UConn has been to the women’s Final Four 11 consecutive seasons and won six of the program’s 11 national championships during that span.
Oregon coach Kelly Graves has always been an admirer of his friend Geno Auriemma’s empire and motivated to build his own powerhouse.
“I was one of those right from the very start that would say I didn’t think UConn was bad for the game,” Graves said this week. “I think it’s good for the game because everybody needs to rise and get better. And I think that’s happening.”
The Ducks, who were blown out by the Huskies in the 2017 Bridgeport Regional Final, will get a chance to see how far they’ve come next season when Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard are seniors.
Oregon and UConn have agreed to play a home-and-home series beginning with a game at either Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., or the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., in 2019-20 and at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene in 2021-22.
The Huskies were upset in the national semifinal for the second consecutive season last year when Notre Dame followed up its Elite Eight win over the Ducks with a buzzer-beating upset of UConn en route to the national title.
“They’re still the barometer, they’re still the tiger of the sport,” Graves said of UConn. “They drive the ratings and the interest and a lot of that stuff, but people are getting closer. …
“They’re not going anywhere as long as (Auriemma’s) there.”
UConn defeated Michigan State 96-62 last year at the PK80 Invitational last season at Matthew Knight Arena but did not play the Ducks. Oregon beat Oklahoma 92-74.