NCAA Softball Tournament regional and Women's College World Series predictions

The road to Oklahoma City begins this weekend with the start of NCAA Softball Tournament play.

Sixteen sites will host double-elimination regionals Friday through Sunday, narrowing the field of 64 to 16 regional winners. The teams that advance will pair off in best-of-three super regionals, with those eight winners moving on to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City to play for the national championship.

Five experts from the USA TODAY Sports Network have picked the regional winners and projected their WCWS champion. Here are their projections:

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Norman (Okla.) Regional

Oklahoma: The Sooners return virtually all of their lineup from last season’s title team, and added a pitching staff fronted by freshman Jordy Bahl and North Texas transfer Hope Trautwein. As long as Bahl is healthy – she missed the Big 12 Tournament – Oklahoma is the odds-on favorite. — Ryan Aber, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma: The Sooners might not give up a run this weekend. Oklahoma is coming off just its second loss of the season and will come out angry. — Brett Greenberg, The Tuscaloosa News

Oklahoma: The reigning champion hit a hiccup in the Big 12 championship, but that’ll only add fuel to the fire. There are very few teams that can beat the No. 1 Sooners, and they’re going to make it out of this regional. — Cora Hall, Knoxville News Sentinel

Oklahoma: The three other teams joining the Sooners in Norman don’t have the firepower to upset the host, which is likely feeling like poked bear after losing the Big 12 championship game. — Ainslie Lee, Gainesville Sun

Oklahoma: The Sooners have the best lineup and best pitching staff in the land. No one in this regional has the firepower to touch them. — Scott Wright, The Oklahoman

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Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional

Florida State: The Seminoles are one of the hottest teams around, winning their last 14 games. Florida State also has one of the top defenses in the country, committing just 29 errors. — Ryan Aber

Florida State: The Seminoles are 19-2 against teams in the NCAA Tournament field and have 14 wins over the national seeds. Florida State is primed for a run. — Brett Greenberg

Florida State: The No. 2 seed Seminoles have two veteran pitchers and consistent hitters to get them out of the home regional. — Cora Hall

Florida State: Georgina Corrick and South Florida could scare the Seminoles, but as we’ve learned time and time again, Florida State doesn’t flinch. — Ainslie Lee

Florida State: One of the hotter teams around with 14 straight wins, eight of which were over teams hosting NCAA Regionals this week, Florida State will cruise through the Tallahassee bracket. — Scott Wright

Blacksburg (Va.) Regional

Virginia Tech: The Hokies made history by earning a regional hosting spot for the first time in program history. Kentucky especially offers a stiff challenge, but Virginia Tech uses its home-field advantage to avoid an upset. — Ryan Aber

Virginia Tech: The Hokies might have the best pitcher in the country in Keely Rochard. Virginia Tech will survive a scare from Kentucky and advance. — Brett Greenberg

Virginia Tech: The Hokies have two excellent pitchers in Keely Rochard and Emma Lemley, who will give every team in the regional a nightmare weekend at the plate. Virginia Tech will win the first home regional in school history. — Cora Hall

Virginia Tech: As if hosting their first-ever regional wasn’t enough, Virginia Tech will give the Hokies more to celebrate as it runs the region with ease. — Ainslie Lee

Virginia Tech: The Hokies will ride the arms of Keely Rochard and Emma Lemley to the super regional. — Scott Wright

Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional

Arkansas: The Razorbacks earned their best seeding in program history, and SEC Player of the Year KB Sides is one of the top run producers in the country, hitting .395 with 61 runs scored and 28 stolen bases. Sides has plenty of help in the lineup, and the Razorbacks get through a tough regional. — Ryan Aber

Arkansas: The Razorbacks won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. KB Sides will continue to lead an explosive offense. — Brett Greenberg

Arkansas: The Razorbacks are rolling, and not many teams will be able to stop them. Between the explosive offense that has set a program home run record and the two different looks with former and current SEC Pitchers of the Year Mary Haff and Chenise Delce in the circle, Arkansas is going deep in the tournament. — Cora Hall

Arkansas: The Razorbacks’ final two games of the SEC Tournament showed that the long ball isn’t the only thing teams need to worry about. Arkansas’ small ball and ace pitcher, Chenise Delce, lead the Hogs to supers. — Ainslie Lee

Arkansas: Despite snagging the No. 4 seed, Arkansas was dealt one of the tougher regional fields. Oregon and Wichita State can both offer a challenge, but the Hogs will pull through. — Scott Wright

Los Angeles Regional

UCLA: The Bruins’ excellent pitching — their 1.41 ERA is No. 2 nationally — gives them a chance against anyone in the field. That pitching should be able to overwhelm the rest of the field in their regional. — Ryan Aber

