Tony Wroten scored 29 points, but it was the points that he didn’t score that everyone is going to remember.
Twice, in the final 20 seconds of Washington’s 86-84 loss to Oregon State, Wroten went to the line with Washington down one. He went 0-4, and ninth-seeded Oregon State — who went 2-6 from the line down the stretch — did just enough to hold on and pull off the upset of the Pac-12’s regular season champion.
Wroten was terrific for the majority of the game, scoring 29 points and hitting 9-11 from the charity stripe in the first 39:40 of the game. The rest of his team was 3-11 from the line on the game. Assign blame as you will, but the fact of the matter is that Wroten’s name is forever going to be associated with this loss and those missed free throws.
While it wouldn’t be a major issue if this was simply an upset — hey, players miss shots that would win games all the time — but what this loss does is put Washington in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament.
The Pac-12 is way down this season. They went 1-29 in non-conference play against top 50 RPI teams, a major reason why it is the tenth-rated conference in college basketball. The Huskies don’t have a single top 50 win and went just 4-8 against the top 100. The talk heading into March was that Washington needed to make it to the tournament title game for a real shot at getting an at-large bid. They didn’t.
What that means is that the Huskies may end up being the first conference champion from a power conference to miss out on the NCAA Tournament. A couple weeks ago, Andy Glockner of SI.com went through and found all of the recent conference champions in a similar situation to Washington. The best comparison was UAB from last season. The Blazers went 12-4 and won Conference USA, the No. 10 conference in the RPI, outright. They didn’t earn the leagues auto-bid, but they did find their way into the First Four.
That team had a top 50 win and went 10-7 against the top 100, a much stronger profile than what Washington currently boasts. And they were one of the most controversial inclusions into the bracket.
Having said that, in 2010 Cal won a stronger Pac-12. They had no top 50 wins and went just 3-6 against the top 100. They played a very strong non-conference slate, and while they didn’t win any of those games, an RPI of 20 correctly got them into the NCAA Tournament. What was most telling, however, was that the Bears got an eight seed. Combine that with UAB’s inclusion last season and it appears that the committee places quite a bit of value on the ability of a team to win their league outright in the regular season.
So Washington is going to have to wait until Selection Sunday to get an answer.
And until then, we won’t know whether or not the Huskies cost themselves a chance at an at-large bid with this loss.
But what we probably do know is that Tony Wroten won’t be sleeping well for a while.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.