UConn WBB Weekly: The best scenarios ahead of the 2021-22 Huskies season
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The best scenarios before the Huskies 2021-22 season
It all starts on Sunday. In four days, the UConn women’s basketball will open the 2021-22 season against Arkansas at the XL Center without lacking in excitement. After a year with cardboard cutouts filling empty arenas, the Huskies will once again be playing in front of crowds at full capacity in their second season in the Grand Est, with high expectations in sight.
UConn is looking to smash a five-year title drought – tied for its longest run since 1995. The Huskies have returned almost all of their roster and reloaded with a solid class of newcomers, earning them second place in the AP preseason poll behind South Carolina and ahead of defending champions Stanford.
Overall, this is shaping up to be one of the funniest seasons in recent memory. The intrigues will not be lacking either.
How does the rotation take place?
UConn has its most comprehensive roster in years with 14 players in total – most of whom plan to be on the rotation. In the Huskies’ exhibition against Fort Hays State, Geno Auriemma faced nine different players in the first half – Paige Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams started while Caroline Ducharme, Azzi Fudd , Dorka Juhász and Nika Mühl came off the bench. Aubrey Griffin sat down with a sprained ankle.
This is a change from the past 4-5 years, when UConn’s rotation rarely had more than six or seven players. Although finding enough minutes for everyone will create a headache for Auriemma, he is not complaining.
“It’s actually a pretty good problem to have,” Auriemma said on Sunday. “I just don’t know at the moment how it’s going to play out. Whether it’s nine, 10, eight, 11, I don’t know. … It depends on the game. I don’t know. It’s going to be fun to find out.
These aforementioned 10 players appear to be quite firmly in the circle of trust, although the exact distribution of playing time between them will evolve throughout the season and may even change depending on the opponent. Each night it will be fascinating to see how UConn manages and uses its new depth.
Expectations for Fudd, first year class
On Thursday, it had been exactly a year since Fudd had signed up to UConn on his 18th birthday. The No. 1 prospect of the 2021 class has been hailed as a generational player who might even be better than her best friend and teammate Paige Bueckers. While it’s unrealistic to expect Fudd to reach the same heights as Bueckers given the latter just completed the best freshman season in sports history, there is still a lot of buzz surrounding the game. first-year goalie – and for good reason.
In the show, Fudd showed his incredible shooting ability starting 3-3 from beyond the arc and also displayed a willingness to defend that wasn’t much discussed. After the game, Auriemma gave the freshman a rave review.
“She’s a basketball player, thoroughly,” he said. “She’s not just going to be there, hit a couple and then go out.” She plays basketball and that’s what makes her special. It is not just one dimensional.
While Fudd attracts the most attention, Ducharme has also impressed coaches and teammates with a calm style that lets his performance speak for itself. At 6ft 2in it’s a tall guard with length that sneaks in, well, pretty much everyone.
“They don’t know how she does it but she beats their asses,” Auriemma said over the summer. “But they don’t know how she does it. They walk away, shaking their heads.
Both Fudd and Ducharme appear to be online for a lot of playtime, although the exact impact they have is still pending. UConn already has a deep backcourt with Bueckers, Mühl, Westbrook and Williams, but the two freshmen have skills that set them apart from the other four players. It will be fun to see how they evolve.
As for the other two freshmen, Amari DeBerry and Saylor Poffenbarger, both have faced their fair share of adversity this offseason. Poffenbarger hasn’t been on the court much due to a myriad of injuries while DeBerry struggled to adjust at the college level. Auriemma was complementary to DeBerry’s skill level, but she’ll likely need more time until she’s ready to play some important minutes.
Will seniors finally be able to put everything in place?
During their three-year career at UConn, Nelson-Ododa and Williams are better known for their inconsistencies than their exploits on the pitch. Nelson-Ododa showed a propensity to beat smaller, weaker teams while fading away in big moments while Williams often followed streaks of high scoring performances with single-digit nights.
Williams seemed at least take a turn in the last playoffs when she became UConn’s top defenseman and became a reliable secondary goalscorer for Bueckers.
The same cannot be said of Nelson-Ododa. Although she thrived as a point forward while Edwards recorded big scores in the NCAA tournament, the center had one of the worst performances of her career in the Final Four loss to the Arizona.
As seniors, time is running out for both players. Williams needs to prove she can play with the intensity and aggression we’ve seen in playoffs and nightlife, while Nelson-Ododa will have to shake her reputation as an untrustworthy person against big teams. . This is their last shot at changing the narrative.
Dorka Juhász’s Cup
No player impressed more than Dorka Juhász in UConn’s show. The Ohio State transfer dominated its 15 minutes with 15 points on 7-10 shots and eight rebounds despite missing most of the preseason with a thigh injury.
Even with the outstanding performance, Juhász will share the frontcourt with Nelson-Ododa and Edwards this season, which calls his role into question. While these two played well together last season, Juhász’s injury prevented her from building the same chemistry on the pitch with either player – or one of her teammates, d ‘elsewhere.
Despite his flaws, Nelson-Ododa is still the most experienced grown-up and seems to have Auriemma’s confidence, and Edwards’ physique and tenacity cannot be replicated. There is no doubt that Juhász will play an important role for the Huskies this season, but we don’t know exactly how Auriemma will deploy her.
Will 3-point shooting improve?
Two years ago UConn had to be the best 3-point shooting team in the country to overcome its many shortcomings and end the season cut short at 29-3. Last year the Huskies reached the Final Four despite their 3-point shot, which came in at 35.6% – 32.1% if you remove Bueckers’ contributions.
UConn added two snipers to Fudd and Ducharme which should improve this number, although internal improvements are needed at Nelson-Ododa (26.7% against three last season), Westbrook (33, 9%) and Williams (34.3%) as well.
While UConn reached 9-21 (42.9%) of three in the show and Auriemma mentioned that the team shot well in their behind-the-scenes scrum against Boston College, the Huskies need to prove they can. always shoot beyond the arc. Without it, it will be difficult, but not impossible, to beat Stanford and South Carolina.
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