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ON THE DIAMOND: THE WEEKEND AHEAD
April 21, 2006

SCS.comLike a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby, we're turning the corner and heading down the stretch run of the 2006 college baseball season. Most conferences are at or just past the midway portion of the league schedule and have about a month or so remaining before tournament play heats up. With that in mind, it's going to feel like postseason baseball in places like Austin, Chapel Hill, and Tallahassee this weeekend. Each of those locales is likely to be hosting NCAA play in early June, but this weekend they'll play host to big-time battles of teams ranked among the top 15 in America.

SERIES OF THE WEEKEND

(5) Nebraska at (8) Texas

It's a battle of easily the Big XII's best two teams this weekend in Austin. The Huskers are 10-2 after back-to-back sweeps over Missouri and Texas A&M, while the 'Horns are 12-2 and are also fresh off consecutive sweeps over Kansas State and Baylor. These two are likely to fight it out for the regular season title right down to the final weekend, so whoever captures this series will have the leg up heading into the back half of the conference race.

OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES

(11) NC State at (2) North Carolina

In-state rivalry alert! Both teams are among the best in America, each has legitimate hopes of earning one of the top 8 national seeds, and they are each one of just four ACC teams who have a dozen league wins already this season. Both teams are looking to continue the momentum after each earned a series sweep last weekend.

(6) South Carolina at Kentucky

If you thought the Wildcats would be a game above .500 and just a weekend out of first place in the overall SEC race at the halfway-mark, please raise your hand. Didn't think so. UK gets another chance to prove their point this weekend against the East's best team. A sweep, and the 'Cats are division leaders heading into the new week.

(9) Georgia Tech at (7) Florida State

Much like the SEC, is there a weekend in the ACC that isn't huge? The Jackets are just two games above .500 in league play but got things going last week with a series win over Clemson. FSU, meanwhile, appears to have hit a slump. The 'Noles dropped two of three to Miami last weekend and then were knocked off by Florida on Wednesday.

Vanderbilt at (10) Alabama

Both squads are 10-5 in SEC play coming into the weekend. The Tide is leading the way in the West, while the 'Dores are just a single game out of first in the East. As is always the case with Vandy, the key game is Friday night. If 'Bama can solve ace David Price in the weekend opener, their chances of a series victory improve tremendously.

Virginia at Miami

For some reason, it feels like both the Cavs and Canes have been overlooked somewhat to this point. Each is very much in the thick of things in the ACC's Coastal Division, UVA just a game back and UM only a pair of contests behind the leader. After taking two at FSU last week, will Miami get things rolling for a sprint down the stretch?

OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST

Southern Miss at (1) Rice
  Eagles have been up-and-down and will now face toughest challenge yet.

(12) Arizona State at UCLA
  Devils looking to build some momentum after series win over USC.

(13) Oregon State at California
  How will Beavers fare in their first Pac-10 road series since mid-March?

(14) Arkansas at Mississippi State
  Dawgs desperately need to get on track, especially against SEC West foe.

(15) Oklahoma at Texas Tech
  Sooners are rolling, but it's a chance for Tech to get back in the mix.

LSU at Mississippi
  Tigers looking to make a charge, but Rebs aren't playing bad ball.

Washington at Southern Cal
  UW is off to a slow start in league play. Trojans are leading the way.

Tennessee at Georgia
  Both squads are hovering around the 8th-place threshold in the SEC.

Bradley at Wichita State
  The Braves have sprinted out to big lead in the MVC; Shockers are 6-6.

San Diego at Pepperdine
  Torreros are co-Big West leaders; Waves currently sit one game back.

Auburn at Florida
  Like UGA and UT, this pair is playing for their postseason lives already.

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