UConn women's basketball: 4 questions the top-ranked Huskies must answer as they prepare for March

Connecticut guard Paige Bueckers (5) looks to pass as she keeps the ball from a St. John's' defender on Wednesday.

Connecticut guard Paige Bueckers (5) looks to pass as she keeps the ball from a St. John’s’ defender on Wednesday.

Kathy Willens / Associated Press

March is right around the corner, which means there’s no time for UConn to waste in gearing up for the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies (17-1) need to start rounding into form now so that when the games begin in San Antonio, they’ll be at their best.

“It’s got to start right now,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said following Wednesday’s victory over St. John’s. “You don’t become a good March team in March. You’ve got to do that leading up to March.”

Auriemma, of course, would know. Look no further than his 20 Final Fours — including the last 12 in a row — and 11 national championships.

So while all seems right for the Huskies — ranked No. 1 and riding a seven-game win streak — there are some questions that still need to be answered as they approach the final week of the regular season, starting Saturday (3 p.m.) at Xavier.

How far can Paige Bueckers carry the Huskies?

As goes Bueckers, so go the Huskies. She leads the team in scoring (21.1), assists (5.8) and steals (2.3), and ranks first in the country in 3-point shooting (55.8%).

The Huskies can’t afford an off night from Bueckers at this point, which is a lot to ask. But that’s just the reality of it. No UConn freshman has had to carry her team like Bueckers.

But Bueckers is different both in personality and skill. She seems to embrace the big moment, not shy away from it. We saw it against Tennessee. We saw it against South Carolina.

Will Anna Makurat return, and if so, how much can she contribute?

Well, let’s start here: Makurat is one of the Huskies’ better shooters, and they could use another floor spacer to play off ball-dominant guards like Bueckers and Nika Muhl.

That said, Makurat has missed the last nine games with a lower leg injury, and we still don’t have a firm date on when she might return. Nor do we know how much she can help if she does make it back.

Makurat struggled with her shot earlier this season, hitting only 23% from 3-point range while rotating in and out of the starting lineup. That was down from 41% as a freshman. How much of that was injury-related?

Are Evina Westbrook’s shooting woes just a blip or a larger concern?

UConn's Evina Westbrook shoots against Seton Hall earlier this month.

UConn’s Evina Westbrook shoots against Seton Hall earlier this month.

David Butler II / USA TODAY

Westbrook scored a season-high 19 points, hit five 3s and played all 40 minutes in a loss to then-No. 19 Arkansas on Jan. 28. But since then, the redshirt junior has seen her offensive numbers dip.

In the last seven games, Westbrook’s shot 14 of 49 (28.5%) from the field and only 3 of 27 (11.1%) from 3. During that same stretch, she’s reached double figures just twice.

Now, to Westbrook’s credit, she continues to find ways to contribute when her shot isn’t falling. She’s second on the team in assists (4.6) and third in rebounds (5.2). But if she can reclaim her stroke, it’ll pay off in a way in a big way for the Huskies.

Which Christyn Williams will show up?

Few questions are more important but harder to answer. Williams says she’s more confident and comfortable than she was last week. Her numbers against Georgetown and St. John’s — she scored 19 and 21 points, respectively, on 16 of 30 combined shooting — seem to back that up, too.

But more telling was the job the junior did defensively on St. John’s Leilani Correa, who came in averaging 20.9 points — third in the Big East — and had 33 points in a Feb. 3 loss, but scored just two. Auriemma called it Williams’ top performance this season and one of the best of her career.

The Huskies must hope she can build off that.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour