Events to watch: ASU, A-Sun, Baylor Invite
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For some teams it’s do or die time, for others they get a chance to improve their ranking. Let’s take a look at some intriguing tournaments coming up this weekend.
ASU Thunderbird Invitational
Date: April 9-10
The Field: Arizona State, California, Colorado State, CSU Northridge, Florida State, Northwestern, Pepperdine, San Diego State, San Jose State, USC, UC Irvine, UNLV, Washington State
The Scoop: A first glance at the field might not leave you too impressed, but boy does this tournament mean a lot for several teams. Let’s start with teams on the .500 watch: host ASU (53-48-1), USC (45-46-2) and Northwestern (49-48-1). None of these three teams can afford a poor performance because they all only have one tournament left on the schedule before their conference championships. Northwestern and USC have struggled the most this spring so they will need to come out early and play well. Aside from .500 watch teams in the field there are four major bubble teams based on rankings for postseason play: Colorado State (77), San Jose State (82), Washington State (85) and UC Irvine (88). If one of those four teams can win this event, they will most likely secure themselves a jump up the rankings to be a lock for postseason play. Plenty is on the line in the desert, it just depends which team you are following.
Wildman’s Pick: San Diego State. The Aztecs come to the desert clearly as the team to beat. Not only is San Diego State the only team in the top 10 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings in the field at No. 9, but they have also won five tournaments this year. This team has flown under the radar all season long, and should start to get more recognition. This team is 14-6 against teams ranked in the top 25, and have an overall head-to-head record of 110-11-0. I like the Aztecs to pick up 13 more Ws in the desert.
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Atlantic Sun Championship (women)
Dates: April 11-13
The Field: Stetson, Kennesaw State, Campbell, East Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Mercer, USC Upstate, Belmont, Lipscomb
The Scoop: The Atlantic Sun Conference most likely will only have one team make postseason play and will come from this tournament as the automatic qualifier. Two bubble teams can’t afford a poor showing and they are 73rd-ranked Kennesaw State and 79th-ranked Campbell. If one of those two teams falter, then our first Cinderella story could occur early in confence championship play. Stetson, who won this tournament last year, enters the tournament as the third-highest ranked team in the conference at No. 91. This seems to be a three-team race, but most likely only one will move on to an NCAA Regional.
Wildman’s Pick: Kennesaw State. I have seen the Owls play this year, and I think they held their own despite a tough schedule. They won the Palmetto Intercollegiate earlier in the year, and will have to repeat that type of performance if they want their season to last a few more weeks.
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Baylor Spring Invitational (women)
Date: April 11-12
Field: Arkansas Little Rock, Augusta State, Baylor, Kansas, McClennan CC, Missouri, Missouri State, Nebraska, North Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Oral Roberts, SMU, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas State, Texas Tech, UAB
The Scoop: Let’s just call this tournament the “Bubble Busting Classic.” Four of the Division I teams in the field will be doing everything they can to either win this tournament outright, or make sure they are playing in the final group on Tuesday. Arkansas Little Rock (62), Baylor (72), Kansas (69) and Missouri State (90) will have a final chance to strenghten their ranking and do what they can to prove to the NCAA committee they are worthy of a postseason birth. If one or more of these teams find themselves at the bottom of the leaderbaord when it’s all said and done, then there’s a good chance their season will be as well.
Wildman’s Pick: There is so much on the line for a handful of schools at this event, I’m looking for a team that has competed strongly all season long. Rather than go with a team that’s in must-win mode, I’m going with the Lady Jaguars of Augusta State. They are a team on the rise and are also looking for their first win on the year. Augusta State doesn’t have to worry about playing in a conference championship, or its ranking (which is No. 50 in the Golfweek/Sagarin) so I think they’ll be worry-free and ready to play come Monday.