Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 Women's College World Series Predictions

It's that time of the NCAA softball season yet again! For the third straight year, I will be giving my predictions on who I think will take home the national championship in Division I softball! Last year was alright as I correctly picked five of the eight teams who advanced to Oklahoma City.

However, my pick for the National Champion did not come to fruition as the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators fell in super regional play. This year, the Gators are once again the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and may be a tad more focused this postseason after being blinded by dreams of a three-peat last postseason.

With Florida at No. 1, the rest of the national seeds are: No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Florida State, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Washington, No. 7 Auburn, No. 8 Tennessee, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 11 Utah, No. 12 Ole Miss, No. 13 LSU, No. 14 Kentucky, No. 15 Baylor, and No. 16 Alabama.

Of the 16 national seeds, eight of them are SEC teams. Even more impressive, the SEC sent all 13 of its teams to the national tournament. This marks the most sent by any conference ever in the tournament and is the first (and possibly only) time that all members of a conference have been accounted for in postseason play.

With the tournament field loaded yet again, I am ready to give it another go this postseason! So without further adieu, here's how I think the 2017 Division I Softball Tournament will play out!


Gainesville Regional
No. 1 Florida (53-5)
Florida A&M (23-30-1)
Oklahoma State (35-23)
Florida International (45-13)

Winner: No. 1 Florida over Florida International in regional final

Why: For the third straight year, the Florida Gators were rewarded the tournament's top seed after posting 50+ wins for the fifth consecutive season. Going 24-2 at home in the regular season, the Gators should have no problem cruising through this regional. It also helps that they beat FIU by a score of 5-0 in their mid-February meeting at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

Tuscaloosa Regional
No. 16 Alabama (42-16)
Albany (27-16)
Louisiana Tech (37-22)
Minnesota (54-3)

Winner: Minnesota over No. 16 Alabama in regional final

Why: My first upset of the tournament, it is hard to pick against the team that is currently on a 25-game winning streak. On top of that, the Golden Gophers took home both the Big 10 regular season and tournament titles.

The Tide are good and have reached the last three Women's College World Series, but they will have to stymie some serious momentum to continue that trend. I just don't see them doing that.  

College Station Regional
No. 9 Texas A&M (42-10)
Texas Southern (25-19)
Texas State (41-15)
Texas (31-24)

Winner: No. 9 Texas A&M over Texas State in regional final

Why: In a battle of all Texas teams, the fourth best team in the SEC will prevail over the Texas State Bobcats. This would be the second meeting between both squads, as the Aggies defeated the Bobcats by a score of 5-1 in College Station during a mid-March contest.

Knoxville Regional
No. 8 Tennessee (44-10)
Longwood (28-27)
Ohio State (35-16)
South Carolina Upstate (44-11)

Winner: No. 8 Tennessee over South Carolina Upstate in regional final

Why: The Lady Vols shocked the college softball world last postseason when they failed to get out of their own regional. That will not be the case this time around. Remembering the heartbreak from a year ago, Tennessee will blast their opponents in regional play. Not even the Atlantic Sun regular season and tournament champion SC Upstate Spartans will stop them.

Los Angeles Regional
No. 5 UCLA (42-13)
Lehigh (36-18)
Cal State Fullerton (33-21)
San Jose State (36-17)

Winner: No. 5 UCLA over Cal State Fullerton in regional final

Why: Though just the fourth best team in the Pac-12 regular season standings, the UCLA Bruins have a very prestigious history of winning on the softball diamond. With a record 12 national championships since 1982 (and their most recent one being in 2010), the Bruins are a ball club that visits Oklahoma City year-in and year-out.

I regret picking against them last year. It is not because I was wrong that I regret my decision. It is because I failed to show them the proper respect for the history and tradition they deserve. They are one of college softball's underrated super powers and keep in mind that 21 TIMES in this program's history have they played in the National Championship. That's incredible.

They will not be stopped at home. UCLA will make quick work of any team they face this weekend. It is very unfortunate for Cal State Fullerton, who is still waiting for the postseason success that the baseball program has seen to cross over.

