Much like the Dixie Chicks, Ryan Appleby wasn't ready to make nice Saturday night. But the juicy subplot featuring Appleby and Aaron Brooks...
Much like the Dixie Chicks, Ryan Appleby wasn’t ready to make nice Saturday night.
But the juicy subplot featuring Appleby and Aaron Brooks, which turned into the main story line by evening’s end, obscured a more grim ending for the Huskies — with the 93-85 loss to the Ducks, Washington is assured of finishing either seventh or eighth in the Pac-10.
And that means the already long road Washington faced to win the Pac-10 tournament, its only hope left to get into the NCAAs, added a few more miles.
Finishing in the bottom four means the Huskies will have to play on the first day of the Pac-10 tournament (Wednesday, March 7) and will have to win four games to take the tournament. Teams in the bottom four have to play an opening round to advance to the quarterfinal field of eight.
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Finishing in the top six requires teams to play only three games to win the tournament.
The only question now is whether the Huskies will finish seventh or eighth — right now, UW is tied with California, which hosts Arizona and Arizona State this week.
It’s not a completely irrelevant query.
Finish seventh, and UW would likely face Arizona State in the first round. Finish eighth, and UW would probably have to play Oregon State.
More interesting, maybe, is how UW’s finish sets up what would happen past the opening round. If UW finishes seventh, its second-round game would come against the second seed, likely setting up a third game this season with Washington State (if not the Cougars, then probably another game with USC).
Finish eighth, and the Huskies would have to play the top seed, most likely UCLA though there is still a chance WSU could end up there.
Anything short of winning four games at the Pac-10 tournament, however, means the Huskies will have to settle for the 32-team field National Invitation Tournament.
It invited 40 for a few years but recently pared the field.
The NIT no longer requires a winning record, but has yet to invite a team with a losing record.
UW, however, can’t finish worse than 16-15, including the Pac-10 tournament, a record similar to other recent Pac-10 teams to get an invite. Stanford went a year ago at 15-13 and Arizona State was invited in 2002 at 14-14.
The NIT is now required to invite every regular-season conference champ that doesn’t make it to the NCAAs, which means at-large spots aren’t quite as plentiful as before.
But as a high-profile team from a major conference, the Huskies would seem a lock, likely in position to host one or two games.
The carrot in the NIT is winning three games and advancing to New York where the semifinals and finals are held at Madison Square Garden.
First, though, the Huskies finish the regular season with home games this week against USC and UCLA, the two teams who began UW’s losing conference ways in December when Washington lost to each in Los Angeles.
The Huskies, at least, showed they haven’t completely thrown in the towel with a gutty performance at Oregon, sparked by the emotion of Appleby, whose refusal to shake hands with Aaron Brooks — who had leveled him with a forearm at the Pac-10 tournament a year ago — gave the game an electric feel from start to finish.
“I think the Oregon State game, we didn’t come out fighting,” Appleby said. “Tonight, we came out fighting. We just have to keep fighting and fighting and fighting.”