Though once thought to be the clear conference favorites, the Washington men’s basketball team has crashed to earth in spectacular fashion. Losing at Washington State was bad enough, but getting swept by the Oregon schools was unthinkable.
The result? The Huskies didn’t just erase their margin for error — they obliterated it.
The Huskies look like a far different team than the one that took Kentucky to the wire and swept UCLA and USC in Los Angeles, and will now need to rely on a little luck to win the conference.
Whenever the conference favorite drops three-straight games to teams who weren’t projected to finish in the top half of the conference, fans are going to be unhappy. Questions are going to be asked and fingers are going to be pointed.
“I think it’s fair criticism,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “You lose three in a row and people are going to ask, ‘What’s wrong with the Huskies?’”
Whatever it is, the team had better figure it out quickly. Due to the perceived weakness of the Pac-10 conference this year, the Huskies began the season needing a stellar in-conference record to impress on a national stage.
Additionally, the UW was unable to take advantage of its opportunities to make a statement in out-of-conference games, losing to Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas A&M.
To make matters worse, all three losses this past week are going to be considered “bad losses” in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee. Dropping a game to Arizona or UCLA would be forgivable; losing to Oregon and Oregon State was not.
If the Huskies turn it around and are lucky, the selection committee will take into consideration the fact that all three games happened in consecutive weeks, and consider them more of an anomaly due to outside factors than reflective of the team’s capabilities.
Far more likely, however, the team has dug itself too deep of a hole to really dig out. If they turn it around quickly — and I mean tonight — and blow out every other team on their schedule, they may still be able to get a No. 5 or a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The dream of being a No. 4, 3 or even a 2 seed is dead. Right now, the Huskies need to avoid inching toward the double digits.
Unfortunately, they’ll have to start things off against a California team that is hungry for revenge after being embarrassed at home, and a Stanford team that has already beaten the Huskies this year.
Don’t be fooled by the UW’s blowout of Cal earlier in the year — the Golden Bears have coach Mike Montgomery, and if anybody can exploit the Huskies’ issues, it’s him.
It’s not all bad news for the UW, however. The Huskies have five of their last seven conference games at home, while conference-leader Arizona has yet to visit the L.A. schools, arguably the toughest trip in the Pac-10.
But the Huskies don’t control their own destiny anymore, and for that, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Reach men’s basketball columnist Jacob Thorpe at email@example.com.
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