SEATTLE — Lorenzo Romar knew this was coming, even if he didn’t want to believe it.
After his team fell on its face in the Pac-12 tournament, losing to ninth-seeded Oregon State in the quarterfinals, the always-optimistic Romar knew what that might mean for Washington’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
“I’ve been accused of being a pessimist the last three days probably more than I have in the last 10 years, and that was because I just kind of understood where we were,” Romar said on a conference call. “I understood the place where we were after dropping the Oregon State game.”
On Sunday, Romar’s fears were realized as the Huskies, despite being the Pac-12 regular season champions, were left out of the tournament field. Instead of playing in their seventh NCAA Tournament in 10 years under Romar, the Huskies will stay home and host an NIT game against the University of Texas-Arlington.
And as crazy as it is to think that the regular-season champion in one of college basketball’s so-called power conferences could be left out of the tournament, this is hardly an outrage.
The Huskies are talented enough to be in the tournament, and at times this year they looked like a team good enough to be in the field. But the fact is, and Romar was well aware of this after Thursday’s loss, Washington didn’t do enough over the course of the season to solidify their NCAA Tournament resume. Early in the season, they lost every big non-conference game that would have been so valuable in a year when the Pac-12 was down. And more importantly, down the stretch, when another win or two would have likely cemented Washington’s status as a tournament team, the Huskies lost their final two games.
“We had 10 losses, and I really believe any one of those losses turns into a win, and we’re in,” Romar said. “I really believe that.
“That’s the most disappointing thing. We were in a position to control the situation and we allowed someone else to take control.”
Now just because Romar understands why his team didn’t make the tournament doesn’t mean he agrees with the decision. Like a lot of people, Romar believes a conference championship is deserving of a tournament berth, and having seen what players like Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten can do, Romar no doubt believes, rightly so, that his team could do some damage in the tournament given the opportunity.
“Are we the 69th-best team or 70th? No way in the world,” Romar said. “We’re definitely one of the best 68 teams, but the numbers didn’t bear that according to the selection committee.”
Should the selection committee have rewarded Washington’s regular-season triumph over a down Pac-12 with a berth? One can certainly make that argument. After all, this the first time since 1954 that regular season champion of the Pac-12/Pac-10/Pac-8/Pacific Coast Conference has been left out of the NCAA Tournament. But could the Huskies have done more to have made that decision easier on the committee? Absolutely.
Which is why Romar was “much more disappointed than surprised” when his team was left out on Sunday.
“It’s what we’ve been saying for the past three weeks: control what you can control,” he said. “We had control of the situation, then we lost control, so you’re at the mercy of upsets and all kinds of things that might or might not happen.”
The Huskies had their chance last week to erase all doubt. Instead, they weakened an already shaky resume. The Huskies should be in the NCAA tournament. That’s not to say the selection committee got it wrong, but rather that Washington was good enough to have done more with its season. In the end, the Huskies have nobody to blame for Sunday’s disappointment but themselves.
“We had our chances,” Romar said. “We played Marquette and got beat at the buzzer. We were up five I believe with 20-some seconds to go at Nevada. South Dakota State, yeah they’re an NCAA Tournament team and a very good team, but we were at home. So we had our chances.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.