February 12, 2021
Big East Weekly: What Paige Bueckers does
And where she needs to improve
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The thing about Paige…
I rarely talk about Paige Bueckers. I’m sure you’ve hardly noticed since her picture usually ends up as the cover story because she racks up Honor Roll Awards rather consistently.
After watching the South Carolina-UConn game, I’ve made a few observations:
Paige isn’t a great defender
I will preface with: this was an odd game. The pace for both teams was WAY off. It was an enjoyable game because it was a high score, but the basketball has hardly risen to the level of what we’ve come to expect from either team.
I love defense. It is and should always be the backbone of an elite-level team. Paige was okay at best. She’s not terribly quick and as head coach Geno Auriemma noted postgame, she moves at her own pace.
I did notice something as the game went on. Paige made adjustments. She ended the night with a game-leading six steals. Did she get quicker? No.
She got smarter.
You see, making a steal is all about positioning and anticipation. As Lisa Byington and Monica McNutt accurately pointed out during the game, Bueckers can sometimes be dangerously close to getting beat, and badly. However, as the game grew tighter, she seemingly got smarter.
I respect that.
Paige is abnormally comfortable and very smart
Now I want you to watch how many times Paige touches the ball in this sequence. I’ll give you a moment to count.
For whatever reason (and it makes me mad, MAD), we aren’t seeing a lot of ball movement in basketball. It’s a huge reason why I seldom watch the NBA. It is also the reason that I tend to enjoy both women’s and men’s college basketball above anything else. Basketball is a game of movement.
Paige touches the ball four separate times before making the shot. Most people will focus on the shot and for good reason! However, much more impressive to me is her ability to keep in constant motion. By doing so, she applies pressure to her defender and the rest of South Carolina. Nobody in a black jersey wants Paige to score. She draws active and passive attention.
Had her bounce pass been a bit cleaner, Nelson-Ododa likely would have had an open shot and the cleanest look of this sequence. But just before Bueckers passes drives and passes, she looks to the far court to see how much time is on the shot clock. When Nelson-Ododa didn’t shoot, Paige knew she had to.
I’m not into projecting what this means for Bueckers this season or in the next 10 seasons of her career. What I will say is, this was a great game for Bueckers and UConn, although likely not their (objectively) best.
What made this game great was to see in real-time the adjustments the Huskies made. When South Carolina missed their final shots in regulation, you can see Bueckers give a sigh of shock and relief. What did she do next?
Score all nine of UConn’s overtime points.
Is she the greatest? Who knows. But she is pretty darn good.
Three UConn Huskies crack the Naismith midseason watchlist
Monica McNutt joins Around The Rim Fast Break to discuss USC at UConn
And the winners are…
BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Player of the Week
BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Freshman of the Week
Paige Bueckers, Connecticut
From the BIG EAST press release:
Bueckers is just the fourth player in league history to sweep the awards, along with Siegrist, Marquette’s Allazia Blockton (Feb. 15, 2016) and fellow UConn standout Maya Moore (March 4, 2008).
BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Weekly Honor Roll
Aaliyah Edwards, Connecticut, Fr., F
Deja Church, DePaul, Sr., G
Lauren Van Kleunen, Marquette, R-Sr., F
Sarah Mortensen, Villanova, Sr., G/F
Leilani Correa, St. John’s, So., G