U.S. women's hoops team to face UConn, Louisville to prep for Olympics

The U.S. women's basketball team has added exhibition games at UConn on Jan. 27 and Louisville on Feb. 2 as part of its preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The Americans are in the midst of a four-game college tour, having defeated Stanford this past Saturday and Oregon State on Monday. Team USA will compete at Texas A&M on Thursday and then face preseason No. 1 Oregon on Saturday.

There are eight "core" players on the American squad: Seattle's Sue Bird, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi, Washington's Elena Delle Donne, Dallas' Skylar Diggins-Smith, Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles, Los Angeles' Chelsea Gray and Nneka Ogwumike, and Las Vegas' A'ja Wilson.

Delle Donne is not playing in the November exhibitions because she is dealing with herniated disks in her back. USA Basketball is hopeful she can return for the UConn and Louisville games.

If all eight core players are available, four more will be added from the national team pool. That 36-player pool also would provide any replacement players if needed because of injury.

Taurasi said she was excited to have another chance to play at Connecticut.

"It's always special when you get to go home,'' Taurasi said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I get to see so many faces that supported our program. The media, the fans, the alumni. Going back to Connecticut is always special and sweet.''

Taurasi would have preferred if the game had been played on campus instead of in Hartford.

"A little part of me would have loved Gampel [Pavilion],'' she said. "It's one of the great basketball houses in the country. To be on campus is really great.''

It will be Taurasi's second time playing against UConn, where she won three national championships. She also helped the U.S. win an exhibition game in 2007. UConn also played the national team in 1995-96 before the Americans won the first of their six consecutive Olympic gold medals.

Taurasi isn't the only former Huskies great playing with the U.S. right now. She's joined by Bird and Napheesa Collier. There's a chance that Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles and a few other former UConn players might be in Connecticut in February.

This will be the third time that UConn has played the U.S. national team, previously facing the Americans during the U.S. team's 1995-96 tour before the Atlanta Olympics and in 2007 before the 2008 Beijing Games. UConn coach Geno Auriemma led the U.S. team to Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016.

"I think it's a great opportunity for our players to play against some of the best players in the world," Auriemma said. "It's an opportunity for the U.S. National Team to go around the country and build some momentum going into the Olympics. I wish we would have done it when I was coaching. It's a tremendous idea, and I'm sure our fans are going to turn out."

The U.S. team also will play against No. 9 Louisville on Super Bowl Sunday.

"What an unbelievable opportunity for our program and our fans to host the USA National Team,'' Louisville coach Jeff Walz said in a statement. "They have had so much success, they are an inspiration to women and girls everywhere. It's an honor to play them on our home court and I'm looking forward to our fans packing the KFC Yum! Center.''

Former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry is part of the talent pool and could play against her alma mater.

On Nov. 14-18, the U.S. team will take part in the FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Argentina, joined by Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. The U.S. team already has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but these qualifying games give the Americans more time to play together.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.