STORRS, Conn. — Other than perhaps a glimpse into the personalities of the five newcomers when they are introduced to the adoring public, not much will be learned about the new look UConn women’s basketball team at Friday’s First Night festivities.
UConn held its first official practice on Wednesday and preseason preparations will increase in intensity next week as the Huskies begin their quest for an unprecedented fifth straight national title.
For the second time in the last 10 seasons, the Huskies will not have a returning All-American, and for what it’s worth, the Huskies lost in the national semifinals both during the 2007-08 and 2011-12 seasons.
There’s no way of knowing just how the 2016-17 season will end, but it seems more than likely that for the first time since 2012 that another team will sit atop the polls at the start of the season. There’s a chance that the Huskies won’t be in the top five in the Associated Press preseason poll for the first time since 2006.
Our countdown hits the 30-day mark today! We think we know someone who’s familiar with that number… pic.twitter.com/fqZT00qPt5
— UConn Women’s Hoops (@UConnWBB) October 15, 2016
The graduation of All-Americans Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck leave UConn without production, reliability and leadership.
The leadership part of things should not be an issue as juniors Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams weren’t afraid to be vocal even when they were underclassmen, and they shouldn’t have problems taking the next step in the leadership department.
When it comes to replacing the production of Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck, that could be a work in progress. The Huskies don’t lack for offensive options as Nurse, Williams, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson could be as talented as any other quartet in the country.
Defensively, the Huskies have had at least one if not two shot blockers on the court dating back to the Tina Charles/Maya Moore days. Collier could very well top her total 47 blocks from her freshman season, but if the Huskies’ guards get beat off the dribble, there won’t be a Stewart there to take away the potential layup.
The two biggest question marks facing the Huskies involve the point guard and center positions.
Husky fans, here’s a look at our first practice yesterday! pic.twitter.com/soTgnP1sSF
— UConn Women’s Hoops (@UConnWBB) October 13, 2016
Saniya Chong (the only senior along with Tierney Lawlor) could make things easier for talented freshmen Crystal Dangerfield and Molly Bent if she can play a productive 15-20 minutes at point guard much like Caroline Doty did when Jefferson was a freshman. Chong is talented enough that she started at the beginning of her sophomore year. Her ability to fill that role would keep the freshmen from feeling like the weight of the world is on their shoulder trying to run the offense. If that’s not the case, Nurse may spend more time at point guard which could keep her from looking for her own shot as often as the coaches would like.
This season, UConn is a little undersized in the post with the exception of 6-foot-5 Natalie Butler. Butler is another player who saw limited minutes down the stretch last year. It won’t take long to figure out if Butler and 6-foot-2 freshman Kyla Irwin will be ready to take care of business inside.
Playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in recent memory is not a coincidence. Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma isn’t concerned with extending the Huskies’ current 75-game winning streak as much as he is preparing the Huskies for another title run.
This article was written by Jim Fuller from New Haven Register, Conn. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.