STORRS -- Plenty has been made over this year's UConn women's basketball team possibly not being weaker than some in the past. But one advantage this year's squad has over last season's? Health.
As the 2017-18 season wore on, more and more Huskies found themselves limited with injuries. Katie Lou Samuelson hurt her left ankle in the home opener, and played with the injury all year before having an operation in the offseason. Crystal Dangerfield dealt with shin splints for much of the second half of the season that frequently kept her out of practice. Migraine issues hampered Gabby Williams. Batouly Camara never seemed to recover from a preseason knee injury. Mikayla Coombs sat out the NCAA Tournament because of a pulmonary embolism.
It's a long list of injuries, one that looks even longer when compared to this season's bill of health.
Megan Walker missed two games with strep throat back in December, and Camara missed time with a sprained MCL. That's it.
"We're in pretty good shape. Knock on wood," head coach Geno Auriemma said. "We don't have anything that's been lingering, anything that's been difficult to deal with that we need to manage. Everything's been good, we've been lucky. Other than guys get sick, all the stuff that goes around, other than that we're okay."
Dangerfield's injury had arguably the biggest effect last season. She missed a lot of practice time down the stretch, something that certainly didn't help her development. Dangerfield started the season hot, but tailed off as the season went on.
Looking back, Dangerfield admitted that while the injury didn't prevent her from maintaining her fitness or limit her understanding of what the team was running, the frustration of not being on the court was a major factor.
"Frustration can slow anything down because you're not in the right mindset when you get out (on the court)," Dangerfield said.
Dangerfield's absence in practice affected the team as well. Without Dangerfield on the court, she couldn't build chemistry with her teammates, something very crucial as a point guard. And since she was the team's only true floor general, if Dangerfield wasn't out there, that meant Kia Nurse or Samuelson had to practice out of position.
Having the entire team available everyday at practice this season has certainly made a difference.
"I think it's been really good, we've been having a great season this far," Samuelson said. "For us to have the reps we need every day with the people that are going to be on the floor is really good for us. Last year, we were limited in some of the practice stuff but this year it's been good going in."
As for Samuelson, getting her ankle fixed over the offseason gives her one less thing to worry about when she's playing.
"It's something I don't even think about at this point anymore," she said. "It's nice to not have to think about that anymore and go into the game not worrying about if I'm going to roll my ankle or not."
With better health now compared to a season ago, Dangerfield predicts the Huskies will reap the benefits once March rolls around.
"Having everyone there each day so we can work on things together, I think it's going to take us to a different level this time around," she said.