Huskies can enjoy a carefree Sunday
Washington might have had good reason to be nervous before Saturday's 79-75 win over California in the Pac-10 tournament championship.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
So, Washington fans with the jittery hands can finally put aside the operative question of the week:
It's been nervous time for the Huskies. Life on the bubble is a hellish existence. But the team that was frequently nowhere to be found in January and February has been getting it right in March, and Saturday took matters into its own hands and beat California 79-75 in the Pac-10 tournament championship.
All that angst for nothing, you're thinking.
If you were trying to insinuate the Huskies into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, you exulted in the early returns from the lower conferences and gave thanks that teams like Butler and Siena and Northern Iowa made it through unscathed.
Thursday brought more good news: The Conference USA threats, Memphis and Alabama-Birmingham, extinguished themselves. Arizona State excused itself meekly from the Pac-10 tournament.
Then Friday, the bubble temptress turned on the Huskies. Illinois probably won its way in by beating Wisconsin. San Diego State polished the résumé by downing New Mexico. Rhode Island stayed viable against Saint Louis.
Saturday, more sweaty palms for UW fans, when Houston elbowed somebody from the bubble in upsetting UTEP and Minnesota turned Purdue to mush. Mississippi State furthered its case against Vanderbilt.
By midafternoon, purple partisans were queuing up for angioplasties. Then the Huskies locked into a favorable fast tempo against Cal and dispatched the Bears.
Sunday's selection show thus becomes a pleasurable exercise for Washington faithful rather than a colonoscopy. It's hard to imagine the 10-member basketball committee doing anything to UW fans any more excruciating than what they've just been through.
Elsewhere, some analysts aren't rosy about the Pac-10 outlook, forecasting that Cal will be left out and the league will be left with only the Huskies in the tournament.
I'd be shocked. The Bears had a 19 RPI before Saturday — nobody that lofty has ever been turned away — played early heavyweights without Theo Robertson, won the regular-season title and went to the conference-tournament final. If they get jilted, it would be the crowning, consummate slap at the Pac-10 in a season full of them.
If the Bears make it, it won't have anything to do with the committee chairman. There has been some overheated babble about how Dan Guerrero, the UCLA athletic director and chair, will take care of the Pac-10, but that would go against the grain of previous chairs. His job is so scrutinized that any perceived favoritism would be deadly to the lead guy.
So, Arizona State, you probably should be accepting calls from the NIT.
As for other histrionics the committee might be working up, you don't suppose it would take another Pac-10 administrator to do what our two in-state NCAA-bound schools can't get done: Match Gonzaga and Washington in the first round?
If you see Gonzaga as a No. 6 seed, it isn't hard to feature the Huskies as an 11. If that happens, it cuts the odds way down.
Regardless of that, UW actually stands a better chance of playing close to home than Gonzaga. Even as a low seed, Washington could find itself playing in Spokane, whereas the Zags, almost certainly routed out of a "preferred" top-five seed by St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference final Monday night, figure to travel far.
The imbalance of the geographic strength this year — little punch in the West — means high seeds like Nos. 2 and 3 from the eastern side of the country, playing close to home in the NCAA's "pod" system, will pull Nos. 6 and 7 seeds to them (for prospective second-round games), and that describes Gonzaga.
In fact, travel could be one of the bigger controversies faced by Guerrero. Because of the right-leaning tilt of the power this year, a lot of teams are going to be crisscrossing time zones.
Whatever, says Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
"I learned a lesson as a young coach," Few says, recalling 2002, when the Zags got an unexpectedly low six seed and got sent to high-altitude Albuquerque, N.M., where they were upset in the first round. "I got too hung up on seeding that one year. We've got a saying in our program: 'Control what you can control.' "
The Huskies just took that one to heart as well.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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