How Azzi Fudd’s injury affects UConn and the 2022-23 women’s college basketball season

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UConn sophomore Azzi benefit He is expected to miss three to six weeks with a right knee injury suffered in the first quarter of the Huskies’ loss to Notre Dame on Sunday.

The news, released Tuesday by UConn, felt like a déjà vu nightmare for Huskies fans who have watched UConn be decimated by injuries over the past 12 months, and have now witnessed serious knee injuries. . paige bueckers and Fudd nearly a year apart against the same team. Once again, Bueckers, the 2020-21 National Player of the Year, and Fudd, whose scoring outbursts against multiple top-10 teams this season put her name in the early conversation for the 2022-23 award, will share the bench together as they did during nine games last year when both were out (knee and foot injuries, respectively).

Fudd’s prognosis, at least, is that he’s expected to return this season, while we won’t see Bueckers (ACL tear) until 2023-24.

UConn’s injury bug has affected multiple players: Freshman brady ice is out for the season after suffering a dislocated patella. graduate student Dorka Juhász he broke his thumb in a win over Texas on November 14 and has missed the past five games.

Fudd, who suffered a torn MCL and right ACL in April 2019, and battled with a foot problem that kept him from being fully healthy as a freshman, could return later this month or through January 17, depending on the scale of three to six weeks.

ESPN.com’s Alexa Philippou, MA Voepel and Charlie Creme discuss how Fudd’s injury could affect the trajectory of the Huskies’ season after their encouraging start, as well as Big East and national title runs.

How does Fudd’s absence affect the Huskies? How does the lineup change?

The basketball world was just beginning to see what Fudd could be, a potential generational talent. That show hasn’t ended for the season, but will be on hiatus for the next 3-6 weeks.

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UConn’s already skinny rear end just got slimmer. The Huskies are down to four healthy guards: Nika Muehl, Lou Lopez Senechal, Carolina Ducharme Y Agnes Bettencourt. Outside of a very good blowout against Iowa a few weeks ago, Ducharme hasn’t looked like herself coming back from offseason hip surgery, as well as a stiff neck that sidelined her for the season opener. season. Meanwhile, Bettencourt has played the fewest minutes on the team and is not prepared to play a significant role.

Now would be the ideal time for Ducharme to play like the standout freshman she was last season when Fudd and Bueckers went down with injuries. A lot will fall on her and López Sénéchal as threats from the perimeter, while Mühl will likely have to take on even more responsibilities as ball handler and scorer. UConn could also use Juhász back to at least make the front depth a little beefier and add another scorer to the fold. His absence was missed in Sunday’s loss to Notre Dame.

Geno Auriemma’s modus operandi during the seemingly endless series of injuries the Huskies have endured since last year is that no one has to be Azzi Fudd or Paige Bueckers alone, each person just has to give a little more and be the best version of themselves. . themselves. No player is likely to suddenly average 24.0 points (Fudd’s PPG is heading to Notre Dame), but if everyone can collectively do their part, UConn has the best chance of coming out of this (relatively) unscathed.

The good news for UConn fans, at least in the short term, is that the Huskies haven’t lost back-to-back games since 1993, and Mühl, Ducharme, Juhász and aaliyah edwards I know what it takes from last year to navigate a horrible injury period. — Philip

What are the biggest challenges on the schedule while Fudd is out? How does this impact the Big East race?

If Fudd’s absence is in the shorter of three weeks, he will miss at least four games: vs. Princeton (Thursday), in Maryland (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ABC), vs. 18, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN) and against Seton Hall (December 21).

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Those teams are a combined 27-9, with the Terps (vs. Notre Dame) and Pirates (vs. Georgia and Marquette) already having notable wins. In short, all of these games could present challenges for the Huskies without Fudd.

UConn travels to face No. 18 Creighton on December 28, which is one day after three weeks and projects to be one of UConn’s toughest Big East games. The Huskies then finish 2022 at home against Marquette on December 31.

It seems likely Fudd won’t play the rest of 2022, just because she and the Huskies need to focus on their long-term future. But if Fudd is out of her for the full six weeks, that puts her back around Jan. 17, which means she would miss at least 11 games and possibly return Jan. 19 at Seton Hall.

Every Big East team has a winning record except Butler, who is 4-4, with St. John’s leading the way at 8-0. UConn lost a conference game last season (to Villanova), which was the Huskies’ first league loss since 2013 and the breakout of the old Big East. UConn remains the Big East favorite, clearly, but Fudd’s absence is a concern when facing a league that has performed well this season.

The Huskies’ major non-conference games in 2023 are at Tennessee on Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) and against No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 5. The latter is a rematch of last season’s national championship game won by South Carolina, in which Fudd played 16 minutes and was held to three points.

The Gamecocks have looked very strong. That hasn’t been the case for Tennessee, which is 4-5 and unranked. Still, that’s a rivalry game Fudd will want to be a part of, and it’s playing out in just over seven weeks. — Shit

How does Fudd’s absence impact the rest of the women’s college basketball landscape?

With her start this season, Fudd was being mentioned in the race for national player of the year, along with current favorite forward aliyah boston from South Carolina and Iowa guard caitlin-clarkwho leads Division I in scoring (28.2 PPG) for the second straight season.

Last year, the race came down to Boston and Clark after Bueckers was limited to 17 games due to a knee injury suffered on December 5, 2021. That absence largely removed Bueckers from the NPOY conversation, and if Fudd is gone for six weeks, that could be the case for her, too. That being said, Boston led his team to the national championship last season and was the clear choice.

If Fudd comes back strong, he could still be part of the race. As long as Boston and Clark remain healthy and as productive as they have long been, they remain the frontrunners. As for other players who could be considered, the balance of No. 2-ranked Stanford makes it a bit difficult for a player to stand out, but cameron’s edge is probably your best candidate.

Indiana mackenzie holmes is leading her No. 4-ranked team in scoring and rebounding, and is second in Division I in field goal percentage (69.6). And while No. 11 LSU has yet to face a ranked or Power 5 team, angel reese he leads Division I in rebounding (14.2) and is seventh in scoring average (23.1). — Shit

How will Fudd’s absence affect UConn at Bracketology in the future? What is the domino effect?

UConn is the fourth No. 1 seed on Tuesday bracketology, and determining whether the Huskies or Ohio State should be in that last spot on the top line was the most time-consuming part of this week’s support projection. If the Huskies can win against a challenging schedule ahead, their status won’t change.

The important thing to watch is if UConn struggles without Fudd and then starts playing well again upon his return. If that happens, and Fudd stays healthy heading into the NCAA tournament, the committee will measure those losses in his absence differently. They won’t be written off, but the Huskies will be evaluated more heavily for the team that they are. with Fudd that without her.

Obviously, the longer Fudd is out, the more iffy UConn’s situation becomes if they can’t beat teams like Maryland, Tennessee, Creighton and Villanova in the next month.

The bottom line is that it all depends on how the Huskies play over the next three to six weeks, whether they can win against a challenging schedule and how Fudd and UConn view their return. — Cream