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Forecasting NCAA Men's D-I Regionals

By RYAN HERRINGTON

Lets call this Operation Best Guess. I went a modestly unfulfilling 15 of 24 on my Women's Regionals picks last week, being outpaced by two folks at that other weekly golf publication (kudos to Mr. Ringler and Ms. Baldry).

I'd love to convincingly say that I will get my revenge this week with my selections for Men's Regionals, but well have you seen the field at each of the six sites? Seriously, there are a minimum of eight teams at each that can advance if playing close to their potential. (Interestingly, a fair number of these schools could also potentially lay an egg this week too if they're not on their games.)

All this said, here they are ... the 30 teams that will be advancing to the NCAA Championship later this month. Nate Silver, eat your heart out!
Palouse Ridge GC, Pullman, Wash.
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Winner: California
Lock to advance: TCU
Shouldn't have a problem: USC
On the good side of the bubble: St. Mary's (Calif.), Virginia Tech    
On the bad side of the bubble: BYU, Baylor
Will play respectably: North Texas, San Diego State, Pacific
Just happy to be there: Ball State, Memphis, Princeton, Saint Francis (Pa.)
Individual advancing: Zachary Blair, BYU
Weather forecast: Thursday—67 degrees, 30 percent chance of rain, 6 mph wind; Friday—67/20/11; Saturday—63/30/13

I could try to outsmart myself by defiantly predicting California is going to lose a tournament again in 2012-13, but then there's the risk of looking foolish when the Golden Bears run away with another title. A single-digit win is a reasonable expectations for this week, as Steve Desimone's squad sets up a potentially historic affair at Capital City Club at month's end. … TCU is one of the three schools that did manage to beat the Golden Bears this spring. The Horned Frogs risk a little bit of burn out having played nine tournaments this spring, but Julien Brun is good enough to carry this group if need be. … USC started solid this spring but hasn't been inside the top five in the last four starts. Says here that the Trojans snap out of it. … St. Mary's is an experienced group with two seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup and  wants to avenge last year's seventh-place showing at nationals. … The Hokies of Virginia Tech will make quite the trip to get to Pullman from Blacksburg, but I've just got this sneaky suspicion they handle that fine and grab the final berth to national.


University Club of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, La.
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)   
Winner: Alabama
Lock to advance: LSU
Shouldn't have a problem: Florida
On the good side of the bubble: Mississippi State, Wichita State
On the bad side of the bubble: Houston, Northwestern, Tennessee
Will play respectably: Coastal Carolina
Just happy to be there: UAB, Southeastern Louisiana, Houston Baptist
Individual advancing: Oliver Goss, Tennessee
Weather forecast: Thursday—83 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain, 12 mph wind; Friday—86/20/12; Saturday—86/10/11

With all the fanfare surrounding Cal, Alabama has put together one of the more impressive seasons in recent memory—six wins and nine top-three finishes in 10 starts. Hard not to think the Crimson Tide can make it seven and 10 this week. … Best thing for LSU, coming off an eighth- and 11th-place finish in its last two starts: playing at home. Local knowledge steadies the ship for the Tigers. … Florida, similarly, has struggled of late (10th at SECs) but the Gators, who have the longest current streak of advancing to nationals at 12 years, are too deep and coach Buddy Alexander too connected in Baton Rouge (where he once coached) to stumble here. … Mississippi State found its way into the top 25 of the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll for the first time in since its return in 2001-02. The Bulldogs are ready to build on the most impressive season in school history. … Wichita State is seeded No. 11 and has had a solid but not spectacular season that gets upgraded when the team gains the final berth in Baton Rouge.   


ASU Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz.
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Winner: Duke
Lock to advance: UCLA
Shouldn't have a problem: Texas A&M
On the good side of the bubble: Georgia, UCF
On the bad side of the bubble: Clemson, Vanderbilt, Arizona State, New Mexico State
Will play respectably: Kennesaw State, Arizona
Just happy to be there: Austin Peay State, Lehigh
Individual advancing: Jon Rahm, Arizona State
Weather forecast: Thursday—101 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain, 12 mph wind; Friday—96/0/11; Saturday—92/0/12

Duke heads out West the winner of a school-record five titles in 2012-13, having shot an all-time best 25-under 289 en route to victory at the ACC Championship. Low scores are usually needed to win in Tempe, and the Blue Devils have posted under-par numbers in five of its 10 starts this season. … Seven times in the last 10 years UCLA has finished in the top three at Regionals, including wins in 2009 and 2011. Credit the Bruins for figuring out how to handle the unique circumstances that Regionals provide. … It's been an unusual season for Texas A&M, with the Aggies posting the same number of finishes outside the top 10 (three) as inside the top five in their first seven starts. More recently, however, the team has three top fives in its last four events, and given its postseason experience should be ready to roll. … Georgia needs to shake off a rough finish at SECs (ninth, worst since 1994). Chris Haack, however, believes the team should get a boost with the return of junior Joey Garber to the lineup for the first time since October after suffering a shoulder injury. … UCF is used to playing out West at Regionals; it's the third time in four years the Golden Knights have done it. Call it a hunch, but I think this helps their dark-horse bid for the final spot at the NCAA Championship.


