Andrew Andrews is the only Pac-12 player to average as many as 17 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in the last three league games. That’s been after he had zero points in a season-low 5 minutes against Stanford (AP file photo).
Time for that final push. Past time, in fact.
The Huskies (15-13, 7-8 Pac-12) have three regular-season games remaining. And they are all at Alaska Airlines Arena, where UW is 12-3 this season and has lost just once in conference play, two weeks ago to California.
The first game is tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. against Washington State (9-18, 2-13) on Pac-12 Networks, the Washington IMG Sports radio network and GoHuskies.com with another official game chat with free live audio. The Huskies are still stinging from going 1 for 14 from the field over a 10-minute stretch of the second half and giving away an eight-point lead in the final 13:40 of a loss in Pullman on Feb. 1.
UW hosts second-place UCLA (21-6, 10-4) next Thursday and USC (10-17, 1-13) on Saturday, March 8. Win all three home games and the Huskies will finish 10-8 in a league rated as the third-toughest in the nation this season by combined RPI.
(As an aside, to make even the National Invitation Tournament a team must finish with at least a .500 record in its league. Not that that is the Dawgs’ or anyone else’s aim right now.)
"Now it’s just about getting into the best possible position we can for the (conference) tournament," leading scorer C.J. Wilcox said today.
There are four teams currently tied for third place two games above Washington in the Pac-12 standings at 9-6: Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford and Cal. The Huskies have beaten the first three of those teams, including the win at ASU in the league opener that stands as their most RPI-valuable victory of the season so far.
That logjam for third will break up. The Arizona schools host Cal and Stanford this weekend then end at the Oregon schools next week. Colorado plays at Utah Saturday — the Utes are currently tied with Washington for seventh place and are tough at home — then the Buffaloes go to Cal and Stanford for their final two regular-season games. It’s conceivable CU could finish 9-9 in the league.
Wilcox said his teammates have been talking about these possibilities, as it relates to if and where the Huskies could end up playing deeper into March.
I asked the senior captain what he sees as a plausible “best-case scenario” for the Huskies for the Pac-12 tournament.
"Definitely winning out at home," he said. "Beating UCLA would be big for us, for our RPI and for our confidence."
The Huskies’ RPI — one of the criteria the NCAA tournament selection committee uses to fill out its 65-team field — is 78. Yes that is low. But, hey, it is nine spots higher than it was before Washington won by 24 at Oregon State last weekend. That was UW’s largest margin of victory on the road since a 33-point win in Corvallis on Feb. 18, 2006.
The Huskies are a lukewarm 4-6 against the top 50 RPI teams (here’s the most recent national RPI rankings). Oregon is 18-8, 6-8 in the league and behind UW in the conference entering tonight’s game at UCLA. The Ducks are considered by many to be headed to the NCAA tournament because of a 41 RPI, yet they are just 1-5 against the RPI top 50. Oregon’s lone top-50 win so far is over No. 33 Brigham Young.
The Huskies have wins over Colorado (26 in the RPI), ASU (34), Stanford (39) and Oregon (41). The Dawgs still have a huge opportunity to improve their stock against UCLA (RPI: 14).
Man, wouldn’t holding on to the leads UW had at Arizona (RPI: 2), at San Diego State (20) and home against Connecticut (30) come in handy right now?
Three wins in these final three home games would likely move Washington into the top half of seedings for the league tournament that begins March 12 in Las Vegas.
The 6 seed plays the 11 seed (currently Washington State) in the first round at about 8:30 p.m. on March 12. That winner plays the third seed at 8:30 p.m. on March 13 — and stays away from the side of the bracket containing presumptive top seed Arizona until the championship round.
If the Huskies somehow climb to a five seed — they would need to win out and have loads of help (multiple losses by a combination of Cal, ASU, Stanford, Colorado, Utah and Oregon) for that to happen — the five seed plays the 12 in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at 2:30 p.m. on March 12. That winner plays the four seed in the second round.
So, yes, the Huskies have dug themselves a big hole in trying to rally into their first NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons.
But, yes, they still have a sliver of life.
Oh, their ninth and final life? That, of course, is last hope of winning the Pac-12 tournament and gaining the league’s automatic entry into the NCAAs.