This week's syllabus: Women's regionals edition
A slight departure from the usual "syllabus" this week as I preview the Women's Division I Regionals that begin today. Remember, the top eight teams from each regional advance to the NCAA Championship in two weeks at University of New Mexico GC in Albuquerque.
University of Georgia GC (Par 72, 6,335 yards)
Locks to advance: __Florida, Georgia
__Shouldn't have a problem:__Auburn, Wake Forest, New Mexico
On the good side of the bubble: Furman, East Carolina
On the bad side of the bubble: Tennessee, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Indiana
__Will play respectably:__Louisville, South Carolina, Georgia State, Missouri, UNC Wilmington,
__Just happy to be there:__Central Florida, Jacksonville State, Charleston Southern, Jackson State
Skinny:Duke finished fifth on this course at the Liz Murphey in March but has won regionals six times in nine years and seven times overall. Florida, second at the Liz Murphey, hasn't showed any let-up since Sandra Gal's departure and there's no reason to think it happens here. Obviously Georgia is familiar with the course, plus the Bulldogs don't have the distraction of last year with Todd McCorkle's sudden departure. Auburn has a 39-18-1 record versus the teams in the field, suggesting the Tigers will make out OK. Wake Forest should make eight trips to nationals in 11 years. The carrot of having the NCAA Championship at your home course is a big one for New Mexico, but the pressure of advancing shouldn't be a problem for the Mountain West Conference champs. Furman is playing well of late and is deep enough to end its two-year skid of advancing to nationals. A six-victory season from East Carolina was dampened when the Pirates lost the Conference USA title, but gets restored when they grab the last invite to Albuquerque and make their debut at nationals.
__Central Regional __
University of Texas GC (Par 72, 6,301 yards)
Locks to advance: __UCLA, Kent State
__Shouldn't have a problem:Alabama, Pepperdine __
On the good side of the bubble: Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Texas
On the bad side of the bubble: Denver, LSU, TCU, Florida State
__Will play respectably:__N.C. State, East Tennessee State, Texas Tech, Washington, Nebraska
__Just happy to be there:__Harvard, Texas State, Illinois State, Fairleigh Dickinson
Skinny: Coming off a Big Ten Championship victory, Purdue has some solid momentum and confident players heading to Austin. UCLA will once again sit Ryann O'Toole in favor of Maiya Tanaka in the No. 5 spot. Kent State's impressive season (three wins, no finish worse than fifth) isn't a fluke, nor is Alabama's. Taylore Karle of Pepperdine is a dark-horse pick for medalist honors this week. Texas A&M don't have to travel far from home, which is a bonus. Those who didn't put stock into Notre Dame's success last fall will see they should have after this weekend as the Fighting Irish advance to nationals for the first time in school history. Texas sneaks into the final spot (bumping out Denver) thanks to a home-course advantage in a field that doesn't seem quite as deep as the two others.
Lincoln Hills CC (Par 72, 6,338 yards)
Locks to advance: __Arizona State, Oklahoma State
__Shouldn't have a problem:Arkansas, California __
On the good side of the bubble: Arizona, Michigan State, Tulsa
On the bad side of the bubble: Stanford, BYU, North Carolina, Oklahoma
__Will play respectably:__Ohio State, San Jose State, Oregon, UNLV, UC Irvine, Fresno State
__Just happy to be there:__UC Davis, Oral Roberts, Portland State
Skinny: Pac-10 champs Southern California is on a roll and has great regional karma with victories at the Central the past two seasons. Arizona State has all the talent needed to win an NCAA title and roles easily, as does Big 12 winner (and defending West Regional co-champion) Oklahoma State, which has top-five finish at regionals the past six of the past seven years. Unlike last year, senior Stacy Lewis will have her Arkansas teammates with her at nationals this time around. A young California squad continues the program's resurgence this season with freshman Pia Halbig leading the way. Having senior Alison Walshe as your No. 1 player remains a nice security blanket for Arizona and new coach Shelly Haywood. Michigan State always seems to find a way to advance to nationals, doing so six of the last eight years. Tulsa, among the season's bigger surprises with four wins after finishing no better than sixth a year ago, keeps Stanford from making it 20 straight appearances at nationals by grabbing the eighth and final spot out west.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The number of teams in the 12-school SEC Conference that received bids to men's Division I regionals. The only one to miss out on the big dance was Vanderbilt, which failed to have a winning record during the year and was a casualty of the ".500" rule.
Much has been written about the effect of the ".500 rule" on what teams would be picked for regionals. Somewhat overlooked, however, was that this is the first year the men's golf committee picked teams for regionals on a true at-large basis and not through the system of regional allocations that guaranteed schools from various parts of the country got into the NCAA postseason. Looking at the selections, you could make an argument that the national selection actually had as much of an impact when you consider that only four teams that likely would have been picked for regionals were skipped because of losing records (Arizona, Minnesota, Northwestern, Vanderbilt).
Consider that of the 81 teams picked for regionals, 54 came from the eight most high-profile golf conferences, with 43 out of the SEC, ACC, Pac-10, Big Ten and Big 12. That compares to 52 and 41, respectively from last year. What this suggests is the power conferences received a little better treatment, as many predicted, with the new format for selecting at-large teams.
The power conferences would have been even more well off, likely, had the four orphans of the .500 rule been schools the men's golf committee could have selected. This bolsters the argument schools from lower profile conferences make that the .500 rule is necessary if regional allocations are no longer in place to keep the rich from getting richer.
Conference Regional bids 2008 2007
SEC 11 8
ACC 9 9
Big 12 8 9
Pac-10 8 9
Big Ten 7 6
Conf. USA 4 4
Mountain West 4 6
West Coast 3 1