Selection Sunday is less than a month away and that fact alone might be the only prediction one can comfortably give as it relates to Washington’s NCAA Tournament chances.
The Huskies (17-8, 7-4 Pac-12) have six regular season games left to potentially make up for what what was their worst two-game stretch of the season. It’s just the third time this season they’ve lost consecutive games, but any defeat this late in the year comes with greater consequence. UW opened its southern venture with a 65-40 loss to Oregon (16-8, 6-5) at the Matthew Knight Arena. It was the fewest points the Huskies scored in more than two seasons.
Move ahead to Saturday when UW suffered its most heart-breaking and arguably, worst loss of the year. UW blew a 13-point lead and fell on a last-second shot in double overtime to Oregon State (13-11, 5-7) at Gill Coliseum. The Huskies, prior to facing the Beavers and Ducks, were projected to sneak into the field.
As of Monday, the Huskies are still expected to reach the NCAA Tournament. CBS predicts they’ll be an 11th seed in the West Region while ESPN also has them as an 11th seed but in the South. USA Today has UW as the ninth seed in the South.
“You just gotta have a short-term memory,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said after the loss to OSU. “You gotta move forward. We gotta go protect our home court. It’s hard to win on the road. It’s hard to win on this league. Just gotta keep moving forward. Can’t get too high. Can’t get too low. There were some good lessons to learn from this.”
Hopkins alluded to one of those lessons when he said the team’s defense “failed” them against the Beavers.
OSU, despite its record, entered its contest against UW shooting 50.8 percent on the season. That’s good enough for fifth in the Pac-12 and 52nd nationally.
The Beavers shot 55.6 percent for the game and had three players score more than 18 points. That trio shot 67.9 percent from the field.
Oregon and Oregon State also hammered UW on the interior. The Ducks put up 36 points in the paint, or about 55 percent of their total offense. The Beavers, however, torched the Huskies for 60.
That means 62 percent of the Beavers’ points came from the inside.
Porous paint defense is only compounded by how well OSU shot from outside. Hopkins’ 2-3 zone is designed to push shooters off the perimeter and limit 3-point chances.
OSU was 9-for-19 from 3 (47.4 percent) for the game. Those figures rose in the second half and overtime when they shot 6-for-8 from the outside for a rate of 75 percent.
“Three’s. We gave them threes. They got hot,” junior forward Noah Dickerson said. “Once they saw one go in, they started pouring in and that’s all she wrote.”
UW dropped both its games in the 2K Classic to Providence and Virginia Tech in Madison Square Garden in mid-November. From there, the Huskies won five straight including a landmark victory over then-No. 2 Kansas at the Sprint Center Kansas City, Mo.
Washington didn’t go through another two-game losing streak until mid-January when it lost to Stanford in Seattle and at Utah in Salt Lake City.
The Huskies responded by winning four games in a row including two straight over ranked opponents in then-No. 25 Arizona State and then-No. 9 Arizona on a last-second 3-pointer.
The Huskies host Utah on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday. They’ll have less than a week to prepare for the bay-area double at Stanford and California.
Home games against Oregon and Oregon State will end the regular season.
Four of those six games come at the Alaska Airlines Arena. The Huskies are 13-2 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion and own one of the best home court records in college basketball this season.
Only Arizona, which is 13-1, has a better home floor advantage among Pac-12 teams. UW, excluding neutral site games, is 3-4 on the road and its 42.9 winning percentage away from home is the fifth-best in the conference. Arizona is the only conference team that has won more than 50 percent of its true road games this year.
Those figures appear promising for the Huskies down the stretch. Keep in mind, however, the Huskies are .500 against their final six opponents this season.
“Let’s get our head straight and we’ll be fine,” Dickerson said. “That’s one of the things coach says, ‘On to the next one’ and we’ll be OK.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark