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Cal Basketball

Santa Clara Enters Fourth Season With Veteran Coach

October 24, 2019

Herb Sendek has been a head coach longer than all of his current players have been alive. The 56-year-old Pittsburgh native got his start at Miami University (Ohio) in 1993 and has since been the head coach at North Carolina State, Arizona State, and now Santa Clara. After five straight seasons in the NCAA Tournament at NC State, which included one Sweet 16 run, Sendek left for the desert and a gig at Arizona State in 2007. In nine seasons in Tempe, Sendek made just two NCAA Tourneys (2009 and 2014) and wasn’t enough for the Sun Devils who now have Bobby Hurly. Sendek has been a conference coach of the year at all three stops in the MAC (1995), ACC (2004), and Pac-12 (2010).

Sendek continued his migration west and landed in Santa Clara where he took over the Broncos program. During his first season, the Broncos went 17-16 (10-8). Two years ago, the team took a step back and went 11-20 (8-10). And last year, the rebuild began with the Broncos going 16-15 (8-8).

Santa Clara Broncos

Head Coach: Herb Sendek

Last Season: 16-15 (8-8), KenPom No. 186

2020 KenPom Projection: 20-11 (8-8), No. 122

2020 Torvik Projection: 19-11 (8-8), No. 109

Cal continues its tour through the West Coast Conference with a visit to Santa Clara on December 7th. Depending on which source you trust, the Broncos are projected to finish around fifth or sixth in the conference. Last season, the Broncos had a relatively strong defense (No. 154 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive rankings) and a not-so-great offense (No. 217 in KenPom). With a pace of about 66.3 possessions per game, the Broncos played slower than average.

The Broncos were a bit opposites than Cal in that they weren’t good at protecting the ball or forcing turnovers, but were able to knock down shots at a reasonably good rate. On offense, the Broncos finished the season with an eFG% of 51.6%, good enough for No. 126 in KenPom. On defense, teams shot just 49.1% eFG% against the Broncos, which put Santa Clara at No. 104 nationally. 

In particular, the Broncos were deft at shooting and defending the three-point shot. The Broncos shot a collective 36.2% from three, which was No. 85 in KenPom last season. Opponents shot at a rate of just 31.8%, which made Santa Clara No. 42 at guarding the three-point shot.

Turnovers were the weak spot for last season’s Broncos. Santa Clara ranked No. 299 in turning the ball over on offense (turning the ball over at a rate of 20.5%) and No. 306 at forcing turnovers (opponents turned the ball over at a clip of 16.3%).

Key Returners:

Tahj Eaddy, 6-1, JR., 15 pts, 2.7 rbds, 3.2 asts

Trey Wertz, 6-5, SO., 12.2 pts, 2.9 rbds, 4.7 rbds

Josip Vrankic, 6-8, JR., 13.7 pts, 6.2 rbds, 1.3 asts

There’s a lot to like with the core of players coming back to Santa Clara, and it’s understandable why early-season projections have the Broncos taking a step forward. They return their top-five scorers and basically everyone that played significant time besides Josh Martin, who led the team in rebounds and graduated last year. 

Tahj Eaddy is the player to watch as he averaged 15 points per game as a sophomore last season. But he has a solid supporting cast in Trey Wertz, Josip Vrankic, Keshawn Justice, and Guglielmo Caruso.

Key Incoming Players:

David Thompson, 6-0, JR., JuCo Transfer

Jalen Williams, 6-3, FR.

Jaden Bediako, 6-10, FR.

David Thompson, a junior college transfer from Mt. San Jacinto Junior College in Southern California, who averaged 17.3 points and 4.6 assists a game last year while shooting 52% from the field. At 6-0, he provides the Broncos a formidable backcourt when paired with Eaddy and Wertz.

Jalen Williams and Jaden Bediako are both three-star freshmen that might not see the court much unless they’ve looked good in preseason workouts and practices.

Key Losses:

Josh Martin, 6-7, Graduated

As stated above, Josh Martin was the main loss. Martin snagged about eight rebounds and scored five points per game while averaging a little over 27 minutes.

This is an interesting matchup for Cal. Both teams are stronger at the guard and wing positions and have some unknowns in the frontcourt. KenPom projects a 74-67 Broncos win while Torvik gives the Broncos a 74-69 advantage. This is another winnable game for Cal that could build some confidence as conference season nears.

Other non-con opponent previews:

San Francisco

UC Davis




Prairie View A&M

Cal Baptist



Discussion from...

Santa Clara Enters Fourth Season With Veteran Coach

1,859 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by concordtom
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Road win coming up
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oskidunker said:

Road win coming up
How do you know? Sendek and his matchup zone gave Cal fits when he was at ASU.
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I'm still trying to figure out why we have two true road games this year against USF and Santa Clara.
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Nathan, nice that you are priming the pump with these news/preview items!
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