Maybe the Washington men’s basketball team should co-opt the message Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson delivered to the Seahawks before their march to a Super Bowl championship: “Why not us?”
The Huskies are one of a dozen teams traveling to Las Vegas this week for the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament at the MGM Grand Arena.
According to multiple projections, as many as seven conference teams will participate in the NCAA tournament.
However, Washington is among the handful of teams at the bottom of the standings that needs to win the conference tourney in order to advance in the NCAAs. To do so, the Huskies will have to win four games in four days this week.
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Since the league adopted first-round byes in 2006, Colorado is the only team that’s won four games at the conference tourney. The Buffaloes did it in 2012.
“It kind of goes without saying, but that first one is the most important,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said a few weeks ago. “You fight, scratch, claw and do whatever you can to get that first one and then things kind of fall into place.
“You can build on that. I remember there was a feeling on that team — not saying we were a team of destiny or anything like that — but there was a feeling that we’re as good as anybody here.”
After a regular-season race in which four games separated the second- and ninth-place finishers, every team in the conference tournament has at least a puncher’s chance of claiming the title.
Here’s a look at the teams receiving a first-round bye.
• Pac-12 regular-season champion Arizona, the No. 1 tournament seed, has dominated since the season began. However, the third-ranked Wildcats (28-3) have proved to be susceptible to upsets, including a 64-57 loss at Oregon in the regular-season finale.
• No. 2 seed UCLA (23-8) has lost on the road at Washington State, Oregon State and Utah.
• No. 3 seed Arizona State (21-10) has lost five straight games on the road.
• No. 4 seed California (19-12) needed an overtime win at home in the regular-season finale to avoid a four-game losing streak. The Golden Bears are 5-8 in the past 13 games.
Here’s a look at the first-round games Wednesday.
• No. 8 Utah (20-10) vs. No. 9 Washington (17-14), noon: The teams split the regular-season series, both winning at home.
• No. 5 Colorado (21-10) vs. No. 12 USC (11-20), 2:30 p.m.: The Buffaloes dominated the Trojans in two wins this season. Colorado, 1-3 in its past four games, appears headed to the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, USC finished last in the conference at 2-16 under first-year coach Andy Enfield.
• No. 7 Oregon (22-8) vs. vs. No. 10 Oregon State (16-14), 6 p.m.: Civil War III will unlock the regular-season 1-1 tie between the teams. Oregon, the No. 7 seed and defending champion, began the season with 13 straight wins. The Ducks went 2-8 in the next 10 games before finishing the season with a seven-game winning streak. At 8-10, OSU matched its best league record in 21 years.
• No. 6. Stanford (19-11) vs. No. 11 Washington State (10-20), 8:30 p.m.: Both coaches began the season on the hot seat. Johnny Dawkins will likely return if he can guide the Cardinal to its first NCAA tourney since 2008. Meanwhile, Ken Bone’s future is uncertain despite two years remaining on his contract.
During his 12-year tenure with the Huskies, coach Lorenzo Romar is 14-7 at the conference tournament, including championships in 2005, ’10 and ’11. When his teams don’t have a first-round bye, Romar is 2-3.
Last year, Washington was the No. 6 seed and lost in the quarterfinals to Oregon.
Still, Romar knows how to win four games in four days. He accomplished the feat in 2000 while guiding No. 9 seed Saint Louis to a Conference USA Tournament title.
“I don’t think we have to play at a supernatural manner,” Romar said. “We just need to play up to our capabilities, which we have done at times this year. If we do that we have just as good of a chance as anybody.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.