These former Bulldogs might not have to buy a ticket to get into the Final Four

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Fresno State basketball is not in a good spot, and that goes for the Bulldogs’ men’s and women’s programs. But three former Bulldogs are a victory away from reaching the Final Four, which shows what a little program support can do.

Coach Rodney Terry, who won 20 or more games four times in seven seasons at Fresno State and took the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in 2016, has led Texas to a Big 12 championship and through the NCAA Tournament with victories over Colgate, Penn State and Xavier. Terry was promoted midseason after Longhorns coach Chris Beard was fired following a domestic violence arrest.

Haley Cavinder, left, and Hanna Cavinder, right, transferred from Fresno State to Miami.
Haley Cavinder, left, and Hanna Cavinder, right, transferred from Fresno State to Miami.

The Longhorns, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, will play Miami at 2:05 p.m. on Sunday, looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2003. That game will be televised by CBS.

Miami also is in play in the women’s bracket, with former Bulldogs and Name Image and Likeness superstars Haley and Hanna Cavinder one victory away from reaching the Final Four. Miami, the No. 9 seed in the Greenville Regional, takes on No. 3 Louisiana State at 4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.

Terry left Fresno State after the 2018 season, taking a job at Texas-El Paso despite having two years remaining on his contract and three veteran players returning in Deshon Taylor, Braxton Huggins and Sam Bittner. But the Miners offered a much-better funded program, with a dedicated practice facility and a bigger contract.

The Cavinders, after lighting up the Mountain West Conference for three seasons, transferred to Miami last year.

Fresno State meanwhile continues to slog along, with no clarity on the status of coach Justin Hutson and a women’s program that has not been back to the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons … after making it to the Dance seven in a row from 2008 to 2014.

The Bulldogs’ men this season went 11-20, the women 10-22. It is the first time in school history both programs lost 20 or more games in the same year.

If there is a bright side, Fresno State will be a little richer with San Diego State becoming the first Mountain West team to advance to the Elite Eight.

The Aztecs, the No. 5 seed in the South Regional, also are one win away from the Final Four and will play No. 6 Creighton at 11:20 a.m. on Sunday in the regional final. That game will be televised by CBS.

The Mountain West had four teams in the tournament this year, and the Aztecs snapped the conference’s 11-game losing streak with an opening-round victory over Charleston, then beat Furman and the No. 1 overall seed Alabama.

Every game played counts as a “unit” in the NCAA’s media deal with CBS and Turner Sports; in 2022, a unit was worth nearly $340,000. When a team plays a tournament game, it collects a unit over a rolling six-year period, and the Mountain West splits that revenue among its membership with a bonus for teams that played the games.

San Diego State beat Fresno State 45-43 on Feb. 15 at the Save Mart Center, one of the Bulldogs’ seven losses by five points or less.