With college hoops just around the corner, that means the start of another UConn women’s basketball campaign.
The Huskies enter the 2021-22 season ranked No. 2 in the Preseason AP Poll with 10 voters believing they should hold the top spot. It’s another year of lofty expectations for Geno Auriemma’s squad, and for good reason – this iteration of UConn women’s basketball is loaded, per usual.
Let’s preview what to expect from the Huskies this winter and spring:
UConn Women’s Basketball Preview 2021-22
Paige Bueckers, Part 2
Paige Bueckers was one of the best players in the country last year as a true freshman. There is absolutely no reason to expect her to regress as a sophomore. In fact, quite the contrary.
In 2020-21, Bueckers averaged 20 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers were a big part of why she became the first-ever freshman recipient of the AP Women’s Basketball Player of the Year honor, and she’s probably going to, at a minimum, repeat those numbers as a sophomore, if not improve on them.
Bueckers’ debut college season was so impressive that some of the legends who helped make UConn women’s basketball what it is were in awe of her.
“She’s proven she has what it takes to be one of the great players at UConn, to be one of the great players in women’s college basketball,” former UConn women’s basketball great Rebecca Lobo told Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com in March. “Now, we’ve got a couple of years to see it unfold. We have many more big moments in this young woman’s career, which I expect she will live up to.”
Stay tuned, because some of those moments will come this season.
Bueckers is so good that it can be easy to overlook the other players who are returning for UConn, but there are some serious ballers who would be headliners in almost every other program in the country.
Christyn Williams is now a senior, and the 2021 Big East First Teamer should produce similarly to the 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists her contest she notched in 2020-21. She combined with Bueckers to form an absolutely terrifying backcourt.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa is also now a senior, and she’ll get close to averaging a double-double this season. Not only does she bring it on the offensive end, but Nelson-Ododa is also one of the best rim protectors in the nation, swatting 1.8 shots per outing last season and likely to exceed 2 blocks per night this year.
Aaliyah Edwards and Evina Westbrook, the fourth-and-fifth-highest scorers for the team last season, are also back. UConn has pretty much all of the pieces that were important in its successful regular season and Final Four run last season, which is genuinely terrifying.
Want to be even more terrified? Consider who is new to the program.
You thought UConn women’s basketball wasn’t going to load up further on talent? You thought wrong. As if Nelson-Ododa weren’t enough down low, Auriemma went out and convinced Dorka Juhasz to transfer in from Ohio State. The Hungarian offers another 6-foot-5 frame and plenty of skill – she was a two-time First Team All-Big Ten player before switching to Storrs.
On top of all that, Auriemma signed the No. 1, No. 5, and No. 15 players in the Class of 2021, according to the espnW 100, in Azzi Fudd, Caroline Ducharme, and Amari DeBerry. There is so much depth on this roster that it’s not totally clear how much time each of them will get as freshmen, but you’re talking about some of the best high school players making the jump this year; if they don’t play, it won’t because they’re not talented, it’ll be because there is just too much insane skill ahead of them.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a deeper, more talented team in the country. UConn women’s basketball is fully poised to reach its second-straight Final Four and win the program’s first national title since 2016. This team will not lose many games throughout the course of the entire season, if any at all, and to call it a force to be reckoned with feels like an understatement.
Couple the loaded roster with one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, and you have yourself the favorite for the Big East crown and one of the odds-on favorites for the ultimate prize: a national championship.