Monday, March 28, 2011

Saltzman Says...Bay Area College Basketball is back

Despite the entire Bay Area missing out on the Final 68, every program in the Bay Area has reason to be excited.  Instead of Stanford or Cal or St. Mary's getting to the dance and making some noise like in recent years, all three missed March Madness, but all 6 Division 1 programs played in the post-season.

1. Stanford - the most recognized program in the Bay Area had a down year for them, but so did the entire Pac-10.  Arizona, who will lose their best player most likely in the upcoming NBA Draft, was the lone exception by not only making the tournament, but beating Duke to reach the Elite 8 and losing by two to UCONN.  UCLA and Washington were the only other Pac-10 teams to make the tournament.  If Alec Burks stays at Colorado, which is unlikely, than the newly formed Pac-12 could be even better next year.  In the meantime, Johnny Dawkins has a couple of nice recruiting classes he has put together, and if they continue to stay in Palo Alto, the Cardinal could be dancing next March.

Former Duke Standout Johnny Dawkins lead the Cardinal

2. Cal Berkeley - Cal beat Mississippi in the first round of the NIT, 77-74, before losing to future lottery pick Alec Burks and the Colorado Buffaloes in the 2nd round.  The NIT isn't nearly the same as it used to be and it doesn't get the national attention, but Mike Montgomery has been a coach for many years, and playing in the post-season is what he does. 

The Former Cardinal mainstay is now leading Cal
3. St. Mary's - St. Mary's had as disappointing and end to their season as their season had promise at the start.  The Gaels lost to Kent St. in the NIT, even though there was talk that only Colorado should feel more wronged for missing the NCAA tournament.  What started out as a season to take the program to the next level and dethrone Gonzaga two years in a row, turned into a share for the league title, and a loss to the Bulldogs in the final of the WCC tournament that was their eventual undoing to the voters.  Although, their loss to San Diego was the real reason.  Randy Bennett might be the best coach in the Bay Area, but the stinging losses this season need to be motivation for the returning group and in the incoming class.

Randy Bennett has done an amazing job recruiting, especially in Australia

4. Santa Clara - The Broncos are still playing, albeit the Tournament.  They defeated SMU 72-55, and are now heading to the championship game.  Head Coach Kerry Keating had big shoes to fill after the disappointing departure of Dick Davey.  However, Keating seems to be heading in the right direction.
Can Keating build off of the success they have had in 2011?

5. USF - The Dons season was ended by the Broncos, which isn't surprising considering they play in the same league.  However, their season ended in the tournament, which is saying something for one of the historically bad programs the last 20 years.  Their 95-91 loss to the Broncos was a far cry from the drubbings they took night in and night out before Rex Walters took the program over.  Now this scrappy bunch heads into next season ready to take on Santa Clara, St. Mary's and even Gonzaga.  Rex Walters, who attended Piedmont Hills High School (my alma mater) before graduating from Independence High School in San Jose, had an illustrious collegiate career at Kansas.  Now the Bay Area native has his Dons heading in the right direction.

Will the Bay Area native be just what the Dons have been missing?

6. San Jose State - After losing to Utah St. in the WAC tournament, Spartans of past years would head home for the season.  Not this year. This year, they had an opportunity to play some more. And despite losing to Creighton in the opening round, it was a huge step for the Spartans towards respectability.

Can the former Cal Asst. continue to recruit big time players?

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