The weak Pac-12 — plus finishing the last four games of the season going 2-2, with a loss to Cal — has left the Washington Huskies (24-7, 15-3) on the top of the bubble instead of firmly in the tournament. If Mike Hopkins’ squad gets bounced out of the conference tournament before the title game, there is a growing consensus that UW won’t be able to land an at-large bid.
Washington currently sits at 37 in Massey’s computer ratings with its strength of schedule sitting at No. 65. In RPI, which the NCAA selection committee no longer uses on, the Huskies are sitting at No. 26. Their three conference losses are to Arizona State (37th in RPI, 62nd in Massey), Oregon (75th in Massey, 37th in RPI), and Cal (251 in RPI, 234 in Massey). In non-conference play, they lost by 22 to Auburn (21 in Massey, 28 in RPI) on the road and to three other squads that wouldn’t really peak the committee’s interest.
The losses to Oregon and Cal have come at the end of the season and the Huskies have been looked absolutely awful. While losing by eight on Senior Day to Oregon is bad, the three point loss to an awful Cal — WSU’s loss is worse, I’m aware — squad on the road is indefensible.
It’s these losses that have led to this discussion that there is a case for some of teams from some of the least deep conferences in Division 1 basketball to earn an at large bid.
Belmont is 40th in the RPI, 41st in the NET and 50th on KenPom. Lost five games all season, just three in the conference. Not a hard case to make for an at large.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 10, 2019
Belmont (26-5, 16-2) lost the Ohio Valley conference tournament to Murray State (sitting at 36 in Massey), and is needing an at large bid to secure an NCAA tournament berth. The Bruins are sitting at 53 in Massey’s ratings and are still sitting at 41 in RPI; they’re schedule has been empty of major conference opponents. They do have two similar opponents on their schedule as Washington, UCLA (117 in Massey’s rankings) and Western Kentucky (116 in Massey).
It’s these similar match-ups that tilt the argument into Washington’s favor. The Huskies beat the Bruins by 14 and the Hilltoppers by 18; and Belmont only beat those mutual by two and six respectively. When you compare the Bruins strength of schedule (158, Massey) to UW’s (65, Massey) and you begin to get a clearer picture of why the shouldn’t get an at large bid.
Now things get trickier for Washington when you start looking around the other major conferences. Squads like Minnesota have recorded more impressive wins — Nebraska is currently in the AP top-25 and sits at 59 in Massey’s rankings. The lack of depth in the Pac-12 is absolutely devastating for both of the conference’s tournament bubble teams. But the Huskies, as regular season conference champs, seem to have the best resume to earn an at large bid if they don’t win the tournament.
Of course, this is all moot if Washington gets humiliated in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and loses to someone they shouldn’t.