The best Bay Area women's basketball teams face a 1-2 punch this week with early-season tests against the nation's top-ranked schools.

It starts at 3 p.m. Sunday when No. 2 Duke plays at ninth-ranked Cal in a game on ESPNU. Then No. 3 Stanford continues its bicoastal rivalry against top-ranked Connecticut at 4 p.m. Monday in Storrs, Conn., on ESPN2.

The Cardinal and Golden Bears -- picked to finish first and second, respectively, in the Pac-12 -- are decided underdogs against their East Coast opponents.

Reigning national champion UConn (1-0) thumped Stanford 61-35 at Maples Pavilion last year to end the Cardinal's program-record 82-game home win streak.

The Huskies are favored to win a record-ninth NCAA title with four returning starters.

"We will find off right off the bat what we need to work on, what we need to improve on," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said.

Stanford (1-0) also has four returning starters from last season's team that finished 33-3 but lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Yet, it opens the season with a new look.

Senior All-American Chiney Ogwumike, Amber Orrange and Mikeala Ruef are the team's backbone, but joining them in the rotation are junior guard Alex Green, who has hardly played because of injuries, and freshman Kailee Johnson.

Senior Sara James, Stanford's other starter last season, is practicing after undergoing compartment syndrome surgery on her calf muscles. Stanford expects to lean on its five-member freshman class.

"I'm more excited to see how our freshmen respond," Ogwumike said. "It will be a great barometer game for us."

Coach Lindsay Gottlieb echoed that sentiment for Cal's game against Duke (0-0), which defeated the Bears (1-0) last season 77-63. The loss didn't stop Cal from reaching its first Final Four in school history.

"Last year was magical, but I don't want to press replay," Gottlieb said.

The coach will get a sense of what kind of team she has against the Blue Devils, who return all five starters and their top seven scorers. Duke has lost in the regional finals three consecutive years.

Gottlieb, whose team also will face Connecticut next month, wants to continue scheduling these kind of early-season matchups to prepare the Bears for deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

"It's part of the way to get your team ready and build your brand," she said.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.

sunday's game

Duke (0-0) at Cal (1-0),
3 p.m. ESPNU

monday's game

Stanford (1-0) at Connecticut (1-0), 4 p.m. ESPN2