Huskies, Ducks Squander Chances to Advance
Thursday turned into a day of missed opportunities for a number of bubble teams across the country, and the Pac-12 may be in danger of being a one-bid league as a result of two results that bookended the day in Los Angeles. Top-seed Washington dropped a tough 86-84 decision to nine-seed Oregon State and poor foul shooting for both teams played a role in the finish. Tony Wroten set a school record for most points in a game by a freshman with 29 to go along with seven rebounds and three assists, but missing his final four free throws with the game in the balance will linger for quite some time.
Washington didn't close out the first half like a team playing with a sense of urgency, trailing 46-33 at the half as the Beavers scored 12 of the final 17 points. Oregon State outscored the Huskies 30-18 in the paint in the first 20 minutes, also scoring 12 points off of ten Washington turnovers, and the Huskies didn't show off the best shot selection either. There was more of the same at the start of the second half before Lorenzo Romar's team finally snapped out of their funk, evenutally taking control of the game and leading by as many as eight points.
But Washington could not shake Craig Robinson's Beavers, who followed a pair of Wroten free throws with a 7-0 run to take an 86-83 lead with six seconds to go. Following the Cunningham free throws to give OSU the three-point lead, the two teams would combine to miss their next six free throws with Wroten, a 57% shooter, missing four. The freshman made nine of his first ten free throws on the day, and the move closer to his season average came at the worst possible time for the Huskies.
"We tried to let him know that we still had a chance to win the game after he missed those free throws," said senior forward Darnell Gant. "Then he got another opportunity, but even though he didn't seize that moment, I tried to stay encouraging towards him and let him know we still have a chance to win this game."
What the Huskies have to hope at this point is that the selection committee looks at them as they did UAB last season. However it's important to point out that the Blazers had a better RPI (31 according to realtimerpi.com; Washington entered the day at 54 according to the NCAA's numbers) but the strength of schedule numbers (UAB - 78; Washington - 77) are close. The problem for the Huskies is that their best non-conference win came at the expense of UCSB, and their lone Top 50 win was a home victory over Oregon on New Year's Eve. Talent-wise a good case can be made for Washington to be in the field, but the resume doesn't match up right now and that's a concern.
Oregon is also in a bit of trouble as they've got no more chances to add wins to their resume, and what makes the Ducks' 63-62 loss to Colorado even more painful is the fact that a win would have given them a shot at a Top 50 win (California). But Andre Roberson's put-back with 13 seconds remaining advanced the Buffaloes to the semifinals in their first Pac-12 tournament, and as a result Oregon has to root for other bubble teams to falter in the final days before Selection Sunday. Devoe Joseph scored just 12 points on 6-for-19 shooting from the field, and the defensive job done by Nate Tomlinson was an underrated aspect of the Buffs' victory.
As a team the Ducks shot just 4-for-22 from beyond the arc, and the reliance on perimeter shots resulted in Oregon shooting just 4-for-8 from the charity stripe. The foul line was just one of the little things that ended up being big issues in both Washington and Oregon's defeats on Thursday, and as a result a rough season for the Pac-12 could get even worse on Selection Sunday. Teams and conferences are judged by their entire bodies of work, and at this point the Pac-12 doesn't have a whole lot to offer.
Three Notable Performances
1. G DeAndre Kane (Marshall)
40 points (15-32 FG), seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in the Thundering Herd's 105-100 triple overtime win over Tulsa in a Conference USA quarterfinal.
2. F Perry Jones III (Baylor)
31 points (11-14 FG), 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in the Bears' 82-74 win over Kansas State in a Big 12 quarterfinal.
3. G Elijah Johnson (Kansas)
26 points (8-11 FG), four assists and three rebounds in the Jayhawks' 83-66 win over Texas A&M in a Big 12 quarterfinal.