As we speak, there are maybe only 12-14 people who know whether Washington is part of the 2012 NCAA basketball bracket — the 10-person committee and a handful of NCAA staffers who ramrod the process in Indianapolis.
At mid-afternoon, Jeff Hathaway, the Big East consultant who chairs the basketball committee, told CBS Sports his panel had decided on the 37 at-large participants. Of course, one of those could be kicked to the curb if St. Bonaventure beats Xavier in the Atlantic-10 final Sunday, which would squeeze the bubble by one entry.
Washington? What makes this decision so provocative is that it’s never happened in the history of the tournament — the notion that the committee is having to weigh a power-six-conference regular-season champion. We’ve come to expect that conference regular-season champions — and usually two or three teams that trail that one — will be invited to the NCAAs. But this isn’t any old year.
In mulling this whole dynamic, I could see one or more committee members making the excruciating final call on his/her last couple of bubble teams and taking an extended look at the Huskies in the non-conference. True, it was only a 5-5 record, but if you’re looking for evidence that they can compete, you see a one-point loss to Marquette, a loss by six to Duke, and a thriller on the road at Nevada. And maybe you look at the other metrics, you don’t see much to choose, and you make the call to vote them in over a North Carolina State or Miami or Brigham Young. It’s not as though the bubble is a collection of rock-solid resumes.
Saturday, the consensus of the national pundits is that the Huskies are toast, if narrowly. I’d tend to agree with that; if you crunch their resume against a lot of the other competition, it’s not much to look at. But as a final word, this is worth saying: Until the final word is dispensed, we’re all just guessing. As long as the selection is a matter of subjectivity, Washington has a shot — until Jeff Hathaway says it doesn’t.