Imagine this scenario: Cal and Saint Mary's meet in Dayton, Ohio, in a March 19 first-round game in the NCAA tournament, with the winner advancing to the San Jose regional.

A tantalizing prospect?

Absolutely, and not altogether far-fetched, according to ESPN.com "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi, who projected that matchup as recently as last weekend.

Lunardi's vision -- suggesting they would battle for a No. 12 seed -- points to the delicate state of both teams' postseason hopes. Neither is a lock to make the NCAA field, but both can control their own fate.

How it all unfolds for the Bears and Gaels will continue to take shape this week with each team facing a pair of significant games:

Cal hits the road to face Pac-12 leader Oregon on Thursday night, and then visits Oregon State on Saturday. They are the final two road games of the league schedule for the Bears.

Saint Mary's is home to face West Coast Conference rival BYU on Thursday before playing Saturday in Moraga in an ESPN Bracketbusters matchup against Creighton of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Here's a look at the road ahead for both local teams:

Cal

The Bears (16-9, 8-5) have won five of six to move within two games of the Ducks. Over the past three weeks, Cal has beaten Oregon, Arizona and UCLA -- the league's top three teams -- sparking its RPI computer rank to climb from the high 70s to No. 53.


Advertisement

"Three weeks ago, people probably would have given us up for dead," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "Things have kind of changed in the way we're perceived. We're going to have to win some more games, but we're in the conversation. That's where you want to be."

The Bears began the season 0-9 against teams rated in the top 100 of the RPI but now are 6-9. Oregon represents another big opportunity, but just as important is avoiding a loss to Oregon State, with its poor RPI of 173. Cal hasn't lost to a team with a computer rating worse than 100 all season.

Of course, the Bears aren't in the news simply because they are winning. Montgomery's infamous shove of Cal star Allen Crabbe during Sunday's win over USC has everyone talking.

Except the players, according to Crabbe, who said the Oregon game is the team's sole focus. "Nobody cares about the (other) situation. It's over with," he said. "It's in the past."

Saint Mary's

The Gaels (22-5, 11-2) are firmly entrenched in second place in the WCC, 11/2 games back of Gonzaga but two ahead of BYU. Saint Mary's hasn't lost to the Cougars since they joined the conference before last season.

Gaels coach Randy Bennett said there is no chance his team will be overconfident about the rematch.

"Our guys know they're good," Bennett said. "They know we kind of stole one with Delly's shot."

That was Jan. 16 in Provo, Utah, where the Gaels rallied from a 20-4 hole and won 70-69 when senior guard Matthew Dellavedova made a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Just as important is the Gaels' game Saturday against Creighton, which began the season 17-1, including a win at Cal. The Bluejays are just 4-5 in their past nine games but sit at No. 43 in the RPI, four spots better than Saint Mary's.

The WCC provides Saint Mary's fewer chances to duel high-level opponents, as evidenced by its 3-3 record against top 100 RPI teams. The Gaels have beaten no team rated high than No. 63 BYU. Given that, the Creighton game is big.

"They're all big," Bennett said.

He'd get no argument from Montgomery.

  • Santa Clara became just the third team in the nation this season with four 1,000-point career scorers when Raymond Cowels logged eight points Saturday against Pepperdine to reach 1,001.

    He joins Kevin Foster (2,187 points), Marc Trasolini (1,528) and Evan Roquemore (1,198), giving the foursome a total of 5,914 points -- easily the most by any four players on the same team in the nation.

    Davidson (5,192 points) and North Carolina State (4,699) also have four 1,000-point men.

  • The Cal women's team, winner of 11 straight games, can set a program record for consecutive victories by posting home wins Friday and Sunday against Oregon and Oregon State, the Pac-12's two worst teams.

    Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.