By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — While the 2011-12 men’s basketball season still has plenty of time for teams to play their ways in and out of the upcoming NCAA tournament, what became pretty clear in recent days was that it was a pretty good weekend for the University of Washington.
In addition to finishing off a sweep of fellow tournament bubble team Arizona, the Huskies (19-8 overall, 12-3 in the Pacific-12 Conference) got plenty of help around the country in their pursuit of an at-large bid.
Fellow bubble teams like North Carolina State (18-9 overall), Texas (17-10), Seton Hall (18-9), Connecticut (16-10), Illinois (16-11), Minnesota (17-10), Purdue (17-10) and Wyoming (18-8) suffered crucial losses that could leave them on the outside looking in.
Other bubble teams like Northwestern (16-10), West Virginia (17-10), Central Florida (19-7) and Alabama (17-9) fell short in upset bids earlier in the week, leaving their tourney status up in the air.
And teams like Duke (23-4), Marquette (22-5), St. Louis (22-5) and Nevada (22-5) continue to help UW’s RPI by piling up wins.
A UW team that once seemed eliminated from at-large contention has scratched its way back into the field, despite the lack of a marquee win and playing in a struggling conference.
The freefalls of teams like Illinois, Texas and UConn could open the door for two, and possibly three, teams from the Pac-12 to make the NCAA tournament. California, UW, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Stanford are bubble teams with three conference games remaining. Of that group, the Bears (22-6, No. 29 RPI) appear to have all but locked up a tournament bid. Oregon has an RPI ranking of No. 51 in the nation but is two games behind UW in the Pac-12 standings.
The Huskies, with a No. 55 RPI and remaining games against Washington State, UCLA and USC, appear to be in as good a situation as they’ve been all season.