The NET Effect of March Madness
This season, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee won’t be using the old RPI rankings to issue March Madness invitations, rather the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) will be implemented.
The NET will cap the scoring margin factor at ten (10) points, however, the net efficiency will be measured using an uncapped (true) scoring margin.(SeeKenPom: Out with the old, in with the NET — what we can expect from NCAA’s new rating system.)
This means the NET evaluation will likely favor schools with blowout wins against good teams (10 or more points) and/or close games (win or lose by less than 10 points) with great teams — with extra credit for road games with any of these favorable results.
Ultimately, for the Huskies, the tougher the schedule, the more opportunity to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.
NET-ing A Non-Conference Schedule
The Washington Huskies missed the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament due, in part, to losing 6 of its last 10 games, including a first round defeat by Oregon State in the PAC-12 Tournament.
However, a compelling argument can be made that it was last season’s weak non-conference schedule that doomed the Huskies’ postseason hopes.
Certainly, last year’s No. 169 strength of schedule outside the PAC-12 (per KenPom.com) did not help Washington on Selection Sunday.
And with only three “Quadrant I” wins (3-6 overall in these crucial matchups), Coach Hopkins’ first team was unable to offset their schedule’s lack of strength with signature wins.
Now in Hopkins’ Year 2, a significantly more challenging schedule has raised the degree of difficulty on the Huskies’ 5 returning starters and 8 returning contributors representing 95% of last year’s offensive output.
This season the Huskies will have no room for inconsistent play or losing streaks before PAC-12 conference play begins.
Washington will play four Power 5 conference opponents from outside the PAC, i.e., Auburn, Texas A&M, Minnesota and Virginia Tech. These upcoming Power 5 opponents all ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s Top 120 last season with Auburn (No. 23) finishing the highest.
Add five non-Power 5 conference opponents with 20 or more wins in 2017-18, Gonzaga (#10),Western Kentucky (#47), UC Santa Barbara (#123), San Diego(#132), andCal State Fullerton (#162), and Washington’s schedule looks much more difficult than Hopkins’ debut season.
To maximize the opportunity of their difficult schedule, the Huskies need a positive outcome in the majority of these nine (9) contests, i.e., either win outright or salvage close losses (less than 10 points), when possible.
What the Huskies cannot afford are blowout losses to any of their non-conference opponents, e.g., nothing similar to the Huskies’ 70-97 loss to Gonzaga last season or the Huskies’ 79-103 loss to Virginia Tech.
PAC the NET
Arguably, PAC-12 conference play should provide enough meaningful games for the Huskies’ NCAA resume with Oregon, UCLA and USC all viewed as Top 25 caliber teams.
Washington faces UCLA and USC only once on the PAC-12 schedule, and normally it would be good news that the Huskies get the sole advantage of home games against both schools. Under NET, however, the Huskies are missing out on two tough road contests to polish their resume with a close road game, win or lose.
The Huskies will also face Arizona (Feb. 7) and Arizona State (Feb. 9) only once this season, but both are road dates.
Last season’s Huskies posted two close home victories against the Arizona schools — 68-64 over Arizona State and 78-75 over Arizona.
The NET effect here is that the Huskies want Arizona and Arizona State to have success prior to these matchups to inflate the value of these two road games. If the Huskies either beat both (hopefully, Top 50) Arizona schools on the road or lose by less than 10 points, it should alleviate not having UCLA and USC road games on the Huskies’ resume.
The Huskies will have the opportunity to face Oregon twice, in Eugene on January 24, 2019 and then at home in Seattle on March 9th. The Huskies cannot afford another blowout loss to Oregon, like last season’s 40-65 dismantling in Eugene –the least points scored by Huskies men in years. The NET effect is that both UW-Oregon contests must either result in Huskies’ wins or, at very least, a close loss of less than ten points to a highly ranked (Top 10) Oregon team.
The highlights and head-scratchers from the upcoming 2018-19 schedule:
First Step, Don’t Stumble
The Huskies, 21-12 overall last season, ranked 98th in the final 2018 Pomeroy rankings, and will open the season at home on November 6 against Western Kentucky (ranked 47th).
Western Kentucky, 27-11 last year, will be a tough test to start the season.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers finished last season in the 2018 National Invitational Tournament (NIT) semifinals, losing 64-69 to Utah in double overtime.
It was an impressive loss considering that the Huskies failed to beat Utah twice last season – losing to the Utes 62-70 on the road and 58-70 at home- and didn’t put up much of a fight in either contest.
Western Kentucky lost 3 of their top 5 scorers from last season, but added multiple grad transfers and junior college transfers. and highly rated freshman.. Specifically, the Huskies should lookout for Auburn grad transfer Desean Murray at power forward and 5-star freshman recruit Charles Bassey at center.
Make no mistake, the Hilltoppers are coming to Seattle with the intent to secure aQuadrant 1 road win against the Huskies to polish their NET resume for March Madness.
Washington better bring its “A-game” to Hec-Ed or risk tumbling out of the Top 25 to start the season.
Toughest Road Trip
Vancouver, B.C. is not synonymous with great college basketball but the Vancouver Classic in late November aims to change that perception, pitting the Huskies against Santa Clara, Texas A&M and Minnesota.
- Santa Clara should be overmatched by the Huskies talent and depth, but it could get kind of tricky. Santa Clara is coached by ex-Arizona State head man Herb Sendek, a very experienced coach looking for a signature win for his program. Expect the Broncos to attempt to rain 3-balls on the Huskies while trying to control tempo on offense and defense – similar to the Seattle Pacific playing style except with Division One players. The real tension will be defensively, as both the Huskies and Broncos focus on denying the 3-point line, but the Huskies seem more focused on dribble penetration offensively. The Huskies must stop Santa Clara’s 3-point barrage, because trading 2s for 3s will wear thin as an offensive strategy.
