The impact of Bueckers’ injury on UConn and what it means for March

UConn sophomore star, Paige Bueckers, has suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left knee and is expected to be out for six to eight weeks, the Huskies announced Tuesday. How does the injury – which occurred Sunday on an out-of-contact play with less than a minute to play in a 73-54 win over Notre Dame – affect the No. 2 Huskies going forward?

The absence of Bueckers will be felt in every part of the court. The current Consensus Player of the Year leads UConn in scoring (21.2 points per game), minutes (36.4), assists (6.2), steals (2.7) and field goals scored, and is ranked second on the team in rebounds (5.5 ).

Bueckers’ injury happened just four days after UConn announced that Azzi fudd, the No. 1 ranked recruit for 2021, will miss at least two weeks due to a foot injury. In preseason, the Huskies were expected to have unprecedented depth, but coach Geno Auriemma used just eight players on Sunday.

Our panel – ESPN’s Katie Barnes, Charlie Creme and Mechelle Voepel – examines the changes Auriemma will make during Bueckers’ absence, which UConn players will need to grow while she’s gone, upcoming tests on the Huskies schedule, and how her position in Bracketology could change.

UConn visits Georgia Tech on Thursday (7pm ET, ESPN2) and faces UCLA in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday (1pm ET).

What adjustments will UConn make without Bueckers in the lineup?

Believe me: Evina westbrook She will take over as point guard, and the fourth-year redshirt is the kind of player who could go all-conference or be ranked in the top 25 in the nation. That does not mean that the absence of Bueckers does not change UConn’s strategy considerably. Her loss is enormous in terms of tangible production and in terms of what her presence means to her teammates and rival defenses. But the job of being a general will at least go to a veteran with playmaking and scoring talents.

Nika muhl Sophomores can also play point guard, which would allow Westbrook to continue to shoot from the flank of impact, which has been his role mostly with the Huskies. However, Muhl doesn’t often look to create her own shot (she’s attempted just 15 field goals this season), and she’s not actually a shooter or scorer (2.0 points per game). So if she’s playing point guard, it allows opposing defenses to focus more attention on the other four players on the floor.

What complicates the situation with Bueckers’ injury even more is that the UConn depth we all talked about in preseason is no longer there. Fudd will be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks with a foot injury. Aubrey griffinA junior, he has yet to play this season due to ankle and sword problems. Rookie Saylor Poffenbarger transferred.

Auriemma only used eight players against Notre Dame on Sunday, and only seven healthy players average minutes in the double digits. The only good news for UConn is that the 6-foot-2 rookie escort, Caroline ducharme they had what was easily their best College game against the Irish with 14 points in 14 minutes, shooting 5-3 on triples.

Voepel: Auriemma has said frequently, since last season, that she doesn’t like the way the Huskies look when Bueckers isn’t on the court. Now you will have to adjust to that, and so will your equipment.

We will not try to invent a silver lining to this injury, although the fact that it will put other Huskies in the driver’s seat is true. Bueckers took on that role from her first day as a rookie, and that was anticipated given her talent. But it also put a huge burden on her shoulders, more than any rookie in UConn history.

Auriemma will have to focus on everything she has seen as troublesome, but without Bueckers as one of the answers. After the Huskies’ 74-49 win over Seton Hall on Friday, he said, “We haven’t been good on offense all season. Maybe it will come. But right now, not good at all.”

Auriemma said one of the biggest problems was that UConn lacked consistency hitting shots from the outside, which meant teams could cheat a bit and play a little more for the shooting guards attacking the rim or making layups.

Bueckers is UConn’s best shooter and passer, so it’s time for Westbrook, Christyn Williams and Ducharme lead the way from the perimeter, and may UConn establish how good his post game is, led by Olivia Nelson-Ododa Y Aaliyah edwards.

Bueckers lead the Huskies in several major statistical categories. Where will your absence have the greatest impact?

Voepel: In short, everywhere. There’s nothing UConn does where Bueckers isn’t a key factor, on offense and defense. But let’s focus on ball control. Bueckers has 37 assists and just nine turnovers, plus he has 16 steals. She prevents UConn from wasting possessions and forces the other teams to waste some of their own.

In many of the matches the Huskies play, this won’t necessarily make a big difference because they are so much better than their opponents. But turnovers were a major factor in turning around the Huskies’ loss to No. 1 South Carolina last month.

Bueckers isn’t just the Huskies’ best player; she leads them in timely plays. After the win over Seton Hall, she said, “I just want to set the tone. I tried to risk it all tonight.”

