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Paige Bueckers: Anticipation and Efficiency

Bueckers is a freshman unlike any other at a program that knows a thing or two about otherworldly talents.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Xavier at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Paige Bueckers may have been one of the most hyped-up athletes coming out of high school since Lebron James, and I do not think this is an exaggeration. She has a massive social media following and the expectations for her freshman season are through the roof. When breaking down her first five games two words come to mind: anticipation and efficiency. Let’s dive into the numbers.

Averages: 18.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.4 SPG

Bueckers’ numbers through her first five games have been astonishing. She leads the team in points and assists per game and is second in rebounds behind only Olivia Nelson- Ododa.

On offense, Bueckers is efficient. Bueckers is shooting a staggering 58.7 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from deep, and 80 percent from the free throw line. Perhaps these numbers are why Geno Auriemma keeps saying that Bueckers is not being aggressive enough and needs to shoot more. When watching, I am more surprised when she misses a shot.

What about her passing? She is listed as a point guard after all. If there is one thing to nitpick about Bueckers’ game it would be to cut down on turnovers. Currently, she is averaging 3.6 turnovers per contest. However, I think her passing is and will continue to be her most underappreciated skill. You don’t average 5.8 assists by being bad a passing. I have no doubt she will clean this up as the season progresses.

Anticipation

Bueckers has incredible anticipation on offense and defense, which is reflected in her passing and rebounding. Watch (in the video above) how she is directing Nelson-Ododa (who is barely past half court) and finds an opening before the defense can get set. I’m not sure many players have this kind of vision. I could go on and on, but let’s look at her defense now.

The next time you watch UConn play (December 29th against DePaul), try following Bueckers on defense instead of following the ball. It will not take long before you realize why she is on another level, even as a freshman. Just like on offense, she anticipates plays far before anyone else (see the steal below).

Look at where she starts out in the video. She is standing in the middle of the paint and gets the steal beyond the men’s three point line! Sure, going for too many steals can have downsides if you get caught leaning, but the risk is worth the reward. Bueckers is averaging 2.4 steals per contest, second on the team behind Evina Westbrook.

Most freshman, even the all-time greats, need time to adjust to the college game, but we have not seen that yet with Bueckers. Now, that is not to say that she won’t have a bad game here and there as the season progresses. UConn also has upcoming games against the likes of DePaul and Baylor which will give us a lot more information, but the eye test and data suggest she is up to the challenge.

It may be too early, and this may be an overreaction, but I’m not sure we have ever seen a freshman like Paige Bueckers before.