The Dawgs’ postseason hopes have looked dim for a couple months, but the squad created at least a glimmer of hope over the weekend by playing to their potential against two very good teams from the Desert State. The run started with a win over Arizona State in which the Huskies flipped the script and came back from a big deficit in the second-half. Naz Carter, Isaiah Stewart, and Jaden McDaniels all played well at the same time, which has been a shockingly rare occurrence this season. Carter, in particular, was the straw that stirred the drink on Thursday. He knocked down threes, drew defenders to him, and drove to the basket to use his great athleticism at the rim. It’s a classic cause of what-coulda-been, because fans knew Carter had this sort of game in him and he simply got to that place far too rarely this season.
The positive vibes continued to the south in Tucson with an even more surprising win on Saturday night. Arizona might be the most talented team in the conference, but the Dawgs surged to a big early lead behind Stewart and McDaniels. Even though Arizona made a run in the second half, McDaniels and Jamal Bey had enough left in the tank to preserve the lead. While the wins mean nothing in isolation, they show that Mike Hopkins has been able to make adjustments and keep his team focused, neither of which was a given during the awful stretch midyear. The two quality wins also let us dream about what could happen in a magical run at the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Huskies head to Las Vegas as the #12 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament with the toughest road ahead of them of any team in the bracket. But it’s still fun to dream, right? Here’s what it would take for the Dawgs to pull off a miracle.
First, UW faces Arizona in a rematch from the weekend. We already have a blueprint for how to win this game because we saw it days ago. The Huskies didn’t have an exceptional shooting night, but they got enough out of Stewart and McDaniels (14-26 from the floor combined) to keep the offense functioning. Meanwhile, they held the Wildcats to 35% shooting and forced 18 turnovers. That effort was enough to offset Arizona’s 14 offensive rebounds. The Dawgs will need a repeat of that defensive performance, and if they can get something more than a dud out of Carter, a win is possible.
The winner of that game takes on 4th seeded USC. Can the Dawgs beat the Trojans? Of course they can; they beat them by 32 earlier this year. More recently, they lost in LA by six points in a game they led well into the second-half. Across 80 minutes of action, UW has held USC to 102 total points. The defense can carry them again in the second round. It will be up to the offense to keep clicking like it did this weekend.
A second-round win would set up a rematch with Oregon (assuming seeds hold). Given the way the Dawgs blew that game in overtime to the Ducks, there’s probably no team UW wants another shot at more. That was another match-up where UW snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. They led by 14 with 10 minutes to go and seven within the final three. Payton Pritchard made a miraculous late three to get the game into overtime. Oregon has been much better in clutch situations all year and that’s a skill. Still, there’s direct evidence that UW has the talent to play with and ahead of the Ducks if they get another shot.
If UW pulls off these three upsets in a row, it’s hard to imagine who they would play in the finals. UCLA and ASU are the top seeds on that side of the bracket. UCLA would likely play their quarterfinal against a Stanford team that stomped them in their one match-up. ASU is on track to play a Colorado team that has beaten them twice. While UW’s record against that group isn’t good, it is full of blown late leads. If the late-game offensive execution has really turned a corner, the Dawgs have at least a puncher’s chance against any of those teams.
Ok, back to reality. UW is a 12 seed and will be a sizable underdog against Arizona in the play-in round. Of course, that’s why they call it Madness.
Last week, I highlighted several of the conferences races that were coming down to the last weekend. Florida State emerged at the top of the ACC heap with a comfortable win over Boston College. Virginia won its eighth straight over Louisville to pull into a tie with the Cardinals and Duke for second in the conference. Creighton, Villanova, and Seton Hall finished tied atop the Big East headed into MSG. Likewise, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Michigan State all claimed a share of the Big 10 regular season crown. The Spartans ended up as the only team in the conference with a winning road record. San Diego State lost their second game of the season in the MWC tournament final to Utah State.
Finally, how’s this for an uneven season: The Evansville Purple Aces started out 3-0, including a win over #1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena. They lost their next three then won six of seven. Then they lost 19 in a row, including all 18 Missouri Valley Conference games. That’s right- they beat the #1 team in the country and went winless in conference.
Which Dawg would you most like back in 2020-21?
This poll is closed