Oxford Regional
No. 12 Ole Miss (40-18)
Southern Illinois (33-22)
North Carolina (38-19)
Arizona State (30-20)

Winner: No. 12 Ole Miss over Arizona State in regional final

Why: I have seen firsthand how hot this Ole Miss team is after they blanked my Florida Gators by a final of 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Though a middle-of-the-pack SEC team in the regular season, the Rebels caught fire in early May as they won the first ever SEC Tournament in program history.

Riding a four-game winning streak now and hosting their first-ever regional, Ole Miss will try to make some noise in just their second overall NCAA Tournament appearance. These girls are confident, and not even the historically good Arizona State Sun Devils will be able to oust them in hostile territory.

Baton Rouge Regional
No. 13 LSU (41-18)
Fairfield (26-26)
UL-Lafayette (45-16)
McNeese State (42-16)

Winner: No. 13 LSU over UL-Lafayette in regional final

Why: The last time the Tigers and Ragin' Cajuns hooked up in a regional final, Lafayette pulled out a 1-0 victory over then No. 9 seeded LSU. Fast forward four years and the Tigers have arguably had more success with two straight WCWS appearances to just one from Lafayette in 2014.

However, Lafayette is primed for a postseason run as the Sun Belt regular season and tournament champions. Not to forget also that they enter the tournament on a 13-game winning streak. In what will be their first meeting since 2013, these two teams will play twice in this regional and both games will go down to the wire.

Tallahassee Regional
No. 4 Florida State (51-6)
Princeton (25-18)
Georgia (33-21)
Jacksonville State (40-10)

Winner: No. 4 Florida State over Georgia in regional final

Why: In a rematch of last year's WCWS opening round, the Seminoles will enact revenge and decimate a Georgia team that is not as good as last year's squad. The Seminoles are 25-0 at home, and I do not expect them to end that streak now that the games matter.

FSU also has a big chip on their shoulder, as all of their talented teams from the past have not been able to go the distance and win a title. They hope to end the drought with this year's team.

Eugene Regional
No. 3 Oregon (47-6)
Illinois-Chicago (38-20)
Missouri (29-26)
Wisconsin (33-15)

Winner: No. 3 Oregon over Missouri in regional final

Why: Oregon missed out on a fifth straight Pac-12 regular season title by just one game to the Arizona Wildcats. That being said, the Ducks enter the tournament on a nine-game winning streak and a 21-2 record at home. They have not suffered a loss to a non-conference opponent all season. Missouri will not change that.

Lexington Regional
No. 14 Kentucky (36-17)
DePaul (29-21)
Marshall (41-10)
Illinois (37-18)

Winner: No. 14 Kentucky over Marshall in regional final

Why: Hosting their fourth ever regional, the Wildcats will prove their seventh place finish in the SEC regular season standings means nothing. They will defeat Marshall, the Conference USA Regular Season Champion, on route to their first super regional appearance since 2015.

Salt Lake City Regional
No. 11 Utah (33-14)
Fordham (45-15)
Mississippi State (36-20)
BYU (44-11)

Winner: No. 11 Utah over BYU in regional final

Why: The fifth best team in the Pac-12 during the regular season, the Utes have the lowest amount of wins among any national seeds. Though a tempting candidate for an upset pick, Utah has my favor as I see them at least getting out of their own region. BYU will not make it easy though.

Seattle Regional
No. 6 Washington (43-11)
Montana (35-22)
Michigan (41-11)
Fresno State (34-21)

Winner: No. 6 Washington over Michigan in regional final

Why: Washington finished third in the Pac-12 regular season standings and has been in the NCAA Tournament every year except their inception in 1993. After betting against the Huskies last year with a Big-10 upset, I have learned from the error of my ways. The Wolverines will give Washington a fight, but ultimately the No. 6 seed will advance to host a super regional.

Auburn Regional
No. 7 Auburn (46-10)
East Tennessee State (29-24)
California (30-22)
Notre Dame (33-21)

Winner: No. 7 Auburn over Notre Dame in regional final

Why: The National Runner-Ups from last year, Auburn should have the "unfinished business" mentality heading into the postseason. They will outclass every team in their region with a very peculiar super regional matchup possibly awaiting them.

