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ON THE DIAMOND: THE WEEKEND AHEAD
March 31, 2006

SCS.comIt's the final weekend of college hoops, which means attention will soon turn fully towards the sport of college baseball. And at a perfect time, I might add. Conference play is beginning to heat up all around the country, including in the ACC where Clemson and Miami will do battle down on the beach this weekend. Also in the ACC over the weekend Florida State and North Carolina will go head-to-head, while the SEC West's top two teams, Alabama and Mississippi State, will do battle in Tuscaloosa. Other big-time series this weekend include South Carolina's trip to LSU and Rice's matchup with Tulane.

SERIES OF THE WEEKEND

(9) Clemson at Miami

The 'Canes have bolted out of the gates to an 8-1 start in league play, while Clemson has struggled somewhat, currently sitting at just 3-3 in ACC games. Since being swept by Florida back in mid-February, UM has won 17 of its last 18 games. Clemson, meanwhile, pulled off a sweep of their own against NC State last weekend after having been swept themselves the week before against Virginia. Miami is looking to run away with the Coastal Division early, while the Tigers are hoping to stay within striking distance of Florida State over in the Atlantic.

OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES

(1) Mississippi State at Alabama

The Bulldogs have lost just once all season, that at LSU last weekend, but it was enough to put MSU a half-game back of Alabama in the SEC West standings heading into the weekend. The Tide swept Mississippi last weekend after taking two of three on the opening weekend against Georgia. A second consecutive winning weekend away from home would make State look that much more deserving of their #1 ranking.

(2) Florida State at (8) North Carolina

The Seminoles have sprinted to an 8-1 start to league play, the lone loss coming at Virginia Tech two weeks ago. That defeat was sandwiched in between series sweeps over Maryland and Duke. This weekend's tussel with North Carolina will easily be FSU's toughest yet, however. The Heels, 5-4, return home after dropping two of three last week at Georgia Tech. A series win at home is necessary to prove that UNC is ready to battle FSU for the conference crown.

(3) South Carolina at LSU

It has been a less-than-stellar start to SEC play for the Tigers, who have dropped two of three to both Kentucky and Mississippi State to open conference play. USC, meanwhile, followed up a 2-to-1 series win over Auburn with a sweep of Florida last weekend, earning the Gamecocks a good deal of respect around the league. Will Carolina continue to bolster its stock, or will the Bayou Bengals snap out of their slump and prove they're ready to contend?

(6) Rice at (12) Tulane

It's the Owls' first year in CUSA, but they've already got their eyes set on the title. As always, though, the Green Wave will have much to say about who comes out on top. Both teams won two of three last weekend, the Wave against Memphis and Rice against East Carolina. Each is chasing Southern Miss and Houston who currently top the standings, but that likely won't last too long. Which team makes its first move towards the top this weekend?

(7) Nebraska at Kansas State

There isn't much disagreement that the Huskers are among the nation's best teams this spring. It's K-State who has been somewhat of a surprise thus far, the 'Cats sprinting out to a 19-3 start to the season. After going 1-2 at Missouri last weekend, though, KSU still has much to prove before many will consider them a true threat in the Big XII. In addition, how will NU react to a disappointing mid-week split with Northern Colorado?

(10) Texas at Oklahoma

The 'Horns were the preseason favorite of most in the Big XII, but they've been a bit disappointing thus far. UT is, however, 4-1 in league play, including a sweep over Oklahoma State last weekend. It will be another tough test this weekend, though. Oklahoma came out with a somewhat surprising two-to-one victory over Baylor last weekend and is hoping to prove they're for real this spring. A couple of victories over UT would certainly be a step in the right direction.

OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST

Vanderbilt at Florida
  How will Gators react to sweep at USC? 'Dores are 5-1 in SEC play.

Tennessee at Arkansas
  Who thought these two would be a combined 3-8? Time to step up!

Kentucky at Auburn
  'Cats are 4-2 against LSU & UT and could improve that mark against AU.

Virginia at NC State
  Cavs look solid, while 'Pack is hoping to recover from sweep by Clemson.

Winthrop at Birmingham-Southern
  Without much doubt, these two are the best in the Big South this spring.

Southern Cal at Stanford
  Neither is off to a great start, but there is still plenty of baseball left.

U.S.A.
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