Is the Duke game a “must-win”?

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by: Griffin Bennett

I saw this article by Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com and my first reaction was “Really?”. I know that the Huskies are struggling right now, but a “must win” in December? No way.

Borzello goes on to say that “It’s almost at the point where, if Washington doesn’t beat Duke on Saturday, the Huskies might need to win the Pac-12 title” to impress the selection committee.

I decided to take a deeper look and see how UW has fared over the past three seasons with it’s unprecedented three-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Here are some key stats from those last few years:

2010/11:

  • Non Conf. Road wins: One. At Seattle U (doesn’t count). Two, if you count the win over Virginia at the Maui Invitational (neutral court).
  • Non Conf. wins vs. Ranked Teams: None.
  • Record before Pac-12 Games: 8-3.
  • Record before Post Season: 20-10 (11-7).
  • Regular Season Wins over Ranked Teams: 1 (#25 Arizona).

2009/10

  • Non Conf. Road wins: None.
  • Non Conf. wins vs. Ranked teams: None.
  • Record before Pac-12 Games: 9-2.
  • Record before Post Season: 21-9 (11-7).
  • Regular Season Wins over Ranked Teams: None.

2008/09

  • Non Conf. Road wins: None.
  • Non Conf. wins vs. Ranked Teams: None.
  • Record before Pac-12 Games: 9-3.
  • Record before Post Season: 24-7 (14-4)
  • Regular Season Wins over Ranked Teams: 3 (#11 UCLA, #14 ASU, #11 ASU)

As you can see, the only true non-conference road victory over the last three years has been in our own city, just down the road, over at Key Arena against Seattle U.

A loss against Duke would mean that the Huskies will have a 4-4 record on the year and no Husky team has lost more than three pre-season games over this stretch. Considering that UW has three more home non-conference games to go, you should expect a 7-4 record heading into Pac-12 conference play. It would definitely put the Huskies behind the 8 ball to start the year. No doubt about it.

As Borzello mentions, “With the Pac-12 in the midst of an extremely down year, the chances of Washington getting a marquee victory for its March resume are getting slimmer by the day. Right now, there’s not a top-25 team in the conference, with Stanford possibly looking like the best club.”

There was almost no difference to last year, with Arizona being the only top 25 team whom the Huskies beat (at home only) while they were only ranked #25.

Keep in mind that UW only plays Stanford and Cal at home, a detail that could hurt them just as much as it could help as they might need those two extra chances at road wins to pad their resume.

This brings us to the real issue here. What’s more important: total wins or impressive wins? Would you rather beat up on Colorado and Utah on the road or split the Bay Area series on the road? It’s just a question to ponder.

What the Huskies need to do:

Win. Win as many as possible. As we all remember, the Huskies were on the bubble down the stretch last season as they finished 20-10. Most people believed that they needed the Pac-12 tournament semi-final win over WSU to clinch a birth, and maybe even needed IT’s cold blooded shot to make it certain.

11-7 in this season’s Pac-12 season probably won’t cut it for the Dawgs. 13-5 will be my bottom line with the Pac-12 in it’s state of disarray. Including a home win over Seattle U later, that would set the Huskies record at 21-9 heading into UW’s other home, the Staples Center.

Does this make Saturday’s game against #5 Duke a must-win? Hardly. No game in December ever is.

But let’s win it anyway. Bow Down.