Just how good is UConn's Paige Bueckers? Let the stats tell the story

·4 min read

Paige Bueckers' immense talent is no secret.

The UConn freshman joined college basketball's most decorated program this season as the nation's No. 1 recruit. She quickly commenced with exceeding those lofty expectations while leading UConn to a 26-1 record, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and now a spot in the Sweet 16.

It didn't take long for conversations to surface speculating about her eventual place in UConn's storied pantheon of great players among names like Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Maya Moore. It's obviously not fair to place her alongside those names — yet. She hasn't won a championship. Those greats — and others at UConn — won multiple titles.

It's similar to the debates over Patrick Mahomes' eventual place among the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks. Is it early in the game for those discussions? Sure. Are they unreasonable? Absolutely not.

Bueckers' box score is impressive, but ...

Bueckers' box-score stats jump off the page. Through 26 games, she's averaged 19.9 points, six assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals. She's shot 53.9% from the field — as a guard — 85.7% from the free throw line and 46.7% from 3-point distance.

Those numbers along with UConn's team success earned Bueckers First-Team All-America Honors from the Associated Press and the Big East Player of the Year award.

And she's already done things that greats before her did not.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: UConn Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) reacts to a call during the women's college basketball game between the Butler Bulldogs and UConn Huskies on February 27, 2021, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Analytics demonstrate just how special Paige Bueckers is. (Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With a 31-point effort against South Carolina on Feb. 8, Bueckers became the first UConn player ever to post three consecutive 30-point games. She set UConn's single-game record for assists with 14 against Butler on Feb. 27. Her 156 assists — and counting — are the most ever by a UConn freshman.

She's an elite scorer. She might be an even better playmaker.

Check out the advanced stats

But to really appreciate what Bueckers is doing, it's best to take a look through her Synergy stats. Synergy compiles basketball data to provide advanced analytical feedback for coaches, scouts and executives. It breaks down player performance in very specific game situations like pick-and-roll ball handling in single coverage and non-post-up shots around the basket.

It then ranks players in those categories against their competition. And that's where Bueckers' numbers truly pop.

Yahoo Sports' Krysten Peek — who pores over a lot of basketball data — calls it "the most impressive stat page I've ever seen from any college basketball player ever."

While the data is advanced, one column here makes it simple to digest — the rank column. That shows where Bueckers ranks in terms of percentile against every other women's college basketball player in the nation.

The chart in the tweet above shows Bueckers ranking in the 90th percentile or better in 10 out of 16 broad offensive categories. A deeper look at 94 categories that also include the aforementioned game-specific situations shows Bueckers ranking in the 90th percentile or better in 34 categories.

Bueckers stands alone

In five categories related to spot-up plays, Bueckers ranks in the 100th percentile. That means nobody in college basketball is as statistically good as Bueckers at spot-up shooting, no-dribble jumpers and drives to the left in spot-up situations.

In short, Bueckers is the standalone best as a spot-up player. In roughly one-third of the categories analyzed, Bueckers is elite — in the 90th percentile — including most of the categories that break down overall offense.

In the areas where she doesn't rank in the 90th percentile, she's largely merely outstanding, ranking in the 80th percentile or better in 60 categories.

While this kind of deep-dive basketball analysis demonstrates just how special Bueckers is, it's not the best way to appreciate her game. That's best left to the tape.

Like this:

And this:

Or better yet, watch her live with stakes on the line. Your next chance is this weekend in a showdown with fellow freshman phenom Caitlin Clark when UConn takes on Iowa in the Sweet 16.

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