My gut feeling is that the Huskies will — yes, will — be going to the Big Dance. They’ll make it and it will totally be undeserved. I liken the Dawgs making the NCAA Tournament to a reckless teenager being bequeathed a brand new BMW by his wealthy, oblivious parents…right after he totaled the last BMW they previously gave to him.
This version of the Huskies has been given chance after chance after chance. Amazingly, they’ve continued to blow those chances, one after the other, only to later pay witness to good fortune falling squarely in their lap.
Take, for instance, the Pac-12 regular season championship. Heading into the final days of conference play, Washington had a golden opportunity to win the league title outright by knocking off an embattled UCLA team. They squandered that opportunity, thus putting their fate in the hands of the California Golden Bears. A Cal victory over Stanford meant Washington would share the title with the Bears; a Cal loss meant the Huskies would be blessed with the crown. As we all know now, California lost and Washington signed for a shiny package delivered at their doorstep. They won the Pac-12 title, but did they really earn it? I guess that depends on one’s perspective.
All year long, the Huskies have been frustratingly maddening. They lose games they should win, win games they should lose…they’re a manic roller coaster ride of constant anxiety. There are a bevy of reasons for this, of course — excuses, more or less — which any Kool-Aid-sipping fan can rattle off with relative ease: this team is young, they’re inexperienced, they’ve been beset by injuries here and there, the list goes on.
But what it really comes down to is the fact that a) this ballclub has underachieved, and b) they’ve failed to capitalize on the reality of their circumstances. What are the reality of their circumstances, you ask? The answer to that can be found in a down year for the Pac-12, a disappointing journey through the non-conference slate (including three straight losses, at one point), games that have been lost in the closing seconds due to mistakes or poor execution (see: Marquette, Nevada, California, UCLA, etc.), and winnable contests that were simply blown (see: Nevada, South Dakota State, Colorado).
No, no team is perfect. Yet this year’s Huskies have fallen far short of anything even remotely resembling excellence. Worse yet, they’ve come across to many fans as entitled and deserving in their pursuit of whatever it is they’re after (ask each player his goal for the season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone gave you a different answer). One can’t really put statistics behind the definition of attitude, but the Dawgs have lacked any apparent desire to try hard or give a spirited, passionate effort consistently throughout the year. That might be the most disheartening fact of all. They don’t seem to care. And for any fan of the school and the ballclub, that absolutely…sucks.
All that said, I’ll reiterate my original point: Washington probably will make the NCAA Tournament. No regular season major conference champion has ever not made the Tournament; this would be a first. And in order for the Huskies to really get snubbed, a substantial number of bubble teams would have to win their conference tournaments, or at least put up strong showings this weekend, which in all likelihood probably won’t happen.
But do they deserve the trip? If the history of this season is any indication, worthiness won’t matter. Going dancing will simply be the latest gift for the 2011-2012 Washington Huskies.