STANFORD -- Stanford received its fourth consecutive top seed in the NCAA women's tournament Monday and is headed for a showdown against Cal in the Spokane Regional.
The NCAA selection committee made the Bay Area rivals the top two seeds in the only regional being held in the West. The local schools could meet April 1 in Spokane for a chance to reach the Final Four.
The Cardinal (31-2) opens the tournament Sunday at 2:20 p.m. against 16th-seeded Tulsa (17-16) in the first round at Maples Pavilion. Michigan and Villanova, both 21-10, will meet in the other first-round game at Stanford. The winners will play Tuesday for a berth in the Sweet 16 in Spokane.
Stanford enters its 26th consecutive tournament without junior Toni Kokenis. Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said Monday the former starting guard won't play this weekend. Kokenis has not played since Feb. 3 because of an undisclosed medical condition.
Second-seeded Cal (28-3) faces No. 15 Fresno State on Sunday in Lubbock, Texas, in the tournament opener. Texas Tech and South Florida are the other schools in the subregional.
As expected Baylor, Notre Dame and Connecticut received the other three top seedings.
Penn State got the third seed in the Spokane regional, Georgia the fourth seed. Barring any upsets Stanford and Cal are on a collision course for their third meeting of the season.
The schools split their Pac-12 Conference games this season. In January, the Cardinal defeated Cal 62-53 at Haas Pavilion but then fell 67-55 five days later at Maples. The schools were expected to meet for the Pac-12 tournament championship this month in Seattle until UCLA soundly defeated Cal 70-58 in the semifinals.
Stanford players celebrated seeing Cal in their bracket.
"We have a rivalry that is really great for the West," junior forward Chiney Ogwumike said. "Them getting a No. 2 seed is great."
Senior forward Joslyn Tinkle liked the idea of potentially facing a familiar opponent.
"It would be fun with the bragging rights that goes into it," she said. "For the Pac-12 itself, it would be awesome to see that game again."
Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb didn't want to look that far ahead.
"We don't get to choose," she said of the Bears' placement. "We're excited that we're in Spokane, and if the opportunity arises to meet Stanford, that means we're in the Elite Eight, which would be great. And at that point, we will worry about Stanford. But I always am happy for them, that they're a one seed, they have earned it."
Four Pac-12 schools advanced to the tournament with UCLA seeded third and Colorado fifth in their respective regionals.
It seemed Stanford was headed for another Elite Eight showdown against Duke because the Blue Devils were ranked one spot ahead of Cal in the AP Top 25. Duke also defeated the Bears this season.
Instead second-seeded Duke -- which fell to Stanford in a regional final last year -- was placed in the Norfolk Regional with top-seeded Notre Dame. That allowed the Bay Area schools to possibly meet in the biggest matchup in the history of the rivalry.
It's a similar situation to former conference rivals Baylor playing Texas A&M in a regional final two years ago.
"We would be thrilled if both teams were in that game," VanDerveer said of the Bay Area schools. "If we can get to that it's all good."
First, however, is playing Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes reached their second NCAA tournament by winning four consecutive games to take the Conference USA tournament title and the automatic bid. Tulsa is led by senior guard Taleya Mayberry (18.7 points per game) and senior forward Tiffani Couisnard (8.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game).
"We're playing a team I know nothing about," VanDerveer said. "I like the variety."
Stanford, which would face Baylor in the national semifinals, is trying to reach its sixth consecutive Final Four. The Cardinal handed top-ranked Baylor its only defeat over two seasons with a 71-69 victory in November in Hawaii.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.