Written by: Phil Simon
The excitement of Santa Clara men's basketball returns to the hardwood in November with an intriguing schedule that will have as many as seven games against teams that participated in the 2014 NCAA tournament. The Broncos begin their 2014-15 season in the Leavey Center with an exhibition vs. Cal State East Bay on Fri., Nov. 7 at 7 pm.
The Broncos will open the 2014-15 season in the Leavey Center on Nov. 14 with a game against Cal State Fullerton of the Big West Conference and host San Diego Christian the next day. Prior to their contest at Michigan State, the Broncos will play their first road game of the season traveling to Logan, Utah to battle Mountain West foe Utah State on Nov. 19.
Highlighting the non-conference portion of games is a trip to the Orlando Classic in late November that will feature a non-bracketed match-up at Big 10 tournament champion Michigan State, who posted 29 wins and advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament last season, and a bracketed contest against Southeastern Conference (SEC) force Tennessee at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. The Vols won 24 games last season and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Based on their results vs. Tennessee, the Broncos will either play Kansas or Rhode Island the next day. Depending on the outcome of that game, they will play on Sunday vs. Georgia Tech, Marquette or Rider.
Also on the docket is the Cable Car Classic, hosted by the Broncos in the Leavey Center from Dec. 17-23. Big West Tournament champions and NCAA tournament participant Cal Poly, along with Northeastern will compete in the annual event.
Santa Clara will look to continue its dominance over cross-town rival San Jose State when the two meet at the Events Center on Dec. 6. SCU has won the last four meetings and 10 of 11 over the Spartans dating back to the 2003-04 season. Pac-12 member Washington State makes its second-ever trip to Santa Clara when the Cougars visit the Leavey Center on Dec. 13.
The rigorous slate of early season games should get the Broncos prepped for what should be another competitive season in the West Coast Conference. Six teams – BYU (NCAA), Gonzaga (NCAA), Pacific (CIT) Saint Mary's (NIT), San Diego (CIT) and San Francisco (NIT) – represented the conference in the postseason, and four teams posted at least 20 victories.
The start of league action will close out the 2014 calendar year and Santa Clara will play four of its first six WCC games on the road. The Broncos open at Saint Mary's on Dec. 27, the earliest they have ever started league play, and Pacific on Dec. 29. They will host the same two schools; Pacific on Feb. 26 and Saint Mary's on Feb. 28, to close out their regular season league schedule.
In between will be home-and-home games against every other WCC school and a contest against the Saint Katherine College Firebirds (Jan. 13), a liberal arts school located in San Marcos, Calif.
The Broncos will open the home portion of their WCC schedule with their first New Year's Day game since 1969 when they host WCC runner-up BYU. The two will also close out the month of January with a meeting in Provo on Jan. 31.
Santa Clara and Gonzaga hook up on Jan. 10 at the Kennel. The Broncos will also host the 'Zags in an ESPN network televised game on Feb. 5.
For the seventh consecutive year the WCC Tournament will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, with the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament being decided over a four-day span from Mar. 6-10. The tournament title game will be contested on March 10 and will air live on ESPN networks.
Santa Clara will be featured on the ESPN family of networks at least five times during the season, including three games in the preseason. Several other games will be televised during the year by regional broadcast partners and the Big Ten Network.
The 13-man roster assembled by eighth-year head coach Kerry Keating for the 108th season of Santa Clara basketball is a mix of youth and experience that consists of six freshmen, three sophomores and four seniors. Leading the way is last season's WCC Newcomer of the Year Jared Brownridge, who established seven SCU freshman records. Brownridge (567) and senior Brandon Clark (557) combined to score 1,124 points last season, over 48 percent of the team's total (2,340).
Clark and Yannick Atanga have played in all 101 games during their three-year careers and fellow senior Denzel Johnson has played 85 games. The three will be looked on to provide leadership to the nine underclassmen.
With recent postseason success that includes championships at the CBI in 2013 and the CIT in 2011, the Broncos are looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.