— This time of year, every game matters, regardless of your conference affiliation.
Some teams will be playing for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Some will be playing to earn byes in their conference tournament or to buoy themselves off the bubble. Others will be playing simply to get that final spot in their conference tournament.
Like I said, every game matters.
With that in mind, since only a precious few are concerned with whether DePaul can beat South Florida on Saturday and climb out of the Big East's cellar, here are the most crucial remaining games.
No. 7 BYU at No. 4 San Diego State, Saturday
Not only is this one of the last remaining battles between top 10 teams, the winner of this game also claims the Mountain West's regular-season title (barring a massive surprise). It also stands to reason that the winner takes one step closer to possibly landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, especially if that team also wins the MWC Tournament. Can the rematch generate the same amount of hype as their first matchup?
Wichita State at Missouri State, Saturday
The Missouri Valley may not be nationally relevant like it was four or five years ago, but that doesn't mean the competitiveness has lessened. Does it really surprise you that the league's regular season title will come down to a game on the last day of the conference's season?
No. 8 Purdue at Michigan State, Sunday
It's hard to believe, but the Spartans are smack on the bubble's cut line. A road game against Michigan will be important, but picking up another marquee win against a team like Purdue will help mask the stench of losses to Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan. This will also be Purdue's toughest test as they try to stay within striking distance of Ohio State in the Big Ten race.
Alabama at No. 13 Florida, Tuesday
Alabama and Florida are currently tied for the outright lead in the SEC at 10-2; this could turn into a battle for the SEC's regular-season title. It's doubly important for Alabama, a team that struggled mightily in the non-conference and is still very much on the bubble. This could very easily be the Crimson Tide's 13th league win, on the road, against the SEC East leader. That should be enough for a bid.
Princeton at Harvard, March 5
Both teams have four games left on their schedule, so putting this game in this list may be a bit presumptive. Still, assuming both the Tigers and the Crimson take care of business in their other remaining league games, the Ivy's autobid will come down to this game. Princeton has already beaten Harvard at home.
No. 5 Texas at Baylor, March 5
The bad news for Baylor is that it has a massive hole to dig out of for an at-large bid. The good news? They'll have chances to dig out against Missouri, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State. But, barring a sweep of those three games, the Bears well need to beat Texas, with the Big 12 title on the line for the Longhorns, if they want to go dancing.
No. 1 Duke at No. 19 UNC, March 5
Duke is once again ranked No. 1 in the country, a fact that everyone wants to dispute because the Blue Devils have not beaten enough quality teams. Is it possible that the No. 1 team in the country isn't currently a No. 1 seed? The Blue Devils can do a lot to change that sentiment against the Tar Heels. Barring an upset, the country's best rivalry will have the ACC regular season title on the line in the last game of the season.
No. 12 Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State, March 6
In a league like the Big Ten, assuming anyone will win out is a stretch. But if we do, then Ohio State will be playing for the outright Big Ten regular-season title on the last day of the regular season. A loss would probably mean the Buckeyes share the title with Purdue. It doesn't get much better, or more important, than that.