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Who do the Huskies need to win or lose down the stretch?

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Huskies are on the right side of the bubble for an NCAA tournament game. God, that feels good to type. And I would like to continue to be able to type that phrase for the next month. How Washington performs will be the overwhelming factor in deciding whether they have a sufficient resume. But it wouldn’t hurt to have some other things go their way as well.

For those that aren’t aware, the NCAA selection committee changed the way they’re viewing tournament resumes to compensate for the added difficulties of winning road/neutral games. Rather than simply top-50 or top-100 RPI wins, each game is put into one of four buckets with different criteria for home/neutral/road games. That means Washington needs teams to hit certain RPI thresholds in order to maximize how they look on the resume. Here are all of the teams which UW has a vested interest in their success the rest of the way broken into a few different categories with the schools organized from most to least important within each grouping.

Potential Mid-Major Champions

Belmont- 19-6 (11-1)

If you remember way back to opening night, Jaylen Nowell single-handedly beat Belmont by scoring 32 points in his college debut. That win could be big in March. The threshold for a “Tier 2” win at home is a win over an RPI 30-75 team. Currently, Belmont sits at 78th in RPI. If the Bruins can win out and end up as the OVC regular and postseason champions then it would give the Huskies an extra “Tier 2” win and a win over a team in the tournament. Record over tournament teams isn’t an official category but it’s more likely to stand out in a committee member’s mind when they have to rank Belmont as a 13 seed then if it’s a random OVC team with a good record. This isn’t a foregone conclusion though as Murray State is legitimately good and will be tough in the OVC conference tournament.

Montana- 18-5 (11-0)

Washington barely pulled out a home win over the Grizzlies right before conference play. And that win looks better and better as Montana is 11-0 in the Big Sky and 96th in the RPI. I don’t think they have a good enough closing schedule to get up to 75th like Belmont but their advanced stats look much better. KenPom has them as the #70 team in the country and if committee members choose to look at that site then they’ll view the win more highly. Again, having another win over a conference champion is never a bad thing.

UC Davis- 16-7 (7-2)

The Aggies hung in there against UW in November and have gotten off to a 7-2 start in Big West play and tied with UC Santa Barbara. Davis hosts UCSB tonight in a battle for 1st place in the conference. Washington should be rooting hard for them. They still have to go at UCSB and 3rd place UC Irvine so it would require a few upsets for them to get a title. The Aggies also have an RPI of 98, so likely not going to get to the 75th ranking to move up a tier but another chance to have a win over a mid-major conference champion.

Non-Conference Tourney Teams

Virginia Tech- 17-7 (6-5)

Washington got massacred by the Hokies in Madison Square Garden and so it’d help if they looked a little better. Their advanced numbers are better than their #62 RPI but the tier system cares about the latter. 1-50 on a neutral court is “Tier 1” and basically can’t hurt the resume at all so we want them to move up at least 12 spots here. Tech still has a brutal end to the year with two games against Duke plus road games at Miami and Virginia and home games against Clemson and Louisville. If they can go 3-3 in those contests it should bump them up enough. Otherwise, they’ll need a miracle ACC tournament run.

Kansas- 19-5 (8-3)

It’s in the Huskies best interest if Kansas sets the record for most consecutive conference titles. Right now they’re in a neck and neck race with...Texas Tech for the Big-12 title. But if they were to sweep the rest of the season in the nation’s toughest conference they still have a shot at a #1 seed which would subjectively improve UW’s resume. But this will be a “Tier 1” win no matter what since Kansas’ #7 RPI would have to drop 69 spots to fall down a tier.

Providence- 16-9 (7-4)

The Friars have a 27th ranked RPI right now and appear to be solidly in the tournament which is good for Washington. They’d have to drop out of the top-50 for it to move from a “Tier 1” loss to “Tier 2”. Either way, people won’t consider this one a bad loss especially given the score margin and the distance for each team.

Pac-12 Conference Opponents

Stanford- 13-11 (7-4)

In my mind the Cardinal can help Washington’s resume the most. Stanford is tied for the 80th best RPI right now. Most people construe “bad losses” as something outside of the top-2 tiers so if Stanford is able to get in the top-75 that loss would mostly fall out of that category. And Washington still has to go to Maples Pavilion. If they’re in the top-75 and Washington is able to beat them then it would give them another “Tier 1” win and at worst a “Tier 1” loss which essentially doesn’t hurt the resume. I think a strong finish by Stanford outside of that UW game would be the biggest boon for the Huskies.

Arizona State- 17-6 (5-6)

When the Sun Devils were the last undefeated team in the country it looked like a home win over them would be gigantic. Now it is quantified as “Tier 2”. Bobby Hurley’s squad are 42nd in the RPI and unfortunately they have to finish in the top-30 for that win to get the bump up to “Tier 1”. It’s a tough schedule to finish out the year for ASU but a home heavy one with contests against USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Arizona all in Tempe. A 3-1 or better record plus a road sweep of the Oregon schools might get them there.

Colorado- 14-10 (6-6)

The Buffs’ analytics numbers suck but their RPI is actually pretty good which is fortunate for the Huskies. They come in at #63 right now which means the road win Washington picked up is “Tier 1” and a home win next week would qualify as a “Tier 2”. Hopefully, a 3-3 finish with wins at Wazzu, one of the L.A schools at home, and at Utah would be enough to keep them in the top-75 where Washington needs them.

Everyone Else

I don’t think there’s a clear enough advantage to say we’re rooting whole-heartedly for one team over another at this point. But here’s the rest. Arizona is 14th in RPI and just needs to stay top-30 so that win is secure. USC is 44th and UCLA is 58th while both just have to stay in the top-75 to remain “Tier 1” games which should happen barring complete collapse. Utah is 56th and almost certainly won’t get up to 30th for a home win over them to reach “Tier 1” so we just need them to stay in the top-75. Oregon is 85th in RPI and technically it would be good if they got into the top-75 to get another “Tier 1” win but I’m skeptical it can happen for them since we also need them to lose to Washington twice and so I’m content for them to just keep losing.

Non-UW Games of Consequence This Week (all times Pacific):

Stanford at Utah, Thursday 2/8 5:00p, FS1

UC Davis vs. UC Santa Barbara, Thursday 2/8 7:00p, no TV

USC at Arizona State, Thursday 2/8 8:00p, ESPN2

Kansas at Baylor, Saturday 2/10 11:00a, CBS

Virginia Tech at Virginia, Saturday 2/10 3:15p, ESPN

UCLA at Arizona State, Saturday 2/10 4:00p, P12 Network

Stanford at Colorado, Sunday 2/11 1:00p, P12 Network

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