Kansas made history on Wednesday (KU photo)
STOCKTON, CA (May 16, 2018) - Kansas had never been champions at an NCAA regional. Until now.
The eighth-seeded Jayhawks fired a 7-under 281 on Wednesday to jump from one behind (third place) to one ahead with a 20-under total. The victory marks Kansas’ first regional win in school history and means the Jayhawks will make their first appearance in the NCAA Championship since 2000.
This performance was not exactly expected. The Jayhawks had won just once all season prior to regionals and entered off a solid but unspectacular sixth at Big 12s. But Kansas didn’t back down from the start this week.
The Jayhawks were in second after Day 1, and a drop to third in the second round was no big deal, especially as the team moved from three back to one behind in the process.
Kansas only had one finisher in the top 8, but all five of its starters posted top-25 finishes. Andy Spencer (T-5, 8 under) led the way, with Daniel Sutton (T-9, 5 under) also placing in the top 10. Charlie Hillier (T-19, 2 under), Harry Hillier (T-23, 1 under) and Daniel Hudson (T-23, 1 under) rounded out the Jayhawks’ scores.
On the other side, top-seeded LSU got a massive disappointment.
The Tigers were in trouble from the start, sitting in a tie for 10th through 18 holes. They moved up the leaderboard in each of the final two rounds, but a pair of two-spot jumps (10th to eighth and eight to sixth) left LSU one spot (and five shots) short of advancing to nationals.
Prior to 2017, just one No. 1 seed in an NCAA men’s regional had failed to move on (Clemson, 2009). LSU’s failure means three have fallen short in the past two years. Florida started the trend in 2017, with the Tigers and Georgia Tech adding to it this week.
With LSU’s high finisher (Luis Gagne) coming in a tie for ninth at 5 under, the Tigers won’t have an individual representing them at the NCAA Championship either.
As you might be able to tell already, this was a bit of topsy-turvy regional. On top of what we explained above, 10th-seeded Iowa State also advanced. The Cyclones were solo leaders after Round 1, tied at the top through 36 and finished in third at 17 under.
Oregon’s Norman Xiong closes in 6-under 66 to reach 15 under and grab a one-shot victory in the individual race. The sophomore’s stellar performance allowed his fifth-seeded Ducks squad to fire a final-round 8-under 280 and jump a place to fifth and secure the last NCAA Championship spot from here. Xiong’s Haskins Award hopes are certainly well within reach.
Fourth-seeded USC placed ninth at 3 over, and, with that, Haskins hopeful Justin Suh saw his season end. Suh finished the week in a tie for 19th at 2 under. That means he failed to advance as an individual as well.
TCU, the No. 6 seed, falls from the fifth spot to eighth after a final-round 8-over 296. Pierre Mazier closes in 70, but the remaining four Horned Frogs players all shot final rounds of 75 or worse.
The folowing teams and individual advanced to the NCAA Championship:
- Kansas, Stanford, Iowa State, Alabama, Oregon
- Charles Corner, Texas-El Paso
ROUND TWO RECAP
This regional remains a bit topsy-turvy, but one elite team Tuesday rose to top billing.
Alabama, the No. 2 seed, fired the day’s best round with an 8-under 280 to jump from third to a share of first at 14 under. The Crimson Tide’s Tuesday success can be attributed to steady play from four starters, but Wilson Furr should take the lion’s share of credit for the rise.
The freshman birdied six of seven holes on the back nine to sit 9 under for his round with one to play. A closing bogey ruined a perfect card, but his 8-under 64 was something to behold and a score that ensured Alabama was on top rather than sweating around the cutline. Furr, a highly touted recruit, struggled this fall and rarely made the Crimson Tide’s lineup. But he found his old self again thanks to some key changes heading into the spring.
It looks like those have paid off, and Alabama must be happy about that. Furr is T-4 overall at 7 under, while Jonathan Hardee (T-14, 3 under), Davis Riley (T-18, 2 under) and Davis Shore (T-21, 1 under) are all in the top 25 as well.
Iowa State, the No. 10 seed, continues to impress. The first-round leaders have not dropped, as a 4-under 284 allowed the Cyclones to remain tied at the top. Denzel Ieremia is still pacing Iowa State as he sits solo third at 8 under.
Eighth-seeded Kansas is also still serving notice. At 13 under, the Jayhawks are solo third. That’s a one-spot drop from Monday, but Kansas is still well in position to advance.
Oregon is still hanging on to a chance to advance. The Ducks are tied for sixth at 4 under and Haskins Award contender Norman Xiong is doing his best to help as he fired a 5-under 67 to sit solo second at 9 under. Still, Oregon is three back of the cut and needs to move forward on Wednesday.
Top-seeded LSU is in deep trouble. The Tigers moved up two spots Tuesday with a 5-under 283 but are T-8 and seven back of the cut with 18 to play.
Fourth-seeded USC remains in even worse shape. The Trojans also moved up two spots (4-under 284 on Day 2) but are 10th at 3 over. That leaves them needing to make up 10 shots Wednesday to make the NCAA Championship.
ROUND ONE RECAP
Well, not many saw that one coming.
The No. 10 seed, nearly 1,800 miles from home, rocketed out to an early three-shot lead at the NCAA Stockton Regional. Iowa State got a pair of rounds in the 60s and four sub-par rounds from its starters to fire out to a 10-under 278 and the early cushion.
While it’s a surprise, a closer look shows this first-round showing is not out of nowhere. The Cyclones have won two of their last four events, and their last tournament was a fourth at the Big 12 Championship.
Consider the tournament’s winner was defending national champion Oklahoma and one of the runner-up finishers, just three shots ahead of Iowa State, was top-ranked Oklahoma State. And the Cyclones beat two top-15 teams in Baylor and Texas Tech.
Now it makes more sense.
Denzel Ieremia led the way for Iowa State with an eagle and five birdies in a 4-under 68 that has him T-4. Sam Vincent posted a 3-under 69 and sits T-8. Frank Lindwall (T-13, 2 under) and Lachlan Barker (T-19, 1 under) were the other counting scores on the day.
The team in second place is also a bit unexpected. Eighth-seeded Kansas fired a 7-under 281 to put itself in second with two rounds to go.
Oregon’s Norman Xiong, a Haskins Award contender, fired a 4-under 68 to keep the Ducks in view through 18 holes. Oregon is sixth and, at 1 over, four back of the current projected top-five cut.
Top-seeded LSU saw none of its starters better 71 and had to count a 75 and a 76. That puts the Tigers, surprisingly, in a tie for 10th at 5 over after the opening round.
Fourth-seeded USC also struggled in the opening round. The Trojans didn’t have a single player under par and find themselves 12th (second-to-last) at 7 over.