Four Series To Watch With Postseason Implications
No. 2 Stanford (38-6, 17-4 Pac-12 Conference) at No. 4 Oregon State (36-6-1, 14-6-1)
What’s at stake for Stanford: A chance to all but put the Pac-12 title out of reach. The Cardinal can’t this weekend clinch the championship, but a series win would go a long way to wrapping up their first conference title since 2004. Stanford’s spot as a top-eight seed is secure already, but any hope of snatching the top overall seed away from Florida requires a series win at Oregon State.
What’s at stake for Oregon State: First place in the Pac-12. Oregon State is aiming for back-to-back Pac-12 titles for the third time under coach Pat Casey. A sweep this weekend would put the Beavers back in first place with two weekends left in the season. Winning two of three games would leave them in second place but would turn this race into a six-game sprint and solidify the Beavers as a top-eight seed. Oregon State has history on its side, as it’s won this series seven straight years, including five sweeps.
No. 3 North Carolina (33-14, 18-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) at No. 9 Duke (36-11, 15-8)
What's at stake for North Carolina: The ACC title. UNC comes into the weekend up 2.5 games over Duke in the Coastal Division and slightly ahead of Atlantic Division-leading Clemson (19-8) in the ACC at large. With a series win this weekend, UNC would clinch the Coastal. It cannot clinch the overall title and the top seed in the ACC Tournament, however, because Clemson is on its conference bye this weekend. The Tar Heels have played their way into a national seed over the last few weekends, raising their RPI to No. 3 in the country. Barring a disastrous season-ending stretch, UNC's status should be secure.
What's at stake for Duke: The Coastal Division and a hosting bid. At one point the Coastal Division leaders, the Blue Devils hit a brief rough patch midway through ACC play and rival UNC took advantage by jumping ahead in the standings. The Blue Devils have the chance to take the division lead with a sweep or remain in striking distance with a series win. More importantly, a series win would be a huge boost for Duke's hosting chances. At No. 18 in the RPI, the Blue Devils are on the hosting bubble.
No. 12 Georgia (34-14, 15-9 in Southeastern Conference) at No. 1 Florida (39-11, 18-6)
What’s at stake for Georgia: Wrapping up a top-eight seed and staying in the SEC title hunt. Georgia has been one of the season’s biggest surprises and is on its way to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011. The Bulldogs are probably one conference win from securing a host spot and have a strong chance to be a top-eight seed but face a difficult closing stretch—after this weekend they return home to host No. 6 Arkansas. A series win this weekend would make Georgia a top-eight seed, keep Florida from clinching the SEC title and keep alive its own hopes of winning the conference for the first time in a decade.
What’s at stake for Florida: A chance to clinch the SEC title. A series win this weekend would give the Gators their second straight SEC championship for the first time since 2010-11. Florida has already locked up a top-eight seed and claiming the SEC title would go a long way to wrapping up the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators have won their last four series against the Bulldogs.
Bubble Watch: LSU, North Carolina Bolster Hosting Cases
As conference tournaments continue, we look at NCAA Tournament bubble winners and losers from Friday.
Houston (29-19, 14-7 American Athletic Conference) at No. 25 Connecticut (29-14, 11-7)
What's at stake for Houston: The NCAA tournament. Strangely enough, even though Houston currently leads the AAC standings, the Cougars have a thin margin for error for earning a tournament bid. The Cougars have had RPI issues all season, ranking No. 62 currently, and they could use a series win over the No. 16 RPI Huskies on the road to provide some security. With a 1.5 game lead, Houston controls its own destiny at this point. Win the conference, and Houston gets in. But fall behind, and the Cougars' prospects look a bit dicier.
What's at stake for Connecticut: A hosting bid. Though not currently projected to host in the latest Projected Field of 64, the Huskies could change that with a strong finish. Their No. 16 RPI puts them firmly in hosting range, and if they take the series against Houston—and jump into first place—they'll leave little doubt. That said, the Huskies are a dangerous team whether they host or not—they've posted a 22-12 record on the road this season.