April 19, 2024
There's no doubt that the Stanford women and Saint Mary's men are headed to the NCAA Tournament next month, but other Bay Area teams could also dance if they get hot in their respective conference tournaments.

There has been no shortage of compelling storylines in the Bay Area college basketball scene so far this season.

At the top of the list are the Saint Mary’s men, who lost five of their first eight games to open the season, and now have the longest active winning streak in the nation and have supplanted Gonzaga as the team to beat in the West Coast Conference.

And across the Bay, everyone knew Tara VanDerveer would pass Mike Krzyzewski to become college basketball’s all-time leader in victories. But third-ranked Stanford — expected to be a middle of the pack team in the final season of the Pac-12 — has emerged as a serious contender to win the school’s fourth national championship.

Before the regular season transitions to conference championship week and everything that is March Madness, here is a look at how the local men’s and women’s teams have fared and whether they have any realistic chance of dancing in the postseason:

Men

SAINT MARY’S (22-6, 13-0 WCC)

Season to date: The Gaels have a 14-game win streak that is the longest in the nation, lead the NCAA in rebounding margin, are the only men’s team in the country still unbeaten in their conference, and have clinched a bye to the semifinals of the WCC tournament. NET ranking: 15

Postseason chances: The 18th-ranked Gaels — projected by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament — will have their depth put to the test after starting forward Joshua Jefferson (10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds) suffered a season-ending left knee injury.

USF (21-7, 10-3 WCC)

Season to date: The Dons showed how close they are by hanging with Saint Mary’s in a 70-66 loss on Tuesday in Moraga. But they remain winless in six Quad 1 games, a significant blemish to their resume. NET ranking: 59

Postseason chances: USF still can secure one of two byes into the semifinals of the WCC tournament but will need to beat Gonzaga at the Chase Center next Thursday to get it done.

STANFORD (12-13, 7-8 Pac-12) 

Season to date: Stanford, powered by 7-foot-1 Parisian Maxime Raynaud (15.1 points, 10.0 rebounds), boasts victories over Arizona and UCLA but has struggled to find consistency. NET ranking: 103

Postseason chances: Barring a run through the Pac-12 tournament to an automatic bid, Stanford will miss the NCAAs for the 10th straight season, its longest drought since the 1980s.

SANTA CLARA (17-10, 8-4 WCC)

Season to date: The Broncos’ depth that has produced eight players who led the team in scoring at least once. Santa Clara, which owns a victory over Gonzaga but lost twice to Saint Mary’s, faces the Zags in the rematch Saturday in Spokane. NET ranking: 107

Postseason chances: The Broncos haven’t played in the NCAA tournament since Steve Nash played for them in the 1990s and it’s going to take a surprise outcome at the WCC tournament to end that drought.

CAL (11-15, 7-8 Pac-12)

Season to date: A year after Cal went 3-29 record, first-year coach Mark Madsen has brought fans back to Haas Pavilion, thanks to guard Jaylon Tyson (20.3 points) and Fardaws Aimaq (17 double-doubles). NET ranking: 119

Postseason chances: Arizona has dominated Cal twice but perhaps no one else would be eager to face this confident bunch in the Pac-12 tournament.

SAN JOSE STATE (9-18, 2-12 MWC)

Season to date: A season sweep of Air Force is all the Spartans have to show for 14 conference games. NET ranking: 239

Postseason chances: Even winning once will be challenging in a ferocious Mountain West tournament that is projected to feed a conference-record six teams into the NCAA field.

 

Women

STANFORD (23-3, 12-2 Pac-12)

Season to date: The third-ranked Cardinal, led by its frontcourt 1-2 punch of Cameron Brink (17.8 points, 11.4 rebounds) and Kiki Iriafen (18.5 points, 10.7), has a two-game lead in the toughest conference in the country.

Postseason chances:  VanDerveer’s team is a lock to earn its 36th straight NCAA tournament spot. ESPN currently projects Stanford as a No. 1 seed and opening-weekend host team. NET ranking: 2

CAL (15-11, 5-9 Pac-12)

Season to date: The Bears were 12-3 after a double-overtime win over Washington State on Jan. 7, but are just 3-8 against a grinder of a Pac-12 schedule since then. NET ranking: 61

Postseason chances: Cal has slipped out of the “next four out” category in ESPN’s NCAA bracket projection. A WNIT bid is more likely.

SANTA CLARA (21-7, 9-4 WCC)

Season to date: Winners of at least 20 games for the first time in eight years, the Broncos and sophomore guard Tess Heal (18.7 points) take a six-game win streak and share of second place into the final two weeks of the regular season. NET ranking: 76

Postseason chances: Short of a run through the WCC tournament for the league’s automatic NCAA bid, the Broncos hope to be positioned for their first WNIT berth since 2016.

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USF (11-14, 7-5 WCC)

Season to date: The Dons, 3-9 when the calendar flipped to 2024, have climbed to fourth place in the WCC standings, powered by guard Jasmine Gayles (40 points vs. Pacific) and forward Debora dos Santos (14 double-doubles). NET ranking: 164

Postseason chances: Will require an unexpected dash through the WCC tournament.

SAINT MARY’S (11-15, 4-8 WCC) 

Season to date: First-year coach Jeff Cammon can build around  freshman leading scorer Zeryhia-Lee Aokuso (11.1 points) and redshirt freshman Maia Jones, who is coming off a 31-point performance. NET ranking: 198

Postseason chances: Maybe next year.

SAN JOSE STATE (6-19, 1-12 MWC)

Season to date: It’s been a rough road for the Spartans, who won three of their first five games and have won just once since Christmas. NET ranking: 282

Postseason chances: SJSU hopes to duplicate last season, when it beat Air Force for its first win in the Mountain West tournament in three years.

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