Checking in on a handful of games that even six-plus weeks out could have some level of postseason implications:
* N.C. State at Virginia (7): What a bizarre little team the Cavaliers are. They're 14-5 overall, 4-0 against the top 100 (per CBSSports.com) and ... nowhere near NCAA tournament contention just yet. That's because all five of their losses are to teams outside the top 100 and they are 2-4 outside of Charlottesville.
But mostly, it's all those lousy losses.
But good wins, even at home, will help the Hoos. Knocking off N.C. State would be Virginia's best win yet, and provide a little more credibility for a team that would rather you forget those ugly days against Delaware and Old Dominion.
* Vanderbilt at Tennessee (7): It's too soon to entirely discount to NCAA prospects of a team hovering around .500. Case in point? Last year's Tennessee team, which found itself in the discussion last year after winning eight of nine to close out the regular season.
The Volunteers then lost to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, but the point remains: A team that was 10-12 at the end of January 2012 harbored some postseason dreams just five weeks later.
This year, the Vols are an innocuous 10-8. But the SEC being what it is, they're not done --- at least not yet. They'd be smart not to lose to the struggling Commodores in Knoxville, though.
* Indiana State at Wichita State (8): The Sycamores (12-7) already have neutral-site defeats of Miami and Mississippi, and they've held their home court in five Missouri Valley games.
Still, there's a need for a signature road victory, and this is basically their last chance at one since they already fell at Creighton this month.
* Kentucky at Mississippi (9): In a bit of a role reversal, it's the Rebels who are cranking out lots of wins and the Wildcats who need something to bolster their profile.
It's not that Kentucky has harmed itself to date. It just has nothing remarkable to its name (its most impressive triumph was an opening-night defeat of Maryland). A victory at Ole Miss might not hold up over the long run, but it would be a solid step for John Calipari's youthful team.
* Nebraska at Minnesota (9): It's not the most important rule of Big Ten basketball, but "Thou shalt not lose to Nebraska at home" should be one of the conference's Ten Commandments.
Why? Well, the Cornhuskers haven't defeated an eventual NCAA tournament team on the road since Feb. 23, 2008 (Texas A&M). Nebraska had 19 consecutive road losses to teams that would eventually wind up in the 65- or 68-team field, and chances are that streak is really 23 in a row (with the Huskers falling at Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon this season).
In any case, the Gophers have dropped four in a row, which doesn't warrant any panic considering the competition. But a loss tonight would be eye-opening --- and put Minnesota on the wrong side of recent history.
* North Carolina at Boston College (9): The heavily scrutinized Tar Heels don't need the headache of losing to a sub-.500 Eagles team. Considering Carolina sees Boston College, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest just once each, Roy Williams' bunch needs to snag wins against second-division ACC teams when it can get them.
That schedule isn't particularly fun, but the Tar Heels would be wise to do themselves a favor and avoid a setback that could easily come back to haunt them in March.
--- Patrick Stevens