Stanford and Cal might get a third game after all -- this time for a chance to reach the Final Four.
The Bay Area rivals were placed as the first and second seeds in the NCAA women's tournament Spokane Regional on Monday and will play each other for the right to get to New Orleans if all goes according to form.
The schools split their Pac-12 Conference games in January, but an anticipated third meeting in the conference tournament final never materialized because the Golden Bears lost in the semifinals.
Cal (28-3) still received a No. 2 seed, the highest in school history. Stanford (31-2) got its fourth consecutive top seed as it goes for its sixth Final Four in a row.
"We would be thrilled if both teams were in that game," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "If we can get to that, it's all good."
But first the Cardinal opens the tournament at 2:20 p.m. Sunday against 16th-seeded Tulsa (17-16) in the first round at Maples Pavilion. Michigan and Villanova will meet in the other first-round game at Stanford. The winners will play Tuesday for a berth in the Sweet 16 in Spokane.
Cal opens the tournament against No. 15 Fresno State (24-8), winner of the Mountain West Conference tournament, at 1:20 p.m. Saturday in Lubbock, Texas. No. 7 Texas Tech plays No. 10 South Florida in the other game with the winners meeting Monday for a trip to Spokane.
"We don't get to choose," Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb 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."
The Cardinal joined Baylor, Notre Dame and Connecticut as the top seeds in the four regionals.
Stanford will be without junior Toni Kokenis as it enters its 26th consecutive tournament. VanDerveer said Monday that the former starting guard won't play this weekend because of an undisclosed medical condition that has bothered her all season. Kokenis hasn't played since Feb. 3.
The Bay Area schools are far from assured a third meeting with tough opponents in their bracket, including third-seeded Penn State and fourth-seeded Georgia.
But after splitting Pac-12 games this season, the rivals would like another go. In January, the Cardinal defeated Cal 62-53 at Haas Pavilion but fell 67-55 five days later at Maples.
"We have a rivalry that is really great for the West," Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike said. "Them getting a No. 2 seed is great."
Stanford 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."
Four Pac-12 schools reached the tournament with UCLA seeded third and Colorado fifth in their respective regional brackets.
Tulsa reached its second NCAA tournament by winning four consecutive games to take the Conference USA tournament title and the automatic bid. The Golden Hurricane, which finished fifth in its conference in the regular season, 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."
Cal eliminated Fresno State in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs are undersized but played Stanford tough in a season-opening 72-61 defeat at Maples. They finished second in the Mountain West during the regular season and are led by a familiar face around the Bay Area -- junior guard Ki-Ki Moore, who averages 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
"I know Ki-Ki played at Sacred Heart Cathedral with Tierra (Rogers)," Gottlieb said. "Obviously she is a terrific player."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond. Staff writer Phil Jensen contributed to this report.
See the tournament bracket on
Page 4 to find out who plays whom, when and where.