AUBURN, Ala. – Just about anything can happen in the 54-hole, survive-and-advance NCAA regionals, which makes the event one of the most entertaining – and intense – weeks of the year. Given that background, it's awfully difficult to predict all 30 teams that will advance to next week’s NCAA Championship. But hey, we’ll try anyway.
Here are our best carefully considered, reasonably educated guesses, listed in order of projected finish:
Auburn regional: Alabama, Auburn, Texas, Virginia Tech, New Mexico
Why: This site has the best chance for chalk, as there is a decent drop-off in depth between the Nos. 1-5 seeds and the rest of the pack. Thursday’s dodgy forecast – and the prospect of more than 18 holes in one day – could level the playing field, though.
Raleigh regional: Georgia Tech, Washington, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, Florida State
Why: Tech is top of the class, obviously, and Washington, despite flying across the country, is the clear No. 2. Playing close to home should give Wake Forest the push it needs to get inside the top 5.
Columbia regional: Oklahoma State, Virginia, LSU, Arizona State, Missouri
Why: Arkansas might be the odd team out here, especially with Mizzou playing on its home course. It wouldn’t surprise at all to see Iowa or San Diego State advance, either.
San Antonio regional: Georgia, UCF, UCLA, SMU, Georgia Southern
Why: Vanderbilt is the No. 4 seed here but will be without one of its top players, Matthias Schwab. That opens the door for teams like SMU, which has two-time NCAA champion Josh Gregory as its coach and motivator, and Georgia Southern, which has a sneaky-good program that could make its way to Kansas.
Sugar Grove regional: Illinois, Cal, Clemson, Kent State, USC
Why: Illinois and Cal are locks to move on, while Clemson and Kent State are a few of the teams that could sneak inside the top 5. Golden Flashes coach Herb Page somehow gets his men to peak every year at this time, and playing close to their backyard should give them a nice boost.
Eugene regional: Stanford, Oklahoma, Oregon, Houston, South Carolina
Why: Tough site to predict, save for Stanford, of course. Oregon is playing on its home course, which should make the Ducks a lock for a top-5 spot, while every other team has traveled at least one time zone to get to the Pacific Northwest. That’s a particularly difficult task for teams such as South Carolina, Liberty, Tennessee and North Florida. We predict the Gamecocks are up to the task.