Tonight begins the Washington Huskies’ quest for a Pac-12 conference title. They’ve ridden their luck the last two seasons by winning the conference tournament to ensure a trip into March Madness, but this year I’ve got zero confidence in this Huskies team to make it three in a row. This is the most inconsistent bunch of players Lorenzo Romar has ever coached and it shows. For every impressive showing against Marquette (even in a loss) they get killed by North Dakota State.
Washington has no shot at the NCAA tournament without finishing 1st in the Pac-12 regular season or winning the conference tourney. They have zero wins over top 25 opposition, and are an ugly 4-6 away from home. The team they’re tied with in the conference standings, California, beat them at home 69-66 in a game where Coach Romar saw it fit to draw up an OT-forcing three with Darnell Gant, who was a stellar 0-9 all game long.
With five games left in the regular season, this is Washington’s schedule:
vs. Arizona State (Thu)
vs. Arizona (Sat)
at Washington State (Sat, Feb 25th)
at USC (Thur, March 1st)
at UCLA (Sat, March 3rd)
The Huskies should have no issues sweeping the Arizona schools, so it really comes down to the road games. Washington State is a rivalry game and the Cougars were up by 11 in Seattle before Washington prevailed late in the 2nd half, 75-65. USC is terrible and sports an abysmal 1-13 conference record. Washington hammered them 69-41 two weeks ago and should hammer them again. UCLA gave the Huskies a tight finish exactly two Thursdays ago, but sophomore star Terrence Ross led a great comeback and a thrilling 71-69 victory on national TV.
It’s down to the longtime Huskies nemesis known as the road game. Their four road wins feature three teams with losing conference records (Utah, Oregon State, and Arizona State). Awful. In road/neutral regular season games they’re 13-21 with 0 wins against the top 25. This just goes along with the Seattle tradition of being awful away from their loyal fans.
If you want to be optimistic, with the Huskies on the bubble in 2010, they rattled off three straight road wins to close out the season before winning the Pac-10 tournament and marching towards the Sweet Sixteen. This story is a little bit different. The Huskies don’t have a lot of senior leadership like when Quincy Pondexter was here, and have relied heavily on freshman phenom Tony Wroten Jr. to be their best guard. Washington’s other guard Abdul Gaddy is shooting just 40% from the field and averaging only 8 pts per game whilst nearly doubling his turnover rate from 1.2 to 2.1.
This is the biggest five game stretch for Washington this season. There is no turning back and finding happier endings to their losses against Marquette, California, and Nevada. Not winning the regular season or tournament title eliminates Washington from any March Madness talk, and their resume is bad enough that there’s a significant chance they may not even be a lock for the NIT. At least not a lock for one of the higher seeds. It’s now or never, and I’d prefer to win now.