NCAA Tournament: Huskies Are Hindered By Perception


When it comes to the selection committee and determining who’s in, who’s out and what seed teams will be, it’s all about perception. The reality is that no one can watch every single game of college basketball, the NCAA tournament field is chosen based off of perceptions, statistics and rankings such as RPI.

The problem with this is that perceptions are often times flawed, as is the case for the Washington Huskies.
Looking upon their resume, they have no quality wins; their non-conference record is just 6-5 an overall record of 19-8, and their RPI is 53. That currently puts them on the bubble with a projected seeding somewhere near 10 or 11.

Critics point to the Huskies blowout losses to St. Louis, Oregon, Colorado and South Dakota State saying that a tournament team wouldn’t get blown out on three separate occurrences by three ‘poor’ teams.

As Jeff Taylor noted, these three teams are actually quality opponents, with RPIs of 22, 61, 73, and 60. Yet still, Getting beat that badly four different times has shed a very bad light on the Huskies.

To pile on top, critics won’t like the close games the Huskies had against Seattle U, Utah, Arizona State, and Oregon State.
While that may be true, what about the other side of the coin, instead of looking at games that the Huskies could’ve lost, there were also games the Huskies could’ve won. Sure teams across the country could say the same thing, but if a few baskets don’t fall that did, and vice versa, the Huskies are in a much different spot than they are now.

Does the outcome of three shots really make the difference in how good the Huskies are? No, not really, in three different games the Huskies played even, but came out on the wrong side of a last second shot. They weren’t the worst team on those days, they were arguably equals, but one shot made all the difference.

December 2nd against Nevada, the Huskies lost by three in overtime; the game was sent to overtime by a Deonte Burton three-pointer at the end of regulation to tie the game. If he misses, the Huskies win their first road opener under Romar and the beginning of the season starts off a little better.

The very next game against Marquette, the Huskies again played even for 59 minutes and 50 seconds. But Jae Crowder hit a three-pointer to help the Golden Eagles escape with a victory. No mention now that the Huskies were crushed by a buzzer beater, it’s just a simple loss on their resume, when in fact they were just as good on that night.

Then against California, in Seattle another game came down to the final moments. After Justin Cobbs hit two free-throws to put the Golden Bears ahead by three with just 8.2 seconds left, the Huskies had one last chance. Darnell Gant had an open look and just missed the three that would have sent the game into overtime.

Instead the Huskies lost, giving California the only head-to-head victory of the season. That one shot potentially determined the outcome of the entire Pac12 season. There is no tie-breaker, but if the Huskies win that game they have sole possession of first and a quality victory.

What their RPI would be had those three games gone in their favor, I don’t know, but it certainly would be much higher than where it is now. They’d have a marquee win against Marquette, they’d be alone in first place in the Pac 12 and their record would be 22-5.

Playing the hypothetical game is pointless, there are no what ifs in sports, the Huskies didn’t win those games and they aren’t 22-5.

But the perception that the Huskies haven’t played well against anyone good, or the perception that the start of the season was horrible, is just that, a perception.

The reality is that the Huskies came out on the wrong end of a few buzzer beater games that changed the course of their entire season. Yes they lost those games and all that matters is winning and losing, but it doesn’t change how good they are as a team.
The problem is that reality doesn’t matter much in college sports; in football there is the BCS, and in college basketball there is the selection committee. It’s about pleasing their perceptions and filling their requirements, something it appears the Huskies haven’t quite done yet.

A few more wins and the Huskies should be in, but in the world of college basketball and March Madness, perception is rarely reality.

Follow Lawrence on Twitter @AMitchellReport