- The Texas A&M Aggies is a program on the rise after making the Sweet Sixteen two of past three seasons. The good news is the Aggies lost five major contributors from last season when they had a strong inside-oriented attack. The not-so-good news is the Aggies reloaded and remodeled into a perimeter-oriented, pace-pushing team. This match-up with the Huskies could be an early test of Coach Hopkins’ commitment to a faster pace this season. A&M is also known as a tough defensive team (#14 per KenPom). The Huskies seniors will need to assert their will on offense and defense to get the win.
- Two seasons ago, Minnesota was a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Golden Gophers struggled with injuries and rotation issues that led to a disappointing NIT bid. This season Minnesota is expected to let gregarious point guard Isaiah Washington run the offense. The Harlem teen founder of #JellyFam (Google it) is overdue for a breakout sophomore season after not living up to the hype as a freshman. If Washington has fixed his shooting slump, the Chris Paul comparisons will resurface and senior David Crisp (and Matisse Thybulle) will need to lockdown the young 6-foot phenom’s penetration at the top of UW’s zone.
Must-Win Home Games
Washington hosts UCLA (Jan. 30) and USC (Feb. 2) in two back-to-back home games that are crucial must-wins for the Huskies.
As previously mentioned, both UCLA and USC are picked as Top 25-ish teams, and Washington will only face each team once in the regular season.
Last season, Washington played USC and UCLA each only once and both on the road.
Washington beat USC 88-81 on the road, but suffered a blowout loss to UCLA 53-74.
UCLA returns projected NBA draft picks Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes, and adds a top 10 recruiting class. The UCLA wing talent versus the Dawgs wing talent should be basketball fireworks, expect highlight reel plays and a close game to the end.
USC mixes a Top 20 recruiting class that includes some heralded Seattle area players, 5-star recruit Kevin Porter, Jr. and big man J’Raan Brooks of state champion Garfield High School, with multiple veteran players with big game experience, including Bennie “Buckets” Boatwright and another Seattle product Shaqquan Aaron. Expect this contest to be emotional and intense, but the Huskies should have the advantage of senior leadership and benefit from home court advantage.
Most Difficult Stretch
Washington plays six PAC-12 conference games in a row against teams that played them tough last season— at Oregon (Jan. 24), at Oregon State(Jan. 26) home vs. USC (Jan. 30), home vs. UCLA(Feb. 2), at Arizona (Feb. 7) and at Arizona State (Feb. 9). This stretch of games could decide the PAC-12 regular season standings, Washington’s PAC-12 tournament seeding, and have a dramatic impact on their NCAA Tournament odds.
- In 2018 conference play, Oregon thoroughly dismantled the Huskies in Eugene. Dana Altman and the Ducks showed complete disregard for the Huskies’ offensive and defensive schemes and limited Washington to a season-low 40 points. This game will be all about coaching strategy because Oregon has even more talent now than last season, with NBA lottery pick Bol Bol and Louis King added to shot-blocking intimidator Kenny Wooten.
- Last season, Washington lost to Oregon State two out of three contests. Coach Tinkle seemed to have Coach Hopkins’ number, making adjustments against UW’s version of the Syracuse zone and putting his less talented team (overall) in position to win. Again, the Huskies should be expected to sweep Oregon State this year by playing to their strengths, physically and strategically.
- Arizona has an historic home record for a reason. At home, the Wildcats are 31-7 (.816) all-time versus the Huskies. The good news is current head coach Sean Miller is only 10–6 (.625) overall. More good news, all five starters are gone from last year. Also, the rumors of an FBI investigation gutted Arizona’s recruiting class of some big-time talent. So yes, we’re saying the Huskies have a chance. Expect that 7’0 Duke transfer Chase Jeter will be a problem the Huskies need to solve to get the win.
- The Huskies beat Arizona State 68-64 at home in one of the biggest games of last season. But it was the Sun Devils that went dancing in the NCAA Tournament. The good news is Tre Holder and Kodi Justice are gone. However, the Sun Devils added a Top 10 recruiting class and highly regarded transfers Zylan Cheatham and Rob Edwards to high impact holdovers Remy Martin and Romeo White. Playing at ASU is always a tough road game for the Huskies, so expect this to be a defense-oriented battle that is decided in the final minutes.
If the Huskies run the table or just win 4 or 5 of these 6 conference games, they should rise in the national rankings and position themselves firmly on the NCAA Selection Committee’s radar. Go Dawgs!
Nov. 6 – Western Kentucky
Nov. 9 – at Auburn
Nov. 12 – San Diego
Nov. 18 – Santa Clara (Vancouver Showcase)
Nov. 20 – Texas A&M (Vancouver Showcase)
Nov. 21 – Minnesota (Vancouver Showcase)
Nov. 27 – Eastern Washington
Dec. 2 – UC Santa Barbara
Dec. 5 – at Gonzaga
Dec. 9 – Seattle University
Dec. 15 – Virginia Tech (Atlantic City Boardwalk Classic)
Dec. 21 – Sacramento State
Jan. 1 – Cal State Fullerton
Jan. 5 – Washington State
Jan. 10 – at Utah
Jan. 12 – at Colorado
Jan. 17 – Stanford
Jan. 19 – California
Jan. 24 – at Oregon
Jan. 26 – at Oregon State
Jan. 30 – USC
Feb. 2 – UCLA
Feb. 7 – at Arizona
Feb. 9 – at Arizona State
Feb. 16 – at Washington State
Feb. 20 – Utah
Feb. 23 – Colorado
Feb. 28 – at California
March 3 – at Stanford
March 6 – Oregon State
March 9 – Oregon
March 13-15 *PAC-12 tournament, at Las Vegas*