With only three games left in the regular season it’s about time to start discussing the Washington Huskies and the NCAA tournament. How far can they really go? Who needs to step up in postseason play? Where will they be seeded?
Barring some sort of massive collapse, it appears that the Dawgs are going back to the tourney for the 17th time in school history. Let’s just assume that they don’t throw away any more games like they did Thursday night against California.
Most projections have slotted the Huskies in as a 7th through 9th seed come march. If UW finishes the regular season undefeated and wins the Pac-12 tournament, it is possible that they wind up as high as a five seed. With that being said let’s get to the numbers.
The Dawgs are currently 1-4 against quadrant one teams. This means that UW is unlikely to knock off an elite program. If they face a blue blood like Duke, Kentucky, or North Carolina they will most likely lose. Based off of current seeding projections they will face a #1 or #2 seed in the second round, assuming they win their opening game.
So far this year, the Huskies have suffered losses to Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Minnesota, and Arizona State. Even though these teams are very good, none of these squads can be considered elite (in my opinion).
Sorry, Gonzaga fans. I know you’re currently ranked #1 in the nation, but you still play in the WAC and I don’t view you in the same light as Duke or UK.
Even though the Dawgs have improved, they will be playing teams the same caliber, if not better, than the aforementioned programs. Based off of this logic, UW is not likely to make it past the second round.
Another factor working against UW is their blistering 14-0 record at home. No matter how good the Huskies play down the stretch, they will not have any sort of a home court advantage in March.
Why does this matter?
Because the Dawgs are a much less formidable 6-4 on the road and 2-2 in neutral-site games. Based off of the projected seedings, they have a high probability of playing a team at a neutral location.
With all that being said, March Madness is March Madness and truly anything can happen.
So what needs to go right, and who needs to step up for the Dawgs to pull off a couple of upsets come tourney time?
First off, this is all about offense. The Dawgs defense is elite and can temporarily slow down any program in the country. UW’s team defense is only allowing about 64 points per game.
On the other end of the spectrum, their offense can be iffy at times and the right defensive scheme can take UW’s offense entirely out of the game.
There are many small factors that can help the Huskies pull off an upset, but really it all comes down to two players.
Matisse Thybulle is averaging about 10 points per game. This has been ok during Pac-12 play, but come tourney time this won’t fly. Thybulle needs to score at least 15 plus points if the Dawgs are going to pull off an upset and advance past the opening weekend. Athletically he has the ability to play with any player in the country; however, he must be more efficient from three-point land for the Dawgs to make a run.
He is currently shooting about 33% from beyond the arc. If he could shoot around 37-40% this may give the Dawgs the extra lift needed to knock off a blue blood. His longball has been inconsistent all year and he needs to amend this come tourney time.
The other player who needs to step up is Jaylen Nowell. Nowell is averaging about 15 points per game this season. He needs to score at least 20-25 points for the Dawgs to make it to the Sweet 16. This is not out of reach for him. He can shoot, dribble, pass, and do just about everything else needed on the offensive end of the court.
However, he needs to be aggressive to a fault if UW really wants to pull off an upset. To the naked eye, he is not quite as athletic as Thybulle and this may hinder his success against top-tier talent. Nevertheless, he does have that unexplainable “it” factor, and if he gets hot, he can carry the Huskies deep into the tournament.
There are a few other players who need to step up if the Dawgs want to make it to the final 16.
Noah Dickerson needs to continue scoring around his season average of 13 points per game. Dickerson will face elite big men come tourney time and if he is off his game, the Dawgs will be left without a reliable scoring option in the post.
The same concept applies to point guard David Crisp.
Crisp is not an elite player and he must continue to score around his season average of 12 points per game. Furthermore, he needs to shoot better than his 38% from beyond the arc. He will find it difficult to get to the basket against top-tier teams. If he can stretch the floor, he can be a real asset for UW, if not he could be a heel.
Last off Nahziah Carter and Dominic Green are both going to have to score in double figures to make UW’s offense more versatile. Carter is going to have to continuously attack the basket, while Green is going to have to knock down a couple of clutch three-pointers. They are averaging around eight and 6.5 points, respectively.
The beautiful thing about March Madness is that anything can happen in one game. Last year a 16th seeded UMBC (University of Maryland-Baltimore County) knocked off the #1 overall seed in Virginia.
A couple made shots and a few hustle plays can be the difference between pure ecstasy or brutal heartbreak. However, one thing’s for sure: It’s nice to have the Dawgs back in the NCAA tournament.
(Record against quadrant one teams)