After a thrilling 63-59 finish two seasons ago in Berkeley, California and St. Mary's have signed a deal to renew the East Bay college basketball rivalry for the next three seasons, new head coach Wyking Jones announced on Tuesday.
"Saint Mary's is a high-quality opponent who will offer a great preseason test for us, and we're excited to be able to do that right here in the East Bay and in front of so many of our alumni and fans," said California head coach Wyking Jones. "We're looking forward to showcasing a pair of competitive teams with strong basketball traditions over the next few years."
The Bears, under then-head coach Cuonzo Martin, downed the Gaels on Dec. 12, 2015, behind clutch shooting from now-graduated guard Jabari Bird, and there was enthusiasm afterwards for renewing the rivalry, but the two teams couldn't get a deal done for last season.
Martin expressed his desire to play the Gaels again, because they were "a quality opponent, and you don't worry about RPI games, because they'll give you that."
A rematch, Martin said, was something that the two schools "need[ed] to" talk about, citing the energy and passion in the building, and the Gaels' notoriously challenging home court advantage at intimate McKeon, which holds 3,500 fans.
Last season, St. Mary's made the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in seven seasons, dropping a 69-60 decision against No. 2-seed Arizona in the second round, after beating No. 10-seed VCU, 85-77.
The Bears lead the all-time series 62-16, and will meet the Gaels once again in December, 2017, at Haas Pavilion. The series will shift to the big barn in Moraga, McKeon Pavilion, in the 2018-19 season, before returning to Berkeley in the 2019-20 season. Before the 2015 game at Haas, Cal and St. Mary's had not squared off since Nov. 12, 2004.
The Bears beat the Gaels 66-46 in the Elite Eight in 1959, en route to the program's only NCAA title.
Cal will play in the Maui Invitational in late November, with the specific match-ups having yet to be announced. The field for Maui includes five 2017 NCAA Tournament teams in Marquette, Michigan, Notre Dame, VCU and Wichita State, as well as LSU and Chaminade.