Huskies Fail To Punch Their Ticket

The Washington Huskies stubbed their toe at the end of the season, and in doing so have become infamous. The Huskies (21-10, 14-4) became the first 'power conference' team to win their regular season outright, yet not win a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The missed bid means senior forward Darnell Gant misses out on being the first Washington player to ever play in four straight Big Dances.

After their two-point loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said that they would accept an NIT bid if offered. The NIT bracket is announced at 6 pm PT on ESPNU.

Washington has been to the National Invitation Tournament five times, the last time being in 1997, where they lost a first-round game to Nebraska. Their overall NIT record is 3-5.

"We still get to play games," Romar said Sunday afternoon, just hours before the NIT Selection. "We still get to all be together a little longer. It's something I'm looking forward to doing."

Romar added that the team has gone through a massive array of emotions in the past week, from earning the outright Pac-12 conference championship, to missing out on today's NCAA Tournament selection. The Huskies went 14-4 in their regular season, but didn't have any significant wins outside of the conference, and once the NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed, it showed no teams going to the Big Dance that the Huskies had defeated.

"Our guys are very, very disappointed. I'm much more disappointed than surprised," he said, noting just two of the numerous feelings the team has experienced, especially in the hours leading up to the selection. "Ever since that Oregon game, that was a huge, huge setback. I thought we had righted the ship, but the last two losses really hurt us. You can pick any one of those (10 overall) losses, and we're looking for tape as to how to scout our opponent in the NCAA Tournament."

Romar said he started to get concerned after Washington's Pac-12 Tournament loss to the Beavers, making it two games in a row where the Huskies really had control of their tournament destiny. A season-ending win at UCLA would have put Washington at 22 overall wins, and a win over OSU would have gotten them to a third matchup against Arizona in the Pac-12 semifinals.

"I know our team, and if we get by that first one we would have been ready to go against Arizona," he said. "When we lost to Oregon State, I got really concerned. As the tournament went on, when Cal lost - I got more concerned. When St. Louis lost, a number of things like that…but I've been saying this for the last three weeks - control what you can control."

Not only is it a matter of controlling your own situation, it ultimately comes down to wins - as well as the perception of conference strength - and right now the NCAA Selection Committee treated the Pac-12, traditionally a power conference - as a mid-major. For instance, even though the Pac-12 is considered one of the six traditional 'power' conferences, their conference RPI would have barely put them in the top-10 conferences in the country. The Pac-12 collectively beat just three RPI top 50 opponents in non-league play, and California made it in to a play-in game with 24 wins despite not winning the league's regular season.

According to Romar, he truly believes the NCAA selection committee judged this year for the Pac-12 as an 'isolated, one-year situation', because it really turned into a worst-case situation. USC lost nearly half their scholarship players to injury; UCLA became embroiled in a scandal that involved a player that was eventually kicked off the team; Arizona had issues themselves to the point where one of their influential freshman guards was suspended for the end of the Pac-12 Tournament; the eventual winner of the Pac-12 Tournament (Colorado) was one that was seen as very, very weak going into the season by the media who voted in the Pac-12's pre-season poll. Who knows if the committee looked at those factors, but Romar believes there were many, many things like those listed above that caused a perfect storm of ugliness in the conference, giving them a poor outlook when compared to other leagues.

"The selection process is done a lot by numbers - almost feed information to the computer and let it spit out the field of 68," he said. "So in that way, our numbers better be right. We're definitely one of the best 68, but the numbers didn't bear that out. That's how they evaluated our conference - based on that. "Our conference just wasn't ranked that high, based on the numbers - and that's why we suffered."

But ultimately, Washington had their chances to get their ticket punched numerous times, and didn't get it done when they had it in their grasp. They were up at Nevada with time running out; they had a really good chance to beat Marquette; they should have closed out UCLA and Oregon State when they had both teams on the ropes. But they didn't. And that's why they don't have anyone to blame but themselves in the final analysis.

"Every time you step out on the floor, everything you do is very important," Romar said. "You can't take plays off, games off, halves off. But I still think the Pac-12 is a power conference. This is an aberration. We just had a down year." Top Stories