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UConn women’s basketball: Nika Muhl likely out vs. Baylor

Geno Auriemma also shared that assistant coach Shea Ralph would not be returning to the team.

Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Nika Muhl is not expected to play in UConn’s Elite Eight matchup with Baylor on Monday due to a sprained ankle.

“There’s no change in her status,” head coach Geno Auriemma said on Sunday. “I don’t anticipate her playing tomorrow.”

The freshman point guard landed on an opponent’s foot and twisted her ankle in the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament opener against High Point. Muhl did not return to the game but was initially listed as questionable for UConn’s second-round meeting with Syracuse. Ultimately, she did not play and also missed the Huskies’ Sweet Sixteen victory over Iowa.

Even if UConn defeats Baylor and advances to the Final Four, it’s unclear whether or not Muhl will return.

“[The Final Four is] a week away, so a lot can change in a week,” Auriemma said. “It’s hard to say right now.”

Ralph won’t return

Assistant coach Shea Ralph will not be allowed to return to the team this season after leaving the bubble due to a family member testing positive for COVID-19. According to Auriemma, NCAA policy does not allow anyone to re-enter the bubble after they’ve left.

“There’s really not much you can do other than stay connected and stay in touch,” Auriemma said. “There’s really not a whole lot. You watch practice or watch shoot around (through Zoom) or whatever the case may be but other than that, there’s really not a whole lot you can do.”

Video coordinator Ben Kantor has filled in on the coaching staff in Ralph’s absence.

Auriemma already frustrated with the bubble

Auriemma hasn’t even been inside the NCAA bubble in San Antonio for a week and he’s already fed up with some of the protocols, which he called “beyond ridiculous.”

“We have to wait an hour to go down the elevator because only four people are allowed in the elevator at the same time,” he said. “Meanwhile, we’re the same team that just spent the last 45 minutes upstairs together. It’s kind of bizarre, right? We were just all at practiced together and now only four of us can go in the elevator at the same time.”

Auriemma also complained about the lack of outdoor access for teams, something Louisville head coach Jeff Walz brought up earlier this week.

“You can’t go outside because you can only walk around the block,” Auriemma said. “So you know, say ‘Hey, how about every team can schedule a time to go sit out. They’ve got this really nice pool deck where you can just sit and get some sun.’ ‘No.’ Okay.

“You’re actually being held hostage just so you can play basketball.”

In Indianapolis, men’s NCAA Tournament teams can use Victory Field — a minor league baseball park — to get some fresh air, play games, exercise, or just hang out. No such accommodations were made for the women’s teams.

While Auriemma himself might be upset with the conditions inside the bubble, he applauded his players for taking it all in stride.

“I think they’ve handled it amazingly well,” he said of his team. “I mean, they want to play really bad so they’ll put up with anything to play.”