This is not a win and they’re in situation. It’s more like get a few more wins and maybe they could get in scenario.
First-year men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins and the Washington Huskies are in an interesting position. They enter the last week of the regular season hosting Oregon State at 8 p.m. Thursday and rival Oregon at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Arena. UW (19-10, 9-7 Pac-12) lost its previous encounters to OSU (14-14, 6-10) and Oregon (19-10, 9-7) earlier this month.
Hopkins and UW are the prime example of a bubble team. They’ve done enough to be in the conversation. But not so much, they’re going to be rubber stamped into the NCAA Tournament. This is why the next 14 days will be vital to the Huskies’ chances of reaching The Field of 68 for the first time in more than five seasons.
“I think at the end of the day we’ve got a great resume,” Hopkins said. “We’ve now got our ninth win in the league. We have some great non-league road wins, which I think are important. We have two games left which are great. Those are going to be great opportunities and the Pac-12 Tournament. All we can do is take care of what we can take care of.”
For the Huskies’ players, it’s simple.
“Basically, don’t let up no matter what’s happening,” freshman guard Jaylen Nowell said of the Huskies trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. “If we’re down, if we’re up ... mever let up. Just want to come out and play our hardest every game.”
Many of the experts have the Huskies on the outside looking in. CBS Sports has UW in the “first four out” category. ESPN states the Huskies are currently in the “next four out” bracket. That means there’s four teams ahead of UW in the queue for who misses the tournament.
USA Today, however, has the Huskies among the “last four in.” The publication states UW has the 33rd strongest non-conference strength of schedule and the 48th best strength of schedule, which should be enough to get them into the tournament.
USA Today says UW has “good wins” over Arizona, Arizona State, Belmont, Colorado (twice), Kansas and USC. Victories over the Buffaloes, Jayhawks and Trojans came away from Seattle and only enhance the Huskies’ resume.
UW’s “bad losses” are against OSU and Stanford.
And about the Pac-12.... ESPN projects the Pac-12 could only have three entries and that would be the lowest total by a major conference among this year’s field.
Arizona, ASU and USC are the three Pac-12 teams ESPN predicts will reach the tournament. Even then, the Trojans are a bubble team that’s in the “last four in” category.
There’s four Pac-12 teams — Oregon, UCLA, Utah and UW — with similar records. The Bruins, Ducks and Huskies are 19-10 while the Utes are 18-10. UCLA and Utah have 10 conference wins. Oregon and UW both have nine.
UW is 14-3 at home, which is among the better marks in the nation. At 3-5, Oregon has won 37.5 percent of its road games and that’s below the national average of 46.1 percent.
OSU is one of nine college basketball programs that have failed to register a road win this season.
Should the Huskies take one of those games, they’ll be 20-11 with 10 conference wins going into the Pac-12 Tournament, which starts next Wednesday. And if they sweep, they’re 21-10 with 11 conference wins heading into the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The Pac-12 Tournament gives the Huskies a chance to pad their resume and win total. Should they win two games it would give them 22 or 23 victories.
If this year’s NCAA field is similar to last season’s, it’s likely the Huskies could get in. There were 14 teams with at least 19 wins and 10 losses from a major conference that received an at-large bid.
“We control our own destiny,” Hopkins said. “All we can control is the next game and win. But I do feel like we got a great resume and that we’ll keep getting better and keep moving forward.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark