After 16 weeks, the Huskies re-entered the Associated Press top 25 rankings.
Washington, which was ranked 25th in the preseason poll, is No. 25 again in the AP rankings released on Monday.
Gonzaga moved up one and took over the top spot in the AP poll followed by Virginia. Duke, which suffered a loss last week without injured star Zion Williamson, fell two spots to No. 3 and Kentucky is fourth.
Washington (22-5, 13-1 Pac-12) dropped out of the AP rankings in Week 2 after an 88-66 defeat at Auburn on Nov. 9 and it’s been a long, arduous climb back to the top 25.
It’s the first time a Pac-12 team has been ranked in the the AP poll since the start of the conference season.
The Huskies’ missteps and shortcomings in November and December continue to haunt them as the calendar flips to March this week and college basketball encroaches on the madness of the postseason.
Washington is one of the hottest teams in the nation that’s won 15 of its past 16 games, but it’s still considered a bubble team in a handful of NCAA tournament projections.
So what gives?
Well, it’s simple. Ask yourself, what’s UW’s best win?
It’s a question that’s dogged the Huskies ever since their nonconference road defeats to Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, Auburn and Minnesota.
The Huskies have secured at least a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title, but they still lack the one thing the NCAA Selection Committee craves: signature wins.
According to the NET — the NCAA’s new metric in place of the RPI — Washington’s best wins were at Oregon (61-56), Colorado (77-70) and Oregon State (79-69).
Neither of those teams rank higher than 75 in the NET.
And it’s going to be next to impossible for Washington to vastly improve its standing in the eyes of the selection committee in the next three weeks because no Pac-12 team — other than UW — ranks higher than 63 in the NET.
Before last week’s wins against Utah and Colorado, SI.com’s Michael Beller still had Washington teetering on the NCAA tournament bubble.
“It’s hard to imagine the Huskies missing out on the dance if they go 25-6 overall and 16-2 in the conference in the regular season,” Beller wrote on Feb. 20. “That accounts for one more loss among their six remaining games, which are against Utah, Colorado, Cal (away), Stanford (away), Oregon and Oregon State. Frankly, if they lose more than one game against those six teams, they deserve to be in trouble.”
In Beller’s most recent NCAA tournament projection, UW is a No. 8 seed matched against No. 9 St. John’s in the East region.
Thybulle honored by Pac-12
Following a pair of extraordinary defensive performances, Washington senior guard Matisse Thybulle collected the Pac-12 player of the week award, the conference announced Monday.
The defensive ace averaged 13.5 points, 6.0 steals, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in a pair of wins last week for the Huskies, who clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title.
During a 64-55 victory over Colorado, Thybulle finished with a team-high 17 points, six steals, five blocks and three rebounds in 26 minutes. He also hit two 3-pointers and converted 7 of 13 field goals.
Two days earlier, Thybulle tallied 10 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four blocks to lead Washington to a 62-45 win against Utah. He also had two 3-pointers and sank 4 of 9 shots from the floor.
It’s the first Pac-12 player of the week award for Thybulle, who is a semifinalist for the Naismith national defensive player of the year award.
He’s the second UW player to win the conference’s weekly honors this season and joins Jaylen Nowell, who has won the award three times.