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After latest ugly loss, how close is Washington to the bubble?

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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All Washington had to do was win a couple of home games to close out the regular season, and it could cruise into the NCAA tournament clean and under the radar.

A brutal 80-69 home loss to Washington State on Sunday night, though, ripped off the bandage and uncovered what, when looked at closely, is a suspect résumé.

Here, now, is what there is to see on the Huskies' profile ...

• Underachieving marks of 19-9 overall and 10-6 in the thinned-out Pac-10, including a 4-5 record on the road in conference play.

• An RPI ranking of 36, but only two wins against RPI Top 50 teams. Those two were a home blowout of Arizona and a victory at UCLA. Their best non-conference win? Take your pick between Long Beach State, Portland and Virginia. None of those were true road games, too.

• A schedule that ranks 63rd in strength. Not awful, but not great.

It's not quite time to panic in Seattle. Due to a severe lack of more qualified candidates to fill out the field of 68, Washington is still pretty safely in the NCAA tournament, but is now certainly flirting with fire.

Sunday's loss, which gave the Cougars an unexpected regular season sweep over their in-state rival, appeared imminent after a first half that was as woeful as it could possibly get for UW on the offensive end.

Before the break, the Huskies were just 8-of-26 (22.2%) from the floor and 1-of-13 (7.7%) from 3-point range. They stayed on their heels for much of it, were never overly aggressive and didn't get to the free throw line until the closing seconds.

Washington State didn't necessarily burn it up on the other end, and only led 24-17, but extended the lead out to as many as 21 points by the mid-way point in the second half. Washington made a strong late push, but overall it was a night to forget, despite a cameo made by Lorenzo Romar's purple jacket.

Despite finishing the night with a decent line — 21 points, 8-of-16 shooting, five assists, two turnovers — Washington's Isaiah Thomas was far from dominant and in command on the floor.

Since losing his wingman — sophomore glue guy Abdul Gaddy — to a torn ACL in early January, Thomas has been as up and down than ever. If the Huskies are going to get on a late roll similar to last year's, Thomas needs to find a streak of consistency.

Sure, there are other guys around him who could stand to pick things up as well, but as a three-year starting point guard, Thomas will clearly draw much of the focus from the outside.

The Huskies are still deep and talented, but Thomas as a junior is still too often showing a tendency to be as wild as he was as a freshman. When they got hot and won nine in a row late last season, including claiming a Pac-10 tournament title and a berth in the Sweet Sixteen, Thomas averaged only 1.7 turnovers a game in that stretch. He's always capable of doing it again.

In the six Pac-10 losses, his 38 percent shooting has been compounded by an average of 4.2 giveaways.

Washington's final two regular season games will be against the surging SoCal duo of UCLA and USC this week. One more loss wouldn't be crippling, but two more, especially at home, would put Romar's club firmly on the bubble.

The Huskies are certainly replaceable in the field of 68, and at this point, they've been warned.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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