Sunday, March 11, 2012

Huskies first ever major conference champion left out of NCAA tournament!

By Kshell

History was made on selection Sunday as the Washington Huskies(21-10,14-4) became the first ever major conference champion snubbed from the NCAA tournament. Despite winning their conference California Golden Bears along with Colorado Buffaloes(who won the automatic bid) are the only Pac-12 schools heading to the big dance. The Big East sent nine teams while the Pac-12 couldn't even send their champion. For Lorenzo Romar who won the coach of the year this is a major blow. The Huskies were trying to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history four straight years. Despite winning the conference title the Huskies will now be forced to play in the NIT on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against UT-Arlington.

For the Huskies this is an opportunity to grow as a team and use as fuel for next season. Some teams have done well in the NIT in the past and used that for the following season. The Huskies were awarded the #1 seed in the NIT and will play the UT-Arlington Mavericks(24-8,15-1) who like the Huskies won their conference regular season. The Mavericks are led by guard LaMarcus Reed III who averages 17.8 PPG while making 1.9 three pointers a game. For the Huskies senior Darnell Gant this wasn't the ending he wanted for his career who will now be forced to play his final home games in the NIT. Gant was trying to become the first ever Husky to reach the NCAA tournament four years in a row. Instead Gant will end his career playing in the NIT. Gant is the only senior on the team so if Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten decide to come back this experience could help them in the tournament. Most likely this experience will help them exit easier.

Last year the Washington State Cougars made the NIT as the #2 seed starring Klay Thompson. In fact the Cougars made the NIT final four before getting blown out 75-44 to eventual NIT champions Witchita State(who is now in the NCAA tournament). The Cougars thought that experience would be good for them as they had no seniors on their team. Little did they know that was to be the final four games of Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto's career with the Cougars. During that NIT Thompson scored 25 points in the opening round game with a win over Long Beach State(now in the NCAA tournament). He followed that up with 21 points in a win over Oklahoma State. Then scored 17 points in an overtime win over Northwestern(who the Huskies could face in the second round). In his final game in a Cougars uniform Thompson in front of the big stage of Madison Square Garden scored only six points on 1-10 shooting. That poor performance didn't hurt Thompson at all as he still bolted to the NBA where is now seen bashing on Mike Leach's football program. The Cougars used that NIT Final Four momentum to go 15-16 this year and be in the CBI. The point is the momentum doesn't matter if your two best players leave the program which is what could very well happen to the Huskies. This NIT just gives both Ross and Wroten a chance at redemption to leave early. The Cougars weren't mad at Thompson at all for failing to reach the NCAA tournament in three years instead they proudly hung up their final four NIT banner.

For many Husky fans their final image of Tony Wroten won't be of him scoring 29 points against the Oregon State Beavers. It won't be of him averaging 16.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.6 APG and 1.9 steals per game. Instead it will be of him missing four straight free throws with the Huskies trailing by one point. If he makes just two of those free throws the Huskies are preparing for an NCAA tournament game. Regardless of what happens in the NIT if Wroten fails to come back that will be his legacy. As for Terrence Ross people won't remember him being named first team or even being snubbed for player of the year. It will be his no show act against the Beavers and drawing a costly offensive foul. I think Ross should leave early much like Thompson last year he has nothing else to prove. While Wroten needs to cut down on his turnovers(3.9 per game) and work on free throw shooting(57.6%). His outside shot in general needs work if Wroten comes back the Huskies should make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

The Huskies didn't get the results they wanted today and perhaps they were indeed snubbed. That still doesn't change the fact they lost an Oregon State club headed to the CBI and an UCLA club who wasn't good enough to be selected by the NIT. Win one of those two games they are probably in right now. Just win two of those games against eventual NCAA tournament teams South Dakota State, Saint Louis, Duke and Marquette and the Huskies are dancing. Too many missed opportunities late and early in the season doomed the Huskies season this year. Romar now has reached just one sweet 16 in the last six seasons since Brandon Roy graduated. The program appears to have peaked in the 2005 and 2006 era with Roy, Nate Robinson and Will Conroy. Romar is recruiting at a better clip now than he was then yet the results aren't coming in. For a team featuring Wroten and Ross the season wasn't supposed to end in the NIT. Now the Huskies will just have to make due with a big situation and play the season out. For many Husky fans the season has already ended when they lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament.

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