College Women

2014 NCAA women's championship: Staff predictions

Team flags fly during the 2014 NCAA women's championship at Tulsa Country Club.
Team flags fly during the 2014 NCAA women's championship at Tulsa Country Club. ( Tracy Wilcox )

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The women's NCAA Championship begins Tuesday at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club.

Our college golf experts make some predictions for the 72-hole event:

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Winner, winner

Lance Ringler: UCLA. No reason for me not to continue to pick the Bruins. UCLA won the Central Regional by 17 shots, its fourth victory this season.

Julie Williams: USC. Extreme wind and a difficult golf course means defending champion USC isn’t going to run away like last year, but depth, experience and level heads make the Trojans the best team in the field this week.

Beth Ann Nichols: USC. The Trojans have won nine of 12 tournaments this year and return four starters from last year’s championship lineup, which won by a record 21 strokes.

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Party crashers

Ringler: South Carolina. In recent regional championships, the Gamecocks have won unexpectedly. Two years ago, South Carolina posted a fifth-place showing at the championship. They might just do something like that again here in Tulsa.

Williams: Duke. Celine Boutier has come on strongly for Duke in the past six weeks, which changes the Blue Devils’ outlook. If Boutier has another hot week, Yu Liu and Laetitia Beck back her up and a fourth steady score emerges, Duke could upset USC.

Nichols: Vanderbilt. There's mo better time to peak than the post-season, and the ’Dores proved to be a force in conference and regional action. This isn’t just the Simin Feng Show.

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Solo artist

Ringler: Alison Lee. Again, no reason to change. I picked the UCLA freshman at start of the season as the top player, and she enters the championship at No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

Williams: Alison Lee. If confidence breeds success, then Lee, a three-time winner as a freshman at UCLA, should fare well in Tulsa. Lee is accurate off the tee, a good iron player and a solid putter under pressure. In other words, the complete package.

Nichols: Mariah Stackhouse. I like the Stanford sophomore's style and attitude. She relishes the big stage and tied for eighth here at the Fall Preview. She has won twice this year.

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Ringler: Michigan State. Last year, the Spartans tied for ninth - their best finish in school history at the finals. This group is playing in its third consecutive national championship and could surprise us by bettering last year’s showing.

Williams: Michigan State. The Spartans have a strong backbone in seniors Allyssa Ferrell, Liz Nagel and Christine Meier. They finished in the top 10 one year ago, and Tulsa will be their last hurrah. That determination, plus another year of experience, could move them even higher up the leaderboard.

Nichols: Northwestern. The Wildcats have been here before. Four of the five from last year’s NCAA team are in Tulsa. Northwestern has had the same starting five for the entire season and could show us some firepower early in the tournament.

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Defining moment

Ringler: Iowa State. The Cyclones finally got over the hump and made it to the championship for the first time in program history. In fact, Iowa State is the only school playing this week in the NCAA Championship for the first time.

Williams: Mississippi State. Last year’s NCAA Championship appearance was a first for the Bulldogs, and they’re back this year. Mississippi State finished last in 2013, but experience should make a difference this time around. Forward progress would put Mississippi State in the top half of the field. The Bulldogs are the 17th-best team in the field, based on the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, so top 12 is not out of the question.

Nichols: Kansas. It’s the first time in program history that the Jayhawks have advanced out of NCAA regionals, and they did it on the backs of three Thai players. This could be the start of a new era in Kansas golf.