The Monumental Impact of Paige Bueckers’s Injury

Paige Bueckers
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On Monday, Paige Bueckers of UConn tore her ACL in her left knee during a pickup game. She will miss the entire season. The injury to  Bueckers will have a monumental impact on her team. She is the best player on the Huskies; she will be dearly missed. This piece will explain the implications of her injury for UConn, likely players to step up, their schedule, and potential conference challengers.

The Monumental Impact of Paige Bueckers’s Injury

Implications of Her Injury

Paige’s second injury in less than a year will require extensive recovery. She just came back from a tibial plateau injury late last season. She is highly talented, but I am beginning to worry if her career will ever be the same. She has two more years left to play at UConn, and I hope she recovers and performs, but now, there will be uncertainty around her. Shea Ralph tore her ACL three times in college and never had a pro career. Her example makes me worry about Paige’s pro prospects. For her team, this injury is devastating. She is the heart and soul of UConn. However, they played without her for a long time last season after the Notre Dame game in December and were relatively successful. This experience will help them stay relevant in the conversation, but I am unsure if they can win their conference without her.

Likely Players to Step Up

Despite this injury’s monumental impact, some players must step up if UConn wants to remain relevant this season. Aaliyah Edwards won MVP for Canada in the recent International tournament and has vastly improved. She must use her international experience and help UConn succeed. On the inside, UConn also has Dorka Juhász returning from her injury. Juhasz had some big games last year but only averaged 7.3 points. They will need her to double her output to help out Edwards.

At the guard positions, UConn will still have Azzi Fudd, Caroline Ducharme, and Nika MühlFudd stepped up as the leading player in some of the games that Paige was out, but Ducharme made the most significant leap. Ducharme had a six-game stretch where she scored at least 14 points each game. UConn will need Fudd and Ducharme to hit significantly more threes to compete with the better teams. Muhl must step up to give UConn a third option and avoid foul trouble. Freshmen Ice Brady and Ayanna Patterson add much-needed depth to the post positions. The return of Aubrey Griffin should help UConn significantly. She was a great player for them a few years ago. To achieve what they want, they will need everyone on the team to step up.

Schedule

Adding to the monumental impact of this is UConn’s challenging schedule, including Texas, NC State,  Duke, Notre Dame,  Princeton, and  South Carolina out of conference. Without Bueckers, most of those teams will give UConn trouble. Notre Dame is excellent, and they return almost everyone from a team that made the elite eight. NC State was also an elite eight-team, and SC won it all. Princeton may not look like a scary opponent, but they came one point from making the sweet sixteen and will be good again this season. This daunting schedule will test their players and determine who may step up. I do not think it is time to panic. Geno is an excellent coach, and he has time to prepare them. However, UConn must get help from the entire team to succeed.

Conference Challengers

Creighton University, a surprise elite-eight team from last year, gets everyone back and adds three first-year students. They constitute a significant threat to UConn’s conference domination. Villanova, the only conference team to beat UConn last year, still has all-conference star, Maddy Siegrist. Seton Hall quietly made the NIT final the previous year and has an improving roster. Then there’s DePaul with Aneesah Morrow. All of these teams present a threat to the Huskies. UConn must figure out who its stars are before conference play because it will not get much easier. The four teams mentioned above should all make the tournament this season, and there may be other surprises.