The Huskies are an 8-10 seed in NCAA tournament projections.
Breathe easy, Husky fans.
Washington is virtually guaranteed a spot in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time since 2011.
But then, can any team truly be safe when its best win is a five-point victory at Oregon and their best performance is a two-point defeat at Gonzaga?
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The Huskies (24-7), who easily won the Pac-12 regular-season title at 15-3, are considered between a No. 8 and No. 10 seed in the latest NCAA tournament projections.
At this point, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a doomsday scenario in which UW falls out of the 68-team tournament, regardless of what happens this week at the Pac-12 Tournament.
By virtue of its No. 1 seed, Washington opens at noon Thursday in the conference quarterfinals against either No. 8 USC or No. 9 Arizona.
It’s hard to foresee a single defeat against a tournament team being enough to drop UW two to four seeding spots in the projections, which is what would have to happen to miss the Big Dance.
No one disputes the Huskies are staggering into the postseason having split their past two games, including a deflating 55-47 defeat against the Ducks in the regular-season finale Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
But unlike past years, the late-season swoon won’t negatively impact Washington because the NET rankings, the NCAA’s new metric that sorts teams into four quadrants, doesn’t give added weight to games late in the season.
In previous years, the selection committee might reward teams for overcoming a bad start and compiling a bunch of victories before the postseason. Not anymore.
“The NET treats all games the same, whether they are played in November or February,” Andy Katz wrote for NCAA.com. “And that’s why teams that may have had strong non-conference schedules can continue to have a strong ranking even during a losing skid in conference.
“Valuing when a game is played is an individual choice of each member of the selection committee. But where the game was played and who it was against is used in determining the NET ranking, regardless of the time of the season.”
Still, losses hurt.
And Washington fell six spots to No. 38 in the NET in the past week.
It’s difficult to make sense of a UW resume that’s highlighted by a scarcity of significant victories and bad defeats.
The Huskies have just two victories in the first quadrant or Quad 1.
Conversely, they have only one defeat outside the first two quadrants. And that 76-73 defeat at California doesn’t hurt UW’s resume nearly as much as it did two weeks ago considering the Golden Bears are riding a three-game winning streak that’s improved their ranking.
So, if the Huskies are no longer in danger of falling out of the Big Dance, then how much can they improve their seeding?
The NCAA tournament experts are split and the general impression is that anything UW achieves in Las Vegas will just be icing.
Howie Schwab at Fox Sports speculated Washington could capture a No. 5 seed if it wins the Pac-12 Tournament.
Meanwhile, CBS sports college basketball analyst Jerry Palm said, “I can’t see them any higher than a 7 seed” because Washington can’t collect a Quad 1 victory this week in Las Vegas even if it were to win a conference tournament title.
Nothing is official until Sunday, but here’s a look at where the Huskies stand in several NCAA tournament forecasts.
ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi projects UW as a No. 8 seed in the East region against No. 9 Mississippi in Columbus, Ohio.
Schwab dropped the Huskies a spot and has them as the No. 8 seed in the West region for a rematch against No. 9 Minnesota. (The Gophers beat the Huskies 68-66 on Nov. 21.)
Michael Beller at SI.com also dinged Washington one spot and dropped UW to a No. 9 seed in the East region against No. 8 Oklahoma.
And Palm remains generally pessimistic about the Huskies’ postseason chances. In his latest projections, Washington is a tenuous No. 10 seed in the East region facing No. 7 Louisville in Jacksonville, Fla.
Washington’s resume at a glance
Record: 24-7 (15-3 Pac-12)
NET rank: 38
KenPom rank: 47
RPI rank: 25
Strength of schedule: 63
Record vs. Quadrant 1 teams: 2-4
Record vs. Quadrant 2 teams: 6-2
Record vs. Quadrant 3 teams: 10-0
Record vs. Quadrant 4 teams: 6-1
Record at home: 15-1
Record on the road/neutral site: 9-6
Notable wins: At Oregon, at Colorado, vs. Colorado
Notable losses: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 13 Virginia Tech, No. 11 Auburn