How Azzi Fudd’s harm impacts UConn and the 2022-23 ladies’s school basketball season

UConn sophomore Azzi Fudd is predicted to overlook three to 6 weeks with a proper knee harm she suffered within the first quarter of the Huskies’ loss to Notre Dame on Sunday.

The information, launched Tuesday by UConn, felt like a nightmarish bout of déjà vu to Huskies fans who’ve watched UConn get decimated by accidents over the past 12 months, and have now witnessed critical knee accidents to Paige Bueckers and Fudd virtually a yr aside in opposition to the identical workforce. As soon as once more, Bueckers, the 2020-21 nationwide participant of the yr, and Fudd, whose scoring outbursts in opposition to a number of top-10 groups this season put her identify into the early dialog for the 2022-23 award, will share the bench collectively simply as they did for 11 video games final yr when each had been out (knee and foot accidents, respectively).

Fudd’s prognosis, at the least, signifies she is predicted to return in some unspecified time in the future this season, whereas we cannot see Bueckers (ACL tear) till 2023-24.

The UConn harm bug has impacted a number of gamers: Freshman Ice Brady is out for the season after struggling a dislocated patella. Graduate pupil Dorka Juhász broke her thumb in a win over Texas on Nov. 14 and has missed the previous 5 video games.

Fudd — who suffered a torn proper MCL and ACL in April 2019, and struggled with a foot difficulty that prevented her from being absolutely wholesome as a freshman — may return as early as later this month or as late as Jan. 17, relying on the three- to six-week scale.

ESPN.com’s Alexa Philippou, M.A. Voepel and Charlie Creme talk about how Fudd’s harm may affect the trajectory of the Huskies’ season after their encouraging begin, in addition to the Huge East and nationwide title races.

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

The basketball world had simply began to see what Fudd, a probably generational expertise, may very well be. That present is not over for the season, but it surely’ll be caught on pause for the subsequent 3-6 weeks.

UConn’s already skinny backcourt simply acquired thinner. The Huskies are all the way down to 4 wholesome guards: Nika Mühl, Lou Lopez Sénéchal, Caroline Ducharme and Inês Bettencourt. Outdoors of a extremely good burst in opposition to Iowa a number of weeks in the past, Ducharme hasn’t appeared like herself as she returns from offseason hip surgical procedure in addition to neck stiffness that sidelined her for the season opener. Bettencourt, in the meantime, has performed the fewest minutes of anybody on the workforce and is not poised to play an enormous function.

Now can be the best time for Ducharme to play just like the standout freshman she was final season when Fudd and Bueckers had been harm. Rather a lot will fall on her and Lopez Sénéchal to be threats from the perimeter, whereas Mühl will probably need to shoulder much more accountability as a ball handler and scorer. UConn additionally actually may use Juhász again to at the least make the frontcourt depth a bit extra sturdy and so as to add one other scorer into the fold. Her absence was missed Sunday within the loss to Notre Dame.

Geno Auriemma’s MO throughout the seemingly unending string of accidents the Huskies have suffered since final yr is nobody must be Azzi Fudd or Paige Bueckers single-handedly, simply that every particular person has to offer a little bit bit extra and be the very best variations of themselves. Nobody participant is prone to all of the sudden common 24.0 factors per sport (Fudd’s PPG heading into Notre Dame), but when everybody can collectively do their half, UConn has its finest probability of popping out of this (comparatively) unscathed.

The excellent news for UConn followers — at the least for the very quick time period — is the Huskies have not dropped consecutive video games since 1993, and Mühl, Ducharme, Juhász and Aaliyah Edwards know what it takes from final yr to navigate a horrible harm spell. — Philippou

What are the most important challenges on the schedule whereas Fudd is out? How does this affect the Huge East race?

If Fudd’s absence is within the shorter window of three weeks, she’s going to miss at the least 4 video games: vs. Princeton (Thursday), at Maryland (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ABC), vs. Florida State in Uncasville, Connecticut (Dec. 18, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN), and vs. Seton Corridor (Dec. 21).

