Why The Washington Huskies Are In The N.I.T.

The Washington Huskies are in the N.I.T. because they’re not good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament.  That’s the long and the short of it.

Why?

Where do I start?

The primary storyline of the 2011/2012 Washington Huskies goes like this:  the regular season Pac-12 champions were denied a berth into the NCAA Tournament.  They were snubbed, this is an outrage, this hasn’t happened in the modern era of NCAA basketball to a power conference winner, yadda yadda yadda.

Of course, the primary storyline of the 2011/2012 Washington Huskies also goes like this:  the reason why the Huskies were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament is because ALL they did was win the Pac-12.  That’s it.  If you look at everything else the 21-10 Huskies have accomplished, the only real good thing they were able to do was beat up on a bunch of bad teams in a bad conference.  Here’s the RPI for the Pac-12:

  • 37 – Cal
  • 61 – Colorado
  • 63 – Oregon
  • 70 – Washington
  • 76 – Arizona
  • 97 – Stanford
  • 127 – UCLA
  • 132 – Oregon State
  • 185 – Washington State
  • 252 – Arizona State
  • 270 – USC
  • 274 – Utah

So, yeah, against that crap sandwich, we went 14-4.  Of course, we went 1-3 against the top three teams ahead of us, which means we were 13-1 against RPI teams above 70 (aka:  RPI teams not in the NCAA Tournament).  The one loss?  Of course, against the 127th ranked UCLA Bruins in the final conference game of the season.  To make matters worse, we followed that beaut with a defeat on a neutral court to the 132nd ranked team in the country in getting bounced in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

To complete things, here are the RPIs of the non-conference teams we played:

  • Georgia State – 141 (win)
  • Florida Atlantic – 207 (win)
  • Portland – 238 (win)
  • Saint Louis – 31 (loss)
  • Houston Baptist – 324 (win)
  • Nevada – 66 (loss)
  • Marquette – 9 (loss)
  • Duke – 5 (loss)
  • UC Santa Barbara – 118 (win)
  • South Dakota State – 43 (loss)
  • Cal State Northridge – 323 (win)
  • Seattle U – 277 (win)

I’m sure you can read, but let me reiterate:  our greatest non-conference victory was a 7-point win at home against the 118th best team in the nation.  If you wanted to think a little more outside the box, you could say our greatest non-conference victory was a 2-point defeat on a neutral court against the 9th best team in the nation, but that’s neither here nor there.

Add it all up and you’ve got 0-5 against the RPI Top 50 and you’ve got 4-8 against the RPI Top 100.  No one in their right mind is counting victories in the RPI Top 150, but even there we’re talking only 9-9 (thank you Georgia State).

On the one hand, yeah, I understand the gripes of Husky fans.  Why even play the fucking regular season if the stand-alone winner of a major conference doesn’t make it into the Big Dance?  Why wouldn’t you just forfeit every other game, play completely vanilla basketball the rest of the time, and bank your entire season on winning 4 games in 4 days?  I mean, shit, Colorado lost three of their last four regular season games to fall out of the Top 4 in the Pac-12.  Then, they only had to beat a depleted Utah team, catch a break against Oregon, trample a Cal team whose number they appear to have, and finally topple Arizona to get an 11-seed in the NCAAs.  What, in other words, was the fucking point of the previous 18 games???

To that, I say, the Huskies had plenty of chances.  Like:  make a couple of free throws and beat Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament.  Like:  beat a ranked opponent.  Like:  shit, I don’t know, beat ANY of the five teams they lost to in the RPI top 50!  If just one of those things go our way, we’re at the very least looking at a Play-In game tomorrow instead of an N.I.T. game.

I keep hearing from these people knocking our scheduling.  Here’s the deal with scheduling:  first of all, they’re made up in advance, so you never know exactly who is going to be good and who isn’t.  The Huskies had a pretty good idea that Duke and Marquette would be good – really good, in fact – and that’s why we fought hard to get them on the board.  The fact of the matter is, we had no idea some of these other teams would be as good as they are.  South Dakota State in the RPI top 50?  Nevada landing at #66?  Saint Louis nearly cracking the top 30?  Who had THOSE teams figured out at the beginning of the season?

Teams that are perceived as bad going into a non-conference season tend to jump up and surprise.  That’s what Romar has been preaching for years now.  The fact that we don’t have Gonzaga on our schedule is NOT the reason why we’re playing in a lesser tournament right now.

And speaking of Gonzaga, we’re not Gonzaga!  The Pac-12 is supposed to be a Power Conference full of Power Teams looking to fight their way into the NCAA Tournament.  We shouldn’t HAVE to schedule non-conference games like Gonzaga has to schedule non-conference games.  We should be able to play in-conference and see our RPI go up, not down.

But, for whatever reason, the Pac-12 just didn’t cut it.  The Pac-12 WASN’T a Power Conference.  They were a joke.  We WISH we played in Gonzaga’s conference this year!

The thing that really caught my eye was a quote from Lorenzo Romar in this blog post.  I’m not going to say it’s a rare bit of candor by the head coach, because I feel Romar is more open and honest than most, but it was certainly refreshing … and a little enraging.

He said maybe he’ll change the way he coaches the non-conference games. In the past, Romar liked to use those games to get ready for the Pac-12 season. “Maybe in terms of your rotations early in the year,” he said. “Maybe we get into our rotation quicker because of how important these games are. Sometimes we try to play a lot of guys early to figure out who is going to be the best out there on the floor. But we’ll see how it goes.”

When I think of all the minutes that went to guys like Martin Breunig … when I think of how long it took to settle on a solid starting 5 … when I see an opportunity to play Portland on the road to get used to playing in a hostile environment before we suffer the shock of going to places like Saint Louis and Nevada …

Yeah, the way Romar conducts his non-conference business most DEFINITELY gets this team ready to kick some serious ass by the time the conference games start.  But, you have to look at what this conference was; especially before the season started!  We KNEW the Pac-12 was a “down” conference!  Maybe, as a member of that conference, you don’t like to think of it as being “down”, because obviously the games are still tough and the players are still passionate about winning.  But it didn’t take a fucking rocket scientist to see that the rest of the nation considered the Pac-12 a one- or two-bid league.  GOING INTO THE SEASON!

At that point, you’ve got to change your tactics.  You’ve got to do whatever it takes to win the important games, and unfortunately, all the important games came at the beginning of the season, when we weren’t yet matured into the force we would become.  Obviously, you would think that the Huskies would be a lock for the NCAA Tournament if they go 14-4 and win the conference outright; nobody – at the beginning of the year – would’ve thought otherwise.

Then again, nobody would’ve thought the Huskies would’ve been 0-5 against the RPI Top 50.  Nobody would’ve thought the Pac-12 as a whole would’ve been 1-23 against all non-conference RPI Top 50 opponents.

Now we know.  Now we know better, anyway.  If the nation is pissing in the face of your conference at the beginning of the season, and you proceed to prove them right at every turn in the non-conference portion of your schedule, your conference season won’t matter.  Looking back, we’ll get to say that the 2011/2012 Huskies won the Pac-12 conference outright.

And next to the asterisk, it’ll say:  did not make the NCAA Tournament.

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