What to watch for at NCAA Women's Regionals
Two years ago a total of eight schools that were seeded in the top eight in the three NCAA Women's Regionals failed to advance to the NCAA Championship, while 10th-seeded South Carolina shocked everyone by taking the East Regional crown. Last year, all three regionals were won by No. 1 seeds with the same eight "upset" teams advancing to nationals.
So what's in store for the next three days? Needless to say predicting what's likely to take place is tricky stuff, at least if recent history is your guide. Still, that won't stop me from trying to make a few educated guesses; a year ago I managed to go 15 for 24. I think I can do better.
So we're all on the same page, the top eight teams at each site advance to the NCAA Championship in two weeks at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn.
Penn State U. GC (Blue course), State College, Pa.
__ For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat
Locks to advance: Duke, Arizona State
Shouldn't have a problem: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
On the good side of the bubble: Michigan State, Arizona, Florida
On the bad side of the bubble: South Carolina, Texas, Tulane
Will play respectably: Washington, UCF, Wake Forest, Northwestern, San Diego State, Kent State
Just happy to be there: Maryland, Augusta State, Campbell, Chattanooga, Oral Roberts, Jacksonville State, LIU Brooklyn
A talented __Alabama __team has the disappointing memories of last May's NCAA Championship and last month's SEC Championship rattling around in their collective heads. Says here that this experienced group, led by senior Brooke Pancake, uses those finishes as motivation despite no player on the team having ever played competitively on the PSU course. … Duke's Lindy Duncan is the most valuable player on any team in the country, and her presence will propel the Blue Devils back to nationals after the squad missed advancing a year ago. … The long trip from Tempe to State College won't be an issue for Arizona State with senior Giulia Molinaro having become one of the nation's more dependable players. … Consistency has been Texas A&M's issue at times in 2011-12, but having Mary Michael Maggio step up at Big 12s gives you the impression the team is in the right place on the roller-coaster ride. … Oklahoma State started the season quickly with two fall wins and since has been playing solidly if not spectacularly. Expect more of the same from the Cowgirls. … Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll's Michigan State squad, coming off its second straight Big Ten title, is getting hot at the right time. Plus the coach has experience bringing a team to Penn State that could help the Spartans, the lone school from the conference playing in the Regional, pull through. … A hot start to the spring for Arizona has since cooled, but seniors Isabelle Boineau, Nikki Koeller and Margarita Ramos aren't about to led their college careers end one tournament early. Freshman Manon Gidali will also do her part not to disappoint. … 2005-06 was the last time Florida made back-to-back appearances at nationals, something this year's Gator squad should do with SEC freshman of the year Camilla Hedberg becoming one of the season's pleasant surprises. Coach Jan Dowling also has "good vibes" at Penn State, having won there as an undergrad at Kent State in 1998.
Scarlet Course at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio__
For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat
Locks to advance: USC
Shouldn't have a problem: Georgia, Vanderbilt, Ohio State
On the good side of the bubble: Tennessee, Virginia, Purdue
On the bad side of the bubble: Arkansas, Florida State, Oregon, N.C. State
Will play respectably: Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas State, South Florida, Notre Dame
Just happy to be there: UT-San Antonio, East Carolina, Michigan, UNC Wilmington, Harvard, Butler, Siena
While USC has an impressive record at Regionals, having won five of the last six years, including three times at the Central Regional, I've got a feeling the Trojans get clipped in the final round by Auburn. The Tigers are coming off an SEC victory that required them to see if they could step up their games. Suffice it to say, they did so. … USC, however, won't have to sweat things out in Columbus, particularly with freshman Doris Chen playing well. Unlike last year, they also won't be short-handed as senior Lisa McCloskey will be in the lineup to wrap up her All-American career. … Georgia hasn't won a tournament in 2011-12, but with senior Marta Silva Zamora they're never out of any event either. The Bulldogs should be able to avenge missing nationals each of the last two seasons. … With Vanderbilt hosting nationals, there's a unique pressure on the squad to advance out of Columbus and play NCAAs on their home course, a dream Marina Alex and Lauren Stratton should make a reality. … Ohio State is a talented enough squad to get out of regionals on its own merits, but playing at the Scarlet course all but makes them a lock to do it. … Wins at the LSU Classic and Bryan National seemed to turn around a so-so season for Tennessee, but the Lady Vols are going to need to forget about a rough 11th-place finish at the SEC Championship. All-American Erica Popson will help them regroup. … Expectations are low for Virginia, unranked in the final Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll and seeded ninth in Columbus. Yet for some reason I think the Cavaliers will surprise folks (maybe even themselves) this weekend. … Losing three All-Americans off a team that won the NCAA title in 2010 and finished second in 2011, Purdue was bound to have a down year. Yet the Boilermakers still have two bright lights in Laura Gonzalez-Escallon and Paula Reto, and playing at an stern Midwestern course quite similar to the Kampen Course back in West Lafayette might be an equalizer that gets this group a surprise berth to nationals.
Colorado National GC, Erie, Colo.
__ For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat
Locks to advance: LSU, Colorado
Shouldn't have a problem: North Carolina, California
On the good side of the bubble: Baylor, Pepperdine, UC Davis
On the bad side of the bubble: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU, Stanford
Will play respectably: Tulsa, Iowa State, Denver, UNLV, New Mexico, Oregon State, San Jose State
Just happy to be there: Illinois, Kennesaw State, Missouri State, Northern Colorado, Jackson State
You've heard of basketball coaches who don't mind a late-season loss in order to send a bit of a shock through their roster before the NCAA tournament? Perhaps that's the silver lining in UCLA's fourth-place finish at the Pac-12 Championship. It would be no surprise to see the Bruins bounce back strong in Colorado and re-establish themselves as the clear favorite to defend their NCAA title. … I can't tell you which LSU team will show up this weekend, but I think either one should be able to finish in the top eight and earn an NCAA berth. My guess is it's the group that carded three wins in 2011-12 and has the talent to contend for a national championship if the players don't get in their own way. … It's been the best season in Colorado women's golf history and should only continue with the Buffaloes playing at home and playing well. … North Carolina has been ranked in the Golf World/NGCA top 10 throughout the season despite not winning a title. Seven top-fives, however, suggest the team has game. … Winning the Pac-12 title gives California plenty of confidence entering Regionals. Yet with seniors Joanne Lee, Daniela Holmqvist and Emily Childs in the lineup, the Golden Bears should already have had that going for them. … Baylor has only played in the NCAA Championship once before, in 2004, but the Bears' breakout 2011-12 season (three wins, eight top-five finishes) suggests they're ready to secure a second trip to nationals. … Pepperdine has a young squad, with just one player (Kaitlin Drolson) having played more than one year full college season prior to this year. The Waves, however, have one of the more reliable coaches in Laurie Gibbs and one of the more underrated talents in Grace Na to help them get through regionals. … It's easy to forget that UC Davis has been playing D-I golf for only five years now considering the Aggies' three Big West title and the fact they have qualified for nationals two of their first four seasons. Ranked in the top 25 in the Golf World/NGCA most of the season, this group should make it three out of five trips to nationals.