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How Paige Bueckers’ harm impacts the UConn Huskies and the 2022-23 girls’s school 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 girls’s school basketball season and trigger a ripple impact all through the game.

One of many marquee gamers within the sport, Bueckers was the No. 1 total recruit within the class of 2020 and has helped UConn attain the ladies’s Last 4 every of the final two seasons. The Huskies fell within 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. Nevertheless, Bueckers was injured close to the tip of UConn’s victory over Notre Dame final Dec. 5, struggling an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear, additionally within 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’ harm will influence the Huskies and the nationwide championship race this coming season.

How does Bueckers’ harm influence UConn for the 2022-23 season and what changes will the Huskies make with out her within 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 Last 4. Dropping three WNBA draft picks — Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook, the primary two of whom had 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 at the moment are all the way 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 instances this previous 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 might occur in 2022-23 if the Huskies undergo extra unhealthy harm luck. Regardless, that lack of depth is quite unideal for the extra guard-oriented system that Geno Auriemma likes to run. Notice, too, that Ducharme is coming off an offseason hip harm and Fudd was taking part in staff exercises on a restricted foundation whereas trying to totally heal the foot harm that hindered her most of her freshman 12 months.

Muhl has shined on the defensive finish her final two seasons, however will have to be as dependable as ever operating the purpose with sturdy 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 had been out — might want to rapidly re-assert herself as a go-to possibility like she was throughout that aforementioned stretch.

After which there’s Fudd, Bueckers’ shut good friend and a fellow No. 1 total recruit. With so many veteran gamers having graduated and Bueckers sidelined, Fudd is now burdened with extra offensive accountability than anticipated for what she’s hoping is her first full wholesome season in Storrs. She should rapidly emerge because the famous person so many count on her to in the end 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 sturdy items 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 round her higher. — Philippou

How far does UConn fall within the preseason polls?

In the latest ESPN Way-Too-Early top 25 rankings on June 14, we had the Huskies at No. 2 behind defending champion South Carolina, with the Stanford Cardinal, Tennessee Lady Vols and Texas Longhorns rounding out the highest 5. Bueckers is a key element to the staff, clearly, however the Huskies did play practically three months with out her final season. And since this harm is in early August, the staff does not have to regulate in midstream to her absence.

Nonetheless, the Huskies will drop, most likely even out of the highest 5. For now, that may 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 within the first month of the season. How may the Huskies emerge from that schedule?

Final season the Huskies practically beat Louisville with out Fudd and Bueckers, and efficiently took down Tennessee with out Bueckers, so it is not out of the query that they’ll compete in opposition to high quality groups with Bueckers out. Nonetheless, it would not be stunning if UConn’s early 2022-23 slate appears to be like considerably just like how 2021-22 went: a number of bumps within the street when the Huskies had been attempting to determine issues out sans Bueckers (and Fudd on the time), however then discovering extra of a rhythm because the season went on, even unbiased of Bueckers’ return.

Timing is not precisely on their facet, not less than by way of their highest-caliber competitors being concentrated within the first month of the season, because the staff goes to need to principally reinvent itself with out Williams, Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook and Bueckers. UConn can have most likely figured issues out extra so, although, by the nationwide title sport rematch in opposition to South Carolina on Feb. 5. — Philippou

How does Bueckers’ harm influence 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 Last 4. There was a whole lot of thought that the streak would finish final 12 months, as some confidence waned within the Huskies whereas Bueckers was out. However as quickly as she returned, it appeared they acquired again on monitor rapidly.

It is a totally 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 sturdy choose to repeat, in addition to be the highest staff within the SEC (though Tennessee needs to be a challenger).

Stanford, the 2021 champion, is all the time in a position to reload rapidly after personnel losses, and that would 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 closely within the championship hunt. Tennessee and Texas each picked up a whole lot 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 among the many high groups of their respective conferences.

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

How does this influence the 2023 WNBA draft, for which Buekers 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 go away school 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 mentioned that she had no plans to enter this upcoming draft. She has been one of many high gamers to money in on Title, 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 profit from her recognition with the Huskies and in school basketball, so most have anticipated her to play the subsequent two school seasons and go within the 2024 draft, and he or she indicated that was additionally her plan. Nevertheless, due to the additional 12 months of eligibility student-athletes acquired on account of COVID-19, she truly might have stayed till 2025.

Now, along with her 2022-23 season misplaced, will Bueckers nonetheless be within the 2024 draft, having performed simply three seasons at UConn? It is determined by how she heals and the way she is feeling. If she desires to have all 4 seasons in school, then we cannot see her till the 2025 draft. Or she might keep all the best way till 2026. She has said a robust need to win a nationwide championship, so that might think about as nicely. — Voepel

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