BY SPNW Staff 03:40PM 02/22/2012

Despite late run, Huskies on bubble with 3 left

Only once in the Lorenzo Romar coaching era has Washington made the NCAA Tournament field with a higher RPI than the RPI (55) the Huskies have now.

The Huskies have been virtually unbeatable when Terrence Ross plays at least 30 minutes. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

By defeating the Arizona Wildcats 79-70 Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena, the University of Washington basketball team improved its RPI from 63 to 55. If the NCAA made its selections today, the Huskies would, according to, make the tournament as a bubble team with a No. 12 seeding.

That projection makes a number of assumptions, but before we go there, a definition. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is a formula used by the NCAA to aid in selecting teams and seedings for the NCAA Tournament. Computer generated, RPI is made up of a team’s winning percentage (25%), its opponents’ winning percentage (50%), and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents (25%).

In 2004, the NCAA modified RPI to account for differences in home and away games. A home win now counts as 0.6 win, while a road win counts as 1.4 wins. Conversely, a home loss equals 1.4 losses, while a road loss counts as 0.6 loss.

An RPI rank of 55 is about as low as a team can go and still entertain realistic hopes of making the 68-team field as an at-large entry. Of course, the Huskies won’t be an at-large team if they win the Pac-12 tournament, which carries with it an automatic invitation to the Big Dance.

In addition to a bubble RPI of 55, the remainder of the Huskies’ resume is flimsy at best. Washington is 4-8 against the RPI Top 100, which includes an 0-4 record against the RPI Top 50. The Huskies are also 0-2 against Associated Press-ranked teams (the December losses at Madison Square Garden to Marquette and Duke).

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee places heavy emphasis on “quality wins.” The Huskies do not have a single quality win, not even their 69-67 triumph Jan. 28 at the McHale Center in Tucson, since Arizona’s RPI — 70 — is a lot worse than Washington’s.

Further, the Huskies have at least one “bad loss” that NCAA Tournament selectors won’t overlook, the 19-point setback at home to South Dakota State (RIP, 65) Dec. 18. It also didn’t help that Washington, winners of three of its past four, lost ugly (82-57) to RPI No. 67 Oregon Feb. 9.

Since RPI rankings came into vogue a little more than decade ago, the Huskies have made eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The following were Washington’s RPI national rankings in those years, what happened in the tournament, and where the Huskies are today:

Year Rec. RPI Result
1998 20-10 37 Reached Sweet Sixteen, lost to Connecticut, 75-74
1999 17-12 34 Ousted in the first round by Miami of Ohio, 59-58
2004 19-12 63 Ousted in the first round by Alabama-Birmingham, 102-100
2005 26-9 6 Reached Sweet Sixteen, lost to Louisville, 93-79
2006 26-7 35 Reached Sweet Sixteen, lost to Connecticut, 98-92 (OT)
2009 26-9 14 Lost in the second round to Purdue, 76-74
2010 26-10 34 Reached Sweet 16, lost to West Virginia, 69-56
2011 124-11 32 Lost in second round to North Carolina, 86-83
2012 19-8 55 Result to be determined

This suggests that Washington, with a current 55 RPI ranking, probably needs to earn at least a share of the Pac-12 title if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament field as an at-large, and that even with an invite Washington probably won’t go far. The 12th seed projects practically translates into a one and done since not many 12s beat a No. 3 seed.

Washington has three games remaining before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament March 7 —  at Washington State Saturday, at USC March 1 and at UCLA March 3. That’s a slightly easier path to a share of the conference regular-season title than the one facing co-leader Cal, which has to play at Utah, at Colorado (13-1 at home, 7-0 Pac-12) and at Stanford (13-3 at home, 6-2 Pac-12).

The optimum scenario is for Washington to sweep and for co-leader California to stumble at Colorado or Stanford. If is correct, and the NCAA invites two Pac-12 teams to the tournament (the web site predicts the Mountain West will have four entries), the Huskies probably wouldn’t have to win the Pac-12 tournament to go dancing.

Keys for the Huskies in their final three before the Pac-12 tournament: get to the line and make free throws, emphasize defense, force turnovers, and keep Terrence Ross out of foul trouble.

  • The Huskies won each time (4-0) they have made 20 or more free throws.
  • The Huskies won each time (9-0)  they have held an opponent to a field goal percentage under 40.
  • The Huskies are 81 percent (18-4) when they have forced 12 or more turnovers.
  • The Huskies are 70 percent%  (12-5) when Terrence Ross played 30 or more minutes.


