The Huskies are an enigma. Besides the fact that they play hard every night, it is difficult to tell what we are going to get on a night to night basis from a production standpoint. In their last three games, they had a good win against Oregon State, a horrific loss at Arizona, and a really good win at Arizona State, who before the game was in Joe Lunardi’s latest NCAA tournament bracket. One thing is clear, with only three games remaining before the Pac-12 Tournament, the Huskies are not getting into the big dance as an at-large team. So that begs the question, what do the Huskies actually have left to play for?
One way to look at it is that this Husky season has been all but lost. This team plays hard every night on the floor, but most times, it has just not been good enough to get the win. With only three games left in the regular season, the Huskies have no chance of getting in the NCAA tournament as an at-large team and in a year with more than a few good teams in the Pac-12, winning the conference tournament is, putting it optimistically, a long shot. So, from this point of view, the answer to my question (what do the Huskies have to play for?) would be not a whole lot. Although this is one perspective, it is not actually the way I personally see it.
The way I look at things, the last three games the Huskies have are all at home, and are against Washington State, USC, and UCLA. The Cougars are not very good this season, and for that matter neither are the Trojans, despite their greater level of success after the firing of Kevin O’Neill. This means that these could easily be two wins for the Huskies. Never mind could, it SHOULD lead to two wins for the Huskies. At home, against under .500 opponents, even a team as bad as this year’s Husky squad can get these two wins.
If this does play out, the Dawgs would have some momentum going into their regular season finale against the Bruins. Obviously this will be a tough game considering the Bruins are 3rd in the Pac-12 and squarely in the NCAA tournament, but what college basketball, and the Pac-12 especially, has shown us, is that anything can happen in any given game, especially if the underdog is playing at home. Just say for the sake of argument that the Huskies can somehow pull out this win. That would mean wins in five out of their last six games and some major momentum heading into the Conference Tournament. This would almost certainly put the Huskies into the top eight of the Pac-12 standings which would mean they only have to win three games on a neutral floor to win the Pac-12 tournament and get into the NCAA tournament. In a year where every team in the conference, no matter how good they have looked at times, has shown that they can lose to a much lesser opponent, I don’t see why this can’t happen. Now the only chance the Huskies have of this particular opportunity happening is if they win their last three games of the regular season, which as I just explained, is feasible, but not guaranteed.
I prefer to look at the Husky season in the more positive light, yet with the mystery wrapped in a riddle that is this year’s team, this half prediction, half observation could come to bite me in the butt. Either way, one thing can be certain, the only way to tell how the Husky season will end is to watch these last few games intently, while simply hoping this team can put it together for one final conference tournament run.