The Huskies enter the final week of the regular season at 14-13 (9-8) and in 6th place in the conference standings. Depending on how things go over that time period though there are several different potential outcomes for the Huskies. Before going over each of them in detail let’s first look at what Washington has at stake.
This season there are some specific places you want to find yourself in the Pac-12 tournament bracket. The top-4 seeds get an automatic first round bye which is obviously a big advantage if you’re looking to win the whole thing. The top-3 at this point are all but locked up now and will seemingly be Arizona, USC, and UCLA in some order. The only way that changes is if UCLA loses out and Oregon wins out. But that #4 seed is still in play for a few teams.
While a bye is nice, the next best thing would be a matchup against Oregon State. The Beavers are 1-16 in Pac-12 play and have lost 13 in a row. The lucky #5 seed gets to play Oregon State in the first round and come as close as you can get to having a bye while still playing the game. The #6 and #7 seeds are tougher but still have manageable games. Not to get too deep into scenarios already but if Utah loses to Colorado at home then Cal clinches the #10 seed. If Cal loses out and Utah wins that game then Utah is the #10 seed instead. Most likely then is that the #6 seed will end up playing Utah and the #7 seed will play Cal. Regardless, UW swept both teams this season so they’re relatively interchangeable for Washington’s purposes.
The ugliest spot to fall to is the #8 or #9 seed though. There’s a pretty clear drop off in quality between the 9th and 10th spots in the conference so ending up in that game makes winning in the first round a 50/50 proposition at best. And then you (likely) get a date with #1 seed Arizona in the next round which for Washington is as close as you can get to a guaranteed loss. The objective is to avoid that game at all costs.
Let’s get into what would need to happen for UW to end up at each spot on the ladder.
#4 Overall Seed- 1.8% Chance
This one is pretty straight forward. Everything has to go Washington’s way this week to end up here. First the Huskies have to sweep all 3 home games over UCLA, Oregon, and Oregon State. That would put the Huskies at 12-8 in the conference standings. Using KenPom’s expected win percentages that would mean UW prevails in games in which it has a 16%, 42%, and 82% chance to win. The odds of winning all 3 is at approximately 5.5%.
Next Washington would need help in 2 games. They need Utah to win at home against Colorado which KenPom currently has a toss-up despite the wide gap in their Pac-12 win totals. Finally, Washington State would have to beat Oregon in Pullman in their season finale and KenPom thinks the Cougs will be favored. We already have UW beating Oregon in this scenario so that means Oregon loses out and Colorado loses out to finish tied for 5th at 11-9. The Huskies would have sole possession of 4th place in this scenario which has about a 1.8% chance of happening.
I should also note that if Washington does beat UCLA on Monday that it would show the Huskies are better than KenPom expects and their odds of winning their subsequent games would increase. I’m not going to factor any of that in. I’m just looking at the odds of everything as they’re laid out right now.
#5 Overall Seed- 2.8% Chance
There are a few ways for Washington to end up in 5th place but it’s a pretty narrow window. Unfortunately, the Huskies will lose every tiebreaker with both Oregon and Colorado. If Washington manages to beat Oregon then UW will finish 1-1 against both teams and UW split against Colorado so we move to the next tiebreaker. That includes going from the conference standings from the top to the bottom and comparing common records against each opponent until there’s a difference. Colorado beat #1 Arizona and Oregon split with USC and swept UCLA. The Huskies at best can split with UCLA which means they lose every tiebreaker against either team.
So in order to finish in 5th place Washington either needs to finish tied for 4th with exactly one of those 2 teams or end up with both one above them and one below them in the standings. The latter scenario isn’t possible since both teams already have 11 wins and UW can’t get to 12 and also have Oregon get to 13. That means the Huskies end up in 5th if they win out but either Colorado or Oregon win that final Saturday game mentioned in the previous section.
Since the Colorado/Utah game is a 50/50 we get the other chance where Colorado wins at Utah but Oregon still loses at Wazzu. But UW also finishes in 5th if Utah beats the Buffs and Oregon wins in Pullman. Put them together and that’s a 2.8% chance.
#6 Overall Seed- 56.3%
As is obvious by the much higher number above, it’s a lot more likely that the Huskies end up finishing in 6th place. I noted that the Huskies lose a tiebreaker against either Oregon or Colorado. They also unfortunately lose the tiebreaker against both Oregon and Colorado. In that circumstance Colorado gets 4th place (by virtue of their win over Arizona), Oregon gets 5th, and UW gets 6th. The only way this occurs is if UW wins out, Colorado beats Utah, and Oregon beats Wazzu.
