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Basketball: Can the men match the women?

After five straight Final Four appearances by the Stanford women’s basketball team, Cal took a turn for the first time last season.

The Cardinal and Bears both are rated as preseason top-10 teams, so either could challenge to get there again next March.

With the college basketball season beginning Friday, there are no such lofty expectations for the Cal and Stanford men’s teams. The two programs have had their share of success but have combined for just one Final Four bid since 1960.

If the women can do it, why not the men?

Mike Montgomery, who has directed the Cal men to NCAA tournament berths in four of his five seasons and coached Stanford to the 1998 Final Four, declined to offer more than this concise explanation.

“They’re really good,” Montgomery said of the women’s programs. “End of story.”

In fact, the reasons are complex, involving differences in recruiting, national competitive balance, student-athlete priorities and, perhaps most of all, the impact of greater financial incentives in the men’s game.

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 CAL & STANFORD AT THE FINAL FOUR

Here’s a look at Cal and Stanford men’s and women’s basketball teams that have reached the Final Four:

Women

– Stanford: 1990-x, 1991, 1992-x, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.

– Cal: 2013.

Men

– Stanford: 1942-x, 1998.

– Cal: 1946, 1959-x, 1960.

x — indicates NCAA champion.

Jeff Faraudo