Updated: 3/2/18 at 5:37pm to include Thursday night’s results and Nebraska loss to Michigan on Friday. 

NCAA Automatic Invite

First, let’s get the obvious and the only certainty out of the way. If the Dawgs can run the table in the upcoming Vegas adventure called The Pac 12 Tournament, they are in. No questions asked. And by the way, while this unemployed writer would need some decent odds to wager a few pesos on a Huskies’ Sin City sweep, I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Considering the Arizona issues, the conference’s overall mediocrity (at best) and the quirky nature of that 2-3 zone, an unpredictable outcome could be very much in the cards. This may be the year that cherries come up for some team that wasn’t already headed to the Big Dance.

 

NCAA At-large Invitation

What do the Huskies need to do in the next week to earn their way back to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team for the first time since 2011?

The most accurate answer is that no one knows – not even the 9 men and 1 woman that make up the elusive 2018 NCAA Selection Committee. (and no, I STILL haven’t been invited to join the Indianapolis party). This is a common quandary for “life on the bubble” – otherwise annoyingly known as “Syracuse-itis”, but I digress. The biggest obstacle in our path to a definitive answer is that Washington’s fate is as much tied to the outcomes of OTHER schools as it is to their results vs Oregon & the Pac 12 Tournament. That includes the teams the Dawgs are chasing and those that are nipping at Mike Hopkins’ heels. To further complicate the matter, identifying those squads is merely an educated guess.

 

Educated Guesses

Washington is currently on the wrong side of the at-large bubble. Yes, the Dawgs have some great wins – at Kansas (in KC), home versus Arizona at full strength, and the road win at USC is looking better and better. However, recent losses (Oregon, Oregon St, Stanford, Utah) seem to have legitimately dropped the purple and gold below the cutoff line of 36 at-large teams.

Washington is somewhere between first and fifth on the current waitlist. The Dawgs (and every other bubble team) should send Michigan a fruit basket after the Wolverines dismantled Nebraska in the Big 10 Tournament on Friday. Pre-loss, all the gurus had Nebraska and Washington neck and neck. Now, the Cornhuskers will have to wait 9 days with 1 quadrant 1 win (1-6) and a pitiful non-conference schedule. Sure, they were 13-5 in the Big 10 but look closer at those victories. Bottom feeder. Tuesday night losses by Mississippi State and Boise State and a Syracuse flop on Wednesday also really helped the Dawgs. Bracketmatrix.com (a website the compiles the “educated guesses” of more than 50 “bracketologists”) now has Washington 1st on the waitlist with UCLA next. These 2 teams have almost identical profiles BUT the Bruins beat the Huskies in the only head to head game this season. Problem.

Washington’s biggest problem, as a waitlisted team, is no remaining QUADRANT 1 games scheduled. This is a biggie. Essentially, the only way to leapfrog a school at this late stage of the year without that school losing, is to win a high-level quadrant 1 game. Virtually every team that the Dawgs are chasing has at least 1 such game remaining (and with certain conference tournaments – multiple opportunities). Because the committee doesn’t penalize teams for dropping those contests, it’s basically a free shot. The only quadrant 1 possibilities for Washington would be tournament matchups with Arizona, USC and/or Arizona State. 

 

The Spreadsheet Chase

I’ve designed the below chart using a combination of Bracketmatrix.com & Joe Lunardi’s ESPN bracketology. There are 36 at-large spots available. While still conjecture on some level, this chart gives a nice sketch of Washington’s hill to climb over the next 10 days. (RPI’s as of 3/1/18). Remember, no matter where UW actually is on this chart, it will NOT rise by simply winning games against the Oregon schools (or lower level Pac 12 teams in the tourney). Those wins need to be coupled with losses by schools above them to teams they are supposed to beat. There are some enormous scoreboard watching games for the Dawgs illustrated below.

At Large # Team RPI Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Remaining Opponents
29 Arizona St 42 4-4 3-4 7-1 5-0 84 Stan h  
30 Kansas St 63 3-8 6-0 5-1 6-0 54 Baylor h  
31 St Bonnies 22 3-2 4-2 7-1 9-1 135 St Louis a  
32 Providence 39 3-8 5-1 6-2 4-1 83 St Johns h  
33 Louisville 41 3-8 2-2 7-0 7-0 48 NC St a  
34 USC 32 4-5 4-3 6-0 7-1 56 UCLA h  
35 Baylor 55 4-10 3-2 3-0 7-0 63 Kan St a  
36 Texas 59 5-10 2-3 5-0 5-0 26 WVU h  
37 UCLA 56 3-6 3-2 6-2 7-0 32 USC a
38 Wash 45 4-5 2-3 7-2 7-0 79 Ore h
39 Syracuse 49 2-7 4-3 7-2 5-0 8 Clem h
40 Miss St 66 3-7 3-2 5-0 9-0 89 LSU a
41 Boise St 52 1-2 4-3 5-2 11-0 85 Wyoming h
42 Nebraska 60 1-5 2-3 8-1 11-0
43 Utah 57 3-6 3-3 6-1 6-0 76 Colorado h
44 ND 69 2-7 4-2 4-3 7-0 1 UVA a

Mitch’s Conclusion:

At the very minimum, Washington needs to win every remaining game that it plays against non-Quadrant 1 opponents to have any shot at an at-large invitation to the dance. That means wins vs Oregon and any/all games in the tourney vs teams not named Arizona, USC and ASU. Any loss in a non-quadrant 1 game at this point would do more damage than all the other non-quadrant 1 combined wins would help (unless the Dawgs win a quadrant 1 game in the Pac 12 Tournament BEFORE losing to a lesser team). The Huskies would likely still a need trip-ups by some teams ahead of them. Did I lose you yet?

The scenario that is 1 step better would really put the heat on the NCAA Tournament Committee: win 3 or 4 non-quadrant 1 games starting with Oregon State on Thursday night and then add a victory over 1 of the big 3 in the quarters or semi’s.