UCLA: The Bruins have the most NCAA championships in history. Maya Brady will continue to make noise as the best Brady in the family (sorry Tom). — Brett Greenberg

UCLA: Ole Miss might give UCLA a run for its money, but the Bruins are battle-tested and will survive and advance to their home super regional. — Cora Hall

UCLA: Don’t be surprised if Ole Miss applies pressure against UCLA. But the Bruins will escape the regional on the back of their bullpen. — Ainslie Lee

UCLA: A dominant pitching rotation has hit a few speedbumps lately, allowing 27 runs in the last seven games. But the staff is too deep and too talented to not survive regional weekend. — Scott Wright

Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Regional

Alabama: The Crimson Tide weren’t overpowering down the stretch, but any team with Montana Fouts in the circle is dangerous. Fouts figures to bear more of the workload in the postseason and she’s shown she can handle the pressure. — Ryan Aber

Alabama: The Crimson Tide has lost five of its last eight and has struggled at the plate. Another week of preparation and unfamiliar opponents pave way to a dominant weekend from Montana Fouts. — Brett Greenberg

Alabama: With the early exit from the SEC Tournament in the quarterfinals, Alabama has had plenty of time to prepare for the regional and get out of its slump. The Crimson Tide will have things together and make it out of the regional. — Cora Hall

Alabama: If played anywhere else, Alana Vawter and Stanford might shock Alabama. But the Crimson Tide is too hard to beat at home. — Ainslie Lee

Alabama: With veterans like Montana Fouts in the circle and Ally Shipman at the plate, Alabama will bounce back strong from the upset loss to Missouri in the SEC Tournament last week. — Scott Wright

Alabama catcher Bailey Hemphill hugs Montana Fouts. Alabama softball defeated the UCLA Bruins 6-0 during the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on Friday, June 4, 2021.
Alabama catcher Bailey Hemphill hugs Montana Fouts. Alabama softball defeated the UCLA Bruins 6-0 during the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on Friday, June 4, 2021.

Stillwater (Okla.) Regional

Oklahoma State: The Cowgirls’ momentum was lagging after finishing the regular season against Florida State and Oklahoma, the top two teams nationally. But a win over the rival Sooners in the Big 12 Tournament gives Oklahoma State some momentum. If Miranda Elish isn’t available in the circle, it could limit the Cowgirls’ ceiling, but they’ll escape the regional either way. — Ryan Aber

Oklahoma State: The Cowgirls handed Oklahoma its second loss of the season for the Big 12 conference championship. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will see each other again. — Brett Greenberg

Oklahoma State: The Cowgirls are rolling after beating the No. 1 Sooners in the Big 12 championship. OSU will carry that momentum and make it out of its home regional. — Cora Hall

Oklahoma State: After the win in the Bedlam Battle, the Cowgirls have to be feeling like they can do just about anything – including win their regional. — Ainslie Lee

Oklahoma State: With Morgan Day emerging as a strong second pitcher behind ace Kelly Maxwell, and injured Miranda Elish potentially nearing a return, the Cowgirls’ pitching staff is too deep for the regional field to handle. — Scott Wright

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso talks with Oklahoma's Taylon Snow (5) during a Bedlam softball game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowgirls (OSU) at Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Okla., Thursday, May 5, 2022. Oklahoma won 7-1.
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso talks with Oklahoma's Taylon Snow (5) during a Bedlam softball game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowgirls (OSU) at Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Okla., Thursday, May 5, 2022. Oklahoma won 7-1.

Tempe (Ariz.) Regional

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are disappointed with their seeding, and figure to come out with something to prove. But the field is far from a cakewalk for Arizona State, with LSU and San Diego State in particular offering stiff competition. Freshman Cydney Sanders, hitting .420 with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs, figures to be an impact player in the regional. — Ryan Aber

LSU: The Tigers are my first pick to upset a national seed. LSU beat Alabama twice this season and has a veteran team. — Brett Greenberg

San Diego State: The Aztecs have proven they shouldn’t be overlooked against top teams. SDSU beat Washington in non-conference play and lost by one run in extras to Northwestern and Missouri. This regional will be competitive, but I think the Aztecs can shake things up. — Cora Hall

Arizona State: The ’ pitching staff should be able to carry Arizona State out of regionals without too much trouble. — Ainslie Lee

Arizona State: With one of the top power lineups in the country, led by Cydney Sanders and Yannira Acuña, who are both batting over .400 with 30 combined homers, the Sun Devils will roll. — Scott Wright

Evansville (Ill.) Regional

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish’s last loss to a team other than Clemson was way back on April 1. Their wins since then included a 3-2 win over Northwestern on April 5. That was a home game with much lower stakes than it’ll face this weekend, but Notre Dame pulls it out on the road. — Ryan Aber

