This week's syllabus: Men's regionals edition
Council Fire GC (Par 71, 6,961 yards)â¿¿
Locks to advance: Georgia, Charlotte â¿¿
Shouldn't have a problem: South Carolina, Chattanooga, Auburnâ¿¿
On the good side of the bubble: East Tennessee State, Michigan State, Georgia State, Coastal Carolinaâ¿¿
On the bad side of the bubble: Mississippi, Alabama-Birmingham, Virginia Tech, North Florida
Will play respectably: N.C. State, Mississippi State, UC Irvine, SMU, Colorado State
Just happy to be there: Augusta State, Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Virginia, Western Carolina, New Mexico State, Western Illinois, Jackson State
Skinny:__ Duke looks to me to be primed for an upset victory this week after winning River Landing and finishing second at the ACCs in the team's last two starts. The Blue Devils will just edge out Georgia, which has won a regional title just once in school history (and finished second just once) and hasn't won any tournament since last October. Charlotte might not be playing the way it did in the fall, but the 49ers have won two of their last three starts and have senior Trevor Murphy playing more confidently than at any point this season. South Carolina has played steady all spring (two seconds, two thirds, one fourth) and should do the same at Council Fire. Not sure why some people are jumping off the Chattanooga bandwagon since the Mocs have four wins, a second and a third since early March and are hosts for this regional. Momentum isn't necessarily on Auburn's side (eighth at SECs) but the Tigers have the depth to advance. East Tennessee State also hasn't gotten much love, but I've got a feeling coach Fred Warren's crew will hang in there as they too aren't playing far from campus. Michigan State has rebounded well from its 14th-place finish at the Schenkel (Big Ten win, three seconds). A lot has been written about Georgia State and Coastal Carolina winning their conference titles to advance to regionals and not become victims of the ".500 rule." Both teams are playing with house money this week, and I think they get their tickets punched to nationals.
The Scarlet Course__ (Par 71, 7,419 yards)
Winner: Alabama â¿¿
Locks to advance: Oklahoma State, Floridaâ¿¿
Shouldn't have a problem: Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Texas A&M
On the good side of the bubble: Wake Forest, Louisville, Illinois, Baylor
On the bad side of the bubble: Lamar, Indiana, Penn State
Will play respectably: Wichita State, Kent State, Arkansas, Michigan, TCU, Colorado
Just happy to be there: Texas-Arlington, Ohio State, Colorado, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Cleveland State, Loyola (Md.), Sacred Heart
Skinny: The Tide will continued to roll as Alabama handles the field on Ohio State's gem of a course. If Kevin Tway continues to post low numbers, Oklahoma State will be very dangerous the next few weeks. I get the feeling we're going to see the real Billy Horschel emerge in the NCAA postseason, which bodes very well for Florida fans. With an impressive one-two punch in Chesson Hadley and Cameron Tringale, you'd think Georgia Tech wouldn't have gone winless this season (or at least finished second at some point). Still the Yellow Jackets have enough to keep their perfect record of advancing out of regionals going. Tennessee has been misfiring of late (10th at Augusta State, sixth at SECs) but the Vols play two seniors, Philip Pettitt and Charles Ford, who don't want their careers to end just yet. Think J.T. Higgins isn't reminding his Texas A&M squad about its playoff loss last year that cost them a spot at nationals? Webb Simpson is a dark-horse candidate for national player of the year and will help Wake Forest move on. Louisville will avenge its unexpected second-place finish at the Big East Championship. Illinois hasn't gotten many headlines this season but has two wins in April and a third-place showing at Big Tens to give them confidence. Got to pick one lower seed to jump up and surprise and I just like Baylor to be that group.
Gold Mountain GC (Olympic course, par 72, 7,111 yards)
Winner: Southern California
Locks to advance: UCLA, Stanford
Shouldn't have a problem: Florida State, UNLV,
On the good side of the bubble: Clemson, North Carolina, Texas Tech, Arizona State, Texas
On the bad side of the bubble: Central Florida, San Diego State, Pepperdine, Washington
Will play respectably: LSU, Oregon State, Oregon, California, St. Mary's (Calif.), San Diego
Just happy to be there: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Denver, Navy, Columbia
Skinny:__ There isn't much not to like about Southern California right now. Playoff loss at the Pac-10s, after three wins in four previous starts, hasn't derailed the Trojans in the least. Crosstown rivals UCLA seems to do well in the Pacific Northwest (win at Chambers Bay's Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge last fall). Defending NCAA champion Stanford isn't going to give up its title without a fight. Fresh off its first ACC title, Florida State could be a sleeper to actually win the regional. After 12th- and tenth-place showings in its first two starts last fall, UNLV hasn't finished worse than fourth in any tournament. ACCs mates Clemson and North Carolina won't have trouble traveling cross country to eventually wind up traveling to Purdue for nationals. Texas Tech hasn't won since October but the Red Raiders haven't finished worse than sixth either. Arizona State has been on the bubble it seems all spring but the Sun Devils' Pac-10 title shows they're better than many thought. I can't figure out Texas, which has five top-three finishes this season and four finishes of 11th or worse; my guess is that the Longhorns decide to come play this week.
STAT OF THE WEEK, PART I
Stroke average for UCLA's Kevin Chappell in his nine previous rounds of play at the NCAA regionals. The senior won the 2006 East Regional and finished tied for second at the 2005 and 2007 West Regional.
STAT OF THE WEEK, PART II
Number of golfers in the University of Washington men's starting five who advanced through U.S. Open local qualifying yesterday at Tumble Creek Club in Roslyn, Wash. Senior Zach Bixler (71), freshman Tze Huang Choo (71) and sophomore John Wise (72) all will play in sectional qualifying; Bixler and Wise at Emerald Valley GC in Creswell, Ore., and Choo at Lake Merced GC in Daly City, Calif. Wise advanced in a playoff for the final of seven spots out of the local qualifier. (Note to self: Perhaps I should be re-thinking where I've got the Huskies in the West Regional, since they're the hosts there too.)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Glad to hear of the recent approval of the expansion plan for the NCAA women's Division II postseason. Starting next year, the four regional fields will go from six to nine teams (and from three to four individuals). The teams advancing to the NCAA Championship will increase from two to three in each region (same with the number of individuals), putting 12 teams total into the field at nationals.
It has been a crime to watch the women's D-II postseason play out in recent years, where the South Regional has generally had five or six of the top-ranked teams in the country battling it out for a mere two spots, leaving some quality schools back at home that fail to advance to nationals. Meanwhile, in the three other regionals, lower-ranked teams play much easier competition and easily advance.
Case in point just a few weeks ago at the South Regional at Mission Inn Resort in Florida. The field included No. 1 ranked Florida Southern, No. 2 Rollins, No. 3 Nova Southeastern, No. 4 Barry, No. 6 Lynn and No. 12 West Florida. Nova Southeastern and Rollins were first and second, keeping the No. 1, 4 and 6 ranked teams in the country from playing at the NCAA Championship. Meanwhile, the West Regional advanced the No. 5 and 19 teams, the North Regional advanced the No. 9 and 21 schools and the East gave you No. 7 and 8.
I think if I could re-shape the structure of the postseason I would be to have three regionals with 15 teams each and the top five advance to a 15-team national championship. Still, expanded postseason that will now be in place will help solve the problem somewhat.