Fantasy vs. Reality: Time for the postseason
With upsets occurring at conference championships, let’s take a closer look at a few of them in Fantasy vs. Reality.
Conference Championship results are misleading: Reality. Michigan State won the Big Ten women’s title, but do many people think they could win the NCAA Championship in a few weeks? Flip it around, though, and ask yourselves about Purdue. The Boilermakers came in second to a team they probably should have beat, but will still be a favorite to win in College Station. Conference championships are just one tournament, and there are too many variables that can come in to play. Although Tulane failed to win the Conference USA title, I don’t think it is a worse team than UTEP, which won. Sometimes, people get too caught up in these upsets, but really, when has a Cinderella of a conference tournament won a national championship? Upsets are great, but we won’t see them at the NCAAs.
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For some, winning a conference title is good enough: Fantasy. If you think Cinderellas only happen at conference championships, guess again. When teams ship out to regionals, a handful of teams will shock many and earn trips to nationals. When teams win tournaments they aren’t “supposed” to win, they gain confidence and have an eye-opening experience. Take a team like UNC-Wilmington, which failed to make it out of a regional last year. Last year, the Seahawks were a bubble team that received an at-large bid, and this year they are the CAA Conference champs, currently ranked No. 50 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. When they find out what regional they are headed to, they’ll be a team with confidence and one out to prove that mid-majors can hang with the big boys. There are several teams like this every postseason, but many times they are overlooked by higher-ranked teams. This year, we could see several Cinderellas, but the question should be: Are they truly a surprise team?
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North Dakota State’s Amy Anderson still isn’t talked about enough: Reality. A large part of this is because Anderson plays for North Dakota State, but Anderson won the Summit Conference Championship this season. Anderson is ranked 67th individually and should be a lock for a postseason invite. This season, the sophomore and former U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Champion has compiled a head-to-head record of 602-25-5. The one negative, if anything, to her season is her lack of competition. Anderson has only faced two players ranked inside the top 100, and she’s 1-1 against them. Anderson decided to stay close to home for college, but by doing so has become a player no one talks about because no one ever sees her. When Anderson makes it to a regional, she will get the chance to prove to the country she is the real deal, and will try to advance to the NCAAs for the ultimate collegiate prize.
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It is clear which eight teams will make it to the men’s match-play portion of the NCAA Championship: Fantasy. In my mind, there’s only one team that is a guaranteed lock to make it to match play: Oklahoma State. After that, it’s a wide-open race. When the 30 teams make it to Karsten Creek, at least 20 of them will be fighting for seven spots. If you’re a top-10 team, no way should it be considered a lock. When teams arrive in Stillwater, they will be playing an extremely tough course with difficult conditions. I think it is fair to say this will be the toughest course these teams see all season. Even teams that played there for the Preview know they’ll see a different course with different conditions. All in all, it will be a great national championship, but the question is what seven teams will give the hometown Cowboys a run for their money and title they want so badly?