Commentary

Rutgers needs this win a lot more than UConn

Updated: March 3, 2008, 2:24 PM ET
By Charlie Creme | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Click here for Charlie Creme's March 3 bracket projection.

The rematch.

The game of the year (the latest one, at least).

The battle for the Big East.

Yes, Big Monday's Rutgers-Connecticut meeting in Hartford (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) is all of those things, not to mention a meeting of coaches with a combined 1,450 collegiate victories.

But these are programs that see things in the bigger picture. This game resides in one corner of that bigger picture called the NCAA Tournament and national title chase.

Monday is really more the beginning of that pursuit rather than the end of the regular season.

Keep that concept in mind when reading the following sentence: This is a far more important game for Rutgers than it is for Connecticut.

Sure, the Huskies want revenge. Yes, a Big East title is at stake. Absolutely, being the top seed in the Big East Tournament is important. However, we are talking NCAA Tournament ramifications here. Win or lose Monday night, thanks to Ketia Swanier's coast-to-coast game-winning layup, UConn is still a No. 1 seed in the big showcase.

DePaul almost changed that picture. If the Huskies had not rallied from 17 down in the second half Saturday night in front of 3,000 Blue Demon crazies, UConn might have had a bit more about which to be concerned. Yet even another loss to the Scarlet Knights would only be Connecticut's second overall. No one will have fewer. Eleven wins over the top-25 of the RPI is unsurpassed. Outside of Rutgers, a tighter-than-expected trip to Syracuse and the narrow escape in Chicago, the Huskies have shredded the Big East.

They are a No. 1 seed, and it will be very difficult to change that.

The same cannot be said for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are a No. 1 right now, but this game tilts the scale absolutely. The margin is so small -- with Maryland, Stanford and LSU breathing down the Scarlet Knights' necks -- that winning is the only answer.

A second win over UConn would significantly solidify Rutgers' position. A loss would just be one too many. And if it happens, Maryland would supplant Rutgers as that No. 1 seed.

But a loss doesn't wash away the Scarlet Knights' chances. It just changes their status for the time being. If Rutgers were to lose Monday but win the Big East Tournament -- and Maryland, Stanford and LSU tripped up in their conference tournaments -- then the final No. 1 seed could very well come back the Scarlet Knights' way.

So as the Huskies faithful say goodbye to seniors Swanier, Brittany Hunter, Charde Houston and Mel Thomas (injured), and Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery lock up with Essence Carson and Matee Ajavon for 40 minutes, remember you are watching a huge game, the biggest of 2008.

However, don't relax -- because it might not be the biggest for long.

Charlie Creme can be reached at cwcreme@yahoo.com.

Charlie Creme | email

Women's College Basketball
Charlie Creme projects the women's NCAA Tournament bracket for ESPN.com.