College basketball: Mark Madsen comes full circle in Stanford-Cal rivalry

College basketball: Mark Madsen comes full circle in Stanford-Cal rivalry

Friday night will be a full-circle moment for first-year Cal coach Mark Madsen, competing against Stanford, the school he led to a Final Four as a player in 1998.

“It’s personal in a lot of ways,” Madsen said this week. “My first unofficial (recruiting) visit was to Cal, and Jerod Haase was on the team. So I watched Jerod Haase practice, and now Jerod’s coaching Stanford and I’m coaching Cal.”

Mark Madsen celebrates a dunk following an Art Lee steal against Rhode Island in the 1998 Midwest Regional Finals. Madsen was fouled, and he made a free throw to give Stanford a 76-74 lead. Stanford won the game 79-77 to advance to the Final Four. 

The Bears (7-12, 3-5 Pac-12) and Cardinal (10-8, 5-3) will square off for the first time this season at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Madsen played at Stanford for Mike Montgomery, who later closed his coaching career with a stint at Cal. Madsen lost to the Bears the first time he faced them as a player, then won seven in a row.

Haase, who transferred to Kansas from Cal after one season, was 2-0 alongside Jason Kidd in duels vs. the Cardinal in 1992-93. Haase is 9-8 coaching Stanford against the Bears.

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase reacts to a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson) 

It’s been nearly a quarter-century since Madsen was involved in this rivalry and he said this week has been no different than any other during the Pac-12 season. So far.

“Once game day hits, I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit of emotion because it’s my alma mater, had some great memories there, some great friendships and we had success,” he said.

Cal guard Jalen Cone, a first-year transfer from Northern Arizona, said he thought he understood the rivalry when he arrived on campus. Then he and a couple teammates drove to Stanford Stadium to sit in the student section for the Big Game.

“I didn’t truly realize the significance of the rivalry until the football game . . . and I saw how crazy the atmosphere was,” said Cone, who joined students and Cal fans celebrating on the field after the Bears’ 27-15 victory. “I never got to do anything like that . . . storming the field, taking pictures, dancing, hanging out with some of the football players. I get the Big Game now.”

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Cal football coach Justin Wilcox reached out to Madsen this week to tell him he’s bringing the entire football team to Friday night’s game.

“That’s meaningful for us,” Madsen said.


Madsen said his only frustration with the Cal-Stanford rivalry is the 47-mile distance between the two campuses.

“These schools are not as close to each other as, say, USC and UCLA,” he said, alluding to the fact those schools are just 14 miles apart. “You’ve got the Bay, you’ve got bridges, you’ve got all this stuff. Part of me wishes there was more proximity.

“It’s a great rivalry already, but if we take the Bay out of the equation it’d be even better.”


Friday’s Cal-Stanford game is notable in that both teams are coming off victories in their most recent outings. Amazingly, that hasn’t been the case in the past 21 meetings, spanning almost exactly 10 calendar years.


Saint Mary’s has gone 11-1 since starting the season 3-5 and is the lone remaining unbeaten team in West Coast Conference games. One of many reasons for the Gaels’ turnaround is the improved play of first-year starting point guard Augustas Marciulionis.

The son of ex-Warriors favorite and Hall of Famer Sarunas

St. Mary’s Marciulionis (3) gestures after making a basket against the Portland Pilots in the second half of their game at St. Maryxe2x80x99s College in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. St. Mary’s College defeated the Portland Pilots 95-52. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

has cranked up his production and efficiency, averaging 12.4 points, 5.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals and converting 38 percent from the 3-point arc over that 12-game stretch.


“And, he takes the best guard every game,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. “Most people don’t measure defense. He’s a stud there.”


Understandably overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding Tara VanDerveer’s climb past Mike Krzyzewski as college basketball’s winningest all-time coach, Stanford junior forward Kiki Iriafen delivered the latest in a series of impressive performances last week.

In a pair of high-profile victories, Iriafen had 21 points and 15 rebounds against Oregon, then a career-high 36 points and 12 rebounds vs. Oregon State, giving her eight games this season with at least 20 and 10. She became the first Stanford player with 35 points and 10 rebounds in a game since Chiney Ogwumike in 2014.


With 113 made free throws, Santa Clara sophomore guard Tess Heal ranks second nationally, sandwiched between a pair of All-Americans. LSU’s Angel Reese tops the list with 115 and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is third with 108.

Sophomore guard Tess Heal has helped the Santa Clara women’s basketball team race out to a 12-3 record this season. (Christina Leung / Santa Clara Athletics) 

Heal’s foul-shooting accuracy of .904 ranks 14th nationally and is better than that of either Reese (.732) or Clark (.837).