January means conference play gets going, leaving non-conference play in the past. Nothing happens in a vacuum, however, and the ways teams played before conference opponents shapes them now. It also has a big role in their NCAA Tournament hopes, for some teams more than others.
Scheduling is certainly an art form and not a science, because one never knows just how good many teams will be. Still, many go into the season with some clear signature win opportunities, where a win would have shelf life all season. Others have very few and need to make the most of them, or might not have any. Quality wins not only help a team reach the NCAA Tournament, but more of them leaves room for error to cover up a bad loss or two.