConn lost Nelson Odada and Williams, a healthy Bux and Ford appear capable of taking the team to similar heights in 2022-23. The Huskies are expected to be very competitive again, but the question now is who will step up for the Bueckers after her devastating injury.

Bueckers finished her sophomore season with 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 54.4 percent from the field in 17 games. Those numbers aren’t as strong as they were in her freshman season, but if it weren’t for her midseason injury, they could be the same or better. The Bueckers are impactful on both ends of the floor, and the Huskies will definitely miss that next season as they figure out their depth.

Without 6-foot-5 forward Nelson Odada, the team lost last season’s lead in both field goal percentage (59.5 percent) and rebounding (7.5 per game). She also led the team in steals (55) and assists (116) last season. Williams, meanwhile, became the second-leading scorer behind Bukes, averaging 14.2 points per game in 2021-22.

So, Fudd is now the only UConn double-digit scorer to return. Last season, she averaged 12.1 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 43.0 percent from 3-point range, a team-high. The 5-foot-11 guard will enter her sophomore season in a role that may be bigger than she expected.

For Huskies, staying healthy is more important than ever. Other players working on their recovery in the offseason are Dorka Juhász (wrist), Caroline Ducharme (hip) and Aubrey Griffin (back). Griffin, the 6-foot-1 forward, dealt with a number of injuries and missed the entire season last season before undergoing back surgery in January.

The Huskies also have one of the top recruiting classes of 2022 in terms of freshmen. This upcoming class includes Ayanna Patterson and Ice Brady, who are fourth and fifth respectively, ESPN’s 2022 outlook.

UConn may not be on tour next season, but Olema’s record speaks for itself, so the Huskies shouldn’t be ruled out anytime soon. As for Bueckers, she has made it clear that she is already working on what she thinks will be achieved. “A hellish comeback.”

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