One quality win — just one — and things might be different for the Huskies

Two Pac-12 basketball teams were invited to play in the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday, but the Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington Huskies weren't one of them. It’s the first time in the modern era of NCAA basketball when a champion of a major conference hasn’t made the dance. The last team not to make it? Washington in 1944.

The Huskies (21-10) had played in three straight NCAA tournaments, but the lack of a quality win and season-ending losses to UCLA and then to Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament doomed them.

Washington earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT and will host Texas-Arlington (24-10) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in a first-round game that will be televised by ESPNU. Washington State reached the NIT semifinals a year ago.

Colorado, which won the conference tournament, is a No. 11 seed and will play No. 6 UNLV in Albuquerque, N.M. California will face South Florida in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will be a No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 Temple in Nashville, Tenn.

Gonzaga is back in the tournament for a 13th straight year, but the draw is a tough one. The Zags are a No. 7 seed and will face No. 10 seed West Virginia in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The winner could draw No. 2 seed Ohio State, which faces Loyola (Md.) in the first round. I don’t think there’s much difference between Gonzaga, a No. 7 seed and an at-large invitee, and Washington. If they played 10 times, both might win five. But you’ve got to give the Zags credit because, as always, they played a really tough non-conference schedule and it paid off in another tournament berth.

Washington played at Saint Louis, in New York against Marquette, Duke, home against South Dakota State and at Nevada. The Huskies were 0-5. Win one of those and the Huskies are probaby making plans for their NCAA first-round game. Their biggest non-conference win came at home against UC Santa Barbara (20-10), which is going to join Washington State in the CBI (College Basketball Invitational).

Gonzaga played Notre Dame at home (won), at Illinois (lost), Michigan State at home (lost), Arizona in Seattle (won), Butler at home (won) and at Xavier (lost). That’s 3-3 in their biggest non-conference games.

As I mentioned, Washington State (15-16) is one of 16 teams to participate in the College Basketball Invitational, and will travel to San Francisco, to take on the University of San Francisco (20-13), Tuesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on HDNet. Let’s see, there’s 68 teams in the NCAA, 32 more in the NIT. That means the 100 teams were picked ahead of Washington State and the 15 other giants who will make up the CBI.

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