It’s not entirely true that Washington’s NCAA tournament at-large hopes are entirely dead.
All the Huskies have to do to boost their chances of inclusion is beat the 13th-ranked Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena — something no team has done this season, and something the Huskies have done exactly zero times since the glimmering building opened for business in 2011.
Each trip there since has resulted in a loss for the Huskies — by five points, by 25, by five again, by seven, by four. They’ve been competitive. They just haven’t been winners.
And the Huskies (16-12, 8-8 in Pac-12) cannot maintain consideration for an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament if that trend continues on Sunday. Their devastating 82-81 loss at Oregon State on Wednesday night removed any remaining margin for error, and even a victory over the Ducks — and a subsequent win over last-place Washington State in the regular-season finale — might not grant UW entry into the NCAAs unless it wins another game or two in the Pac-12 tournament.
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First things first, though.
“I’d say there’s still a small hope,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We have to go and play well against Oregon and see where that takes us.”
The good news for UW is that Oregon’s RPI rating — No. 4 in the country — and strong national profile combine to provide a fine opportunity for the Huskies to enhance their credentials.
The bad news, of course, is that the Ducks play really, really good basketball. They’ve lost only six games this season, they’ve won eight of their last 10, and they enter Sunday’s game atop the Pac-12 standings.
According to KenPom.com, Oregon has the 14th-most efficient offense in the country. That effort is led by sophomore forward Dillon Brooks, a candidate for Pac-12 player of the year. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario, averages 17.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
He is surrounded by other capable scorers: Senior forward Elgin Cook chips in 13.8 points per game, freshman guard Tyler Dorsey averages 13.2 and shoots 41.9 percent from 3-point range, and senior forward Chris Boucher, a junior-college transfer, scores 12.6 points per game and leads the league in blocked shots with an average of 3.3.
“Their starting five, everyone can make a play, even Boucher, their center, can go outside and shoot 3s,” Romar said. “He can put the ball on the floor and go to the rim and make baskets. Those guys are interchangeable, they’re all over the place, so it makes them a little difficult to guard. They’re an older team that (is) very tough-minded.”
But are the Huskies? They lost their last game in painful, controversial fashion — Romar even earned a public reprimand from the Pac-12 for criticizing the officiating — and the coach called it one of the three toughest losses his teams have ever sustained in a conference game.
The Huskies traveled back to Seattle late Wednesday night, took Thursday off, returned to practice on Friday and traveled to Eugene on Saturday.
“It’s tough losing that way, the way we lost,” said UW senior guard Andrew Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer. “Coach made it apparent to us after the game to get ready for Oregon — come back, have a good day of practice and just try to prepare the best we can for Oregon.”
Said Romar: “Our mission is not going to change because of (the OSU loss). And because we’ve been practicing this and talking about this season and what we try to get accomplished every day, I don’t think there needs to be special, special motivation. We’ll go out and sense where our guys are, but I have a feeling this group is going to bounce back.”
They have little choice at this point.
Washington (16-12, 8-8 Pac-12) at No. 13 Oregon (22-6, 11-4)
5:30 p.m. Sunday, Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, Oregon
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 1000 AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 189-110.
Statistics for 2015-16:
2 Casey Benson, G (6-3, so.): 5.7 ppg, 3.1 apg.
5 Tyler Dorsey, G (6-4, fr.): 13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg.
24 Dillon Brooks, F (6-7, so.): 17.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.1 apg.
23 Elgin Cook, F (6-6, sr.): 13.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg.
25 Chris Boucher, F (6-10, sr.): 12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.3 bpg.
12 Andrew Andrews, G (6-2, sr.): 20.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.6 apg.
5 Dejounte Murray, G (6-4.5, fr.): 15.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.4 apg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, fr.): 6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg.
10 Malik Dime, F (6-9, jr.): 6.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 bpg.
0 Marquese Chriss, F (6-9, fr.): 13.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg.
Scouting report: Due to the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule, this is the only regular-season meeting between these teams this season. … Washington hasn’t won in Eugene since March 2010, when it beat the Ducks, 86-72, at Mac Court. … The Ducks have established themselves as perhaps the best team in the Pac-12, though losses at California and Stanford two weeks ago made the conference race a little more interesting. Oregon had won six consecutive games before that. … Oregon is the fourth-best offensive rebounding team in the Pac-12, which isn’t great news for a UW team that struggles to keep opponents off the glass. The Huskies rank 340th nationally in offensive rebound percentage allowed, per KenPom.com. … According to KenPom, this game features the No. 2 (UW) and No. 4-ranked (UO) teams in the country in block percentage. Oregon ranks eighth nationally in offensive steal percentage, meaning the Ducks take care of the ball. They lead the Pac-12 in turnover margin (UW is second). … With 80 blocked shots this season, UW forward Malik Dime is nearing the single-season school record of 85, set last season by Robert Upshaw (in 19 games).