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

UConn Huskies star guard Paige Bueckers has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, which is able to sideline her for the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season and trigger a ripple impact all through the sport.

One in all the marquee gamers in the sport, Bueckers was the No. 1 general recruit in the Class of 2020 and has helped UConn attain the women’s Ultimate 4 in every of the previous two seasons. The Huskies fell in the championship sport to the South Carolina Gamecocks in April in Bueckers’ dwelling state of Minnesota.

The 5-foot-11 Bueckers, who turns 21 in October, had an exceptional freshman season for the Huskies and was the 2020-21 consensus nationwide participant of the 12 months. She had surgical procedure on her proper ankle after that season, however returned able to go for 2021-22. However, Bueckers was injured close to the finish of UConn’s victory over Notre Dame on Dec. 5, struggling an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear, additionally in the left knee. She missed 19 video games, then got here again in late February.

Bueckers averaged 20.0 factors 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 impression the Huskies and the nationwide championship race this upcoming season.

How does Bueckers’ injury impression UConn for the 2022-23 season and what changes will the Huskies make with out her in the lineup?

A staff that was one win away from taking dwelling the nationwide championship 4 months in the past little doubt faces far more of an uphill battle because it seeks to return to a fifteenth consecutive Ultimate 4. Dropping three WNBA draft picks — Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook, the first two of whom have been three- and four-year starters, respectively — was going to be an adjustment because it was. However Bueckers’ absence removes a transcendent level guard and passer, phenomenal shooter and staff chief from a program that’s on its longest stretch and not using a nationwide title since successful its first in 1995.

The Huskies are actually right down to 4 wholesome backcourt gamers: sophomore Azzi Fudd, sophomore Caroline Ducharme, junior Nika Muhl and Fairfield graduate switch Lou Lopez-Senechal. And solely Muhl is a real level guard.

There have been occasions final season when, with Fudd and Bueckers sidelined for a number of months, UConn performed with simply three wholesome guards. It is not out of the query that one thing like that would occur in 2022-23 if the Huskies endure extra dangerous injury luck. Regardless, that lack of depth is relatively unideal for the extra guard-oriented system that Geno Auriemma likes to run. Be aware, too, that Ducharme is coming off offseason hip injury and Fudd was collaborating in staff exercises on a restricted foundation whereas making an attempt to completely heal from the foot injury that hindered her most of her freshman 12 months.

Muhl has shined on the defensive finish her previous two seasons, however will should be as dependable as ever operating the level with robust decision-making and foul-free play. (After which who’s going to be the backup level guard? Fudd?) Ducharme, who helped carry the staff when Fudd and Bueckers have been out, might want to rapidly reassert herself as a go-to choice as she did throughout that aforementioned stretch.

After which there’s Fudd, Bueckers’ shut buddy and a fellow No. 1 general recruit. With so many veteran gamers having graduated and Bueckers sidelined, Fudd is now burdened with extra offensive duty than anticipated for what she’s hoping is her first full wholesome season in Storrs. She should rapidly emerge as the celebrity so many count on her to finally grow to be if the Huskies wish to obtain lots of their identical objectives this season.

It is not as if the Huskies are left with none robust performers in 2022-23, however their ceiling is considerably decrease and not using a participant like Bueckers, who is not simply individually gifted however makes her teammates higher. — Philippou

How far does UConn fall in the preseason polls?

In the most up-to-date ESPN Manner-Too-Early Prime 25 rankings on June 14, we had the Huskies at No. 2 behind defending champion South Carolina, with the Stanford Cardinal, Tennessee Woman Vols and Texas Longhorns rounding out the high 5. Bueckers is a key element to the staff, clearly, however the Huskies did play almost three months with out her final season. And since this injury is in early August, the staff does not have to regulate in midstream to her absence.

