After I dropped my last article, I was asked if I had forgotten Lou Lopez-Senechal as a potential starter. While I did not forget about her, I did leave her out of the discussion because she is such an unique case. Lou is transferring from Fairfield, a Mid Major university in the Northeast, where she was a three time MAAC First Team player; she was named MAAC POY last year, just three seasons after being named the MAAC Rookie of the Year. Lou averaged 19.1 ppg last year, good for 26th in the nation. She definitely comes to UConn with accolades, but many wonder how does that translate to a UConn team where almost every kid is a Top 25, shoot a Top 5 recruit. Accolades at UConn are like hard candies and cookies at your grandma’s house- ubiquitous. No one ever knows what goes on in Geno’s mind: he’s on a different level, but to help figure this out, I want to break down a few areas in order to decide if she will be buried on the bench or be “burying those threes”.
The big buzz phrase among basketball scouts today is “three level scorer”. Listen to the WNBA or NBA draft, and you will be nauseated by the term. Still, it is a useful term to quickly categorize a players skill: can they shoot threes, score in the midrange, and drive to the basket. Lou has the potential to be a three level producer. First, she can flat out shoot the rock, over 40% from deep the last two years. She is best in catch and shoot opportunities but shows solid to good production off of screens. She also makes great use of jab steps to create space out of the triple threat to get shots off. I have not come across enough evidence of her being able to use step backs or off the dribble deep shots to say that this is a strength.
The biggest reason for her not shooting deep shots off the dribble is that she chooses to get downhill. She makes use of a lot of side steps and step backs from the midrange. She has a mid range spin that she loves to utilize that has opened up looks. Overall, I would label her a great to good midrange shooter. Her ability to get to a second level only makes her jab series to a three point shot more effective.
The third level is more of a question mark for me. She showed the ability to get to the rack against MAAC teams with enough frequency to call it a part of her game, and her body control allows her to create contact with help defenders. The problem is that she has not played against enough Power 5 teams to extrapolate her driving ability. In the course of her career, she has only played against St. Johns, Indiana, Texas, and Rutgers; in total, she has played four games against these high major schools. She has played against the next tier down: UMass (twice), Seton Hall, Temple, Rhode Island, and FGCU (a strong Mid Major). Her game total only hits ten games if I count FGCU, so it is not a ton of data to tell her ability; plus, the MAAC is not the most respected of conferences. In the small sampling, Lou has not been able to display the ability to take people off the bounce. Her scoring in these situations also doesn’t present a clear conclusion either. Lou had a very solid showing against Temple with an efficient 15 points and a monster game against St. Johns with 27 points, both sophomore year. Her efficiency was not stellar during her senior year in the UMass, FGCU, and Rutgers games, but she had a very good showing against a solid Indiana team. I was most intrigued by her tournament game against Texas. She absolutely punished Vic Schafer’s team with outside shooting and cutting. Even in the games where she struggled, she does show a knack for getting to the line, where she has hit at an 80+% clip every season.
Geno recently went on record and insinuated that Lou had a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Of course, he then added that every player aside from Nika was lacking as a defender. His criticism could be just Geno being Geno, but there is very little evidence that she excelled on that side of the court. For her career, she has 100 steals in her 98 games and averages about a half of a block a game. While steals and blocks aren’t the sole predicators of defensive ability, they are great stats to illustrate the disruptiveness of a defender. Her line actually compares nearly identically to Caroline Ducharme, who would make a nice comparison since they are both big guards that shoot. My problem with the identical number is that Caroline played over ten minutes less a game and was a freshman. I will be interested to Caroline’s numbers over four years as she showed the ability to alter a lot of shots in limited run. Comparing Lou to Paige further shows the lack of disruptiveness as Paige averages a similar number of blocks, despite being about 3″ shorter, but 2.5 times more steals per game.
Aside from disruptiveness, good defenders can distinguish by locking down or being good positional team defenders. In limited film study, Lou showed a tendency to ball watch in her zone (she was at the bottom wing of a 2-3). She rarely made plays or rebounds outside her area and often had break downs that led to points for the opposition. I have not watched enough film to determine her on ball abilities; also, I am not sure if she was at the bottom of the zone for her lack of on ball chops or because her height mandated her position. In all, her ability to defend does not appear to be a strength.
Fit is an interesting area as there are aspects of Lou’s game that fits completely. She is a solid rebounder out of a guard position, where she has averaged almost five rebounds a game-similar to Paige’s numbers. She is a very good cutter and has the ability to get open regardless of the defense; she also possesses the backdoor ability to make teams pay for running her off the line. Her shooting could be a god send to a team that struggled the past couple of years from the arc. Geno has stated that a major reason that he was interested is that Fairfield runs a similar system, so familiarity should be there for Lou.
There are some significant issues with her fit, however. UConn is a team that is renowned for passing and assisting the majority of their baskets. Lou has never averaged two assists a game; plus, she had her worst season last year with only 1.1 assists per game. She has also averaged more turnovers than assists every season. The biggest concern that I have with fit is that she is a transfer. Transfers at UConn have had mixed results. Daniel Connelly, from the UConn Blog, wrote a nice article on the five most recent transfers to UConn (this was pre-Dorka Juhasz). Azura Stevens and Evina Westbrook were the only two that saw significant minutes. Batouly Camara and Evelyn Adebayo saw little to no minutes in their time in Storrs. Natalie Butler is a mixed bag as she averaged double digit minutes with 5.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg, but she would leave UConn for more playing time in an A10 program, where she dominated with a double double in every game. Understanding Butler’s situation also must take into account that she played during the run where Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Moriah Jefferson basically destroyed the collegiate basketball world- everyone got minutes at an abnormal rate. Regardless, Butler was behind several more talented players. Again the sample size is small, but the only three players (including Dorka) to see major minutes came from P5 schools; the only players to come from a small to mid-major school saw limited minutes or were buried deep in the rotation. Will a mid-major transfer from a weak conference be ready for what Geno expects?
The key factor for Lou Lopez-Senechal is that she is in a shallow wing room. Caroline Ducharme and Ayanna Patterson are the only wings on the team. Her playing time will be dependent on score, on injury, and on foul situation. UConn will most likely play two bigs (Juhasz and Edwards) and two guards (Fudd and Bueckers) 30 minutes a game. Nika Muhl will take minutes at a guard spot and one of the trio of Deberry, Patterson, Brady will take minutes at a post. There will be limited minutes to allow for Lou. Her best path to playing time is becoming a solid defender and shooting the lights out. She could also make an intriguing combo with Nika. There is no way that UConn can repeat last year’s injury situation, but in the case of an injury or foul trouble to a guard, Nika and Lou could be an end of the game offense-defense pair. Still, I see her getting multiple DNP-coach’s decision early in the season and averaging around six minutes a game.