Pre-Conference Push: Key Matchups Highlight Holiday Week

T.R. PetersonCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 23:  Darius Johnson-Odom #1 of the Marquette Golden Eagles passes around Elias Harris #20 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the CBE Classic consolation game on November 23, 2010 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As the college basketball season heads into the final week of December, it’s the last chance for teams to put a quality non-conference win on their resume, the type of win that makes the selection committee take note.  For mid-majors and middle-of-the-pack power conference teams, a win now could pay dividends come March.

This week provides some key matchups that may be critical for teams down the road.  Here are six games that should carry implications come March.


Marquette (9-3) at Vanderbilt (9-2)                           Wed.  9:00 p.m. ESPN2

Here you have two teams from power conferences looking for a quality win.  Marquette has had close loses to Duke, Gonzaga and Wisconsin, none of which is terrible.  However, with no other quality wins on their resume this one is critical for the Golden Eagles.

Vanderbilt has a couple of tough losses to West Virginia and Missouri.  They do have a nice win against North Carolina but not much else.  A win against Marquette would look nice down the road. 


Temple (9-2) at Villanova (10-1)                               Thur. 7:00 p.m.  ESPN2  

Temple can only hang their hat on a win against Georgetown for so long.  The next best win the Owls have is against a very average Georgia team.  Nothing is a given entering Atlantic 10 play, so this would be a nice win to tuck away.

Villanova looks great on the surface with a 10-1 record and Top 10 ranking.   Upon closer inspection, the Wildcats' best win is against UCLA, which is shaky at best.  It’s hard to say how good the Wildcats really are until they get into Big East play.  They may want to get this one just in case.


 Old Dominion (9-2) at Missouri (11-1)                     Thur.  8:00 p.m.  MSN

The Monarchs have wins against Xavier, Richmond and Dayton but opened conference play with a head-scratching loss at Delaware.  This would be the type of win that Old Dominion can really point to at the end of the season if they are one of those teams on the at-large bubble. 

Missouri is in solid shape with wins over Vanderbilt and Illinois.  This game would only solidify their position as an at-large team.


Florida (9-3) at Xavier (7-3)                                      Fri.  4:00 p.m.  ESPN2

This game is big for both teams.  It’s hard to say who needs this win more.  Each has quality wins over solid opponents.  Florida beat Kansas St. while Xavier has a win over Butler, but each team also has a questionable loss.  These two teams will be continually talked about as bubble teams as the season goes on, and a win here could be the difference.


Oklahoma St. (11-1) at Gonzaga (7-5)                      Fri.  10:00 p.m.  ESPN2

Oklahoma St. has been flying under the radar and haven’t drawn much attention.  They have only played two true road games, one of which was a double OT win at LaSalle.  Going on the road and winning at Gonzaga would definitely put them on the radar.

Gonzaga continues to play one of the most difficult schedules in the country.  They are always willing to play anyone, anywhere.  However, at 7-5 the Zags can’t afford to let too many of these types of games slip away.


New Mexico (9-2) at Dayton (10-3)                     Sat.  2:00 p.m. CBS College Sports

New Mexico and Dayton are two mid-major teams that should battle for the top of their respective conferences.  However, in the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 nothing is a given.  The Lobos and Flyers really need some quality wins to add to shaky non-conference resumes.