OAKLAND -- The Bay Area men's college basketball season tips off Friday night when Stanford and USF meet at Oracle Arena, and if you're wondering when those teams last played, it was 2005.
Which raises the larger question: In a region with six NCAA Division I programs, why is it something of a rarity when two of them meet in nonconference games?
The short answer? Logistics, money, ego and tournament positioning.
Most Bay Area teams say they recognize the potential benefits of increased regional competition, and Stanford acknowledged it has been kicking around an idea this month that it refers to as the Bay Area Challenge.
"There'd be a doubleheader every year with Stanford and Cal in it," said Stanford director of basketball operations Jeff Lamere. "At Oracle, one would play USF and the other Saint Mary's. The next year it would be at HP Pavilion against Santa Clara and San Jose State.
The process would repeat over the next two years, giving each of the other four teams a shot at both Pac-12 schools.
"It's an idea we have discussed as a staff, but it's an idea we have not yet discussed with any other schools," Lamere continued. "We understand there are a number of stakeholders involved and this potentially could be a difficult thing to throw together."
The outline earned a quick thumbs-up from San Jose State. "Something like that would be a lot of fun and a great showcase," Spartans coach George Nessman said.
But Cal coach Mike Montgomery questioned the financial viability. "I believe this is the 50th time this has come up," said Montgomery, who previously coached at Stanford. "Who's going to promote it? Who's going to put up the dollars?"
Conference matchups, of course, are routine. Stanford and Cal meet twice each season in Pac-12 play. Saint Mary's, Santa Clara and USF square off in the West Coast Conference. San Jose State is the region's lone WAC school, but the Spartans face South Bay rival Santa Clara annually.
Scheduling nonconference games, the six schools say, often can be a minefield of conflicting interests and practical roadblocks that start with building availability and open dates.
Coaches have the biggest say in filling the nonconference schedule. Revenue is a consideration, but several talked more about arranging games that cater to the process by which the NCAA tournament field is selected. Victories away from home over quality opposition matter more.
And there is always the "everything to lose, nothing to gain" factor when schools such as Stanford and Cal face mid-majors such as Santa Clara.
"Obviously the politics of college basketball are set in a hierarchy, if you will," Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "Do Cal and Stanford want to play us? Look at the schedule."
The Broncos face neither team. In fact, Santa Clara has played Cal only twice in the last decade, most recently in 2006. Santa Clara and Stanford haven't played since 2008.
Sometimes it comes down to where the game would be played. Montgomery said that while he welcomes a game against Saint Mary's at Haas Pavilion, he has no interest in having the Bears make the 12-mile drive to Moraga as part of a home-and-home series.
"We've got 12,000 seats and there's a chance to generate some dollars. But we're not going to play in a 3,000-seat gym. It's a setup," Montgomery said. "All this sounds like we're superior, but all anybody's doing is protecting their best interests."
Keating, who said his experience as an assistant at Tennessee and UCLA gives him insight into how the bigger programs look at mid-majors, cited conversations with Stanford that gave him reason to think the schools would meet this season.
"We went out last year and went to HP to secure a date in December to play Stanford there, and we did that under the impression they would want to do that," Keating said. "Once they got the date, they didn't want to do it."
Stanford's Lamere said the date -- not the opponent -- was the problem because it would have been the day after the team would have taken a 12-day break for finals.
And Lamere pointed out that disappointment can go both ways. Last spring, he said, Stanford approached Saint Mary's about scheduling a game, but the schools could not make that happen.
Friday night's contest between Stanford and USF came together almost by accident. The Cardinal needed an opponent for the season opener, but because the men's and women's teams alternate opening night access to Maples Pavilion, a home game was not an option.
Lamere heard from another school that USF had reserved Oracle Arena for that night, contacted Dons athletic director Scott Sidwell, and things took off from there.
Officially, the home of the Warriors is considered a neutral site -- making a Stanford victory more valuable in the NCAA's rankings than a win at Maples would have been. Both schools and Ticketmaster handled ticket sales.
Neither school expected the game to come close to filling the 19,596-seat arena, and the decision was made early to close off the upper bowl. Still, demand has been limited, with one source saying about 72 hours before the game that only 2,500 tickets had been distributed.
If the turnout remains low, it would only reinforce Montgomery's point about the appetite for cross-conference competition among the region's schools.
"Most of the interest comes from you guys," he said, referring to the media. "But we've proven over the years that there's just not a ton of interest in Bay Area basketball for those events."