The Blessing GC, Fayetteville, Ark.
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Winner: Texas
Locks to advance: Arkansas
Shouldn't have a problem: Oklahoma State
On the good side of the bubble: Illinois, SMU
On the bad side of the bubble: Kent State, Liberty
Will play respectably: Tulsa, Kentucky, Colorado, Indiana
Just happy to be there:
UNC-Wilmington, UM-Kansas City, Alabama State
Individual advancing: Corey Conners, Kent State
Weather forecast: Thursday—81 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain; 7 mph wind; Friday—84/10/12; Saturday—87/20/15

Defending NCAA champion Texas impressively hasn't seemed to miss a beat with the departure of Jordan Spieth in December. Longhorn fans can thank quick transition made by freshman Brendan Stone. … The Blessings is a challenging venue, giving Arkansas a distinct home-course advantage. … No team might have more motivation to reach nationals than Oklahoma State, which saw its streak of 65 straight appearances in the NCAA Championship end last year. … Illinois had qualified for NCAAs the last six years and has momentum from claiming its fifth-straight Big Ten title last month. Defending NCAA individual winner Thomas Pieters is also on a roll of late, while the Fighting Illini have a 10-6 head-to-head record against teams in the field, including a 6-1 mark this spring. … SMU was seventh at Regionals last year, but missed out on fifth by only five strokes. Coach Josh Gregory's postseason experience feels like it's going to come in handy this week.     


Ohio State University (Scarlet), Columbus, Ohio
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Winner: New Mexico
Locks to advance: Stanford
Shouldn't have a problem: Auburn
On the good side of the bubble: South Carolina, UNLV
On the bad side of the bubble: Missouri, Texas Tech
Will play respectably:
Chattanooga, Georgia Southern, Virginia
Just happy to be there: San Francisco, Charlotte, Valparaiso
Individual advancing: Scott Fernandez, Iowa State
Weather forecast: Thursday—81 degrees, 40 percent chance of rain, 9 mph wind; Friday—80/30/7; Saturday—76/60/7

New Mexico's past experiences at Regionals have been bittersweet, having missed out on advancing to NCAAs by one stroke in 2009 and 2012. That said, the 2012-13 version of the Lobos is the best they've seen in Albuquerque in some time. … Stanford's lineup has impressive depth with Patrick Rodgers, Cameron Wilson and Andrew Yun at the top. Rodgers and Yun have played the Scarlet Course in the Web.com Tour event that exempted college All-Americans into the field in previous seasons. … Auburn has gotten steady play from all five of its starters this season, with Dominic Bozelli and Niclas Carlsson winning their third career individual titles during the spring. This bodes well for Tigers fans who might remember the Scarlet Course as the site of Chip Spratlin's NCAA individual title in 1995. … Not since 2009 has South Carolina advanced to NCAAs, but this Gamecocks squad has five top-three finishes in 2012-13, including a runner-up showing at SECs. … UNLV has had an up-and-down year (six top-fives and four finishes of ninth or worse). I think this is a week the Rebels come through.



Golden Eagle G&CC, Tallahassee, Fla.
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Winner: Florida State
Locks to advance: Washington, Georgia Tech
Shouldn't have a problem: Oklahoma
On the good side of the bubble: N.C. State
On the bad side of the bubble: North Florida, Wake Forest
Will play respectably: Oregon, Oregon State, Iowa
Just happy to be there: USF, San Diego, Loyola (Md.)
Individual advancing: Evan Beck, Wake Forest
Weather forecast: Thursday—86 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain, 10 mph wind; Friday—89/10/7; Saturday—91/0/7

Florida State has been a sneaky good team in 2012-13, and the benefit of hosting the regional pushes them to first place this week as Daniel Berger continues his impressive sophomore season. … Washington has to make the long trip from Seattle in order to secure the long trip to Atlanta late this month. The Huskies are too experienced a team, however, to be thrown by the tough travel and unfamiliar conditions. … Georgia Tech is motivated not just by the fact it missed out on a trip to nationals in 2012 but that it is hosting the NCAA Championship in two weeks. … Oklahoma feels like there are birdies to be had at Golden Eagle and that it's ready to capitalize as it goes for a third-straight appearance at nationals. … Veteran coach Richard Sykes will need to get N.C. State's disappointing ninth-place showing at the ACC Championship out of his players thoughts and remind them that they've posted nine top-four finishes this season. Oh, Mitch Sutton, a Regional winner in 2011.
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