The Washington Huskies will not play in the NCAA basketball tournament this season. But they probably aren’t done playing basketball.
With an overall record of 18-14 and a Pac-12 mark of 9-9, the Huskies are likely to be selected Sunday to play in the National Invitation Tournament and should be a strong candidate to host at least their first game.
The NIT selection show is scheduled to air at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU, roughly an hour after the conclusion of the NCAA selection show on CBS (Ch. 7).
The Huskies were eliminated from contention for an NCAA tournament bid after losing 83-77 on Thursday to league champion Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals. It’s the fifth consecutive season that UW will not play in the NCAA tourney, its longest such streak since the Huskies missed 11 consecutive NCAA tournaments between 1986 and 1998.
They missed the postseason entirely the past two seasons and last played in the NIT in 2013, losing 90-79 at Brigham Young in the first round. In 2011-12, when the Huskies won the regular-season Pac-12 championship but still missed the NCAA tournament, they won three games in the NIT before losing to Minnesota in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Those are Lorenzo Romar’s only two appearances in the NIT as UW’s coach. In their history, the Huskies have played in seven NITs and have a 6-7 record.
After UW’s loss to Oregon on Thursday, Romar said he didn’t think the Huskies would struggle to find the necessary motivation to play in the NIT, disappointed as they are about missing the NCAAs again.
“Today is not fun. Tomorrow won’t be fun,” Romar said Thursday. “But if our name is called on Sunday to go play, then we’ll get excited about it. Just like I’m always asked, ‘Do you guys think you’ll be able to overcome this last defeat?’ Guys have always raised up. This group enjoys playing, so we’ll enjoy playing again.”
After beginning Pac-12 play with a 7-3 record, the Huskies lost seven of their last 10 games to finish on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble. Five of those losses were by six points or fewer, each decided in the final minute.
For that reason, Romar has insisted the Huskies played better basketball toward the end of the season despite not winning as many close games as they did earlier in their Pac-12 schedule.
“I thought we got better in a lot of areas,” Romar said. “I told our team, ‘I wish we had 10 more games right now.’ Because now, the way we’re playing is a whole lot better. I think we’ve been playing a whole lot better the last few weeks.”