After collecting three losses before the start of conference play this season, no doubt many college basketball fans questioned the state of the UConn dynasty.

But Aaliyah Edwards has been playing high-quality basketball of late, helping the Huskies to prove the doubters wrong. 

“When (Aaliyah) plays the way she’s played these last four, five games, she’s an All-American player,” head coach Geno Auriemma said to CT Insider’s Maggie Vanoni after UConn’s match against Toronto Metropolitan — a homecoming game scheduled specifically for Edwards in her home country.

Edwards relished her Canadian welcome. She mouthed along to “O Canada,” and is proud of the show that she put on north of the border. 

“I hope it leaves a big impact on just women’s basketball in Canada,” Edwards told CT Insider. “I know a lot of people were there to support either myself or of UConn, but I would just encourage anybody just to go watch their local team, just women’s basketball in general…”

The sold-out crowd at Mattamy Athletic Centre exploded into applause for Edwards when her name was called in UConn’s lineup before the match. Her recent play deserves this level of fanfare.

The Huskies’ last five games have been wins for the team. And in those games, Edwards is averaging almost 19 points per game. Against Toronto Metropolitan, UNC, Ball State and Butler, the senior forward put up double-doubles. 

The senior and her high-scoring teammate, Paige Bueckers, have hit their stride for UConn and it’s reflected in the team’s success. The energy is palpable for Auriemma as well. He told Vanoni that he likes the positive energy his team is feeling into the holiday break. 

“I like where we are right now,” he said.

No. 2 UCLA beat No. 6 UConn basketball for the first time in the history of the program on Friday night, 78-67 — not for Paige Bueckers’ lack of trying. 

Despite the Huskies receiving their second loss of the season at the Cayman Islands Classic, Bueckers performed exceedingly well. But even with her multiple team-leading outings, UConn has earned its second double-digit loss this season, its most in its first five games since the 1991-92 slate. 

The Huskies’ struggles are best summed up by their head coach Geno Auriemma: “You can’t beat a really good team with one player.”

Bueckers’ 31 points against the Bruins came in at just under half of her squad’s total on the night. The senior guard is a consistent high-scorer, but without Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme in the lineup, UConn is going to need more. 

“It was disappointing that we didn’t get more contributions from more people. Our combinations are all screwed up right now, so that’s got to get sorted out. We struggled, we had our runs, we just didn’t have enough,” Auriemma said. 

Aubrey Griffin went off on a few runs to register a good performance for the Huskies. She clocked 11 points, seven rebounds, four steals and a block. 

“The way Aubrey played for long stretches in that game, that’s how she’s got to start the game,” Auriemma said. “Aubrey needs to do it before we get down 15 points. That’s the issue with some of our players, they just take a long time to get going.”

No other UConn players had notable performances against the Bruins. Even Aaliyah Edwards, the Huskies highest scorer last season, struggled in the Cayman Islands. She went 2-12 before fouling out late in the game. 

“Basically, UCLA defended one player and was content to let anyone else have any shot they wanted and they didn’t make any,” Auriemma said. “… Other people are going to have to step up and have to make shots. We have to find a way to get some sort of cohesiveness on offense, we look disjointed a lot of times. I’ve got to fix that.”

The WNBA draft lottery is set for Dec. 10, with four teams in the running for the No. 1 overall pick — the Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm.

While the Mercury finished the 2023 season with the worst record, the WNBA combines the two seasons prior to the draft to determine the odds for the No. 1 overall pick. So the Fever, who won the lottery for the first time in franchise history in 2023, have the best shot at the No. 1 pick again in 2024.

Who will each team select when the draft rolls around in April? Just Women’s Sports projects the four lottery picks, based on the team odds for the draft lottery.

1. Indiana Fever: Caitlin Clark, Iowa

Clark is arguably the biggest star in college basketball.

Last year’s consensus player of the year, the Hawkeyes senior proved herself an elite shooter, leading the NCAA in 3-pointers with 140 and finishing second in scoring with 27.8 points per game. She also has the ability to make the players around her better — she led Division I with 8.6 assists per game. And she is putting on a show again this season, with a 44-point game on her stat sheet.