Norman Regional
No. 10 Oklahoma (50-8)
North Dakota State (28-31)
Arkansas (31-12)
Tulsa (39-15)

Winner: No. 10 Oklahoma over Tulsa in regional final

Why: Everyone seems to forget that Oklahoma are the defending National Champions. Winning their sixth straight Big 12 regular season title, the Sooners should clean house as they begin their quest for a repeat.

Waco Regional
No. 15 Baylor (43-12)
Kent State (32-26)
James Madison (50-6)
Oregon State (28-25)

Winner: James Madison over No. 15 Baylor in regional final

Why: In the past two prediction articles, I have picked the Dukes and they have always come one stop short of my expectations for them. This year it is simple. I like JMU once more, as they will pull the second upset of this tournament and reach their second ever super regional.

Tuscon Regional
No. 2 Arizona (48-7)
New Mexico (29-23)
St. Francis (PA.) (48-9)
South Carolina (32-23)

Winner: No. 2 Arizona over St. Francis in regional final

Why: Arizona was the best team in the Pac-12 this year with their only non-conference loss coming to the then No. 1 ranked Florida State Seminoles. As the best their conference has to offer and historically one of the best teams in the sport (they have been to 22 WCWS), the Wildcats will begin their hunt for a ninth title as they make quick work of their region.

Super Regionals
This is where the real fun starts. Now that I have predicted the regional winners, it is on to the super regionals! Keep in mind that a team needs to win two out of three games to advance to the Women's College World Series!

Gainesville Super Regional
No. 1 Florida vs Minnesota

Winner: No. 1 Florida

Why: Learning from the mistakes of last year's super regional, the Florida Gators will come out firing on all cylinders. They will win both games convincingly to secure their fourth WCWS berth in five years.

Knoxville Super Regional
No. 8 Tennesse vs No. 9 Texas A&M

Winner: No. 8 Tennessee

Why: Finishing with the exact same record in SEC play (16-7), Tennessee and Texas A&M are pretty evenly matched. I think this super regional will go all three games, with the Lady Vols pulling it out with a little help from the home crowd. Playoff experience will help Tennessee as well.

Los Angeles Super Regional
No. 5 UCLA vs No. 12 Ole Miss

Winner: No. 5 UCLA 

Why: The dream for Ole Miss ends in LA, as the UCLA Bruins will defeat them in three games to get back to Oklahoma City. It would be the Bruins' third straight trip and 29th overall.

Tallahassee Super Regional
No. 4 Florida State vs No. 13 LSU

Winner: No. 4 Florida State

Why: An LSU upset pick is tempting, but I cannot go against a Seminole team that is undefeated at home. I think the games will be good, but Florida State will sweep LSU.

Eugene Super Regional
No. 3 Oregon vs No. 14 Kentucky

Winner: No. 3 Oregon

Why: Oregon will have no problem with Kentucky. They will sweep the Wildcats to advance to their fifth ever WCWS.

Seattle Super Regional
No. 6 Washington vs No. 11 Utah

Winner: No. 6 Washington

Why: Washington will expose Utah in this super regional matchup. The Huskies' last regular season series was on the road against Utah and they won all three games. With home field flipped in Washington's favor for this meeting, the Huskies should have no problem yet again dispatching of the Utes in a sweep.

Auburn Super Regional
No. 7 Auburn vs No. 10 Oklahoma

Winner: No. 7 Auburn

Why: Hands down the most compelling super regional of them all, this is a rematch of last year's National Championship. It will go three and this time Auburn will emerge victorious as they avenge the 2016 team that came one game and one run short of a title.

Tuscon Super Regional
No. 2 Arizona vs James Madison

Winner: No. 2 Arizona 

Why: I love the Dukes, but they have no chance against Arizona. The Wildcats will advance to the WCWS with an easy sweep.

Women's College World Series

If all of my picks were to come true, let's see how the Women's College World Series would turn out!

