Bubble bursts for Huskies — no invitation to NCAA tournament
Washington will play Texas-Arlington in the first round of the NIT at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Edmundson Pavilion. Gonzaga is a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament and will face No. 10 seed West Virginia in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Texas-Arlington @ Washington, 7 p.m., ESPNU
The numbers didn't add up.
Not this year and not for Washington, whose early-season struggles and late-season collapse cost them an NCAA tournament berth.
Almost always capturing the regular-season championship in a major conference such as the Pac-12 punches a ticket to the Big Dance while the league tournament champion receives the automatic bid.
But this year, the Pac-12 produced historically poor results against nonconference opponents and its RPI fell to 10th in the nation behind mid-major leagues such as the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley.
And when it came time to decide between the Huskies and other bubble teams, the selection committee didn't give Washington the miracle assists it needed.
"Usually it is worth something, us winning our conference," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "In the Summit League, Oral Roberts went 17-1 and won the conference, but their league was ranked so low that didn't matter.
"Nevada had a heckuva year and they won their conference by two, three games I believe and they didn't make it. Our conference was just not ranked as high based on the numbers this year. That's why we suffered."
Before the season began, the Huskies had hoped to set a school record and reach the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.
Instead they made history of another kind and became the first regular-season champion of a major conference that was left out of the NCAA tourney.
"Our guys are very disappointed," Romar said. "After winning the conference outright, I don't think they could see any way of why we would not be in the tournament."
As a consolation prize, Washington received the No. 1 overall seed in the National Invitation Tournament.
The Huskies (21-10) play Texas-Arlington (24-8) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Edmundson Pavilion. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
Washington's NCAA tournament disappointment is the NIT's gain, said C.M. Newton, the selection committee chairman.
"I was pleasantly surprised that they came to us," Newton said during a televised interview. "The regular-season champion of that conference, I was surprised.
"The (NCAA selection) committee did a great job. It's very, very difficult. We're just pleased to have them in our tournament."
The 32-team tournament includes four Pac-12 squads, including No. 1 seed Arizona, No. 3 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon.
If Washington advances, it will face either Northwestern or Akron in the second round, March 15-19. There's a chance for a Huskies-Ducks reunion in next week's quarterfinals.
Washington has made five NIT trips and posted a 3-5 record.
Romar was a starting point guard for the Huskies in 1980 when they lost 93-73 at UNLV in the opener.
Washington returned in 1982 and beat BYU 66-63 in the first round before falling 69-65 at home to Texas A&M.
The Huskies last hosted an NIT game on March 16, 1987 when they beat Boise State 73-68 before losing at Nebraska.
In 1996, Washington fell 64-50 in the first round at Michigan State and the next year the Huskies lost 67-63 in the opener at Nebraska.
Romar began to mentally prepare for the NIT after Washington lost Thursday in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.
Still, he said it might be a challenge to motivate the Huskies, who had hoped for a bigger prize.
"There are teams that are in the NIT and they're disappointed and it's a letdown for them because their sights were set on the NCAA tournament," he said. "They kind of have to get up to play in this tournament. And there's others that were waiting to see if they would get in the NIT like we were waiting for the NCAA tournament.
"The trick is that if you're one of the teams that is down and you're playing one of the ones that is so excited, they can get you."
Romar said the Huskies need to quickly get over Sunday's disappointment.
"It's past us," he said. "We are in a tournament. It's another challenge. You have a chance to win a championship. It's not what we wanted. It wasn't our first choice, but we need to take a hold and seize the moment and get ready to go."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com. On Twitter @percyallen.