The bottom line is that anyone with the physical talent to play Division I can make timely plays. That’s the mindset, and UConn has always had that attitude as a team, wearing down the best rivals with execution, discipline, pace and timely plays. If Huskies focus on how best they can be in those four things even without Bueckers, they can grow even without it.

Barnes: I agree with Voepel. The absence of Bueckers will be felt in everything the Huskies do. But I really think UConn will miss his minutes. As Charlie said above, the expected depth on the Huskies bench hasn’t been there. If Fudd were healthy and playing at the level we know he is capable of, this could be a slightly different discussion.

Removing Bueckers from the lineup (along with their 36.3 minutes per game) means others have to literally fill that gap. And so far, Auriemma hasn’t shown a tremendous amount of confidence in this bench to play for long periods. He doesn’t have an option here, so those players will have a longer strap than usual. That could be an opportunity for players like Muhl and Ducharme, who haven’t been consistently long minutes so far this season. But against high-quality opponents, it could also be a significant challenge.

What challenges does UConn’s immediate schedule present – at Georgia Tech on Thursday, vs. UCLA on Saturday and vs. No. 10 Louisville on December 19?

Barnes: These three teams are no small feat, and UConn has shown vulnerability even with Bueckers on the floor. Auriemma has complained of offensive difficulties throughout the start of the season. After UConn’s win over Notre Dame, he said, “We’re playing too fast. We’re not allowing the things we need to run an efficient offense to develop.”

Auriemma expressed similar sentiments after the Huskies’ win over Seton Hall. Those difficulties are likely only going to be compounded by the absence of Bueckers. At times, UConn’s offense has stalled, and not having Bueckers could allow a team like Georgia Tech to really take advantage of this vulnerability.

Voepel: Facing Georgia Tech should be a good test for the Huskies because of the solid defense of the Yellow Jackets. After Sunday’s 55-54 win over Georgia, Georgia Tech is limiting its rivals to an average of 46.3 points per game. The Yellow Jackets have forced an average of 14.3 turnovers, and that’s one area where UConn could be challenged without Bueckers.

Believe me: Although Georgia Tech and UCLA were both ranked in the preseason and are projected to be NCAA Tournament teams, neither is dynamic on offense. Even without their offensive engine and top scorer, the Huskies have enough talent from the perimeter with Westbrook and Williams, and enough inside production from Nelson-Ododa and Edwards, to outlast the Yellow Jackets and Bruins. That may not happen, but UConn has what it takes to survive these next two games. Let’s not forget that the UConn roster has quite a few other former high school All-Americans who have surrendered all-league in their college careers.

Beating Louisville could be another story, but the eight-day break between UCLA and Louisville games gives the coaching staff plenty of time to assess how the Huskies performed against the Yellow Jackets and Bruins and to make adjustments.

How will the national championship race in women’s college basketball change the loss of Bueckers for six to eight weeks?

Voepel: UConn’s streak of Final Four appearances, which unbelievably began in 2008, is in jeopardy with an extended absence from Bueckers. The Huskies will have a long time to get used to playing without her, and they can still be a very good team. We don’t know for sure that he will return, or how long it might take him to get back to playing his best level ever.

My championship pick at the beginning of this season was South Carolina, and I’m sticking with it. That said, with or without Bueckers, the Huskies still have the talent to beat anyone. But the odds of them reaching the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament – especially with so many top teams with plenty of experience – still largely depends on the return of Bueckers. Certainly, there could be other injuries on other teams that change the championship landscape. But this is the worst possible loss of personnel for UConn, which needs Bueckers but will not – and should not – rush his return.

What is the impact of losing Bueckers in Bracketology?

Believe me: UConn is still a No. 1 seed. The answer might be different if there were obvious options to replace the Huskies, but so many other highly rated teams have struggled in the first month of the season and haven’t put out a good enough resume. Given the impact that Bueckers has on everything UConn does, one might anticipate a slump with his release. But Bracketology is a results-driven business, and nothing changes for now.

We’ll be watching to see how UConn plays in their next two games without Bueckers. If UConn gets wins over Georgia Tech and UCLA, and it looks good doing it, the Huskies will still be on the No. 1 line. Anything less than that and UConn will fall if teams like Stanford, Louisville or Baylor, for example, take care. of their affairs in a week where none of them, based on the calendar, should be challenged.


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The impact of Bueckers’ injury on UConn and what it means for March