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UConn women’s basketball picked to finish first in Big East Preseason Poll

Ayanna Patterson is tabbed to be Big East Freshman of the Year while three others were named to the preseason all-conference team.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Even without its best player, UConn women’s basketball is still the prohibitive favorite in the Big East.

At the conference’s media day on Tuesday, the Huskies were unanimously picked to finish first in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Creighton earned second place but Villanova received Geno Auriemma’s first-place vote since coaches can’t vote for their own team.

Last season, UConn won the league’s regular season and tournament titles for the second consecutive year since returning. Even though star guard Paige Bueckers will miss the entire campaign with a torn ACL, the Huskies are still a cut above every other Big East team.

In the individual awards, Ayanna Patterson was named Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year while Caroline Ducharme, Aaliyah Edwards and Azzi Fudd were all named to the Big East All-Preseason Team. Dorka Juhász was an honorable mention pick while Fudd was a unanimous selection.

Patterson is UConn’s top-ranked freshman, coming in as the No. 4 player in the class of 2022 — one spot above fellow freshman Ice Brady. Patterson is an ultra-athletic wing who has gone viral for her ability to dunk with ease and should factor into the Huskies’ frontcourt from day one. The last UConn player to win Big East Freshman of the Year was Bueckers, who did so in 2021.

Ducharme is the Huskies’ only returning All-Big East selection, earning a spot on the second team. As a freshman, she averaged 13.1 points per game, scored a game-winner at DePaul and set a career-high with 28 points at St. John’s. Ducharme is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in her hip, though she’s expected to be ready for the start of the season.

Meanwhile, Fudd made the Big East All-Freshman Team last year despite missing a chunk of the season with a lingering foot injury. Even though she didn’t suit up in conference play until Jan. 26, she still reached double-figures in all but two contests and averaged 14.2 points per game while shooting 51.8 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc in league play. Without Bueckers, Fudd’s expected to be one of UConn’s go-to players this season.

Edwards is an all-preseason selection for the second year in a row. While she had an up-and-down sophomore campaign, the 2020 Olympian will be counted on to anchor UConn’s frontcourt alongside the honorable mention pick in Juhász. The fifth-year big from Hungary also had an inconsistent season in 2021-22 but after Geno Auriemma said she has the potential to be a top pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, expectations are high for Juhász this year.

Last season, UConn went 16-1 in Big East play, losing its first conference game since 2013 when it fell to Villanova in November. Nika Mühl earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams notched a spot on the all-conference first team, Ducharme made the second team while Ducharme and Fudd each represented on the all-freshman team.

The Huskies begin their season on Nov. 10 against Northeastern and open Big East play on Dec. 2 against Providence.