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ON THE DIAMOND: THE WEEKEND AHEAD
April 7, 2006

SCS.comEvery weekend is huge in the SEC, and this one is certainly no different. All six series are intriguing, but Alabama's trip to South Carolina, a matchup of two teams ranked among the top fifteen in all of America, looks to be the best of the bunch. Carolina is coming off two straight sweeps, while the Tide took two of three from previous-number one Mississippi State last weekend. Arkansas's trip to Vanderbilt will also be interesting to watch, as will Miami's visit to North Carolina over in the ACC. Also keep an eye on Nebraska and Missouri, Wake Forest and NC State, and California and USC.

SERIES OF THE WEEKEND

(14) Alabama at (1) South Carolina

It's a matchup of two teams that have combined to lose just three conference games thus far. The SEC West leader paying a visit to the East division front-runner. Alabama is fresh off a series win over then-number one Mississippi State, while Carolina is coming off of back-to-back sweeps over Florid and LSU. Bama has been getting the job done with pitching and defense, but the Gamecocks' throwers haven't been bad themselves, allowing less than 3 runs per SEC game over the past two weekends. Sweeping a third straight series in the nation's best conference is nearly unheard-of, but the Tide will have to be on their game to keep that from happening.

OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES

Miami at (4) North Carolina

The top two teams in the ACC's Coastal Division go head-to-head this weekend. The 'Canes appeared to be running away with the title, but last weekend's results changed that in a hurry. UM was swept by Clemson, while UNC took two of three from Florida State, leaving the Heels just a single game behind Miami in the league standings. A home series win for the second week in a row would leave North Carolina in no worse than a tie atop the divison.

(8) Nebraska at Missouri

This pair has combined to start the Big XII season 10-5, though each is trailing league-leading Texas heading into the weekend. The Tigers had a disappointing weekend on the road at Kansas last week, while the Huskers took two of three from K-State, also away from home. NU, along with the Horns, was expected to be a top contender in the Big XII this year, and a mid-week win over in-state rival Creighton should give the team some momentum heading into this weekend's huge road series.

(11) Arkansas at (13) Vanderbilt

The Hogs were expected to challenge for the SEC West title, but who predicted that the Commodores would be just a single game out of first place in the East and actually sitting in front of Florida and Tennessee in the standings? Part of the reason for VU's success is the outstanding Friday pitching from sophomore David Price, who has allowed just 3 runs in 24 innings of SEC work thus far. UA has lost four of its last eight but could move back to .500 in league play with a series win in Nashville.

Wake Forest at (12) NC State

These two are often overlooked in the ACC, but they have combined to start the league season 16-8. The Wolfpack is fresh off of a sweep over Virginia, while the Demon Deacons took three from Virginia Tech last weekend before dropping two disappointing mid-week contests earlier this week. With Florida State still sitting atop the Atlantic Division and Clemson coming on strong from behind, the loser of this weekend's series could find it very difficult to stay in the race.

California at Southern Cal

The Pac-10's top two teams meet on the diamond this weekend, each bringing a 4-2 conference record into the series in L.A. The Bears have taken two of three from both Washington and Arizona to start the season, while USC has had the same success against Stanford and Oregon State. Arizona State looks to be among the league favorites this year, while popular pick Oregon State is just 1-2 thus far. The series winner here hangs on to the conference lead for another week.

OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST

Maryland at (5) Clemson
  Terps took 2 of 3 from GT, but Tigers are fresh off sweep of Miami.

Georgia at (7) Mississippi State
  State lost first series of year at Bama but should rebound against UGA.

(10) Texas at Kansas State
  Horns travel to take on 'Cat squad that's lost just 5 times all year.

Washington at Arizona State
  Both figure to have say in Pac-10 title, looking to start things right.

Florida at Kentucky
  'Cats have been best surprise of the SEC, the Gators the worst surprise.

Arizona at Oregon State
  Beavers hoping to make run at title, should take this series over 'Zona.

Oklahoma at Texas A&M
  Sooners are cruising, while TAMU is looking to rebound from 2-7 start.

Tulane at Houston
  Wave is surprising 2-4 in CUSA play, while UH is 5-1 and tied for the lead.

LSU at Tennessee
  These two are a combined 4-13. Ouch! One will finally win a series.

Auburn at Mississippi
  Rebs return home after sweep of UGA and should fare well against Tigers.

Oklahoma State at Baylor
  Pokes got huge sweep of TAMU last week, hoping to stun slow-start BU.

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