After all the excitement from the NCAA women’s regionals, during which lower-seeded teams such as Minnesota, Coastal Carolina and Washington advanced to nationals, I thought I’d make some predictions. Here are five lower seeds from the men’s regionals that I think can surprise top-ranked teams at their respective tournaments:
1. Tenth-seeded Missouri in Ocala: I’m not so sure the Tigers are really a No. 10 seed. They should be better, but a seeding number doesn’t mean a thing when teams tee off. The Tigers had a great spring, winning four tournaments and finishing runner-up in their last event before the Big 12 Championship. The Tigers finished fifth at Big 12s, but don’t look at that as a negative. They finished behind Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech in what is arguably the strongest conference in college golf this season. Missouri was on an incredible winning streak in the spring, and I think that strong play carries over in Florida. Look for the Tigers to keep the momentum going and move on to nationals.
2. Sixth-seeded Tennessee in Indiana: The Vols played in two tournaments recently that I think were tougher than the field they will see at this regional. Tennessee was runner-up at the Administaff ASU Invitational and placed third at the SEC Championship. Jim Kelson’s team has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde bunch this year, but it has been Mr. Hyde we’ve seen down the stretch. Tennessee finished the regular season ranked 23rd in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, but it has the talent to be a top-10 team. Hopefully Hoosier fans don’t mind the tune of “Good Ole Rocky Top” leaving Wolf Run Golf Club and heading toward Stillwater, Okla.
3. Sixth-seeded Chattanooga in Colorado: If there is one team playing with a chip on its shoulder in these regionals, it’s the Mocs. Last year, Chattanooga had the chance to play in its backyard on the Honors Course and compete for a NCAA Championship. Only one problem: The Mocs didn’t make it out of regionals. Last summer, they watched from outside the ropes, and I spent time with the team over the summer seeing players put in extra work so they wouldn’t feel that disappointment again. This year, Chattanooga has had six top-5 finishes in six good tournaments. After Colorado, it will be its seventh top-5 finish and most important one of the season.
4. Eleventh-seeded Arizona in Arizona: There is only one true desert golf team in this field, and that is coach Rick LaRose’s Wildcats. The host team should feel right at home and comfortable in its surroundings. This spring, Arizona played in two tournaments in the desert, finishing fourth at the National Invitational in Tucson and runner-up at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic in Scottsdale. Arizona has played inconsistently this season, except when it is playing desert golf. Look for the Wildcats to play well in their surroundings and get their third top-5 finish on a desert course this season.
5. Eighth-seeded Middle Tennessee State in San Diego: In 2009, the Blue Raiders won the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship at The Farms Golf Club, where the team will travel for regionals. Coach Whit Turnbow may have the upper hand in this one, as he will have the scouting report on the course for his players. MTSU will have tough competition from UCLA, Texas and host San Diego, but after that it will be one of five teams in my mind trying to snag one of the final two spots. Having a comfort zone and knowing where to put the ball on a course that other teams have not seen is a big advantage for MTSU. I like the Blue Raiders cracking that top 5 and making travel plans for Oklahoma.