Clark has another year of NCAA eligibility remaining the 2023-24 season, and she has suggested that she may use it. But if she chooses to go to the WNBA, she’s a clear front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick.

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Paige Bueckers has two years of eligibility remaining for UConn, but she also is a top WNBA prospect. (Lance King/Getty Images)

2. Phoenix Mercury: Paige Bueckers, UConn

Bueckers is another elite shooter and playmaker. She secured national player of the year honors as a freshman in 2021, and her shooting ability is nearly unmatched.

The Huskies guard, though, has significantly fewer college appearances under her belt than many of the other players qualified for the 2024 draft due to injuries — including a torn ACL that caused her to miss all of last season.

A redshirt junior, Bueckers has played just 46 games for UConn, and she is eligible to stay with the program through 2026. But after putting together a lackluster season in 2022 and finishing with the worst record overall in 2023, the Mercury may be willing to take a risk for a shot like Bueckers’.

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Stanford's Cameron Brink averaged 3.47 blocks per game last year. (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

3. Los Angeles Sparks: Cameron Brink, Stanford

Brink is a versatile big who brings good offense and great defense to the table.

While she is not as prolific a scorer as Clark or Bueckers — a tall order, indeed — her defense makes up for it. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 3.47 blocks per game last year, placing her third in the league.

And she can score from the post and from the perimeter, making her a smart addition to any team. Brink posted 20 points and 17 rebounds as she showcased her scoring prowess against No. 9 Indiana on Nov. 12.

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Aaliyah Edwards is leading UConn in scoring so far this season. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

4. Seattle Storm: Aaliyah Edwards, UConn

The departure of Breanna Stewart has left the Storm in need of a strong post presence, and UConn’s leading scorer could provide just that.

Edwards led the Huskies on the scoresheet last season, dropping 16.6 points per game, and she leads the team again through four games this season, with 18.0 per game.

Her size is also an advantage — the 6-foot-3 power forward is a force on the court and a fearsome defender and rebounder. She collected an average of 9.0 rebounds per game last season and her one-on-one defense is top-notch.

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Kamilla Cardoso averaged 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for South Carolina last season. (Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Honorable mentions

These players also would be great choices in the first round, in no particular order:

  • Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
  • Angel Reese, LSU
  • Hailey Van Lith, LSU
  • Rickea Jackson, Tennessee
  • Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech
  • Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State

No. 2 UConn basketball was upset by an unranked NC State team on Saturday evening, 92-81. The last time the Wolfpack beat the Huskies came in the 1998 Elite Eight.

NC State junior Saniya Rivers stood out as the player of the match, draining 33 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for her squad. Rivers also drew fouls throughout the game, and she shot 10-14 from the free-throw line.

UConn head coach Gino Auriemma told his NC State counterpart Wes Moore that the Wolfpack team is “10 times better than last year,” as CT Insider’s Maggie Vanoni reported after the game.

“Everything they did was better than ours. … They were just on top of their game more than I remember. We got our asses beat plain and simple,” Auriemma said.

The Huskies made a palpable offensive effort, with two of their starters bagging over 20 points — Paige Bueckers dropped 27, while Aaliyah Edwards contributed 21. Bueckers was playing in her second game since her return from an ACL injury.

However, UConn struggled on the defensive end of the court. Four out of five Husky starters were in foul trouble by the end of the game, racking up at least four fouls, with Nika Mühl fouling out.

“We weren’t mature enough to handle it,” Auriemma said of his team.

UConn grabbed 11 fewer rebounds than NC State, with 29 to the Wolfpack’s 41. NC State cashed in on 12 points off rebounds and 12 second-chance points.

“We’ve got a sh— attitude towards rebounding … and that’s got to change,” Auriemma said.

With UConn’s loss to NC State and No. 1 LSU’s season-opening loss to Colorado, the top two teams in the preseason AP Top 25 have lost before the second AP poll for the first time in at least 25 years, according to ESPN.

