Do Huskies Really Belong In The Big Dance?

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by Sportspress Northwest Staff

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on March 12, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Although Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies won the Pac-12 Conference regular season title, they will have to endure the high anxiety of Selection Sunday to find out whether they are invited to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large entry. The suspicion here is that Washington's collective perspiration will be as profuse as Tony Wroten's was as he gagged at the line four times in the final 18 seconds of the Oregon State horror Thursday.

"I'm not in there with the (NCAA Selection) committee," Romar said after Washington became the first No. 1 seed in Pac-12 tournament history to lose to a No. 9 seed. "I know we haven't won as many games as we should have in non-conference as a league. But I would think the Pac-12 champion would be able to find a place in the NCAA tournament."

It's now up to the kindness of strangers, who will have to sort the following:

Washington has two, slim factors in its favor:

The Huskies won the Pac-12 regular-season title, and no conference winner has been left out of the tournament under its current format, and the Huskies could get statistical help from teams outside the Pac-12 still in conference tournaments. The next two days could help Washington's cause.

Unfortunately for UW's chances, the Huskies have many more negatives than positives, starting with the fact that throughout the season Washington struggled against strong competition. Washington had a 3-8 record against the RPI top 100, an 0-5 mark against the RPI Top 50, and an 0-2 record against AP-ranked teams.

Moreover, the Huskies did not post any quality wins, missing opportunities for two when they lost to Marquette and Duke in December in New York City. Worse, they were dinged with consecutive "bad losses" in the Pac-12 regular-season ender at RPI No. 103 UCLA, and in their tournament opener to RPI No. 132 Oregon State.

Two weeks ago, most "bubble" experts were opining that Washington had to win its conference tournament to ensure a berth. Barring that, Washington had to win the league title outright (done, but still no guarantee of a trip) and make a respectable league tournament showing (embarrassingly not done).

Ratings Percentage Index is not the only factor the NCAA Selection Committee uses in making selections, but it's a significant one. Washington's has soared from 52 to 67 in the past 10 days. It could rise or fall marginally as other bubble teams around the country complete their seasons.

Washington made the tourney in 2004 as a No. 8 seed with an RPI of 63. But the 2004 Huskies had three quality wins that year and three wins over AP-ranked teams, including 75-62 victory over No. 1 Stanford.

In every other year that Washington has made the NCAA field under Romar, its RPI ranking has averaged 36. During that span, the Huskies have been anywhere from a No. 1 seed (2005, RPI 6) to a No. 11 seed (2010, RIP 32).

In the past decade (since the 2000-01 season), the Pac-10/12 has sent 46 teams to the tourney. The worst conference teams to make the field had an average RPI rank of 44. Again, Washington's is 67.

If there is positive news here for Washington fans, it's that in 2007 Stanford reached the NCAA Tournament with an RPI rank identical to Washington's this year, 67. These are the worst conference teams, based on RPI rank, to play in the Big Dance since 2001:

YearSchoolRec.RPI
2007Stanford18-1367L first round to Louisville 78-58
2004UW19-1263L first round to Ala.-Birmingham 102-100
2006California20-1160L first round to North Carolina St. 58-52
2003Oregon23-1054L first round to Utah Utes 60-58
2005Stanford18-1347L first  round to Mississippi St. 93-70
2004Arizona20-1045L first round to Seton Hall 80-76
2011UCLA19-1443L third round to Florida 73-65
Based on your own analysis of Washington's season, which featured the third-worst free-throw shooting team (61.8 percent) in school history, which makes the most sense to you?

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