  • Tim Janssen

    12 seeds play the fifth seed. And they actually do pull that upset quite often. Stupid Washington fans not knowing their way around March Madness. Maybe after dancing for 25 straight years you might get it…

  • Tim Janssen

    12 seeds play the fifth seed. And they actually do pull that upset quite often. Stupid Washington fans not knowing their way around March Madness. Maybe after dancing for 25 straight years you might get it…

  • Pixeldawg13

    Obviously, Tim Janssen is an expert on stupidity–since he describes professional sportswriters who’ve been at it for a long time as  “Stupid Washington fans”.   Not sure what juco he went to–but he best go back.

      Trolls will be trolls.

  • Pixeldawg13

    Obviously, Tim Janssen is an expert on stupidity–since he describes professional sportswriters who’ve been at it for a long time as  “Stupid Washington fans”.   Not sure what juco he went to–but he best go back.

      Trolls will be trolls.

  • Steve60

    Ichiro will not be worth $18m next year.  (He hasn’t been worth it for a year or two.)  So, what will he be worth?  $5 or $8 or $10m?  Pay him that.  If the owner wants to resign him at a higher amount let the difference come out of his pocket so as not diminish the overall team payroll budget. Or, increase the payroll by the difference.

  • Bamfmaster123

    Just like there’s no crying in baseball, neither is there loyalty.  The logical thing to do would be to cut loose Ichiro now and put in a player from the farm system to replace him and in a couple years hopefully the Mariners will have a home grown winning team that will last for years.

    However the 2001 team was not a home grown team.  And his presence still has fans coming to the ballpark.  I guess it boils down to what kind of franchise do the Mariners want to be known as?  Especially to a loyal employee?

  • Noelhiga

    I’m old enough to remember when it was the media that got graded for how closely their mock drafts predicted the real thing, not vice versa. Does anyone really believe that Mel Kiper, despite his impeccable hair, really knows more about what it takes to make a successful professional football player? When it comes to picking hair care products, I’ll go with Mel. When it comes to football players I’ll take Pete and John every time.

  • Stevo00

    Very inciteful comment Art. I missed the ESPN/NFL Network shows that explained how some of the cant miss draft picks in 2011, didn’t perform as expected.

  • Guest

    Infinitely better insights than what we get from the national media.

    This…  Seattle “just values players differently than almost every other team. They get a feeling on a guy and it doesn’t matter if they’re the lone wolves – they’re going to take the guy no matter what anyone else thinks.”

    ….is something I really like. I like the job PC/JS are doing with the roster and how the team plays. Great time to be a Seahawk fan!

  • jafabian

    Sounds as though Irvin will have a specific role on the team and is more than qualified to fill that role.  IMO, something of the Rufus Porter kind of role and we all know how awesome Porter was.  I do like how Art talks about emulating Cortez Kennedy and Dave Brown and not go down the road that Koren Robinson and Jerramy Stevens went down.  I’m not sure todays pro athletes put that as high on the priority list that Tez and Cap’n Brown did.

  • CentralScrutinizer

    I’m going to lean against Irwin becoming the next Stevens/Robinson.  Those two were coddled in HS, coddled in college (Stevens was an unconvicted rapist, for God’s sake), and thought that their talent entitled them to success in the pros, regardless of what they did off the field or how many meetings they missed.

    As one who has had his own behavior carry him almost to rock-bottom, and who has worked his way out of that trouble on the football field, Irwin is four and a half years removed from any serious “problem behavior” (given the delivery-sign incident was thrown out of court).  It wasn’t swept under the rug, he had to confront it, deal with it, and humble himself….kind of like Mike Williams did after eating his way out of the league and then training his way back into it.

    I’m more concerned that he won’t develop into an every-down player, but when it comes to that….In Pete I Trust.  Irwin’s first step is bottled lightning, but the rest of his game is exceptionally raw.  If Carroll can turn him into an every-down defender, he’ll have proven his mettle as a great defensive coach….again.

  • Soggyblogger

    Well, Art, you are almost caught up. I expect your next piece to move on from the character issues altogether. Each piece you write on Irvin gets a little closer to the truth. 

  • Richardfg7

    I have a ton of respect for this kid as far as the person he is. He was born in a tough spot and dug himself out of it. It’s going to take a couple more years but Coach Carroll will be recognized as one of the all-time great coaches in the NFL . Just like he is in the college ranks. There will always be those that criticize him after there pet team is taken apart by the Seahawks.

  • sadamahuga

    interesting how the kid is already convicted, but the verdict will be not guilty by the end of the season because his play is gonna set him free.