All games are important. I think November basketball is just as important as February basketball. However, now is the time when conference titles and NCAA bids can be secured. The feeling of being close to an achievement or the desperation of having to win at all costs to gain something valuable is in the air.
It’s the theme of this weekend’s games. There’s a lot at stake. The games I’ll be watching are the ones in which the winner either clinches something or takes a major step in that direction.
The marquee game is Villanova at Xavier (Fox, 4:30 p.m., Saturday). Villanova is 23-3, ranked third in the country, and has been the dominant team in the Big East. Xavier is 24-3 and ranked fourth.
Villanova has been slowed by injuries, and the Wildcats are suddenly lacking depth. They could be sliding a bit. They lost at Providence Wednesday night and look vulnerable.
Xavier is on a nine-game winning streak and has a big home-court advantage at the Cintas Center. I’m expecting a big home victory for the Musketeers.
. . .
Other games I’m looking forward to this weekend:
URI at Saint Bonaventure: The two best teams in the A-10. This will be the one chance for Rhody to lose a game in the league.
Northern Kentucky at Wright State: The winner will be in first place in the Horizon League.
Providence at Butler: The Friars had their best win of the season in beating Villanova. Now they can’t backslide and have to win in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Notre Dame at BC: This is a big moment in the Jim Christian era as his team looks for its 17th victory. I thought 17 would be a stretch for this team.
West Virginia at Kansas: I won’t say it, but West Virginia could: We’re not in Kansas anymore. The Jayhawks are suddenly vulnerable in Allen Fieldhouse and for the first time in 13 years may not win the Big 12.
Nevada at Utah State: The Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, are outstanding players for Nevada. This is a dangerous road trip, however.
Yale at Harvard: A 9:30 tip-off. Even the Ivy League has sold out for TV. Meanwhile, the Crimson need to win their home games to win the Ivy regular-season title.
Ohio State at Michigan: The Buckeyes were incredibly inept in losing at Penn State, 79-56, Thursday night. If they have thoughts of actually winning the Big Ten, there can’t be a repeat.
Duke at Clemson: Clemson, playing on its home court, might be a better team than Southeastern Kentucky (that’s Duke to you) right now.
Wichita State at Cincinnati: I’ve been waiting for this game. It should be a physical, close battle and in the end will be a measurement of Wichita. The Shockers have underachieved this season, and this is a game in which they can change that. Cincy is coming off a loss at Houston.
Houston at Temple: Temple is fighting to get on the NCAA bubble, so the Owls have to win all their home games. This won’t be easy. Houston just beat Cincinnati Thursday night.Joe Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan