One week ago, the Washington Huskies won just their third outright conference championship since 1953 (also 2009), claimed the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, and seemed a virtual shoo-in to the NCAA Tournament. Sunday, the Huskies made a different sort of history, but not the kind they imagined seven days ago.
Washington, which had appeared in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, became the first BCS school in college basketball’s modern era to win a regular-season conference title and fail to land an NCAA Tournament invitation. In the entire history of the Big Dance, which dates to 1939, only one other regular-season conference champion failed to dance.
Guess who? Washington in 1944.
That year, Hec Edmundson’s Huskies, playing in a Pacific Coast Conference split into Northern and Southern Divisions, won the Northern with a 15-1 record. California won the Southern with a 4-0 record (World War II got in the way). Neither team played in the NCAAs.
This year, Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies likely would have received an NCAA invite had they defeated either UCLA in the final game of the regular season or Oregon State in their opening game of the Pac-12 tournament. But UW couldn’t make plays late against the Bruins and blew an eight-point lead late against the Beavers in a game that featured a final-minute Husky foul-line horror show.
Both the UCLA and Oregon State defeats were “bad losses,” in NCAA jargon, UCLA ranking RPI #103, Oregon State ranking RPI #136. By losing to the Beavers, Washington became the first No. 1 seed in the conference tournament to lose to a No. 9.
By the time the Pac-12 tournament played out, Colorado won the automatic bid by beating Arizona in the championship game. In no surprise, California received the league’s only at-large berth.
Meanwhile, the Huskies were left with a RPI of 70 heading into Selection Sunday. As Jerry Palm, the noted braketologist for CBS Sports, pointed out, no NCAA team with an RPI of 69 or higher has ever received an at-large invitation.
These are entrails of that RPI 70: Washington went winless (0-5) against RPI teams ranked 1-50, 4-3 vs. RPI 51-100, 5-2 vs. RPI 101-150, 2-0 vs. RPI 151-200 and 10-0 vs. RPI 200+. Washington also went 0-2 against teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25.
The NCAA Selection Committee not only sent a Stooge-like, bonk-on-the-nose message to the Pac-12 in rebuking its regular-season champion, it salted the sore by installing tournament winner Colorado as a No. 11 seed (the Buffaloes will play No. 6 UNLV), and made Cal one of two No. 12 seeds. The Bears will play South Florida in a first-round game.
In only one other year has the conference had just two berths in the tournament, 2009-10, when Cal got in with an RPI of 22 and Washington made it by winning the Pac-10 tournament. The following shows why only two Pac-12 clubs made it this year, also also why their seeds are so low.
|Team||Rec.||Pac-12||RPI||SOS||Top 25||RPI 1-50||RPI 51-100|
Despite the NCAA snub, the Huskies aren’t through. They will play in the National Invitation Tournament at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Texas-Arlington of the Southland Conference 15-1, 24-8).The Huskies, 3-5 in NIT competition, lasted played in the NIT in 1997 under coach Bob Bender.
Gonzaga made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed. The Zags drew No. 10 West Virginia in the second round of the East Regional Thursday in Pittsburgh, time TBA.