Washington’s dismissal of Robert Upshaw early this week led me to a former NCAA basketball committee member to try to shed light on the committee’s thinking when it assesses such situations.
We talked Wednesday afternoon. And then a few hours later, the Huskies played like they were trying to render such speculation moot, turning in a flat, uninspired 84-74 loss to Stanford, one in which they trailed by 20 at the first TV timeout of the second half.
Unless they play a lot better that, discussion about the NCAA tournament will be pointless. But here’s what the committeeman told me:
— The committee looks at such situations as no different from a season-ending injury. In other words, there’s no “penalty” for the fact it’s a disciplinary case.
— He referred to Washington as having (eventually) a “blended” resume, one that includes its performance with Upshaw and the part without him.
— But essentially, he minimized the notion that the committee would make a sharp distinction between the segments with and without Upshaw. As he pointed out, there’s plenty of season left for the matter to play out. He said it would only be a fine-line issue if Washington were squarely on the NCAA bubble, comparing it to how the committee might look — in an imaginary scenario — at one team with a highly ranked strength of schedule to one with a lesser SOS.
— He conceded that “human nature” would enter into how committee people would view the Huskies as a potentially strong team in the tournament without Upshaw. Again, that will be evident by their play without him.
All of this, of course, is moot unless Washington plays a lot better than it did against Stanford. Chances are, the issue will sort itself out on the floor, not in a boardroom.
Until the Upshaw ouster, I saw the Huskies as narrowly in the NCAA field. They have valuable non-league wins against the Nos. 31-32 teams in the RPI, San Diego State and Oklahoma, a component missing from their recent seasons. (As we all know, they had tainted that with the Stony Brook/Cal/Washington State slippage after the initial undefeated run.)
Looking at their last 10 games before the Pac-12 tournament in a broad-brush way, I see two avenues for Washington: Get a high-profile win against top-10 Arizona or Utah, both of which Washington hosts, and be reasonably steady with the rest of it; or accumulate a solid resume against the Pac-12 flock of 50-100 RPI teams like Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado.
Either way, Washington can’t perform like it did against Stanford. For one, I’d suggest losing the zone defense, which was passive at the game’s opening and helped Stanford to an early lead. Get out and pressure man-to-man on the half-court, even if the depth is marginal. With their post presence thinned, the Huskies have to get some easy baskets. The guard-heavy lineup that stirred Washington to life in the meaningless late minutes against Stanford ought to be the road map.
Take this thing into your own hands. If a once-promising season is going to go down the drain, at least let it happen on your own terms.