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Must-win games

Everybody loves to talk about them; they're beginning to surface in the Big East now. Desperate teams are about to start facing each other with March on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Connecticut
The breaks are starting to beat the boys in Connecticut.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The bubble is, as ever, a fragile place to build a season in college basketball. Wins and losses are the currency that pays the bills due on Selection Sunday, but this year simply having enough results is another mountain to climb for teams hoping to make the tournament.

Xavier and UConn are just at the top of that precipice, having each completed 13 games in the year. Both teams have solid resumes at this point, with Xavier holding a more robust 5-2 record against the top two quadrants but both teams being undefeated in quads 3 and 4. This weekend, the teams will (maybe) meet at Cintas.

Xavier has played just three times in the calendar year but won them all, having made perfunctory victories over St. John's and Butler needlessly exciting and needing a Colby Jones three with a meaningless amount of time left on the clock to knock off Providence.

UConn has played eight times in 2021, albeit not particularly well. Since losing star guard James Bouknight (or, perhaps, James "Book" Knight, the namesake of a rap mogul and a disgraced Arizona assistant), Connecticut is 3-4 and 61st in the nation in adjusted efficiency according to Bart Torvik. They've lost 4 of 5, with a home victory over Butler as their only positive result in the last stretch.

Should the game go off as planned, the Huskies will be coming off of consecutive losses to Seton Hall and Providence. Neither of those results is resume poison, but they're both missed opportunities in a season where those haven't been easy to come by.

With so few days points on the resume, the margin between sides of the bubble can disappear in a week. In a down year for the league, at St. John's and home to Creighton are arguably Xavier's only two remaining chances to add anything other than proof they can take care of business to their resume. In addition to Xavier, UConn still has road trips to Nova and Seton Hall to look forward to.

There's a lot left to play for but few chances to actually play for it remaining. The desperation that is usually just creeping in at this time of the year is already at full burn; teams are playing like the next game isn't guaranteed because it very literally isn't.