Cal vs. Stanford, NCAA Tourney history

Does Cal or Stanford have a more prestigious basketball program? Ending a 25-year losing streak to UCLA, as Cal did in 1986, remains one of the most overrated moments in Bay Area sports history. The headline in that morning's Los Angeles Times ("It Won't Be an Upset if Cal Ends UCLA Streak") said as much.

Stanford owns its 1998 Final Four berth, together with three seasons (1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2003-2004) that included No.1 rankings. Cal counterpoints by being led by the head coach responsible for those moments at Stanford. With the national title game hours away, it's time to ponder some very key questions:

1) Who has been to the NCAA tournament more often?
Each side has 16 all-time berths. The Cardinal zoomed ahead of the Bears by notching 13 over a 14-year stretch beginning in 1995. The programs' most memorable moments have occurred in the game's modern era.
The Bears held a 7-3 advantage in this category not long ago. Cal's mid-season coaching change in 1993 (firing Lou Campanelli and hiring 29-year-old assistant Todd Bozeman) caused a big stir, but the Bears caught fire to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Advantage: Push

2) Who has more NCAA tournament victories all-time?
Stanford got a head start with its 1942 national title, fell behind once Pete Newell established the Bears as a national contender, then really got lapped once Jason Kidd took over for Adam Keefe as the Bay Area's best college basketball player.
But a turning point was soon at hand. Within three years, Bozeman was out of Berkeley. Stanford capitalized on repeated infusions of talent – Brevin Knight, the Collins twins, Casey Jacobsen, Josh Childress, the brothers Lopez – to claim a lead in this category. How long the Cardinal can hold its current 21-19 edge is less of a sure thing.

Advantage: Stanford

3) Whose decades-old national title has withstood the test of time better?
Back in 1942, there was no Final Four. Just eight teams reached the NCAA Tournament. The national semifinals and finals were held seven days apart. "I didn't even know we were No. 1," remembered Stanford reserve Fred Linari years later. "We were just having a good time."
Newell's club reached the top of the 1959 field, a field more familiar by today's standards. It outlasted Cincinnati in the national semis before squeaking West Virginia in the finals by a 71-70 score. It's still one of only two NCAA title games decided by a single point (Michigan over Seton Hall in 1989 was the other).

Advantage: Cal*

* Yet while Bears bested Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, Stanford players would soon face off against Hitler and Admiral Yamamoto. They claimed a national title with a lot more on their minds than basketball. Said forward Bill Cowden in 1998: "All of us had a little concern about what the future was for the country and for ourselves."

4) Who converted a more dramatic three-point play?
It's a desperate time for Cal against Duke in the 1993 second round. The Bears trail by a point at 77-76 with just over two minutes left, having let an 18-point lead completely evaporate. Kidd dribbles along the baseline and passes to Lamond Murray. Bobby Hurley intervenes and knocks the ball loose.
But the sphere kicks off Hurley's knee and back towards Kidd, who picks up the prize and scores the acrobatic lay-in while being hacked by Grant Hill. The Bears never trail again.
The counterpoint occurred five years later in St. Louis when he...was… fouled.

Advantage: Stanford

5) Which remains more embarrassing: Losing to Siena or Wisconsin-Green Bay?
Before facing the No. 3 Cardinal, the Saints had never made the NCAA Tournament. They built a 16-point second half lead before prevailing on two free throws in the closing seconds. Only Keefe's heroics – the freshman scored his team's final 12 points – kept the Card in it. Marc Brown, who scored 32 points, the winning foul shots among them, later had his jersey retired.
In 1994, Wisconsin-Green Bay (now just Green Bay) dissected the fifth-seeded Bears. Coach Dick Bennett's club was ripe for such a chance, nearly stunning Michigan State three years earlier and almost pulling an encore in 1995 against Purdue. Green Bay hasn't been part of the field since 1996 and remains stuck on one NCAA win all-time. Siena has returned five times, knocking Ohio State from the first round two years ago.

Advantage: Cal. Still can't understand Howard Wright being held to eight points. Bennett later took Wisconsin to the Final Four and rebuilt Washington State into a winner.


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