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UConn WBB Weekly: How much have injuries impacted the Huskies this season?

The Huskies had to play without Aubrey Griffin due to Covid on Wednesday.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.

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The numbers behind UConn’s injury problems

Barring a surprise in the next few days, UConn women’s basketball will enter the new year having played zero games with a full allotment of players available. Azzi Fudd is nearing a return from a right knee injury and will undergo a test on Thursday to determine the next steps but still doesn’t have a definitive timeline for her return.

Meanwhile, Aubrey Griffin is questionable for Saturday’s matchup vs. Marquette after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Huskies have just three players who have played in every game: Aaliyah Edwards, Lou Lopez Sénéchal, and Ayanna Patterson. Even that comes with an asterisk, though — Lopez Sénéchal had to leave the win over Princeton with a strained right foot in the fourth quarter. So Edwards and Patterson are the only two to play in every game and be available throughout.

Previously, we compared UConn’s injuries from this season to last but most kept the focus on the court, i.e who was out, how the team played, who needed to fill in, etc. With the Huskies decimated even more by the loss of Griffin, let’s look at the numbers behind the injuries. Specifically, the total minutes lost (TML).

On the season, UConn has compiled 516.1 TML (excluding season-ending injuries, more on that in a bit) through 12 games. That means the Huskies have been without players who would contribute when healthy for an average of 43.0 minutes per game. That’s slightly less than last season, when UConn had a 1,533.3 TML (again, excluding season-ending injuries) in 36 games, or 42.6 per game. Combined, the Huskies have a 1,986.6 TML over the last two seasons, an average of 42.7 per game.

Season-ending injuries are more difficult to calculate. When players go down in the middle of a campaign, they’ve already proven what they can contribute on a given night. To go back to the Fudd example, she averaged 24.0 points per game prior to Notre Dame. Without her, UConn needs to replace 24.0 points per game. Pretty simple.

When players don’t suit up in a given year, it creates two problems. First, the absence of one player opens an opportunity for others, so if Paige Bueckers had never torn her ACL, someone else would’ve gotten less time and therefore, their TML would be lower.

It also requires more of a projection. Bueckers would’ve been the Huskies’ top option if healthy, but we simply don’t know what her numbers might’ve been considering she missed much of last year with injury and would’ve had a stronger surrounding cast this season than at any other point in her career.

Assuming Bueckers would’ve played 35.5 minutes per game this year — which is what she averaged in all but the five games immediately following her return from a tibial plateau fracture last season — her TML at 426.0 through 12 games.

Ice Brady is far more difficult since she hasn’t played a single game at UConn, but we put her projection at 15 minutes per game — right in between Patterson (who’s struggled with foul trouble) at 11.5 and Edwards’ freshman year (who had a larger opportunity in her first season) at 21.8. Together, the Huskies’ season-ending injuries have combined for 606.0 TML, bringing the complete total to 1,122.1.

As for last year, Aubrey Griffin sat out the entire campaign due to injuries. Assuming she would’ve played 22.7 minutes per game (halfway between her 16.8 minutes per game as a sophomore and 28.5 since returning), she compiled a TML of 817.2, bringing the 2021-22 total to 2,350.5.

On a per-game basis, UConn has lost 91.7 minutes per game to injury this season compared to just 65.3 per game last year, a difference of 26.4 minutes per game. That’s the equivalent of being without a fifth starter or top bench option every single game — or someone like Caroline Ducharme or Griffin.

It’s one thing to know that the Huskies have been decimated by injuries, but it’s another to quantify just how much they’ve lost throughout the course of the last two seasons.

At this point in the calendar, UConn’s injury troubles so far have been more significant than last year’s. There’s two major differences, though. First, there’s still plenty of season left so, in theory, the Huskies could have a fully healthy roster by the end of January whereas the 2021-22 squad never got everyone back.

The other part is the injuries haven’t affected UConn as much as they did last year. On Wednesday, the Huskies blasted a good Creighton team by 25 despite being without Fudd, Griffin and Amari DeBerry, who couldn’t join the team after the holiday break due to travel issues — a combined 72.2 minutes and 36.4 points per game. That didn’t matter. Edwards and Dorka Juhász dominated, the defense made life miserable for the Bluejays and everyone else chipped in where they were needed.

There’s obviously a limit, as UConn showed in the loss at Maryland when it couldn’t overcome the absence of Fudd, Mühl and Juhász, but for the most part, the team has just rolled with the punches.

Even with all the injuries, the Huskies proved on Wednesday night that they’re still one of the better teams in the country without Fudd. Once they get her back — and if they can stay healthy — their ceiling could be as high as anyone else’s.

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