Carlos Marshall Jr. and Adama Bal headline a team that could finally force its way into the NCAA Tournament equation.

Making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid out of the WCC, like any mid-major league, is an incredibly difficult task. Not only does conference play lack many resume-building games, but a lot of mid-majors with a real shot at making noise find it difficult to schedule high-caliber games. On top of those issues, most teams are just not good enough to win the opportunities they do get in nonconference play.

For Santa Clara, however, the task has been made even more difficult by the emergence of Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s near-annual Top 25 teams. It has been 27 years since the Broncos’ last NCAA Tournament berth, back when Steve Nash was running the show. Since then, Santa Clara has had an All-American, three WCC Players of the Year, two first-round NBA Draft picks, and a WCC regular-season championship.

This year, however, Santa Clara has the talent to threaten both the Zags and the Gaels with losses in Leavey Center, and the Broncos have the schedule to build a strong at-large resume. They have yet to play a top-200 team in the KenPom rankings, but the schedule ramps up on Tuesday. Santa Clara will have plenty of chances at winnable Quadrant 1 and 2 games.

So, what is the blueprint for the elusive at-large bid?


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Carlos Marshall Jr. is a star in the making

In the last two years, Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek has turned both Jalen Williams and Brandin Podziemski into first-round locks. In fact, his teams have featured five all-WCC guards in seven seasons. Fifth-year senior guard Carlos Marshall Jr. looks primed to become the sixth.

Heading into last season, Marshall was expected to have a key role for the Broncos after transferring in from Tennessee State, but he suffered a season-ending injury after just three games. That injury opened the door for Podziemski’s emergence, but this year’s team will need the two-time All-OVC honoree to stay healthy.

Through two games, Marshall is averaging 23.5 points and 3.5 rebounds on 79.2 percent shooting from the floor and 66.7 percent from deep. His efficient scoring is impressive on its own, but his ability to attack off the dribble, on catch-and-shoot opportunities, and in transition makes him even more dangerous.

Marshall is not just an offensive weapon, either. His 6-6 frame, above-average strength, and solid athleticism make him a valuable asset on the defensive end. He is the player that every coach circles on the scouting report when prepping for their game against Santa Clara. Marshall might be the most athletic player on the floor when Santa Clara plays Saint Mary’s, and he fits the mold that prior “Zag killers” have had.

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