Women's College World Series First Round
No. 1 Florida vs No. 8 Tennessee

Winner: No. 1 Florida

Why: This is an all too familiar matchup in this phase of the season. Having taken two of three in Knoxville during the regular season, the Gators will again prevail over the Lady Vols in Oklahoma City.

No. 4 Florida State vs No. 5 UCLA

Winner: No. 4 Florida State

Why: In a tight pitcher's duel, the Seminoles will come out on top as they prepare for the awaited WCWS matchup with the rival Florida Gators.

No. 3 Oregon vs No. 6 Washington

Winner: No. 6 Washington

Why: Having won the regular season series over Oregon, the Huskies will win their third consecutive Pac-12 game this postseason to advance to the winner's bracket.

No. 2 Arizona vs No. 7 Auburn

Winner: No. 2 Arizona

Why: The Auburn revenge tour will hit a slight bump, as Arizona defeats them in a close one.

Elimination Games
No. 5 UCLA vs No. 8 Tennessee

Winner: No. 5 UCLA

Why: The Bruins will stay alive as they put a whipping on the Lady Vols in this win-or-go-home contest.

No. 3 Oregon vs No. 7 Auburn

Winner: No. 7 Auburn

Why: Auburn will not let their national championship dreams die this quickly. They will stave off a good Oregon team and hand them their first non-conference loss of the year to remain in Oklahoma City.

End Result: No. 3 Oregon & No. 8 Tennessee ELIMINATED

Second Round

No. 1 Florida vs No. 4 Florida State

Winner: No. 1 Florida

Why: Both of the regular season games between these fierce rivals ended in walk offs. Now in neutral territory, it will be the postseason experience of Florida that gives them edge and the win. It will be yet another instant classic in the rubber match between these two arch-rivals.

No. 2 Arizona vs No. 6 Washington

Winner: No. 2 Arizona

Why: Having swept the Huskies earlier in the regular season, the Wildcats will again best their Pac-12 foe to secure a spot in the WCWS semifinals.

Second Round Elimination Games

No. 5 UCLA vs No. 6 Washington

Winner: No. 5 UCLA

Why: Having lost the regular season series in Seattle, the Bruins will win the game that counts as they eliminate Washington from the WCWS.

 No. 4 Florida State vs No. 7 Auburn

Winner: No. 4 Florida State

Why: In a rematch of last year's semifinal, the Seminoles will win another close one as great pitching and clutch hitting carries them to a late-inning victory over the Tigers.

End Result: No. 6 Washington & No. 7 Auburn ELIMINATED

WCWS Semifinals

No. 1 Florida vs No. 5 UCLA

Winner: No. 1 Florida

Why: The Gators defeated the Bruins by a score of 9-4 in early March in neutral game action. Nearly four months later, Florida will again best UCLA. However, they will need two games to do it as the Bruins will push them to the brink. It will be Florida's third National Championship appearance in four seasons.

No. 2 Arizona vs No. 4 Florida State

Winner: No. 4 Florida State

Why: Florida State is the only non-conference team to beat Arizona with a 1-0 victory in early February. That being said, the Seminoles will win two straight games against an Arizona team that will be 7-0 at this point.

Both games will go down to the wire, but Florida State will find a way to make sure they see their rival one last time this season.

End Result: No. 2 Arizona & No. 5 UCLA ELIMINATED

WCWS Finals

No. 1 Florida vs No. 4 Florida State

Winner: No. 1 Florida

Why: With everything on the line, the Gators and Seminoles will determine both state and national supremacy once and for all in the National Championship. The series will go three games and every single contest will be decided by no more than one run between these very evenly matched teams.

It will be a National Championship for the ages, but ultimately the Gators will come out on top in with their third title in program history.

National Champion:

Florida Gators!

Final Takeaway
It may seem biased and the easy way out that I am taking my No. 1 seeded alma mater to win it all, but I personally know how good my Gators are. Last year's slip up in super regionals taught this team humility and proved to them that success is something to be earned. It is by no means a right.

With this mentality engrained in their heads, the Gators will be a force this postseason. They will make the Gator Nation proud and solidify their place among college softball's all-time dynasties.



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