During the 2023 WNBA Draft on Monday night, the Washington Mystics selected Stephanie Soares with the fourth pick before promptly trading her to the Dallas Wings. In return, the Mystics received picks in the 2024 and 2025 drafts.

Soares was a sought-after prospect in this year’s draft — 6-foot-6 forward who can shoot 3-pointers is hard to come by. But the Mystics were willing to deal her because of the strength of the next two WNBA draft classes.

With a fifth year of NCAA eligibility still on the table for players as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several of the top upcoming prospects could declare for next year’s draft or the 2025 draft. Between the two, WNBA teams will have a deep group of prospects to choose from. Here are the top 10 in those classes.

1. Caitlin Clark, G, Iowa

The Iowa guard is one of the most well-rounded prospects we’ve seen in a long time. Her scoring, passing and rebounding skills make her a triple-double threat every game and could set her up to be the No. 1 draft pick in 2024 or 2025 (depending on when she declares). Clark is known for her scoring ability — she can shoot from almost anywhere — but it’s her passing ability, both in the halfcourt and on the fastbreak, that makes the Iowa star a potential No. 1 pick.

2. Cameron Brink, F, Stanford

Brink is the kind of player that will have WNBA coaches and executives salivating. A big with guard skills is one of the most coveted player types as the WNBA continues to evolve into a positionless league. Brink is already a top shot-blocker and scorer on the inside. If she continues to develop her 3-point shot, the Stanford forward will become even more sought after at the next level.

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Angel Reese was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading LSU to the NCAA title. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

3. Angel Reese, F, LSU

The reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player arrived at Maryland in 2020 as the top-ranked wing in the country. Over the next two years, she played mostly as a post for the Terrapins. Now at LSU, she does a bit of both. Reese’s versatility makes her a player who can fit on any roster, and she’s polished enough to make an immediate impact. Add in her elite rebounding skills, and Reese can expect to hear her name called early on draft night.

4. Olivia Miles, G, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s point guard is known for her creativity on the court. From facilitating to manufacturing opportunities for herself, it’s hard to predict what Miles will do next. And when it comes to setting up her teammates, there is no one better at understanding tendencies and putting players in positions to score. An injury stopped her from playing in the NCAA Tournament, but I’ve seen enough of Miles to know she’s a future WNBA star.

5. Rickea Jackson, F, Tennessee

Jackson was slated to be a top draft pick this year before deciding to come back to Tennessee for a fifth season. She played her first three years at Mississippi State under three different coaches, so the stability of having coach Kellie Harper for two seasons at Tennessee will be great for Jackson’s development. But even without that, she’s a promising prospect. Jackson is a proven scorer who is strong around the basket and can attack off the bounce. Her 6-2 frame is ideal for the WNBA and will be an asset on defense as well.

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Paige Bueckers missed the entire 2022-23 season for UConn after tearing her ACL. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

6. Paige Bueckers, G, UConn

While a healthy Bueckers could be a No. 1 draft pick, her injuries over the last two seasons are cause for concern. Still, Bueckers was named Player of the Year as a freshman for a reason. She’s been pro-ready since she set foot on UConn’s campus. If she can put together a full season without an injury, the guard will be a top pick. And even if she doesn’t, Bueckers is so skilled that WNBA executives will likely take the risk anyway.

7. Aaliyah Edwards, F, UConn

As injuries plagued UConn this season, Edwards proved she can be the centerpiece of a team. No matter who else was on the court, Edwards performed. Like Reese, she was tabbed as a wing coming into college, so she is able to attack off the bounce and defend on the perimeter. Another versatile prospect, Edwards will be a good get for any team.

8. Elizabeth Kitley, C, Virginia Tech

Kitley could have been a first-round draft pick this season if she didn’t elect to come back to Virginia Tech for a fifth year. Kitley has improved every season, winning ACC Player of the Year in both 2022 and 2023. Her body control on both ends of the floor makes her difficult to guard and difficult to score over. At 6-6, she has the ability to extend to the free-throw line, and her shooting stroke can likely be developed beyond the arc.