Northwestern: The Wildcats lost a close game to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament championship. Northwestern has three wins against national seeds and lost by one run to Virginia Tech earlier this season. — Brett Greenberg

Northwestern: The Wildcats have performed well against ranked opponents and will have some motivation to get revenge for a one-run loss to Notre Dame earlier in the season. Northwestern should dominate this regional. — Cora Hall

Northwestern: Assuming the Wildcats and Fighting Irish meet for the second time this season in the region final, Notre Dame will likely see Northwestern ace Danielle Williams for the first time, and it won’t go well for the Irish. — Ainslie Lee

Northwestern: Opponents are batting .166 against Danielle Williams, who will spin the Wildcats into their sixth super regional. — Scott Wright

Clemson (S.C.) Regional

Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns are hitting .358 entering the regional, second only to top-ranked Oklahoma, and averaged 7.25 runs per game. Louisiana also has a top 20 pitching staff, with a team 2.05 ERA. That balance helps the Ragin’ Cajuns advance to a super regional for the first time since 2016. — Ryan Aber

Clemson: Clemson went to the ACC championship and has experience after being the No. 2 seed in Tuscaloosa last season. — Brett Greenberg

Clemson: The Tigers are playing their best softball right now, taking down Virginia Tech and nearly upsetting Florida State in the ACC Championship. They shouldn’t have a problem moving onto the Stillwater Super Regional. — Cora Hall

Clemson: The Tigers’ bullpen will lift them out of the regional, but the Ragin’ Cajuns could cause some near-chaos. — Ainslie Lee

Clemson: The Tigers are 18-5 in their last 23, with four of the losses to second-seeded Florida State, so Clemson is battle-tested and ready to win a regional on its home field for the first time in its brief program history. — Scott Wright

Knoxville (Tenn.) Regional

Tennessee: The Volunteers have plenty of power, with five players with 10 or more home runs. Those sluggers help power Tennessee into the super regionals after last season’s upset at the hands of tournament darling James Madison. — Ryan Aber

Tennessee: The Volunteers boast the best strength of schedule in the entire 64-team field. Ashley Rogers will power the Vols towards Tuscaloosa for the super regional round. — Brett Greenberg

Tennessee: The Lady Vols have a healthy Ashley Rogers, who showed last week she’s in postseason form. After losing the regional last season, Tennessee will be gunning to make it back to a super regional. — Cora Hall

Tennessee: The Lady Vols’ 13-inning win over Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament spoke volumes of Tennessee’s gutsiness. Not to mention, Ashley Rogers and Erin Edmoundson are proving to be a dangerous tandem from the circle. — Ainslie Lee

Tennessee: Tennessee didn’t play Alabama in the regular season, but the two are destined to meet in the super regional round. — Scott Wright

Tennessee Volunteers outfielder Amanda Ayala (13) hits for the Lady Vols during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL on Thursday, May 12, 2022. [Gabriella Whisler/Special to the Sun]
Tennessee Volunteers outfielder Amanda Ayala (13) hits for the Lady Vols during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL on Thursday, May 12, 2022. [Gabriella Whisler/Special to the Sun]

Durham (N.C.) Regional

Duke: Last season, the Blue Devils earned the No. 13 seed but had to go on the road to Georgia for the regional. The Bulldogs used home-field advantage to pull off the upset. This time, Georgia has to come to Durham, and the Blue Devils move on. — Ryan Aber

Duke: The Blue Devils get to host a regional after having to travel to Athens last season in a questionable seeding. Duke returns the favor and advances. — Brett Greenberg

Duke: The Blue Devils aren’t going to be knocked out by the Bulldogs again and will make it out of their home regional. Georgia has also lost five of its last seven games and isn’t playing its softball best going into the NCAAs. — Cora Hall

Duke: The Blue Devils’ bats have been too hot for a regional exit. None of the other teams visiting Durham boast a pitcher who can take away Duke’s hitting threat, which runs one through nine. — Ainslie Lee

Duke: Paired with the same Georgia team that eliminated them last year, the Blue Devils will find their way through this year for their first-ever regional title. — Scott Wright

Seattle Regional

Washington: The Huskies weren’t happy with their seeding last season when they were seeded No. 16. This one doesn’t exactly thrill Washington, either, but sets up better. Gabbie Plain is hard to bet against, and though she has struggled some recently, the fifth-year pitcher is still one of the nation’s best. — Ryan Aber

Washington: The Huskies are hosting a sixth straight regional, so they’ve been here before. Pac-12 Player of the Year Baylee Klinger helps Washington advance. — Brett Greenberg

