UConn Huskies star guard Paige Buckers suffered a torn ACL in her left knee, which will rule her out of the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season and cause a ripple effect across the sport.

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Bukers, one of the best players in the game, placed first overall in the class of 2020 and helped UC reach the Women’s Final Four in each of the past two seasons. The Huskies lost a championship game to the South Carolina Gamecocks in April in Bukers’ home state of Minnesota.

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The 5-foot-11 Bookers, who turns 21 in October, had a phenomenal rookie season for the Huskies and was named the 2020-21 National Player of the Year. After that season, she underwent surgery on her right ankle but returned ready to go for the 2021-22 season. However, Bookers was injured late in UConn’s victory over Notre Dame on December 5 last year, suffering a fractured anterior tibia and a torn lateral meniscus, also in his left knee. She missed 19 games before returning at the end of February.

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Bukers averaged 20.0 points and 4.9 assists as a freshman and 14.6 and 4.0 as a sophomore. We are looking at how Buekers’ injury will affect the Huskies and the national race in the coming season.

How will the Buekers injury affect UCLA in the 2022-23 season, and what changes will the Huskies make without her in the roster?

A team that was one win away from winning the national championship four months ago will undoubtedly face an even tougher battle as it aims to return to a 15th consecutive Final Four. The loss of three WNBA draft picks – Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christine Williams and Evina Westbrook, the first two of whom had been in the starting lineup for three and four years, respectively – should already have been an adjustment. But Bookers’ absence deprives an outstanding point guard and passer, phenomenal scorer and team leader from a program that is on its longest non-title run since winning its first title in 1995.

The Huskies now have four healthy backcourt players left: sophomore Azzi Fudd, sophomore Caroline DuCharme, junior Nika Muehl and Fairfield alumnus Lou Lopez Seneschal. And only Mule is a real point guard.

There were times last season when Fudd and the Bukers were sidelined for months, UConn played with just three healthy defensemen. It is possible that something similar could happen in the 2022/23 season if the Huskies are no longer lucky with injuries. Whatever the case, this lack of depth is completely unsuitable for the more defense-oriented system that Geno Auriemma likes to run. Also note that DuCharme is recovering from an off-season hip injury, and Fudd has had limited team training in an attempt to fully heal a foot injury that has hampered her for most of her freshman year.

Muehl has shined defensively over the past two seasons, but she needs to be more reliable than ever, making clear decisions and playing without fouls. (And then who’s the backup point guard? Fudd?) Ducharme, who helped the team when Fudd and Bukers were out, will have to quickly reassert herself as the right option, just as she was during it. the aforementioned extension.

And then there’s Fudd, a close friend of Bukers and top recruit overall. With so many veteran players out of training and the Buekers sidelined, Fudd is now saddled with more offensive responsibility than expected as she hopes this is her first full healthy season at Storrs. She will have to quickly grow into the superstar many expect her to eventually become if the Huskies are to achieve many of their goals this season.

It’s not that the Huskies are left without strong figures in 2022-23, but their ceiling is much lower without a player like the Bukers, who is not only talented individually, but also makes his teammates better. — Philip

How far does UConn fall in the preseason polls?

In the latest Sportzshala Way-Too-Early Top 25 ranking on June 14, we had the Huskies in second place behind defending champion South Carolina, with the Stanford Cardinal, Tennessee Lady Vols and Texas Longhorns rounding out the top five. Buekers is obviously a key component of the team, but the Huskies went without her for nearly three months last season. And since this injury occurs at the beginning of August, the team does not have to adapt to her absence in the middle of the season.

All the same, the Huskies will probably fall out of the top five. At this point, that would be a reasonable place for UConn – say number 6 or 7 – considering the Huskies have also lost veterans Williams, Westbrook and Nelson-Ododa. — Bullshit

UConn plays Texas, NC State, Duke, Notre Dame, and Iowa State or Oregon in the first month of the season. How can the Huskies get out of this schedule?

Last season, the Huskies nearly beat Louisville without Fudd and Beckers and successfully beat Tennessee without Beckers, so it’s possible they can compete with quality teams without Beckers. However, it won’t be a shock if UConn’s early 2022-23 plan looks anything like what 2021-2022 went like: a few bumps in the road as the Huskies tried to sort things out without Bueckers (and Fudd at the time), but then found more rhythm as the season progressed, even regardless of the return of Bukers.

Time is not entirely on their side, at least in terms of their highest level competition centered in the first month of the season, as the team will have to basically reinvent itself without Williams, Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook and the Bookers. . However, UConn will likely sort things out after the national title rematch against South Carolina on Feb. 5. Philip

How will Buekers’ injury affect the national championship race this season?

Last season, UConn won an epic regional final against North Carolina State to advance to their 14th consecutive Final Four. There was a lot of speculation that the streak would end last year as some confidence in the Husky faded while Buekers was away. But once she returned, it seemed like they were quickly back on track.

This season is a different picture, with Buekers out of the game. The Gamecocks, with last season’s Player of the Year returning to Aliyah Boston, would be a very strong repeat pick as well as the top team in the SEC (although Tennessee should be a contender).

Stanford, the 2021 champ, can always reboot quickly from personnel losses, and it will happen again this season following the loss of quarterbacks Lexi Hull, Lacey Hull and Anna Wilson. With the return of stars like Hayley Jones and Cameron Brink, and the addition of 6-7 Lauren Betts, the Cardinal will be heavily involved in the hunt for the championship. Tennessee and Texas have found a lot of talent on the transfer portal, as have Louisville, NC State and LSU. Iowa and Iowa State will bring back most of their talent from last season, and both will be among the top teams in their respective conferences.

The last of UCCT’s 11 NCAA titles was in 2016, and Beckers’ absence makes the drought more likely to continue. However, this should already have been a very competitive group of most likely contenders, even with a healthy Bukers. — Bullshit

How will this affect the 2023 WNBA draft that Bukers was eligible for? And what does that mean for her future at UConn, where she has three years of eligibility left?

In October 2023, Bukers will turn 22, which means she could leave college early and enter the 2023 draft. WNBA rules stipulate that players who turn 22 in the same calendar year of the draft are eligible even if they are not seniors.

But Bukers has previously said she has no plans to enter this upcoming draft. She was one of the top players profiting from name, image and likeness deals and frankly has more association with the UConn brand than any WNBA team.

The NIL opportunity allows the Bukers to make the most of her popularity with the Huskies and in college basketball, which is why most expected her to play the next two college seasons and enter the 2024 draft, and she indicated that this was also her plan. However, due to the extra year student-athletes received due to COVID-19, she could indeed stay until 2025.

Now that she lost the 2022-23 season, will the Buekers still be in the 2024 draft after only playing three seasons at UCLA? It depends on how she recovers and how she feels. If she wants to spend all four seasons in college, then we won’t see her until the 2025 draft. Or she could stay until 2026. She has stated a strong desire to win a national championship, so that could also make a difference. — Bullshit