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Kamilla Cardoso has all the tools to thrive in the WNBA. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

9. Kamilla Cardoso, C, South Carolina

Cardoso has spent the last two seasons coming off the bench behind this year’s No. 1 pick, Aliyah Boston, but make no mistake, she would be starting on any other team. On several occasions this year, it was Cardoso who made the difference for the Gamecocks when teams tried different defenses to slow them down. She’s 6-7 with good hands, making post-entry passes easy for her teammates. And on the other end of the floor, Cardoso is a skilled shot blocker.

10. Jacy Sheldon, G, Ohio State

Ohio State’s point guard missed most of the year due to injury, but an impressive March Madness improved her draft stock so much that Sheldon could have been a 2023 top-five pick if she hadn’t opted to return for a fifth year. She has the ability to be the best offensive and defensive player on the court in any given game. Sheldon also possesses a toughness that WNBA teams will like.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

UConn women’s basketball limped to the end of the regular season, beset by injuries and inconsistent play. Even coach Geno Auriemma doubted his team’s postseason chances.

Then the calendar flipped to March.

The No. 7 Huskies (29-5) found their footing in the Big East Tournament, building to a 67-56 win against Villanova in Monday’s championship game. With the victory, they claimed their 10th straight conference tournament title (third in the Big East) and 28th overall.

“We definitely have a different edge to us when March comes, when the games really, really, really matter,” junior guard Nika Mühl said. “… We’re just going to continue to keep that up because now every game matters.”

UConn ended the regular season with three losses in its last eight games. And the five wins it eked out were all decided by 10 points or fewer. The team had dealt with a number injuries, and particularly the absence of star sophomore Azzi Fudd, but Auriemma also called out the “selfishness” he had seen down the stretch.

Rather than become mired in their struggles, though, the Huskies saw in March and in the Big East Tournament a chance to turn the page.

“It almost felt like a chapter had been closed,” Auriemma said after the title win. “I can sit back now and really let everything, like, wash over you that you’ve been holding in. So many things have happened on and off the court this past season — personally, team-wise, everything — that to get to this point, you want to just close that book and now start a brand-new one starting next Sunday.

“That book ended the right way. It had a lot of acts and a lot of tragedies and a lot of ups and downs, a lot of stuff, but the book ended the right way. And now it’s time for a new one.”

The return of Azzi Fudd right in time for the postseason helped. She scored 11 points off the bench against Villanova. So did the dominance of junior forward Aaliyah Edwards, who was named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament after posting her third-straight double-double (19 points, 15 rebounds).

“I think the whole season she’s been carrying us,” senior forward Dorka Juhász said of Edwards. “And I just remember, even last year, when the tournament came, a different Aaliyah came out to play.”

With the Big East title, the Huskies gathered momentum ahead of the NCAA Tournament, which tips off next week.

Just days after postponing its matchup with DePaul due to a lack of healthy players, UConn is ready to take the court once again.

The No. 4 Huskies have dealt with injuries and absences all season, the latest of which dropped them below the Big East’s requirement of seven scholarship players available to compete. UConn would have had just six players for the game against DePaul, originally scheduled for Sunday but rescheduled for Jan. 23.

Aaliyah Edwards, who had been the glue for the lineup during a chaotic season, was the latest player to go down with an injury. The junior standout suffered a lower leg injury during the Huskies’ win over Xavier last Thursday, but she will be back for Wednesday’s road contest against St. John’s.

Edwards is averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 63.4% in 15 games played for the Huskies.

She is one of just three players to appear in every game this season, alongside Lou Lopez Sénéchal and Ayanna Patterson. But on Wednesday, that number will dwindle to two, as Patterson is in concussion protocol and will miss that game.

Azzi Fudd, who has been out since early December with a knee injury, may also make her much-anticipated return. Prior to her injury, she was leading the team with 20.6 points per game.

The star sophomore is nearing the end of the three- to six-week recovery timeline provided by the program. She is now considered day-to-day, associate head coach Chris Daily said.

While she has participated in warmups during UConn’s last few games, she did not play in any of them. She will be a game-time decision Wednesday.

