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What’s next for UConn women’s basketball after Final Four loss to Arizona

A look at the state of the program and the future after the end of the 2020-2021 season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Semifinal-Arizona at Connecticut Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is officially underway for UConn women’s basketball following its 69-59 loss to Arizona in the Final Four. The Huskies will close the book on a unique 2020-21 season with a 28-2 record and look ahead to an exciting future.

The road ahead

UConn left the bubble in San Antonio and returned to Storrs for the first time since March 16. The team won’t be allowed to stay on campus very long, though. The players have to be out of their apartments by April 11 as the school transitions back into fully remote class for the final few weeks of the semester after spring break.

After the players go home, they’ll get about two months off.

“They’ll be gone April 11th until June 1st when they come for summer school,” Geno Auriemma said. “You’re not going to see them or interact with them until June.”

In June, the incoming freshmen will officially join the team and the 2021-22 season begins.

“June is kind of like mini-camp,” Auriemma said. “In June you’ll start to maybe put some pieces together and see what it might look like, what works, what doesn’t work, who adapts to what.”

Last season, UConn couldn’t hold its typical offseason workouts due to the pandemic and the team didn’t arrive on campus until July 26. This year, Auriemma is hoping to return to normal.

“This coming June, July, August, there will be a lot of time spent on evaluating this past season and all the great things that we did, and preparing for next season and all the things that we have to do better,” he said. “That’s kind of how it goes most years. This is an unusual year.”

Roster breakdown

As of now, UConn will return every player from this year’s squad while also bringing in freshmen Azzi Fudd, Caroline Ducharme and Amari DeBerry — ranked No. 1, 5 and 15 in the class of 2021 according to ESPN, respectively.

Fudd is regarded as a generational prospect like Paige Bueckers, with an already elite shooting ability. Ducharme, a local kid from Milton, Massachusetts, is a big, versatile guard who can also stroke it from downtown and has drawn comparisons to former UConn great Katie Lou Samuelson. DeBerry is a skilled 6-foot-5 post player who should boost the Huskies’ already-strong frontcourt of Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards.

Auriemma described the 2021 class as “exceptional” and “versatile”.

Evina Westbrook answered the biggest roster question by announcing she’ll return to the Huskies for her redshirt senior season rather than declare for the WNBA Draft.

In terms of other potential changes, there’s always the possibility a player (or more) could transfer out as well, though that’s not something to speculate about. For reference, only three players have transferred from UConn since the 2016-17 campaign — all of whom were a part of the team’s 2017 recruiting class.

UPDATE: UConn announced sophomore guard Anna Makurat will transfer.

As for possible additions, UConn will have 15 players on the roster next season — 14 on scholarship — assuming everyone comes back, the Huskies are not likely to be involved in the transfer market.

As of right now, this is what the roster will look like:

Seniors: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook, Christyn Williams
Juniors: Aubrey Griffin, Anna Makurat
Sophomores: Paige Bueckers, Autumn Chassion, Aaliyah Edwards, Piath Gabriel, Nika Mühl, Mir McLean
Freshmen: Amari DeBerry, Carolina Ducharme, Azzi Fudd, Saylor Poffenbarger

Expectations for next season

As Auriemma sat at the podium in the aftermath of the Huskies’ loss, he confidently made a prediction.

“I’m going to be coaching in the Final Four next year,” he said.

With all that aforementioned talent returning — not to mention the program’s 13 straight trips to the Final Four — it’s not exactly a hot take.

Still, everything UConn dealt on and off the court this season — two COVID-related pauses, Auriemma’s positive test, all the youth, the turnaround after the Arkansas loss, the thrilling win over Baylor, the bitter end against Arizona — will help set the foundation for future success.

“I believe that what we learned this year through all the ups and downs is going to really benefit us for the next couple years, for sure,” he said.

“I remember saying that in 2008. We played and we lost to Stanford in the semifinal. It was Maya Moore’s freshman year. I said, ‘We’ll be back.’ We went back and we were undefeated the next two seasons.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen but we’ll be back here sooner rather than later.”