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UConn women’s basketball opponent previews | Tier 2: Top-25 potential

Additional non-conference matchups and the top of the Big East highlight the next tier of UConn opponents.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The first tier of UConn’s 2022-23 schedule is full of teams that will be in the midst of the discussion as the top teams in the country, but this next group of teams are far from an easy slate. A few additional non-conference opponents and some of the best teams in the Big East should be in the top 25 — or not far off from it — throughout the season.

Duke (November 25)

UConn will open its trip to the Phil Knight Legacy tournament against Duke, which received votes in the the AP Preseason Poll. The Blue Devils, who got off to a hot start last season with a win over Iowa and narrow loss to South Carolina before faltering in ACC play, return three of last year’s starters.

Freshman Sheyeann Day-Wilson in particular showed a lot of promise in her freshman season, leading the team in both scoring and assists, and should provide a good defensive test for UConn. Still the Huskies should have a clear talent advantage in this one, with a good opportunity to add a quality ACC victory to their resume for March.

No. 24 Princeton (December 8)

Princeton boasted one of the best defenses in the country last year, ranking fifth in Her Hoop Stats’ defensive rating. While the loss of Abby Meyers will be a tough blow offensively, that defensive base and the return of Tigers’ remaining four starters and two main bench contributors should keep the 2022 Ivy League champions amongst the national conversation.

Any early season matchup with the Tigers will give UConn’s offense a good test. If the Huskies can find consistent success scoring against Princeton, it bodes well for how their offense should perform this season even against some of the best teams.

No. 17 Maryland (December 11)

Between transfers and graduation. Maryland had a mass exodus of talent after last season. In particular, the departure of Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese leave the Terps looking very different than last year. Brenda Frese did make some quality additions in the portal including Princeton standout Abby Myers and Florida Guard Lavender Briggs while Diamond Miller remains with Maryland for her senior season.

Still, with so many new pieces — even though many of them are experienced — it’s hard to tell what this team will look like this season. It’s likely this team will take awhile to jell, and even once it does the ceiling is still likely lower than it was for last year’s squad.

Seton Hall (December 2, January 19)

Seton Hall cracking the top 25 this season might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s not an easy opponent either. Following a disappointing start to the season last year that cost them a chance at an at-large bid, the Pirates finished with a trip to the WNIT finals, where they lost to eventual champions South Dakota State.

With the prowess of UConn’s perimeter defense in question heading into the season, the match-up with Seton Hall senior Lauren Park-Lane alone makes these games intriguing parts of the Big East schedule. Park-Lane, who was named to this season’s Nancy Lieberman Award watchlist for the best point guard in the country, has given the Huskies trouble in the past and will be a tough test for the guards defensively.

No. 21 Creighton (December 28, February 15)

Following their run to the Elite Eight last season, Creighton will have the national recognition it lacked last season as one of the top teams in the Big East. With the Bluejays returning three starters and their four top scorers from last year’s team, they have the potential to be even better this season.

Creighton had a top-15 offense nationally last year according to Her Hoop Stats. With the Huskies without many of the best defenders from last season in their lineup, these games will be a bigger challenge than they were last year. UConn should still make it through Big East play undefeated, but if it were going to be drop a game, Creighton would be the most likely team to hand it to them.

DePaul (January 8, February 25)

Aneesah Morrow gave UConn plenty of trouble last year, particularly in the Huskies’ first matchup with DePaul. It’s safe to say that Morrow can be expected to be even better in her sophomore campaign, already earning an AP Preseason All-American nod.

While DePaul will have quite a few personnel changes in the backcourt, Morrow’s talent on the offensive glass should continue to take its fast-paced system and love for the three to the next level. Additionally, Notre Dame transfer Ayana Peoples already impressed in the Blue Demons’ exhibition game against Texas despite the loss. On nights where the triples are falling, this team will still have the potential to surprise people — unlike year’s past.

Villanova (January 29, February 18)

Right now, the Wildcats are just receiving votes in the AP Poll but it’s likely they’ll make their way to the rankings at some point this season. With Maddy Siegrist back for her senior season, Villanova will once again boast one of the best players in the country. Siegrist was second in scoring only to Iowa’s Caitlin Clark last year and will continue to be a fantastic test for the Huskies’ defense.

While Villanova will have a relatively young team around Siegrist, there’s reason to believe Denise Dillon will still have this team contending for the No. 2 spot in the Big East. In particular, the backcourt of Brooke Mullin, the Wildcats’ only other senior, and Lucy Olsen, who impressed at the point in her freshman year, should be intriguing.