Up to now, these groups have a mixed report of 27-9, with the Terps (vs. Notre Dame) and Pirates (vs. Georgia and Marquette) having notable victories already. Briefly, these video games all may current challenges for the Huskies with out Fuddd.

UConn travels to face No. 18 Creighton on Dec. 28, which is at some point out from three weeks and tasks as one in every of UConn’s tougher Huge East video games. Then the Huskies end 2022 again house in opposition to Marquette on Dec. 31.

It might appear probably that Fudd will not play the remainder of 2022, simply because she and the Huskies need to be targeted on her long-term future. But when Fudd is out the total six weeks, that places her again round Jan. 17, that means she would miss at the least 11 video games and probably return Jan. 19 at Seton Corridor.

Presently, each Huge East workforce has a profitable report besides Butler, which is 4-4, with St. John’s main the way in which at 8-0. UConn truly misplaced a convention sport final season (to Villanova), which was the Huskies’ first league defeat since 2013 and the breakup of the outdated Huge East. UConn continues to be the Huge East favourite, clearly, however Fudd’s absence is a priority in dealing with a league that thus far has proven up effectively this season.

The Huskies’ marquee nonconference video games in 2023 are at Tennessee on Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) and in opposition to No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 5. The latter is a rematch of final season’s nationwide championship sport gained by South Carolina, by which Fudd performed 16 minutes and was held to a few factors.

The Gamecocks have appeared very sturdy thus far. That has not been the case for Tennessee, which is 4-5 and never ranked. Nonetheless, that may be a rivalry sport Fudd will very a lot need to be part of, and it will likely be performed a little bit over seven weeks from now. — Voepel

How does Fudd’s absence affect the remainder of the ladies’s school basketball panorama?

Together with her begin this season, Fudd was being talked about within the nationwide participant of the yr race, together with incumbent favourite, ahead Aliyah Boston of South Carolina, and Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, who’s main Division I in scoring (28.2 PPG) for the second consecutive season.

Final yr, the race got here all the way down to Boston and Clark after Bueckers was restricted to 17 video games due to a knee harm she suffered Dec. 5, 2021. That absence largely eliminated Bueckers from the NPOY dialog, and if Fudd is out for six weeks, it additionally may very well be the case for her. That mentioned, Boston led her workforce to the nationwide championship final season and was the clear selection.

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Olivia Miles places up 21 factors and eight rebounds as Notre Dame grabs a powerful win over UConn.

If Fudd comes again sturdy, she may nonetheless be a part of the race. So long as Boston and Clark keep wholesome and as productive as they’ve lengthy proven they’re, they’re nonetheless the highest candidates. As for different gamers who is likely to be thought-about, No. 2-ranked Stanford’s stability makes it a little bit tough for one participant to face out, however Cameron Brink might be their finest candidate.

Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes is main her No. 4-ranked workforce in scoring and rebounding, and is second in Division I in subject aim share (69.6). And whereas No. 11 LSU has but to face a ranked or Energy 5 workforce, Angel Reese is main Division I in rebounding (14.2) and is seventh in scoring common (23.1). — Voepel

How will Fudd’s absence affect UConn in Bracketology shifting ahead? What is the ripple impact?

UConn is the fourth No. 1 seed in Tuesday’s Bracketology, and figuring out whether or not the Huskies or Ohio State needs to be in that ultimate spot on the highest line was probably the most time-consuming a part of this week’s bracket projection. If the Huskies can win in opposition to a difficult schedule forward, their standing will not change.

The vital facet to observe is that if UConn struggles with out Fudd after which begins to play effectively once more upon her return. If that occurs, and Fudd stays wholesome heading into the NCAA event, the committee will measure these losses in her absence otherwise. They will not be discounted, however the Huskies might be extra strongly evaluated on the workforce they’re with Fudd than with out her.

Clearly, the longer Fudd is out, the extra doubtful UConn’s state of affairs turns into if they’re unable to beat groups like Maryland, Tennessee, Creighton and Villanova within the subsequent month.

The underside line is all of it depends upon how the Huskies play over the subsequent three to 6 weeks, whether or not they can win in opposition to a difficult schedule forward and the way Fudd and UConn look upon her return. — Creme