Paige Bueckers announced on Senior Day she plans to return to UConn women’s basketball for a fifth year. Nika Mühl announced on March 8 that the 2023-24 season will be her last in Storrs.

And Aaliyah Edwards remains the lone senior to have yet to announce her future plans.

On Monday, Huskies’ head coach Geno Auriemma may have spoiled her decision.

“One of them is coming back,” he told the 200-person crowd at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast regarding his senior class. “I mean it’s gonna be my 40th year. It only would have been 39 if she wasn’t coming back.”

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After learning the Huskies are a No. 3 seed in the Portland 3 Regional in Sunday night’s Selection Show, Auriemma spent Monday morning talking to the Chamber about his current team, its NCAA Tournament draw and how he’s built the program thanks to years of investment from his staff, his players and the state.

“It’s incredible, really, what was transpired here in Connecticut in the time that I’ve been here,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “It couldn’t have been imaginable in 1985. There’s more people in this room than were at our first game. … It took people with some vision and took some hard work, and it took some investment. And those same people now can’t even imagine us not being where we are today.”

UConn begins the NCAA Tournament on Saturday hosting No. 14 Jackson State in a first-round game in Storrs (1 p.m.).

The Huskies are looking to return to the Final Four after their record streak of 14-straight appearances in the national semifinals was snapped in last year’s Sweet 16 by Ohio State. UConn did reach the national title game in 2022 but fell to South Carolina.

Injuries have plagued the program the past three years, most recently in the Big East Tournament. Edwards, UConn’s All-American forward, took a hit to the face in the tournament’s quarterfinals and broke her nose. She was unable to play in the semifinals and in the championship but has since returned to practice wearing a face mask for protection.

Auriemma expects her to be healthy and 100 percent ready to play in this weekend’s opening rounds. However, the Huskies will remain without Amari DeBerry (concussion) for the rest of the season, leaving them with likely just eight available players if/when Edwards returns.

“Winning national championships is hard. And it’s especially hard when you only have seven players available to you,” Auriemma said before joking with the crowd. “And I wouldn’t mind if those were seven players that I trusted and I thought were really really trustworthy. Instead, four of them are freshmen and I don’t trust them to find the gym.”

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Edwards likely has just a few more weeks to decide about her future. She could return for a fifth year (because of the extra year granted by the NCAA to players who were affected by the pandemic) or begin her professional career and declare for the WNBA Draft.

Players whose teams are done playing before the Elite Eight have up until April 1 to make a decision, whereas players who are still playing after that point have 48 hours after their seasons officially end to decide. Edwards is projected as a top-five pick in the 2024 Draft (April 15).

“Some kids, four years is a perfect amount of time,” Auriemma said after his remarks to the crowd. “Let’s take a kid, like Aaliyah and Nika, you say, ‘Well, what are your aspirations after college? And how soon can you have those aspirations?’ And some kids, those opportunities to come sooner rather than others.

“Somebody like Nika, you know, maybe she’s a second-round draft pick. She’s anxious, probably, to go back and play over in Croatia after being here for four years. And somebody, like Aaliyah, who’s probably at worst one of the top seven picks in the draft and her goals may be different than Nika.”

Throughout his 39 years in Storrs, Auriemma has led the Huskies to 11 national championships, including four-straight from 2013 to 2016. But he still remembers a time when he had to convince UConn to provide the women’s basketball team with cheerleaders and a student band at games.

Now, UConn is on the map for students and student-athletes thanks in large part to what his teams have accomplished.

“In 1985 when I got to Connecticut, I don’t think we were getting 60,000 applications for 4,000 spots,” Auriemma said. “I don’t think so. And yet today, that’s exactly where we are. And again, and no disrespect anybody, it’s not because all of a sudden, our philosophy department is way better. …

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“I think what drives people’s passions, what stirs people, what makes people get up every morning and put their Husky sweatshirt on and turn on the TV and say, ‘Where are we going? Who are we playing?’ It’s athletics and some people embrace it and other people fight against it. But it’s who we are. It’s part of our identity. It’s our DNA. That’s what’s made us a national program.”

College women’s basketball is a different animal now than it was in 1985 when Auriemma first took over the job in Storrs. It’s no longer just the same five teams beating every else up and winning in March. The parity has tripled, and stars have emerged all across the country. On Monday, Auriemma was asked how that parity affects his recruiting.

“We’re not as good as we used to be. So, it’s not like they’ve all caught up. We’ve backed up a little bit,” Auriemma said. “And we still have a top three recruiting class every single year.

So, I’m not worried about whether good players are gonna want to come to you or not. The problem is with all this money flying around that people are throwing at kids. That’s a huge issue. …

Do we have the money that Ohio State has? No. Or Alabama? No. Or Michigan? No. Or Stanford or any of those as well schools? Or Notre Dame? But they don’t have 11 national championships either. So, screw them.”

But just because the Huskies may look different this year, the program hasn’t lost sight of its fight in March.

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“The players at UConn today have a unique opportunity,” Auriemma said. “They are actually going into an NCAA tournament as underdogs. That never happens at Connecticut. You are always expected to win the whole thing.

“We won 31 games last year and we lost in the Sweet 16 and everybody said, ‘The program is dead.

The demise of the UConn program.’ Because you’re supposed to win all the time. And not just win all the time, win a national championship all the time. So, when no one’s expecting you to win it, that’s a little bit of a motivator in itself.”