March 18, 2010
Last weekend was highlighted by the ACC beginning conference play.
Now it is the SEC and Big 12's turn to take center stage.
Everyone in the SEC will play a conference series this weekend, while only a few Big 12 teams begin conference play.
The Rivals.com National Series of the Week features a fantastic matchup between hard-hitting LSU and an Arkansas club that has been better than expected on the mound so far this season.
In the ACC, No. 3 Florida State heads to No. 23 North Carolina. In the Big 12, though, the series between Baylor and No. 24 Oklahoma highlights the weekend action.
Also keep an eye on the series between Houston and No. 2 Arizona State. Both clubs are playing a great brand of baseball. ASU, though, puts its perfect mark on the line again this weekend.
Here's an inside look at the ten best series of the weekend with predictions.
No. 13 Arkansas at No. 8 LSU
The Tigers once again will be without ace pitcher Anthony Ranaudo this weekend. That means the entire pitching staff must rise to the occasion against a very balanced Arkansas club. The Razorbacks are strong at the top of their offensive lineup. Also, the pitching staff has been a pleasant surprise so far this season with sophomore Drew Smyly leading the way. The Razorbacks will give the Tigers all they can handle this weekend. But look for LSU to take care of business at home using their sticks to get the job done.
Prediction: LSU wins two of three
No. 3 Florida State at No. 23 North Carolina
This is a very important series for both teams. The Seminoles began ACC play last weekend with a home series loss to Virginia. North Carolina, meanwhile, dropped a series to rival Duke last weekend. The loser of this series will be behind the eight ball a bit when it comes to the ACC standings. That makes this weekend very important. FSU clearly has the better offensive lineup and good enough starting pitchers to get the job done. UNC, meanwhile, seems to have the deeper pitching staff. FSU was close to winning the Virginia series. It will take care of business on the road this weekend.
Prediction: Florida State wins two of three
Baylor at No. 24 Oklahoma
Easily the series to watch in the Big 12 this weekend. The Bears have blossomed at the plate the past few weeks. But this weekend, the Bears get their toughest test of the season with a three-game set at Oklahoma. OU has pretty much done everything well so far this season, and is very tough to beat at home. Baylor will score some runs this weekend, but won't be able to slow down OU's offense. Look for OU to finish the weekend with another positive result.
Prediction: Oklahoma wins two of three
22 Vanderbilt at Alabama
This will be a fun series to follow throughout the weekend. The Commodores have done some nice things at the plate so far this season. The same goes for the Crimson Tide, which has talented sluggers such as Taylor Dugas, Ross Wilson and Josh Rutledge. The series, though, will come down to which team pitches at the higher level. The Commodores have one of the nation's most talented pitchers in Sonny Gray, while pitching coach Kyle Bunn has done a nice job with his Alabama staff so far this season. Vandy is road tested and will win this series.
Prediction: Vanderbilt wins two of three
Mississippi at No. 18 Kentucky
Ole Miss suffered a tough home series loss to Louisville last weekend and hopes to find a way to rebound on the road against Kentucky. The Rebels have a solid offensive lineup and a talented pitching staff. Kentucky, meanwhile, is very solid at the top of its offensive lineup and Chris Bisson is one of the nation's elite talents. The pitching staff, though, has been a pleasant surprise with Logan Darnell, Taylor Rogers and Alex Meyer leading the charge. UK will protect its home field in this series.
Prediction: Kentucky wins two of three
Houston at No. 2 Arizona State
It began with starting pitchers Chase Dempsay and Michael Goodnight giving the Cougars a lift at the Houston College Classic. Now the Cougars are on a roll and would love nothing more than to knock off Arizona State on the road this weekend. Both Dempsay and Goodnight must pitch extremely well this weekend to leave Arizona with a series win. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, are a perfect 17-0 after sweeping a midweek series from Cal State Fullerton. The Devils likely still won't have ace pitcher Josh Spence, but that once again shouldn't matter.
Prediction: Arizona State sweeps series
Washington State at Wichita State
The Shockers have something to prove when the two teams take the field this weekend. Wichita State made a small statement two weekends ago with a nice home series win over Florida Gulf Coast. However, they took a step back last weekend with a series loss to Long Beach State, and also looked horrible in midweek action against Arizona. Perhaps home will be good to the Shockers, but Washington State is playing solid baseball right now. Earlier this week, I would've gone with the Shockers. But now WSU is the pick.
Prediction: Washington State wins two of three
Virginia Tech at No. 9 Clemson
The Hokies have a solid record so far this season, but haven't taken care of business against solid competition. Now they have the tough chore of hitting the road and playing a red-hot Clemson club. Tech's pitching staff and leading hitter Austin Wates must have good weekends for the Hokies to have a chance in this series. Clemson, meanwhile, just needs to keep playing the way it did against N.C. State and South Carolina the past two weekends. If that happens, Clemson has another huge weekend.
Prediction: Clemson sweeps series
21 Miami (Fla) at Duke
This is an important series for the Hurricanes, but it is an even more important weekend for the Blue Devils. Duke earned a huge home series win last weekend over North Carolina. A series win over the Hurricanes this weekend would put the Devils in fantastic shape moving forward in ACC play. Perhaps Duke could become this year's version of last year's Boston College club, which earned an at-large bid to an NCAA regional. Miami is the most balanced team this weekend, but Duke will be tough to beat on the road. Still, look for the 'Canes to head home with a series win.
Prediction: Miami wins two of three
14 Rice at San Diego
The Owls head to the dreaded West Coast again this weekend. This time, though, they will face a team a step below Stanford in San Diego. The Toreros had high hopes entering the season, but are 9-9 and have failed to impress so far this season. To say the least, it is a very important weekend for coach Rich Hill and the Toreros. Rice, meanwhile, started the week with a very solid midweek win over Texas. However, the Owls must find a way to establish some consistency against the Toreros. They win two if that happens.
Prediction: Rice wins two of three