Pac-12 Basketball: Washington Champion, Builds Dynasty Amid NBA Rumors

Max RogersCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2012

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 25:  Cheerleaders for the Washington Huskies perform against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the east regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 25, 2010 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Washington won the regular-season Pac-12 title outright, and will receive the No. 1 seed at the Pac-12 basketball tournament. Cal's 70-75 loss at Stanford allowed the Huskies to keep the lead following UW's 69-75 loss at UCLA.  Updated result posted March 4, 2012. The unedited article below was posted on March 2, 2012. 

Greatly increasing its chances for a 2012 NCAA tournament bid, the University of Washington men’s basketball team beat USC 80-58 Thursday night, clinching at least a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title.

If Washington (21-8, 14-3) wins at UCLA (17-13, 10-7) on Saturday, the Huskies will be the outright regular-season Pac-12 champion. Washington has won six of its last seven road games. 

Despite the recent negative media attention from the George Dohrmann Sports Illustrated article, UCLA is coming off a big win (78-46) Thursday night over Washington State. With UW beating UCLA at home in a close (71-69) game last month, the Bruins are not likely to just hand Washington an easy road win, in what promises to be a great game. 

A loss against UCLA would place the outcome on the Cal-Stanford game. The Golden Bears (23-7, 13-4) face the Stanford Cardinal (19-10, 9-8) on March 4th in their final regular-season game. Cal beat Stanford at home 69-59 back in January. Cal’s 57-70 loss at Colorado knocked the Bears out of a shared position with Washington at the top of the Pac-12.

In addition to a 74-50 road win over Colorado last week, Stanford held its own in a two possession loss to then-No. 5 Syracuse back in November.

Washington’s win over USC resulted the fourth consecutive year in which the Huskies have earned either the Pac regular-season or tournament title. The Huskies’ streak started in 2009 when UW won the regular-season Pac-10 title outright. This is also the fourth straight year for Washington to win 20 or more games, a first for the Huskies. 

If Washington ends up with a share of the conference title, instead of an outright championship, Cal will get the No. 1 seed advantage in the Pac-12 Conference tournament.

Washington, known more for its football program than basketball, had a major turnaround with the hiring of Head Coach Lorenzo Romar back in 2002. At a time when Washington football was beginning a historic low, UW basketball made historic strides. Romar, a former Husky and NBA player, first took UW to the NCAA tournament in 2004. 

Under the direction of Coach Romar, Washington has made six of its 16 NCAA tournament appearances. Notable accolades during that time include: a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed in 2005, and Sweet 16 appearances in 2005, 2006, and 2010. 

Last year the Huskies beat Georgia 68-65 in the tournament, before losing to No. 2 seed North Carolina 83-86. It should be noted that the Huskies one-possession tournament loss to the Tar Heels occurred in North Carolina.

After a two-possession loss to Duke earlier this season, the Blue Devils coach, Mike Krzyzewski, had this to say about the Huskies: “We beat a really talented Washington team…They played really good basketball…”

Coach Romar is very good at recruiting. This year, a lot of attention has been on freshman, and Washington point leader, Tony Wroten. Wroten is very talented, but still a young player.

While rumors of Tony Wroten (16.3 PPG), and teammate sophomore Terrence Ross (15.2 PPG), going to the NBA after this season abound, Washington is looking to only focus on the current season. Ross scored 18 points in last night's match. Of interest, 17 NBA teams had reserved seats in the NBA scouts section at the Washington at USC game. 

Other notable Huskies on this young squad include: sophomore C.J. Wilcox (13.6 PPG), junior Aziz N'Diaye (8.2 PPG), junior Abdul Gaddy (8 PPG), and senior Darnell Gant (7.3 PPG).

Numerous media outlets have been laughing at the Pac-12 this year, referring to it as a 1-bid conference. Even going as far to call the Pac-12 “a bunch of NIT teams.” While not the Pac-12's best year, the Pac should not be underestimated.

Every top team in the NCAA has had games this year where they lost to lesser teams.

Syracuse only beat Stanford by two possessions. Duke had to make a big rally to come back against NC State. Mizzou lost to both Kansas State and Kansas last week. Michigan State lost to Indiana this week. No. 1 Kentucky even trailed Vanderbilt for a while this past Saturday.

This season, the Huskies only lost to Duke by two possessions, and Marquette by one. Washington (50 RPI) and Cal (38 RPI) will almost certainly be in the NCAA tournament. It's March Madness, and any team can go in and tear it up. Just look at VCU going from the first round all the way to the Final Four, or Arizona going to the Elite Eight last year.

Several of the Pac-12 teams have a reasonable chance of winning the conference tournament, or receiving an at-large bid. In addition to Washington and Cal, Oregon (21-8, 12-5) currently has a 45 RPI ranking, and Arizona (21-9, 12-5) has a 68 RPI ranking. 

It is almost a non-argument questioning if Washington will receive a bid to the NCAA tournament if they don’t also win the conference tournament. The last time a regular season Pac conference champion did not received a spot was in 1958. During that time only one team per conference was allowed.

Will Lorenzo Romar lead the Huskies to their first NCAA tournament championship at some point during his head coach tenure, a feat that would put him on par with famed Huskies coach, Don James, who brought a national championship to UW football?

Only time will tell. 

Whatever the outcome of this season, it can be expected that Coach Romar, and the Washington squads under his charge, will continue to build a Husky men’s basketball dynasty in the Pac.