Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir got a good look at the Washington Huskies during their 62-61 victory over the Cardinal on Sunday.
It’s unclear whether the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee came away impressed with Washington, which wrapped up the outright Pac-12 title and the No. 1 seed for next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
But an underwhelming trip to the Bay Area appeared to be costly for the Huskies (23-6 overall, 14-2 Pac-12), who fell several spots in NCAA tournament projections and find themselves sitting uncomfortably on the bubble.
After a 76-73 loss Thursday at California, CBS college-basketball analyst Jerry Palm dropped UW three spots to a No. 10 seed in his latest tournament projections.
“They lost to Cal and they were lucky not to lose to Stanford,” Palm said. “You can’t play that way in the committee chairman’s house. And you can’t lose to Cal, the worst team in a power conference. That was a no-show trip.”
The loss at Cal also cost UW — which was No. 25 last week — a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings.
Even though Palm included Washington among his eight bubble teams, he said he believes the Huskies will make the NCAA tournament. But he’s not 100 percent certain.
“Look at it this way: They don’t have a win over a team that’s going to make the tournament,” Palm said. “Think about that for a second. They weren’t really a bubble team last week, but when you start losing to Cal, that becomes the most notable thing on their resume.
“They don’t have a single win on their resume that stands out as much as that loss to Cal.”
The absence of a signature victory has haunted the Huskies all season and now they can no longer say they’ve beaten the teams they were supposed to beat.
“They can’t get a win that impresses anybody,” Palm said. “Maybe Arizona State if they meet (in the Pac-12 tournament). … Nobody in that league is helping Washington. Washington can’t resume build. So what do they have to do to make sure they stay in the tournament? Stop screwing up.”
And then there’s the nuclear option.
What if Washington drops its final two regular-season games this week — starting with Wednesday night’s home game against Oregon State — and loses its conference-tournament opener to backslide into Selection Sunday with a three-game losing streak?
“Then they’re in trouble,” Palm said. “It depends on other teams. Nothing is definite. When you’re on the bubble, then what you think is enough suddenly isn’t enough. Maybe Buffalo doesn’t win the MAC so now that conference gets two teams. The further you slide down the bracket, the more dependent you are on the other teams around you in the bracket and what happens in other conference tournaments.
“So the worst-case scenario is yes, they could miss the NCAA tournament. They would win their conference’s regular-season title and they could miss the tournament.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that has happened to Washington.
In 2011-12, the Huskies won the Pac-12 regular-season title and became the only champion in a power-5 conference that didn’t advance to the NCAA tournament.
Here’s a look at where Washington stands in several NCAA tournament forecasts:
Palm has UW as a No. 10 seed in the South region, paired against No. 7 Iowa State in Columbus, Ohio.
Howie Schwab at Fox Sports is the most bullish on UW and has the Huskies as a No. 7 seed in the West region, facing No. 10 Utah State.
ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi dropped Washington one spot to the No. 8 seed, facing No. 9 UCF in the West region for a first-round game in Salt Lake City.
And Michael Beller at SI.com also has the Huskies as a No. 8 seed, but he’s sending them to the East region to face No. 9 Texas.