Texas: This group knows what it takes to make it out of the regional, and this time the Longhorns are underdogs. Texas will pull off the upset and make it to the super regional once again. — Cora Hall

Washington: The Huskies have been one of the toughest teams to figure out this season. Assuming Washington’s bats can find some rhythm, the Huskies advance. — Ainslie Lee

Texas: One of only two teams to beat No. 1 Oklahoma this season, Texas was in the mix to be a regional host. Being sent to Seattle should spark some momentum for the Longhorns. — Scott Wright

Gainesville (Fla.) Regional

Florida: After last season’s surprising regional exit, the Gators will be plenty focused as they host a regional for the 17th consecutive season. Skylar Wallace helps Florida cruise into the second weekend. — Ryan Aber

Florida: The Gators are a difficult team to figure out, but coach Tim Walton will have his players ready. A veteran squad advances to the next round. — Brett Greenberg

Florida: The Gators’ offense was on a roll at the SEC Tournament until it met Arkansas. But Florida will have home-field advantage and will win this regional. — Cora Hall

Florida: The Gators’ offense is in an upswing. So long as Florida can clean up the errors that were committed in the SEC Tournament, the Gators should escape. — Ainslie Lee

Florida: One of the fastest teams around with 123 stolen bases this season, Florida pressures opponents like few can. That will be too much for the Gators’ regional opponents to handle. — Scott Wright

Columbia (Mo.) Regional

Missouri: It’s hard to bet against Arizona, even if it isn’t hosting, but the Tigers grabbed some momentum in beating Alabama and Tennessee on the way to the SEC title game, where they lost to Arkansas. Kimberly Wert leads a tough Missouri lineup and helps put the Tigers back in a super regional. — Ryan Aber

Missouri: The Tigers might be the scariest No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Missouri has played excellent as of late and won’t slow down anytime soon. — Brett Greenberg

Missouri: The Tigers have put it together in time for postseason and won some gritty games in their run to the SEC Tournament final. Missouri’s defense can carry even if the offense isn’t on, and that will get the Tigers to a super regional. — Cora Hall

Missouri: The Tigers turned a lot of heads in the SEC Tournament. And while welcoming Arizona isn’t an easy task, Missouri has been playing with a lot of grit. — Ainslie Lee

Missouri: Arizona has the pedigree, but Missouri has the pitching, which dealt three shutouts in the last four games on the Tigers’ run to the SEC Tournament title game. — Scott Wright

Orlando Regional

Michigan: The Wolverines are the de facto No. 17 seed for the second consecutive season. Last season, Michigan fell to Washington in a tight regional final. This time, Michigan breaks through and makes a super regional for the first time since 2016. — Ryan Aber

Michigan: The Wolverines are coming off an extra-inning loss in the Big Ten tournament championship. Michigan will surprise some people. — Brett Greenberg

Michigan: The Wolverines already took down host Central Florida this year and are coming off a run to the Big Ten Tournament final, losing in extras to Nebraska. Michigan will be playing like it has something to prove after missing out on hosting and will win the regional. — Cora Hall

Michigan: The Wolverines will get more out of their trip to Orlando than a vacation. Michigan’s Alex Storako silences the Knights. — Ainslie Lee

Michigan: Central Florida has the national seeding and the home-field advantage, but Michigan has the experience on softball’s biggest stage. — Scott Wright

Women's College World Series winner

Ryan Aber, The Oklahoman: Oklahoma Jocelyn Alo. Tiare Jennings. Grace Lyons. Lynnsie Elam. The number of big bats in the Sooners’ lineup goes on and on and on. Oklahoma’s lineup stresses pitching staffs from the top to the bottom, and it’s the big bats that help the Sooners take home yet another title.

Brett Greenberg, The Tuscaloosa News: Virginia Tech The ACC was quietly one of the better conference all season and the Hokies will show up in a big way in Oklahoma City. The No. 2-rated team in the RPI will cap off its record-breaking season with its first national championship.

Cora Hall, Knoxville News Sentinel: Oklahoma — This is an obvious choice, but the Sooners just have the talent across the whole team and experience to win it all again. I’m calling back-to-back WCS wins for Oklahoma.

Ainslie Lee, The Gainesville Sun: Oklahoma It’s not the shocking choice, but it’s the right choice. The Sooners are entirely too talented and entirely too well-coached not to be crowned champions this season.

Scott Wright, The Oklahoman: Oklahoma — Despite the loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament title game, the Sooners still feel untouchable heading into the NCAA Championship. If freshman pitcher Jordy Bahl gets over her arm soreness in time for regional action, OU is even more dominant.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: NCAA Softball Tournament: Predicting regional winners and WCWS champion