Nonetheless, the Huskies will drop, in all probability even out of the high 5. For now, that might be an inexpensive place for UConn — say at No. 6 or 7 — contemplating the Huskies additionally misplaced veterans Williams, Westbrook and Nelson-Ododa. — Voepel

UConn performs Texas, NC State, Duke, Notre Dame and both Iowa or Oregon State in the first month of the season. How may the Huskies emerge from that schedule?

Final season the Huskies almost beat Louisville with out Fudd and Bueckers and efficiently took down Tennessee with out Bueckers, so it isn’t out of the query that they will compete in opposition to high quality groups with out Bueckers. Nonetheless, it would not be stunning if UConn’s early 2022-23 slate appears considerably much like how 2021-22 went: Experiencing a number of bumps in the street when the Huskies have been making an attempt to determine issues out sans Bueckers (and Fudd at the time), however then discovering extra of a rhythm as the season went on, even unbiased of Bueckers’ return.

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Timing is not precisely on their aspect, not less than by way of their highest-caliber competitors being concentrated in the first month of the season, as the staff goes to must mainly reinvent itself with out Williams, Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook and Bueckers. UConn may have in all probability figured issues out extra so, although, by the nationwide title sport rematch in opposition to South Carolina on Feb. 5. — Philippou

How does Bueckers’ injury impression the nationwide championship race this coming season?

UConn received an epic regional last in opposition to NC State final season to advance to its 14th consecutive Ultimate 4. There was a variety of thought that the streak would finish final 12 months, as some confidence waned in the Huskies whereas Bueckers was out. However as quickly as she returned, it appeared they acquired again on monitor rapidly.

It is a completely different image this season with Bueckers sidelined. The Gamecocks, with final season’s nationwide participant of the 12 months again in Aliyah Boston, will probably be a really robust decide to repeat, in addition to be the high staff in the SEC (though Tennessee could possibly be a challenger).

Stanford, the 2021 champion, is all the time capable of reload rapidly after personnel losses, and that will probably be the case once more this season after shedding guards Lexie Hull, Lacie Hull and Anna Wilson. With stars like Haley Jones and Cameron Brink again, plus including 6-7 Lauren Betts, the Cardinal will probably be a favourite in the championship hunt. Tennessee and Texas each picked up a variety of expertise from the switch portal, as did Louisville, NC State and LSU. Iowa and Iowa State each return a lot of their expertise from final season, and each will probably be amongst the high groups of their respective conferences.

The final of UConn’s 11 NCAA titles was in 2016, and Bueckers’ absence makes it extra doubtless that drought may proceed. However, it was already going to be a really aggressive group of the almost certainly contenders, even with Bueckers wholesome. — Voepel

How does this impression the 2023 WNBA draft, for which Bueckers was eligible? And what does it imply for her future at UConn, the place she has three years of eligibility remaining?

Bueckers will flip 22 in October 2023, which suggests she is ready to depart college early and enter the 2023 draft. WNBA guidelines stipulate that gamers who flip 22 in the identical calendar 12 months of the draft are eligible for it even when they don’t seem to be seniors.

However Bueckers beforehand has stated that she had no plans to enter this upcoming draft. She has been one in all the high gamers to money in on identify, picture and likeness offers, and affiliation with the UConn model identify is larger, frankly, than that of any WNBA staff.

The NIL alternatives permit Bueckers to make the most of her recognition with the Huskies and in college basketball, so most have anticipated her to play the subsequent two college seasons and go in the 2024 draft, and she indicated that was additionally her plan. However, due to the additional 12 months of eligibility student-athletes acquired resulting from COVID-19, she really might keep till 2025.

Now, together with her 2022-23 season misplaced, will Bueckers nonetheless be in the 2024 draft, having performed simply three seasons at UConn? It will depend on how she heals and how she is feeling. If she desires to have all 4 seasons in college, then we can’t see her till the 2025 draft. Or she might keep all the means till 2026. She has said a powerful want to win a nationwide championship, so that would consider as effectively. — Voepel

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