As hard as it is to believe, a few Division I programs will essentially wrap up the regular season this weekend, and the first conference tournaments are just a couple of weeks away. Yes, the 2016 college baseball season is headed into the final stretch of the regular season, but there are still a couple of big weekends left for most of the top teams. And we’ve got the Florida Gators in the top position as it winds toward its conclusion.
The Gators have been college baseball’s most consistent team at 36-6, and after nudging the Vanderbilt Commodores aside a few weekends ago, they’ve outlasted the other challengers for the top spot – most recently, the Miami Hurricanes who were unable to carry the crown for more than a week. Florida, however, still has hurdles ahead, and our biggest matchup of the season features the Gators this weekend at the No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks in our Series of the Week.
At 33-8, the Gamecocks actually lead the SEC East at 14-4 while five of Florida’s losses have come in SEC play leaving the Gators one game behind at 13-5. A sweep by either team this weekend would all but clinch the No. 1 seed heading into the SEC Tournament, and any advantage Florida may have could be negated by the fact the Gamecocks will have the home field advantage. That could be the difference in a series with so little separating the two teams talent-wise.
If Florida wins two out of three, however, and SEC West leader Texas A&M sweeps Arkansas at home, then there could be a three-way tie at the top of the SEC standings heading into the final weekend. The Aggies are ranked No. 2, and while that scenario wouldn’t be enough for them to claim the No. 1 spot in our rankings, it would give the Aggies a shot at the No. 1 seed heading into the final series of the regular season next weekend. Suffice it to say, those top three teams still have plenty of reasons to be motivated heading into the final couple of weekends of the regular season. The bottom line is, if either Florida or South Carolina sweeps this weekend, then the winner will be the No. 1 headed into the final weekend of the regular season. Florida can hang on to that No. 1 spot with a 2-1 series win as well, but a 2-1 South Carolina series win could open the door for Texas A&M to move into the top spot – depending on the outcome of the Aggies’ series against Arkansas.
There are plenty of other interesting matchups in the Top 30 this weekend including a battle for Big 12 supremacy between the No. 7 TCU Horned Frogs and the No. 18 Texas Tech Red Raiders. The winner will have the inside track to the top seed, and TCU has the advantage of playing host to the series. The No. 6 Florida State Seminoles are the only other Top 10 team facing a ranked opponent this weekend as they travel to South Carolina to take on the No. 20 Clemson Tigers.
Further down in the Top 30, another key SEC battle looms as the No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels play host to the No. 13 LSU Tigers as both teams will be looking to improve their standing heading toward the postseason. The No. 14 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have an interesting nonconference series against the No. 19 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, and the No. 15 Florida Atlantic Owls will host the No. 25 Southern Miss Golden Eagles in a key Conference USA series.
Out West, the Pac-12 hasn’t been exceptionally strong this year, but the No. 17 California Golden Bears will host the No. 30 Washington Huskies providing both teams with a chance to make a late-season statement. Finally, in the Big Ten, the No. 21 Michigan Wolverines and the No. 22 Michigan State Spartans will take turns hosting a three-game series with both teams jockeying for the top spot in the conference.
The Weekend’s Top Matchups
Thursday, April 14 – Sunday, April 17
Series of the Week
No. 1 Florida at No. 3 South Carolina
Other Matchups between Top 30 Teams
No. 6 Florida State at No. 20 Clemson
No. 18 Texas Tech at No. 7 TCU
No. 13 LSU at No. 11 Ole Miss
No. 19 Coastal Carolina at No. 14 Georgia Tech
No. 25 Southern Miss at No. 15 Florida Atlantic
No. 30 Washington at No. 17 California
No. 21 Michigan vs. No. 22 Michigan State
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