NCAA Men's regionals preview
Before getting too far into the first round of the NCAA Women's Championship, here's a look at what might take place this week in the six NCAA men's regionals being contested across the country.
Golden Ocala GC, Ocala, Fla.
Shouldn't have a problem: Augusta State
On the good side of the bubble: Arkansas, Oregon, N.C. State
On the bad side of the bubble: UCF, Kennesaw State, Notre Dame
Will play respectably: Baylor, Missouri, S.E. Louisiana
Just happy to be there: Jacksonville State, Georgia Southern, Jackson State
Most likely player to advance as an individual: Jeff Karlsson, Kennesaw State
Florida's consistent play has been impressive throughout the 2010-11 season, so there's no real reason not to think it will continue this week, particularly with the Gators getting to play in their home state. An experienced Augusta State (four senior and a junior) should allow the Jaguars to advance and attempt to defend their NCAA title. Arkansas hasn't gotten the headlines that some SEC teams have but the Razorbacks do have four tournament victories this season. Oregon's near-miss at the Pac-10s suggest the Ducks are back after a slow start this year and playing well enough to handle the cross-country trek. The fifth spot in the regional is seemingly wide open, but the talent that N.C. State showed last fall (two wins, two runner-ups in its first four starts) will re-surface and give Wolfpack a berth at nationals.
Pete Dye River Course, Blacksburg, Va.
Winner: Georgia Tech
Shouldn't have a problem: LSU
On the good side of the bubble: Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech
On the bad side of the bubble: Oklahoma, Kent State
Will play respectably: Mississippi, East Carolina, UNC Wilmington
Just happy to be there: Coastal Carolina, Lamar, Yale
Most likely player to advance as an individual: John Hahn, Kent State
I like the focus that the Georgia Tech team plays with, so I think the Yellow Jackets will be able to handle the unique pressure that is NCAA regionals very well. This might be Bruce Heppler's best team since the early 2000s. LSU sports a deep squad that allows players to be more aggressive, knowing they've got other guys in the lineup that have their backs. Duke and Virginia often appear as if they're ready for a breakout win. It's not beyond reason that this could be when either of them gets it. Virginia Tech's home course edge makes me think they're better than a No. 7 seed in this region and the Hokies sneak off with the last spot.
Wolf Run GC, Zionsville, Ind.
Shouldn't have a problem: Alabama
On the good side of the bubble: Iowa, Stanford, Tennessee
On the bad side of the bubble: Wake Forest, Indiana, Florida State
Will play respectably: Michigan, Charlotte, Memphis, Wichita State, UMKC
Just happy to be there: Sacred Heart
Most likely player to advance as an individual: Lee Bedford, Wake Forest
Illinois will enjoy staying in the Midwest, the short commute and familiar style course giving the Fighting Illini the victory. Despite the distractions of all that's going on back in Tuscaloosa following the deadly tornadoes, Alabama is too talented not to advance. Like Illinois, Iowa benefits from not being shipped east or west and secures its second trip to nationals in three years. Stanford has been an enigma all season, the Cardinal's roster on paper looking better than it has on the course, but this group will answer the regional bell. Only six weeks ago Tennessee was wondering if it would be a victim of the .500 rule, but the Volunteers have stepped up their games of late.
__South Central Regional
Colorado National GC, Erie, Colo.
Winner: Oklahoma State
Shouldn't have a problem: Auburn
On the good side of the bubble: Georgia, Arizona State, Northwestern
On the bad side of the bubble: Clemson, Chattanooga, TCU
Will play respectably: North Florida, New Mexico State, Colorado State
Just happy to be there: San Jose State, Denver
Most likely player to advance as an individual: Tom Hoge, TCU
Oklahoma State's streak of 64 straight appearances at the NCAA Championship should jump to 65, the Cowboys simply too talented not to advance let alone win in Colorado. Those looking for a dark-horse pick to win it all could do worse than take Auburn, a young squad finding its stride. Georgia has never quite built the momentum you figured the Bulldog would have this season with seniors Russell Henley, Harris English and Hudson Swafford, but those three guys should allow them to get out of regionals without too much fuss. Arizona State always seems to play well at this time of year, so I'm looking past the fact that the Sun Devils haven't finished better than fifth since the Topy Cup in September. Northwestern's victory at the Big Ten match play in February was followed by three straight poor finishes but a runner-up showing at the Big Ten championship suggests they might be on the rise and ready for an upset.
The Farms GC, San Diego
Shouldn't have a problem: USC
On the good side of the bubble: Texas, San Diego, UNLV
On the bad side of the bubble: North Texas, Middle Tennessee State
Will play respectably: Tulsa, SMU, Pacific
Just happy to be there: San Francisco, Cleveland State
Most likely player to advance as an individual: Nick Delio, UC Northridge
UCLA is among the more disciplined teams in college golf, so you've got to like their chances of winning in San Diego. I want to know what Chris Zambri started to tell his USC squad, because the Trojans have been rolling since April, finishing 1-2-1 in their last three starts after posting not top-three finishes before that. Texas takes care of business, as does San Diego. The fifth team out of the regional could be just about anyone, but I'll take UNLV on a hunch.
Omni Tucson National Resort, Tucson
Winner: San Diego State
Shouldn't have a problem: Texas A&M, California
On the good side of the bubble: Washington, Arizona
On the bad side of the bubble: Texas Tech, Liberty, Pepperdine, Oregon State
Will play respectably: Purdue, UC Davis
Just happy to be there: Texas-Arlington, Loyola (Md.), Army
Most likely player to advance as an individual: Andrew Putnam, Pepperdine
San Diego State won the Mountain West Conference title on the same course two weeks ago, so the Aztecs have a "home" course advantage of sorts. That will offset the fact the team hasn't advanced out of regionals since 2008. Texas A&M's solid squad shouldn't have trouble make the trip out west. California's deep squad should make for a successful trip to the desert. Washington might not be having the type of season the Huskies have gotten used to in recent years, but I feel like they're going to figure out a way to get into the top five. Same with Arizona, which will be the biggest beneficiary of playing at Tucson National.