2024-25 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Connecticut Huskies (2024)

Team: Connecticut Huskies

2023-24 Record: 33-6, 18-0 in the Big East

2023-24 Big East Finish: First, winning the regular season title by three games over Creighton

Final 2023-24 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #3 out of 360 teams

Postseason? After winning the Big East tournament with margins of victory of at least 29 points in all three games — it’s deeply funny that “Marquette sets a program record for offensive futility while not scoring at all in the fourth quarter” was the closest game of the three — UConn made their way through the NCAA tournament to the Final Four before falling to Iowa, 71-69.

Key Departures: Two pretty big ones. I thought Aaliyah Edwards should have been Big East Player of the Year last year, and the Huskies’ top rebounder (9.2/game) and persistent double-double threat (17.6 points/game) is in the WNBA now. Same for Nika Muhl, who dished out a team high 6.5 assists per game last season and became the Huskies’ all-time assists leader with a helper in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Muhl wasn’t asked to score much for UConn last year, but she shot 54% inside the arc and 40% outside of it, so she was definitely capable of knocking down shots when it was needed.

Edwards started in all 37 of her appearances, while Muhl was one of just two players to start all 39 games for UConn. Both women averaged over 30 minutes per game, so that’s a lot of court time and production that needs to get replaced.

Key Returners: Paige Bueckers is back. She didn’t have to be. Last year was her fourth at UConn, and she could have bounced for the WNBA draft with a degree in hand, but she’s back for some unfinished business after essentially missing a season and a half in the middle of her time in Storrs. BREAKING NEWS: The 2024 Big East Player of the Year is great. 21.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.4 blocks, 42% from long range. If there’s a thing your team needs on the basketball court, Bueckers can probably do it for you. Possible exception: Defending the post long term, since she’s 5’11”.

Officially, UConn returns two other double digit scorers, but in practice, they only return one. That’s Ashlynn Shade, who was the 2024 Big East Freshman of the Year. She averaged 11.0 points per game while starting in 33 of her 38 appearances, and added 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and a steal.

The reason why I have to say “in practice, they only return one” is because Azzi Fudd played two games, scored 22 points, and then missed the rest of the season with an ACL tear. This comes after she only played in 15 games in 2022-23 because of injury, so if anything else, UConn is going to be incredibly careful to make sure that Fudd is ready to go. In 42 career games at UConn, she averages 13.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, just over an assist and a steal, and she’s a 39% three-point shooter. She’s also not the only player coming back from an ACL tear on this roster. Aubrey Griffin suffered the same injury in January, and because I can count, her availability for games in November is much more up in the air than Fudd’s. The 6’1” Griffin was having a good season for the Huskies before her injury even if she was seeing her role diminish from the year before. She averaged 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 2023-24.

While we’re talking injuries, let’s mention Caroline Ducharme, Ayanna Patterson, and Jana El Alfy here. Ducharme was limited to just four games all of last year (head & neck) , while Patterson (knee surgery) and El Alfy (Achilles tear) missed the entire year. Ducharme had carved out a notable role on the roster in her first two years on campus, Patterson is a former top 10 prospect that played spot minutes as a freshman in 2022-23, and El Alfy is a 6’5” star with the Egyptian Junior National Team who has been in Storrs for a year and a half without playing in a game yet. Are they going to make an impact in 2024-25? Who knows, but I feel we have to mention them as possibly notable here.

WE ARE STILL NOT DONE HERE.

I haven’t mentioned KK Arnold, the Wisconsin guard who started 33 times as a freshman last year, or Ice Brady, who played in every game as a redshirt freshman last year, or Qadence Samuels, who was a top 50 prospect and averaged over 12 minutes a game in 36 appearances as a freshman last year. If everything works out for UConn in the health department — and we will come back to this — the Huskies are terrifyingly deep without adding a single player to the roster.

Key Additions: Here’s some real “the rich get richer” nonsense for you. UConn has four new faces on the roster with three freshmen and a transfer. The transfer is Kaitlyn Chen, a 5’9” guard from Princeton, who is arguably only transferring because the Ivy League doesn’t allow grad students to play, and Chen still has a year of eligibility left after losing 2020-21 at Princeton to COVID since the Ivy League completely shut down competition. Chen was the 2023 Ivy League Player of the Year, and this this past year, she “only” averaged 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game to “only” end up First Team All-Ivy. Real bummer for the Huskies here, adding a star coming off a down year.

Oh, right, the freshmen.

Sarah Strong (6’2 forward, Fuquay-Varina, NC) is #1 in the country, per ESPN. Allie Ziebell (6’0” guard, Neenah, WI) is #7. Morgan Cheli (6’2” guard, San Jose, CA) is bringing up the rear at a woeful national recruiting ranking of #11. Maybe we see all three of them immediately, maybe we don’t see any of them regularly given the stack of talent that UConn returns from last year.

Coach: Geno Auriemma, entering his 40th season in charge. He has a record of 1,213 wins and 162 losses, and that keeps sounding insane every single time I have to bring it up when I do this summer check-ins. Think about it this way: Going 33-6 (.846) in 2023-24 made his career winning percentage (.882) worse than it was when the season started. Mind boggling.

Outlook: Yeah, they’re going to be good.

What do you want me to say here? They’re the favorite to win the Big East until someone makes them not the regular season champions. UConn has gone 70-3 in conference play since returning to the Big East and has won all four conference tournaments. Technically, that makes them 82-3 against Big East teams.

The question is not “Will UConn win the Big East regular season title this season,” the question is “Who will play rotation minutes for UConn while they win the regular season title this season?” The Huskies have gone 36-2 in league play over the past two seasons, and have done this while missing Paige Bueckers for all of 2022-23 and Azzi Fudd for most of that year, and then there’s the gigantic pile of missed time that you saw up in the Returning Players section that covers their problems from 2023-24. Over the past two seasons, UConn has veered over to “are we sure that the Huskies are going to have enough players to get through this game?” on occasion. And yet, it almost has not mattered, taking just two of their three league losses in four seasons in 2023 and then going undefeated in league play this past season.

If they’re completely healthy for the entire season, Geno Auriemma is coaching a Death Star that doesn’t have unprotected exhaust ports. His roster of 10 returning players is more than good enough to win a Big East title, and he’s adding three top 15 recruits, including #1 overall, and a former Ivy League POY.

If they are not healthy — and as I mentioned above, I’ll be shocked to see Aubrey Griffin playing big minutes in the first week of November — then Auriemma is merely going to have to do what he’s done each of the past two seasons and staple together a Big East champion on the fly. Auriemma’s standing as a college basketball coaching icon has caused people to underrate and disregard what kind of coaching he’s been doing the last two years. Yes, he’s drawing better cards out of the deck than a lot of people start their hand with, not debating that. But the repeated injuries and thus rotation shuffle could have broken these last two UConn teams, and it would have broken teams with lesser coaches. What happened to UConn? The worst thing that happened to them was missing a Final Four for the first time since 2007, and that meant that they still kept a Sweet 16 streak that goes back to 1994.

May God punish all of us with UConn’s blessings.

2024-25 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: Connecticut Huskies (2024)

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