This is a collosal bummer to have to write. Exactly 2 weeks ago to this very day, things couldn’t have been more exciting for this team. We were fresh off of an exciting overtime victory over ASU, we were a day away from a massive showdown against Arizona at home, with the hope being that we’d wash the taste of an earlier embarrassing defeat out of our mouths, we were 7-3 in conference play and the world was our oyster!
Now, we’re 7-7 in conference play, and things are really starting to spiral out of control. Last night’s home game against Cal – the only time we play this team this season, unless we somehow meet up in the conference tournament – was really our last realistic opportunity to gain a lot of brownie points with the NCAA Tournament Committee, with their 21-ranking in RPI. No one expects the Huskies to go down to Eugene and beat the Ducks, and at this point I have to wonder if it’s even realistic for the Huskies to beat the Beavers. Considering Stanford isn’t even in the Top 50 in RPI, and Wazzu isn’t even in the Top 100, I mean, what else can you say?
There is absolutely no chance whatsoever for the Huskies to get an At Large bid without a strong showing in the Pac-12 Tournament. At this point, you might have to go so far as to say the Huskies NEED to win the Pac-12 Tournament just to make the Big Dance. Even though it’s sorta pointless, I’ll try to break down some options and what needs to happen for the Huskies to get in.
If the Huskies finish 2-2 or worse in these last four regular season games, they will have to – without question – win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance. A 2-2 record likely means the Huskies beat Stanford and Wazzu (if I had to bet the family farm, this is the scenario I’d put it on), which are essentially meaningless victories. Even if it were flipped, and the Huskies beat the two best remaining opponents on their schedule – the Oregon schools – I feel like those quality victories would be so besmirched by losing at home to Stanford and Wazzu that it would cancel everything out. So, let’s call that Option A.
Option B is the Huskies going 3-1, which likely means they win out at home and steal that game from Oregon State next week. Should this come to pass, the Huskies would finish 18-12, 10-8 in conference. At that point, the Huskies would have to win a minimum of two games in the Pac-12 tourney (the first win being against another bubble-type team lower in the Pac-12, the second win being against one of the top 4 teams). Both of those wins are helpful (the win against a top 4 team, for obvious reasons; and the win against a bubble team to hopefully knock them out of At Large contention). Let’s say Oregon State finishes poorly and then loses in the first round of the Pac-12 Tourney, that’s GREAT for Washington, as it probably bumps them down to the N.I.T. Say what you will about Washington’s strength of schedule and their number of quality wins, but Washington also has some of the most exciting Freshmen in the conference, and I think a lot of people would like to see what they’re capable of in the NCAAs. However, a 3-1 finish might require the Huskies to get all the way to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game to secure their bid. I do think a 21-win Husky team gets into the Big Dance, regardless of whether we win the conference tournament or not.
Option C is the Huskies going 4-0, which is the least likely thing to happen by a million miles. Should the Huskies win out, that gives them 19 wins on the year, and a couple of solid wins over the Oregon schools. As amazing as that sounds, I still think the Dawgs need to win at least 1 in the Pac-12 Tourney, if not two. 20 wins puts UW on the bubble again, which puts them at the mercy of what other schools around the country do. 21 wins puts UW in, flat out.
So, any way you slice it, the Huskies need 5 wins for a chance to make it, and 6 wins to guarantee their placement in the Tourney. There’s no easy road to making the Big Dance anymore. Cal was our last chance to sort of boner our way into this thing. Beating Cal, Stanford, and Wazzu would’ve put us at 18 wins, and a win against one of the Oregon schools, combined with a win in the first round of the Pac-12 Tourney, would’ve put us at 20. A 20-win Husky team with a win over the Golden Bears would’ve had MUCH more solid footing with the NCAA Tournament Committee than the alternative.