The University of Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball team ended last season with a disappointing loss in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament; it was the culmination of a season filled with injury. The biggest story of the 2022-23 UConn season was the absence of Paige Bueckers due to a torn ACL.
Well, it’s a new season! And the redshirt junior Bueckers is back, allowing us to see a fully-healthy UConn for the first time in a few seasons.
Now ranked No. 8, UConn is 1-1 on their season ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the No. 20 Maryland Terrapins (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1). The Huskies’ first game was a dominant 102-58 win over Dayton, with their loss coming in a 92-81 slip up against NC State. Let’s take a look at what to expect from UConn this season, as well as what they need to do to get a win against Maryland:
UConn has a strong brigade of upperclassmen prepared to win big for the Huskies this season, in addition to a few exciting freshman ready to make their mark.
Leading the pack is Bueckers, who had a stellar freshman season, winning both Freshman of the Year and National Player of the Year. UConn made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, losing to Arizona. In her sophomore season, Bueckers spent most of the season battling a non-contact knee injury, but came back late in the season and led her team to the national championship game, where UConn lost to South Carolina. In the summer of 2022, Bueckers suffered a torn ACL and sat out her junior season.
Bueckers is eager to make up for lost time. Once the undisputed No. 1 pick in any WNBA mock draft, Bueckers now has a lot of competition for that status. Although she may not even declare for the draft in 2024, she’ll be in mocks until she makes a clear decision. Not only that, UConn has not won a national championship since the days of Breanna Stewart in 2016—and Huskies fans are itching to be back on top.
In Bueckers’ first two games, she’s proven that her basketball IQ is still undeniably elite. The way she is able to make quick decisions on offense and feed her teammates the ball makes her a stellar playmaker, even if head coach Geno Auriemma often tells her she needs to shoot the ball more. She’s incredible from long range, crafty near the basket and incredibly clutch. In her freshman season—even while battling an ankle injury—she averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. She can easily top those numbers this season if she is able to stay healthy.
Paige Bueckers drives in for the layup! pic.twitter.com/kmcuOagUUO— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 12, 2023
Since this may be her last season in a UConn uniform, fans are hoping to see her thrive. In terms of her potential, we’ve really only seen the tip of the iceberg.
The senior out of Kingston, Ontario, Canada had an absolute breakout season as a junior. Edwards has a unique history with a ton of experience on the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team; she’s even an Olympian. Edwards is setting herself up not only to return to the Olympics next summer in Paris, but also to be a high draft pick in the WNBA when she decides to declare.
Edwards averaged 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in the 2022-23 season. Her size makes her a dominant force in the paint, and she refined her skills last season in order to be more precise and avoid getting in foul trouble. She also cleaned up her offense and was a steady presence for a wavering UConn team.
Aaliyah Edwards is up to 13 points! pic.twitter.com/FLqkIPRMGf— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 9, 2023
Expect her to continue to thrive this season. Bueckers’ return to the lineup hopefully will increase Edwards’ usage in the pick-and-roll. UConn also needs her to step up as a steady big presence in the absence of Dorka Juhász.
Fudd also struggled through injuries last season. Now a junior, she was the No. 1 high school recruit in the 2021 class. She is a sharp shooter who can rack up 3-pointers with more proficiency than the majority of pro players. This will be the first full season that Fudd and her best bud Bueckers (hopefully) will play together. Their potential in the UConn backcourt could be hazardous to other teams’ defenses.
Paige Bueckers ➡️ Azzi Fudd— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 9, 2023
We missed this pic.twitter.com/J6FaK64Plu
Fudd already has said publicly that this will not be her last year at UConn, so the Huskies will have her perimeter offense for longer than just this season.
Last season, Mühl had the most assists in a single season in UConn history, surpassing Sue Bird’s mark. With Bueckers gone, Mühl became the primary ball handler and thrived in the role. She also was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row. With Bueckers now back, the pressure will be taken off Mühl, but the senior still will be expected to perform big—especially as a defender and a facilitator.
Nika Mühl was READY— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 9, 2023
She gets the steal and the no-look assist to Aubrey Griffin pic.twitter.com/EUcFijenV7
Husky fans finally are getting to see Ice Brady out on the floor. Brady suffered a season-ending injury right before she was set to play her freshman season, sitting out all of last year. She enters this season as a redshirt freshman after coming out of high school as the No. 5 recruit in the 2022 class.
UConn also got its first look at Qadence Samuels over the past two games. The guard looked sharp from 3 in the loss to NC State. The Huskies also are welcoming KK Arnold, the No. 6 recruit of the 2023 class. The McDonald’s All-American averaged 23.3 points per game as a prep star in Wisconsin.
Qadence Samuels for THREE!— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 9, 2023
Her first basket as a Husky! pic.twitter.com/CEF4srwVfb
What to expect when UConn meets Maryland
The No. 20 Terrapins, who also sit at 1-1 after an opening win over Harvard and a loss at South Carolina, are a much different team without Diamond Miller. Yet, as the Huskies lost to a then-unranked team over the weekend, don’t count the Terps out. However, after a rare regular season loss, surely UConn will come out in sharper form. They need to clean up their shots in the paint, not rush their offense and protect the rim better than they did on Sunday. They also need to avoid allowing another 30-plus point performance from their opponent after Saniya Rivers scored 33 points for NC State.
And a win over a ranked opponent certainly should help UConn begin their climb back up the rankings.
No. 20 Maryland Terrapins (1-1) vs. No. 8 UConn Huskies (1-1)
When: Thursday, Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Gampel Pavillion in Storrs, CT
How to watch: FS1