3 questions entering D-I Men's Regionals
__1. Are any of the schools hosting a regional at risk of not securing a berth to the NCAA Championship?
The expansion from three to six regionals a year ago and the need to finish in the top five rather than the top 10 to advance to nationals has made having a home-course advantage that much greater an intangible to have in your favor. Three of the four schools in the regional fields that are hosting an event this year (Georgia Tech, Washington, Texas A&M) are all programs that shouldn't need any edge to qualify for nationals. The one you've got to wonder about is San Diego State. Seeded fifth in the Southwest Regional, the Aztecs in my mind are definitely the most vulnerable.
__2. Which regional might be the most unpredictable?
__Hands down to me it's the Central Regional being played at The Warren GC in Notre Dame, Ind. Stanford would appear to be the clear favorite but after that you've got eight schools in my mind that could legitimately grab the four remaining spots. Florida and Florida State on paper have the better talent so they should get two of the spots and I'm on the record in thinking that Duke and N.C. State will get the other too. However, Big Ten rivals Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern might feel comfortable playing in at a course that has a Midwestern feel to it and all three have the golfers on their squads to make things interesting. Same with LSU, which when playing at its best can post some low numbers. Virginia Tech is the one other school I am curious about in this regional too. Bottom line: anything really could happen out in Indiana this week.
__3. Will cross country travel affect any of the top-ranked teams that were sent packing?
__UCLA has had a great time since taking a red eye out to the New York area to play in the East Regional at The Course at Yale. The Bruins came out a day earlier and did the New York City thing. I get the sense they're pretty relaxed and aren't going to let the travel become an issue. Arizona State heading to Capital City Club outside Atlanta has me a little more nervous, but veteran coach Randy Lein knows how to get his teams focused so I think they should be OK. Going the other way, Augusta State playing out at Carlton Oaks CC near San Diego could be an interesting story. I like the depth of the Jaguar team and just have a hunch they'll step things and be fine out of their own time zone. Similarly, Illinois is a solid team that should handle heading to the Pacific Northwest and Gold Mountain GC. My only fear here is whether the lack of familiarity with the course might hurt them compared to Washington, USC and Oregon State.