The University of Connecticut women's basketball team debuting at a mere No. 6 to start the season may have lit a fire under the team's No. 1 2022 recruit Azzi Fudd. The sophomore, who is set to lead the Huskies in the absence of Paige Bueckers, has proven she's ready for the task — and that UConn, somehow, has been overlooked.

Against No. 3 Texas, Fudd put on the best showing of her entire collegiate career, pouring in 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting (four three-pointers!) with four assists, one rebound and one steal. (Her seven turnovers were a problem, but when you're a walking bucket on the other end, you can get away with that.)

Putting defenders on their back and firing quick-launch triples, Fudd was otherworldly in an 83-76 win.

Azzi Fudd is in another gear this year

Yes, it's been just two games, but Fudd's been noticeably more assertive as a sophomore. Some of that surely has to do with Bueckers, the superstar point guard, out for the year with a torn ACL. Regardless, Fudd's own development shouldn't be understated just because of who isn't there.

Fudd was a spot-up shooter for the majority of her freshman season, and averaged just 9.4 shots as a result. Now, Fudd knows she's the go-to, and has done an excellent job creating opportunities for herself both off the dribble and off turnovers. She has seven steals already, the first of which came in a 26-point scoring night over Northeastern.

UConn has the pieces to contend if Fudd's early-season returns stay true

Bueckers is unquestionably one of the best players in the country, and a loss her size would capsize most schools. But UConn is built different.

Junior Aaliyah Edwards remains a force on the inside, Aubrey Griffin is an athletic wing, and Dorka Juhasz has the interior game every champion needs.

Sure, South Carolina and Stanford are the favorites, but UConn's season isn't over because Bueckers isn't playing. It just looks different with another No. 1 recruit at the helm.

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