When March arrives and college basketball's postseason picture comes into focus, Stanford will look back at these next four days and understand their impact.
The consequences could extend to Johnny Dawkins' future as the Cardinal's coach.
Dawkins was given a mandate after last season by athletic director Bernard Muir to deliver an NCAA tournament appearance after five straight misses. To his credit, Dawkins responded by assembling a challenging nonconference schedule.
After early-season losses at home to BYU and on a neutral court to Pitt, the stakes get ramped up this week. Stanford plays Wednesday in Hartford, Conn., against unbeaten and 10th-ranked Connecticut, and on Saturday in Brooklyn against defending NCAA runner-up Michigan.
"I think it's important for us, and it's also important for our conference for how things are looked at," Dawkins said. "Things in November and December become very important."
The Pac-12, led by top-ranked Arizona, is fending for itself nicely so far. The Cardinal needs to look out for itself.
Here's how Stanford's 7-2 record breaks down: Seven wins over teams with a combined mark of 32-41 and losses to two teams that are 18-4. An 0-for-2 East Coast swing would leave Stanford without a nonconference victory of substance for the second straight season.
UConn (9-0) is a tough assignment. The Huskies rarely lose at home and are led by senior point guard Shabazz Napier, being mentioned as a national player of the year candidate.
Napier would be a difficult matchup any time, but Stanford's point guard position is thinned by the loss of senior Aaron Bright to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Perhaps it will help that Stanford is playing zone defense more than ever before, partly in response to the new, tighter hand-checking rules and partly because Dawkins wants to play a big lineup.
The early returns on defense were unimpressive. Stanford allowed BYU and Pitt to score a combined 200 points. But Dawkins is convinced his team is catching on.
Michigan (6-4), with losses to Duke and Arizona, might be the Cardinal's better bet for a win this week. The game will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where Stanford already has played twice this season.
"When you come to college, you want to have an opportunity to play games like this," Dawkins said of the UConn and Michigan matchups. "You see these marquee games on television, and every kid dreams about counting down to make the winning shot.
"Part of your legacy is being in games like this."
Right now, perhaps more than ever, that's the reality for Dawkins and his team.
Cal men: The Bears (8-3) travel to Omaha, Neb., on Sunday to face Creighton (7-2), a preseason top-25 team that is 48-1 in regular-season home games against non-ranked opponents since the start of the 2007-08 season. Senior All-America forward Doug McDermott (25.3 points per game) has scored 30 points or more four times this season and had 34 when the Bluejays beat Cal 74-64 last year in Berkeley.
Stanford women: The No. 6 Cardinal (9-1) is home Saturday against No. 3 Tennessee (9-0) in a renewal of a rich rivalry. This is the 24th time the teams have met while both ranked in the top 10. The Lady Vols lead the series 22-9, but Stanford has won four of the past seven, including 73-60 last season behind 21 points and 19 rebounds by Chiney Ogwumike in Knoxville, Tenn.
Cal women: The No. 21 Bears (7-2) take a shot at No. 1 Connecticut (10-0) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in a game that will be televised by ESPN at 10:30 a.m. The Huskies, who face No. 2 Duke on Tuesday night, won their first 10 games by an average margin of 39.8 points and are 305-14 while playing as the nation's top-ranked team. Cal never has beaten a No. 1.
Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.