UW women's basketball team battling odds for NCAA ticket
The Huskies have their biggest game yet in Thursday's matchup against No. 4 Stanford.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Stanford @ UW women, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
In the past two weeks of a remarkable regular season, the Washington women's basketball team played its worst game against Utah, lost consecutive road games and had three players suspended for its biggest game yet, Thursday's matchup against No. 4 Stanford.
A finish with potential records and awards appears to be spiraling down faster than UW coach Kevin McGuff can put a plug in the drain.
"I don't know what's going on at Washington, but the timing is bad because they were right on the bubble," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Sophomore point guard Jazmine Davis, the team's leading scorer (averaging 19.2 points), will join redshirt freshmen Talia Walton and Deborah Meeks in a one-game suspension for violating team rules not involving alcohol, drugs or academics. The players are expected to return against No. 6 California on Saturday.
"It's sad because we're in such a great place right now," said senior forward Jeneva Anderson of playing without two starters. Meeks has missed the majority of the season due to a knee injury.
"Keep in mind half of this team are underclassmen," Anderson said. "We're (captains) here to help them, and it's good that they can learn and we can still be in the position we are in."
Before last week's losses at Utah (60-48) and Colorado (68-61), Washington was in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth, a first since 2007. This week's predictions have the Pac-12 receiving four bids in the field of 64 and UW nowhere in the conversation.
"The loss to Utah was a real eye-opener," said Charlie Creme, the originator of ESPN's women's Bracketology. He has a 96 percent accuracy rate. "It showed that those 19 wins weren't the same as somebody else's. They win this weekend and it's a whole different ballgame. But the reality is none of us anticipate that'll happen."
And despite perception, the NCAA selection committee doesn't base the 33 at-large bids on conference strength. It's the totality of the individual team's finish, pitting Washington against Kansas, Creighton or St. Mary's, regardless of the fact UW defeated SMC in its season opener and plays in a tougher conference.
"Sometimes the NCAA will even cover up the names of the teams so they aren't influenced," Creme said.
UW's only way to the Big Dance is first a win against Stanford (26-2, 15-1). Washington (19-8, 11-5) will have six scholarship players and one walk-on as its rotation. In addition to mainstay forward Aminah Williams, who averages 10.9 rebounds, options against the Cardinal's talented interior are two players who don't average more than 10 minutes nor shoot better than 25 percent from the field.
McGuff anticipates starting Anderson against Stanford's All-American Chiney Ogwumike. A 6-4 junior forward, Ogwumike is the only player in the nation who ranks among the top five in scoring (22.7 points), rebounds (12.7), field goal percentage (58.2) and double-doubles (22).
"You just have to be smart," Anderson said. "The coaches will give us plenty of ammunition."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org