Injuries have been the story of UConn’s season since before it began. Paige Bueckers tore her ACL in August, and freshman Ice Brady is also out for the season with a dislocated right patella. Dorka Juhász, Aubrey Griffin and Nika Muhl have also missed time.

Caroline Ducharme remains in concussion protocol and, like Patterson, will not travel to St. John’s.

Dailey has taken over head coaching duties for Geno Auriemma, who has missed four games this season due to illness. He has remained away from the team so far this week, Dailey said Tuesday.

Despite the absences, the Huskies have maintained their success. They will head into Wednesday’s game with a 13-2 record.

UConn women’s basketball just keeps winning, in spite of their continued bad luck.

The No. 5 Huskies (13-2) beat Xavier 73-37 on Thursday even as they dealt with the absence of head coach Geno Auriemma for the second straight game, as well as yet another injury to a star player.

Junior standout Aliyah Edwards injured her ankle while chasing after a loose ball and did not play in the second half. Edwards’ injury reduced the number of available players to seven for the final two quarters.

“She tweaked her ankle a little bit when she went over and made that hustle play into the chairs,” said associate head coach Chris Dailey, who moved to a 17-0 career record as acting head coach for UConn. “It just wasn’t in the cards for her to play the second half. We were up by a lot. So hopefully it’s just a little bit of a tweak, and we’ll know more tomorrow.”

Edwards is one of just three UConn players to have appeared in every game this season, and the depleted Huskies regularly utilize seven- or eight-player rotations

Azzi Fudd remains out with a knee injury, while Paige Bueckers and Ice Brady both will miss the entire season. Caroline Ducharme missed her second straight game Thursday while in concussion protocol, and Dorka Juhász and Aubrey Griffin have also missed time this season.

“We’ve tried the sage burning, we’ve tried holy water, we’ve tried a lot of things. None of them have really seemed to work,” Dailey said of the Huskies’ injury luck. “But it’s just something we have to deal with. We’re not the only team that has to deal with it. Whatever we have and whoever we have, we have enough.

“We hope Aaliyah’s ready [Sunday] … we just have to go with what we’ve got.”

No. 8 UConn women’s basketball showed out Wednesday in a 72-47 win against No. 21 Creighton, even with just seven players available.

For coach Geno Auriemma, the dominant victory showed what makes the Huskies special — but also, at times, frustrating to watch.

Or not watch. Auriemma, who missed two games before the holiday break due to illness, could not bear to watch the team in his absence.

“I don’t watch the games when I’m not here — until I know what the score is afterwards,” he said.

The team’s turnover totals in particular are cause for concern. The Huskies are averaging 17.3 per game, and they had 19 and 23 in the two games without Auriemma on the bench.

Against Creighton, they had 15. But they also outrebounded the Bluejays 59-27 and shot 44.4% from the field in what Auriemma called a “pretty amazing” performance.

“It feels good to be around this group,” he said. “They have so much energy that they play with all the time. They’re infuriating sometimes with some of the things they do, but they never stop. They just keep playing, so it’s really neat to be around it.”

Aaliyah Edwards became the first UConn player since Maya Moore in 2010 to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Maya Moore in 2010, per ESPN. She scored 23 points and added 20 rebounds.

Edwards is averaging 17.9 points per game, second only to the injured Azzi Fudd. She has stepped up in the absence of injured players, scoring at least 23 points in each of the last four games.

Fudd remains out with a knee injury, and Paige Bueckers is sidelined for the entire season while she recovers from an ACL tear. Aubrey Griffin missed Wednesday’s game after testing positive for COVID-19, and Amari DeBerry missed the game due to travel issues.

Plus, UConn’s two available bench players Wednesday both had bumps and bruises: Ayanna Patterson injured her finger during practice that morning and wore a bandage on her left hand, and Ines Bettencourt had stitches on her nose after she took an elbow to the face in a recent practice.

Dorka Juhász, who just returned from broken thumb on Dec. 18, contributed 22 points and 18 rebounds against Creighton.

“I want it all,” Juhász said. “I want to win a national championship before I leave here, so that’s my goal and whatever I can [do to] help the team, I’m going to do that every night.”