No college basketball contest in the country will scream “Bubble Game” more than the one set to tip off at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Tuesday night.

Once the calendar flipped to March, the level of desperation to grind out victories grew to a premium. No one disagrees that the Providence Friars and Marquette Golden Eagles both sit on the NCAA Tournament bubble and cannot afford a loss.

“We’ve had must-win games for a while now, really,” says PC Ed Cooley. “We’ve played pretty well for a month and put ourselves in position, but we know we have a lot of work left to do.”

The Friars (19-10 overall, 9-7 Big East) are mentioned as one of the last teams in or out in the various NCAA mock brackets being compiled by media members around the country. They all mean nothing, of course, but do supply a guide for just which teams could be in the mix when the bids are announced on March 16. PC’s credentials are as follows: an RPI of 56; a 5-5 road record; a 2-3 record against the top three teams (Villanova, Creighton, Xavier) in the Big East; a 2-5 record against top-50 RPI teams, 7-9 vs. the top 100.

It’s a resumé that is screaming for more substance. On the eve of yet another “biggest game of the season,” Cooley wasn’t looking to discuss just what his team needs to do to fatten up those numbers. But it’s clear that closing the Big East regular season with wins over Marquette and at Creighton on Saturday would mark a giant step forward.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams sounds a lot like Cooley. The Golden Eagles come to town with a 17-12 record and are tied with PC at 9-7 in the Big East. Williams says when his team left Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1 with a 4-5 record, he told his players their margin for error had grown very slim.

“We played St. John’s in our ninth game at the Garden, and after the loss I told our team that I felt like to stay in control of our destiny we had to go 7-2 in the second half,” Williams said. “I still feel like that’s true. Whether or not it comes to pass, I don’t know.”

Marquette remains on target for Williams’ fast finish with a 5-2 mark and two games to go (at PC, vs. St. John’s). With an RPI of 70, a 4-7 road record and two top-50 wins, the Golden Eagles clearly have plenty of work left to do.

Williams also says the Big East needs to do a better job of promoting its teams’ NCAA qualifications. He says the middle of the conference — PC, Marquette, Xavier, St. John’s, Georgetown — is as tough as any in the country. The Big East is the fourth-rated conference in the country, ahead of the ACC, Atlantic 10, SEC and American, thanks in part to the narrow differential between its top and bottom programs. But teams are broken down individually, regardless of conference affiliations.

“If you study all of the numbers of the teams in the middle of the league, I don’t feel like we’ve gotten the credit for how competitive the middle of the league is,” Williams said.

As for his team, he points out that the Golden Eagles have five losses against teams in the top 10 of the RPI: one vs. Wisconsin and two each against Villanova and Creighton. Unlike most leagues, the 10-team Big East now plays a round-robin schedule in which everyone plays each other twice. That’s the truest measure of a conference.

So while Marquette and PC face Villanova and Creighton twice, other teams around the country may have impressive records but miss the elite teams in their conferences.

“The thing that’s not talked about enough is the difference between a round-robin schedule that we play versus an unbalanced schedule,” Williams said. “In an unbalanced schedule, some teams can be protected, to an extent. That happened in the old Big East.