NCAA Tournament Bid in Washington Basketball’s Future?

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images /

How does Washington Basketball’s future look with the NCAA Tournament fast approaching?

Preseason polls can be fickle. No one predicted that Oregon would build a team around their best talent, just to lose him for the remainder of the season after only playing nine games. Just as likely, no one could have predicted what would come of the coaching situation at UCLA.  College basketball is unpredictable, especially in a conference as closely contested as the Pac-12.

Washington has found themselves at the center of a lot of speculation. Coach Mike Hopkins‘ made a splash in his first season as head coach of the program, adding 12 wins from the prior seasons’ total, good enough to earn him the Pac-12 Coach Of The Year award. However,  after failing to get by Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament, the team was relegated to the NIT as opposed to competing for a national title.

Some suspected there might be a bit of a sophomore slump for Coach Hopkins’ second season with Washington basketball. After implementing the new 2-3 defense, some voices in local media erred on the side of caution now that the rest of the Pac-12 has seen this new-look Huskies. Thankfully, the Huskies haven’t slowed down once.

Washington currently sits at 3-0 since starting conference play, thanks to the offensive surge from David Crisp’s 18.7 points per game on 50% shooting, 67% from beyond the arc. Current NET ratings have them leading the Pac-12 with the 38th position. Arizona is the next highest ranked at 51st.

What does this mean?

The Huskies have found themselves back in the national conversation for the tournament. In the latest bracketology updates, ESPN has the Pac-12 with two bids – Washington as a No. 10 seed in the West region while Arizona has the No. 11 seed in the Midwest region. CBS has the Huskies No.11, and also has the conference with three bids – Washington is joined by Arizona and Arizona State, both as part of the last four in.

While 12-4 isn’t necessarily the recipe for a tournament bid, what Coach Mike Hopkins set out to do by bolstering the quality of non-conference games has worked in favor of the team. All four losses were away from Hec-Ed, three against ranked opponents, and two coming on last second buckets.

What does this translate to? Even though Washington has the lowest average scoring in the Pac-12, they have managed to only give up the second-fewest points in the conference. They have also faced the highest strength of schedule of the group and have still kept up with Arizona (13-4, 4-0).

While Washington, Arizona, and Arizona State have started to separate from the rest of the conference, it will be up to the Huskies to secure their spot at the top, starting with Stanford tomorrow and Cal on Saturday.

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