SEATTLE (AP) — Lorenzo Romar knew what the outcome was probably going to be to the point of being bluntly realistic with those around him following Washington’s stunning loss to Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
“I’ve been accused of being a pessimist more these last three days than I have in the last 10 years,” Romar said.
Romar’s growing fear became truth on Sunday when Washington, the regular-season champions of the Pac-12, was left out of the 68-team field for the NCAA tournament, making the Huskies a rare footnote and trivia fact in the annals of tournament selections.
It’s the first time a regular-season champion of a traditional power-six conference — SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, ACC, Pac-12 — was not selected for the tournament, and the first time an outright regular-season champion or co-champion of the Pac-12, Pac-10, Pac-8 or Pacific Coast Conference failed to be chosen for the tournament since the 1950s.
“We had control of the situation and we lost it,” Romar said on a teleconference Sunday afternoon.
Washington is assured of a spot in the NIT and will likely be a high seed for the 32-team consolation prize. Matchups and brackets were to be announced later Sunday night.
Despite computer numbers — RPI and strength of schedule — that pulled on the Huskies, it seemed unfathomable that the regular-season champ of the traditional power would be left out of the tournament. But the Huskies did little over the past week to show it deserved the acknowledgment.
First, the Huskies backed into the outright regular-season title when they missed a chance to claim it themselves by losing at UCLA. They won just their second outright title in 59 years when Stanford beat California a day after the Huskies loss to the Bruins.
Then Washington came out flat and uninspired against ninth-seeded Oregon State in the tourney quarterfinals on Thursday and eventually lost 86-84. Romar believes with a win over the Beavers, or in any of the Huskies’ earlier losses, Washington would be going to its fourth straight NCAA tournament.
But the selection committee had other thoughts. Washington wasn’t even among the first six teams out of the tournament.
“Our guys are very, very disappointed because I don’t think after winning the conference outright they couldn’t see any way we would not be in this tournament in their minds,” Romar said.
Washington’s biggest problem was the lack of a quality win despite a non-conference schedule that provided opportunities. The Huskies lost at Saint Louis and in neutral-site games in New York against ranked teams Marquette and Duke. They blew a late lead and lost at Western Athletic Conference regular-season champion Nevada and then lost at home to South Dakota State.
But the ugliest losses for the Huskies were the season finale loss to UCLA and the loss to Oregon State that gave the Huskies a pair of losses to teams with RPIs above 100.
“The selection process is done a lot by numbers; feed information to the computer and let it spit out the field of 68,” Romar said. “If that is the case then your numbers have to be right.”
Washington will make its sixth appearance in the NIT and first since 1997. The Huskies are 3-5 all-time and have placed a bid to host games. The first three rounds are played on campus before the semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27 and 29.