UConn's main goal this season? Just have fun

After four years with a dark cloud hanging over the program, the Huskies could use some joy this year.

Photo: Ian Bethune

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Last week’s Weekly:

UConn's goal this season? Just have fun

Paige Bueckers has a few simple goals in mind for a successful comeback season. She’s not aiming to take back the national Player of the Year award, earn another All-American honor, or break a program record.

She wants to win a national title — that goes without saying — but beyond that, it’s all about being back.

“I think everybody here knows a national championship would make it extremely successful,” she started. “But for me personally, just to have fun playing the game again, being healthy, and just enjoying being on the court with my teammates.”

A similar attitude could apply to UConn as a team. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to win the national championship — Geno Auriemma and the players have mentioned that they don’t even discuss that until March because everyone already understands their aim. But short of that, the Huskies should just try to have fun for the first time in a long time.

In 2019-20, UConn couldn’t contend with the top teams in the nation — it lost its 98-game home win streak to Baylor, suffered its worst defeat ever at Gampel Pavilion to Oregon, and scored two points in the first quarter (its lowest total ever in a period) in a blowout loss at South Carolina. The Huskies also struggled in AAC play despite going undefeated because it had a roster that was painfully thin and short on star power.

The vibes around that team were worse than the play on the court, though. Before the season even tipped off, the NCAA denied Evina Westbrook’s waiver to play immediately which set the mood for the rest of the campaign. The team’s chemistry was clearly off — a rarity in Storrs — and Geno Auriemma was in a bad mood all year long.

The Huskies played their best basketball in the Big East Tournament, but the onset of Covid ended the season there — which was probably for the best.

The next season had plenty of positives: Bueckers emerged as the program’s next superstar, UConn won a couple of memorable contests against South Carolina (regular season) and Baylor (Elite Eight) before a Final Four loss. However, the entire campaign was played without fans — not to mention everything else going on with the pandemic — which made even the good moments feel insignificant.

That brings us to the last two seasons — the injury years. Both saw Bueckers go down while pretty much every other member of the program was struck with an ailment of some sort (coaches included). UConn just took punch after punch and the bad news rarely let up.

There were a few bright spots across the two campaigns — the way Bueckers returned with a buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter vs. St. John’s, the double OT thriller in the Elite Eight vs. NC State, the celebration that ensued after the team beat Stanford in the national semifinal and the emergence of Lou Lopez Sénéchal — but those couldn’t outweigh all that went against the Huskies.

While the 2023-24 season already hit a speedbump with Jana El Alfy out for the year with a ruptured Achilles, there’s still hope. If UConn stays healthy, that should help the mood because the team will be fun to watch. Bueckers and Azzi Fudd have only played a handful of games together while the two of them with Aaliyah Edwards will give the Huskies a formidable trio.

That doesn’t even mention the supporting cast — Nika Mühl, Aubrey Griffin, Caroline Ducharme, Ice Brady, and the freshmen — which should all contribute in their own unique ways as well.

Ultimately, if UConn’s having fun, that means it’s healthy and playing well. Considering those two things have been in short supply over the last four seasons, that’s as good a place to start as any for this year.

Best of social media

Does Azzi Fudd have the best shooting form on campus? She thinks so:


Does Azzi think she has the best shooting form at UConn?👀 #uconnhuskies #uconnmbb #uconnwbb #bigeastmediaday #azzifudd #alexkaraban

The season starts one week from Wednesday:

Azzi Fuddkin:

There’s no shortage of entertainment with this group:

Stewie has a son!

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