Cal and Stanford have done their best to spice up things this week despite a raw deal from the Pac-12 schedule-makers.
The Bears are fresh from a last-second upset of unbeaten, top-ranked Arizona -- their first victory over a No. 1 team in 20 years.
The Cardinal has won five of its last seven after beating Arizona State and nearly toppling the Wildcats.
Both teams are factors in the Pac-12 race, both squarely in the chase for at-large berths to the NCAA tournament.
The stakes are high enough -- and the momentum strong enough -- to largely offset a horrendous tipoff assignment:
The archrivals collide Wednesday at 6 p.m. (ESPN2) in Berkeley.
Many fans haven't even gotten off work by 6, much less made it to Haas Pavilion.
The Pac-12, that's what.
The conference has relaxed its scheduling policies for football and men's basketball to create more broadcast windows for ESPN and Fox: more football games Thursday and Friday, more basketball Wednesday and Sunday.
In exchange, the league is collecting $3 billion from the networks over a 12-year period, a windfall that has fueled facility upgrades and salary increases throughout the conference.
On the whole, the revenue windfall is well worth logistical sacrifices. But some aspects of the revamped scheduling should be reassessed:
The 6 p.m. tipoff in Berkeley on Wednesday, for example, is as fan unfriendly as it gets.
(Rivalry basketball games should never start before 7 on weeknights, especially for teams in the same metropolitan area.)
We'll know early in the game whether Cal (15-7, 6-3 Pac-12) has shaken off the Arizona hangover and has the necessary urgency to beat a team it handled a month ago.
And we should know early on whether Stanford (14-7, 5-4) has mustered the resolve required to win on the road against one of the league's best teams.
It's probably overstating the situation to frame this as an elimination game -- the loser will undoubtedly remain on the NCAA at-large bubble.
The winner, however, should be in solid shape entering the stretch run.
The Gaels (16-7, 6-4 West Coast Conference) are tied with Brigham Young and surprising USF, three games behind Gonzaga in the loss column.
More problematic, they're No. 58 in the latest RPI and have no top-50 wins.
Sure seems as though it's automatic bid-or-bust for Saint Mary's.
(WCC reminder: The 10-team conference has a revised tournament format, with the top-six finishers receiving byes into the quarterfinals.)
For perspective on the Cardinal's dominance thus far, consider:
Stanford's 2011-12 powerhouse, which went 18-0 in league play and reached the Final Four, outscored its Pac-12 opponents by 22.2 points per game.
The SJSU men are winless in league play and have dropped their last four by a combined 95 points.
The Spartans (6-16, 0-10 MW) have two reasonable opportunities to collect their first conference win: Saturday at struggling Fresno State and next week at home against Air Force.
Santa Clara freshman guard Jared Brownridge rebounded from a poor performance against Gonzaga to score 20 points Saturday in SCU's loss to Portland.
It was the 11th 20-point game of the season for Brownridge.
Contact Jon Wilner at email@example.com or 408-920-5716.
Stanford (14-7, 5-4 Pac-12) at Cal (15-7, 6-3), 6 p.m., ESPN2