A week ago at this time, Washington was in the midst of confusing Pac-12 pundits, having locked down Colorado on their way to its fourth straight win to start Pac-12 play. At that time, despite some ugly non-conference performances that included losses to Albany and Nevada along with blowout losses to Colorado State and Ohio State, the Huskies were firmly in the conversation for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament field. Granted, that conversation is little more than bluster at this point in the season, but improbably, and with not a little help from a general mediocrity in the middle of the pack nationally, the Huskies were in that conversation. And then they came out Saturday night and laid an egg against Utah, never leading in the game and riding poor shooting and a disinterested defense to a nine-point home loss. And then last night, they went on the road to Corvallis against a team without a conference win and, yup, you guessed it, went a long way towards repeating that effort. They trailed by as many as 20 in the first half and, despite a late run, again never led in the game. So, are the Huskies’ at-large hopes officially dead?
After A Strong Conference Start, A Couple of Bad Losses Leave Washington In Trouble (Geoffrey McAllister, AP)
According to Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology, Washington is among the first four teams out. Andy Glockner’s most recent Bubble Watch includes the Huskies still in the mix. Both of those were published before the Oregon State loss, but one road loss in conference play in the middle of January is by no means enough to eliminate a team from Tournament contention. The Huskies still have two-thirds of their conference schedule ahead of them and with six games against Oregon, Arizona and UCLA remaining, they’ve got plenty of chances to add big wins in the future. And, with teams like BYU, Iowa, Indiana State and Texas A&M hanging around the bubble, there is plenty of room for a team with UW’s current flawed resume to remain in the discussion, with a couple of caveats. First, losses to the back end of the Pac-12 need to cease. The Huskies play Oregon State and Washington State once more and they’ve still got USC on the schedule twice; those all need to be Ws. Secondly, they need to score a couple of good conference wins against those three top teams. Their best chances will be at home, but it sure wouldn’t hurt the Huskies’ resume if they could go on the road and steal a win, like for instance, against Oregon on Saturday (and, if they did that, UCLA and Arizona would probably send the Huskies’ a nice gift basket or something). Long story short, despite a mediocre 12-7 record with some befuddling losses mixed in there, the Huskies aren’t dead yet. But man, do they have a lot of work to do.