Predictions for teams making match play

OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – With only one round of stroke play left before match play gets under way Friday, it’s time to make some bold predictions on who gets in and who will start their summer early.

Florida State and Oklahoma State have pretty much clinched themselves into match play. Georgia Tech is looking good, and I’ll go ahead and assume the Yellow Jackets will advance, too.

That leaves five spots which will have more change throughout the day than an hour of the NYSE.

• Augusta State is fourth, and I think the Jags will take care of business. They have been a top-5 team for most of the year, and good teams know how to close out tournaments. I like Augusta State making it into match play.

Verdict: They will be in.

• Florida has quietly found itself tied for fifth but has yet to look comfortable on the course. Of the four scores that counted for the Gators in Round 2, they carded 17 birdies. On the flip side, they had 10 bogeys and four double bogeys. The Gators have been inconsistent, and I think they will be passed on the leaderboard.

Verdict: They will be out

• San Diego took advantage of soft greens after the rain came Wednesday afternoon. The Toreros shot 6-under 282, but keep in mind that Alex Ching and Gunner Wiebe were a combined 10 under. I don’t think the odds are high for that to happen again in Round 3 when nerves are high.

Verdict: They will be out.

• Washington has had me scratching my head the past two days, but I have faith in the Pac-10 champions. The Huskies traditionally play well down the stretch, and I don’t see why they can’t play well in Round 3. Coach Matt Thurmond’s squad has given him headaches during the year with slow starts, but Washington will score well Thursday like they usually do down the stretch.

Verdict: They will be in . . . barely.

• Clemson scores went in the wrong direction in Round 2. After the first round, the Tigers’ team score was 281. On their second set of 18 at The Honors Course, they shot 291. Other teams are making charges and finding ways to go low. If Clemson were a couple of shots under par going into Thursday, I would have a different opinion, but being right at No. 8 means too many people are coming after you.

Verdict: They will be out.

• UCLA improved by eight shots from Round 1, and it didn’t have the soft greens to hit into. The Bruins are a young team, but coach Derek Freeman’s squad played like seasoned vets in Round 2. UCLA will get its chance Thursday to hit into soft greens (from all the rain we had in Round 2), and I can’t imagine how low they might be able to go to leap into the top eight.

Verdict: They will be in.

• North Florida was unable to take advantage of the conditions after the rain came through Wednesday afternoon. Several teams were able to post under-par scores, but the Ospreys are 4 over, with a couple of more holes left to play in Round 2. They had a golden opportunity Wednesday afternoon, but other teams took it instead of them.

Verdict: They will be out.

• After 18 holes, Oregon saw that it can play with anyone in the country. In Round 2, the Ducks took a step back with a team score of 294 to put them at 2 over. I expect coach Casey Martin to give one heck of a speech before Round 3 and have his guys ready. The Ducks have a great motivator and leader in Martin. Besides, Oregon really is that good of a team to begin with.

Verdict: They will be in.

Seven teams in, with only one space to go. Who will get that last spot?

• Stanford is loaded with talent and improved by four shots in Round 2. David Chung has yet to have a score count, and I just can’t see that happening for three straight rounds. Coach Conrad Ray will have to sweat it out for a while Thursday, but in the end the Cardinal will rise to the occasion and play to their potential.

Verdict: They will be in.

It will be a fun day in Ooltewah for Round 3, but the real excitement will start once match play gets under way.

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