Cal Basketball: Are Bears Making Final Trips to USF and Santa Clara For Near Future?
Cal basketball fans planning to attend games this week at USF and Santa Clara may get their last looks at those two venues for quite a while.
The Bears’ games on Wednesday night at USF and Saturday afternoon at Santa Clara are rare road matchups against Bay Area schools, aside from Pac-12 rival Stanford.
Cal hasn't played a game at USF since 1997-98 or at Santa Clara since 1992-93. The Bears lost that game at USF and won at Santa Clara while armed with freshman point guard Jason Kidd.
This may not be the best time to play either school, especially on their own floor. The Dons and Broncos enter this week with a combined record of 15-2.
First-year coach Mark Fox inherited this schedule, and he’s up front about saying he’s not crazy about it.
In the video above, Fox says he would like to maintain the local rivalry games, but believes most often they should be played at Haas Pavilion.
The games this week were scheduled during former coach Wyking Jones’ two years overseeing the program. Jones also set up last year’s game at Saint Mary’s, which Cal lost 84-71. The Bears and Gaels will meet in Berkeley on Dec. 14.
USF, which plays at home Tuesday night against Arizona State, lost for the first time last Friday night at Hawaii. The Dons are 7-1 under first-year coach Todd Golden.
USF beat Cal 79-60 in Berkeley last season, but the teams have not squared off at the Dons’ War Memorial Gym since 1997-98, when USF won 59-50.
Since 1949-50, the teams have played 20 times in San Francisco and Cal is just 9-11 in those games. In fact, from 1951-52 through 1965-66, USF had a 7-1 edge over the Bears in games at San Francisco, (the exception being a Cal win during its 1959-60 national championship season).
While the Dons’ program was prominent enough to command home games against Cal, the Bears have played more infrequently at Santa Clara.
The Bears, led by Kidd and Lamond Murray, won 80-73 in a 1992-93 game at the old Toso Pavilion. Cal lost to Steve Nash and the Broncos at Berkeley a year later, and its 6-1 record in games played at Santa Clara since the 1949-50 season is actually better than its 14-9 ledger against the Broncos at home or on neutral sites.
But this Santa Clara team is 8-1 and off to its best start since 1968-69, when they won their first 21 games. The Broncos’ only defeat was an 18-point loss at Stanford on Nov. 16.
Cal’s relationship with Saint Mary’s has been a tricky one. The two schools met at least once every season from the end of World War II through the late 1960s.
But when the Bears lost 61-51 at Moraga in 1987-88, then-coach Lou Campanelli said the series would be discontinued. They didn’t play again for six years (after Campanelli was gone) and last year’s game was the first in Moraga in 31 seasons.
Now the Gaels are stronger on a yearly basis than Cal, so coach Randy Bennett is reluctant to consign every game to Berkeley. And Saint Mary’s is good enough that playing at McKeon Pavilion is not attractive to any high-major program.
Cal is not playing San Jose State this season. The Bears are 20-3 against the Spartans since the 1949-50 campaign, but just 1-2 in games played at San Jose.