With many of the conference tournaments around the country beginning sometime next week, many leagues are revving up their final weekend of activity a day early, beginning the usual three-game series on an usual Thursday night. And while several conference races have already been decided, there are a number that are still up for grabs. Also still up in the air is NCAA positioning. Depending on which team you're a fan of, this weekend is likely to affect national seeding, regional hosting, or just a berth into the field of sixty-four itself. Regardless, the dust will finally settle on the 2006 season in just a few days, leaving us with a clear picture of the final conference standings and a wild next month to look forward to.
SERIES OF THE WEEKEND
(4) Kentucky at (14) Georgia
One win locks up the outright SEC East title for Kentucky, while a second win would guarantee the 'Cats the 2006 SEC title. Now who predicted that before the season? Certainly not anyone I know. But if all that is to come true, it will have to be done against one of the hottest teams in the SEC, and at their home field. UK had their way with the Mississippi teams in Lexington the past two weeks, but this trip to Athens could prove to be more of a challenge. The Dawgs have won a dozen straight, including three consecutive SEC sweeps over the likes of Florida, South Carolina, and Auburn. A series win over the SEC's best team (to date) could actually get UGA in the talk for regional hosting rights.
OTHER MUST-SEE SERIES
Wake Forest at (3) Clemson
While teams like Florida State, NC State, and Miami have struggled at times this ACC season, the Clemson Tigers have been steady throughout and need just a single win to guarantee themselves at least a split of the 2006 overall league title. CU, who has lost just six conference games all year, has won a dozen straight and swept three consecutive ACC series from Virginia Tech, Duke, and Florida State. Wake Forest, meanwhile, is hoping to hold on to second place in the Atlantic Division standings. The Deacons have struggled against the ACC's best at times this season, but a road series victory this weekend could help Wake's situation come selection time.
Miami at (7) Georgia Tech
Both teams are still mathematically in the running for this spring's Coastal Division title, but each will need a superb weekend and some help from others to make the jump. Tech is a pair of games behind first-place North Carolina and a single game behind Virginia, while Miami finds itself an additional game behind the Jackets. GT has won seven of its last eight and fourteen of the last seventeen, including recent sweeps of Florida State, South Florida, and Duke. The 'Canes, meanwhile, have also won seven of their last eight and have been victorious in each of their last three series. ACC Tournament seeding, and certainly NCAA seeding, are on the line in Atlanta this weekend.
Oklahoma at (9) Nebraska
While the likes of Texas and Oklahoma State have raced to the finish of the regular season, both the Soonoers and Huskers have limped their way to the completion. Though both once looked to be among the Big XII's top three teams, one of these two squads could very well find themselves in fourth place once the dust settles over the final 2006 standings at the end of the weekend. OU has dropped six of its last eight, including a sweep at the hands of the in-state rival Cowboys last weekend. NU, meanwhile, has dropped six of its last eight as well. The Huskers dropped a pair to OSU two weeks ago before being swept at Baylor last weekend. With postseason play just around the corner, both would like to turn things around this week and pick up some momentum before the league tournament in Oklahoma City next week.
NC State at Florida State
Though both squads have spent time ranked among the top fifteen in America this spring, neither finds themselves among that group this week. Both fell behind the lofty pace set by Clemson in recent weeks and haven't been a threat in the Atlantic Division for more than 10 days. The 'Pack has dropped seven of its last ten, including a sweep at the hands of in-state rival North Carolina and a series loss at home to Miami. Florida State has lost four in a row and 12 of its last 17, a streak that all started back in mid-April when the rival Hurricanes snapped the Noles' 32-game home winning streak. Both teams need to get things headed in the right direction before postseason play gets here and it's too late.
OTHER SERIES OF INTEREST
(10) Alabama at Tennessee
(11) Arizona State at Arizona
(12) Oregon State at Washington State
Texas Tech at (13) Oklahoma State
Auburn at Arkansas
Mississippi at Mississippi State
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Southern Cal at Wichita State
LSU at Florida