The more common way for the Huskies to end up in 6th place is for them to simply not get beat out by the teams below them. Right now Washington State is one game behind. If the Huskies finish with 2 wins then UW is guaranteed 6th place. The only way for Washington State to tie the Huskies is by winning out but UW has the tiebreaker as long as they win either against UCLA or Oregon and they would have to in order to finish with 2 more wins.
If Washington only wins one game then the scenarios become more convoluted. If UW’s only win of the week comes against UCLA (very far fetched) then UW wins the tiebreaker against the Cougars. Similarly, if UW beats Oregon as their only win but then Oregon turns around and beats WSU then UW also wins the tiebreaker.
However going 1-2 this week opens up the possibility of getting caught by either Stanford or Arizona State as well if they finish 2-0. The best case scenario for the Dawgs is if Arizona State wins out. Washington went 1-0 against the Sun Devils so the Huskies win every tie against them. Additionally, ASU hosts Stanford and the Huskies lose all tiebreak scenarios with Stanford so an ASU win in that game helps knock Stanford out of the running while also ensuring UW wins that tiebreaker.
It’s also technically possible for Washington to finish in 6th despite losing out. That would require Washington State to lose against Oregon and either split their games against Oregon State or lose both (1-2 or 0-3 finish). It would also require Stanford to lose out and have Cal upset Arizona State. But it’s possible.
#7 Overall Seed- 34.0%
The only way the Huskies can drop this far is if they go at best 1-2 this week. Dropping into 7th means exactly one of ASU, Stanford, or Washington State ends up passing the Huskies. There are a few easy ways this happens. Let’s start by assuming that Washington goes exactly 1-2. The Cougars push UW down into 7th by going 3-0 this week as they’ll finish with a better conference record. They also pass UW if they go 2-1 with one of those wins coming over Oregon and if Washington’s only win is against Oregon State as that would give them a tiebreak win by their better record against Oregon.
Stanford has the next easiest path to eclipse the Huskies. Since they win essentially all tiebreakers with the Huskies they just need to either sweep their final 2 games and have UW go 1-2 or split and have the Dawgs go 0-3. That’s easier said than done though since KenPom gives Stanford just a 1.8% chance of winning their final 2 games at the Arizona schools and about a 3% chance of UW losing out and Stanford winning one of those games.
Arizona State has the toughest road to pass the Huskies as they would have to sweep the Bay Area schools at home and have Washington lose out. Not exactly the most likely of circumstances although not impossible.
#8 Overall Seed- 5.1%
In order to drop into 8th place we now need 2 of the ASU/Stanford/WSU trio to pass Washington. The simplest way for this to happen is for Washington State to win out, the Huskies finish 1-2, and Stanford sweeps the Arizona schools. That would put UW at 10-10, Stanford at 10-10, and Washington State at 11-9. The Cougars would get 6th, Stanford wins the tiebreaker with UW to get 7th, and the Huskies fall to 8th.
There are also scenario in which Washington goes winless. In that case Washington State only has to win 2 of their remaining 3 games and Stanford just needs a split of the Arizona schools (although ASU can’t go 2-0).
#9 Overall Seed- 0.1%
This one is among the easiest to describe but would be the most unfortunate for Washington and also the most improbable. It is possible for the Huskies to get passed by all 3 of ASU/Stanford/WSU. It first requires Washington to lose out. Washington State in that case only needs to win any 2 of their 3 games to finish a game ahead of UW. Arizona State could sweep Cal/Stanford in order to also finish a game ahead of UW. Finally, Stanford would need to upset Arizona on the road to tie the Huskies and would then win the tiebreaker by virtue of that win over Arizona.
Put all of those individual results together and you’re looking at a 0.1% chance that Washington actually falls all the way to the #9 seed. Of course, in the Pac-12 tournament there’s really no difference between the 8th and 9th seeds so it’s reasonable if you’d prefer to think of it as saying there’s a 5.2% chance that the Huskies are relegated to the 8/9 game with a date with Arizona in the quarterfinals if they happen to win.
Winning the Pac-12 tournament given how Washington’s season has gone seems extremely far fetched. Getting to the NIT is also going to require a lot to go right but if the Huskies want to have a shot at either it means racking up the wins this week and putting themselves in the best possible position to make a move in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 tournament.
Washington finishes 3-0: #4, 5, or 6 seed possible
Washington finishes 2-1: #6 seed possible
Washington finishes 1-2: #6, 7, or 8 seed possible
Washington finishes 0-3: #6, 7, 8, or 9 seed possible