Top NCAA headlines of 2013
17 Dec 2013
by Golfweek

-- NCAA Photo
-- NCAA Photo

By Ron Balicki, Lance Ringler and Cassie Stein, Golfweek

After winning streaks and a national championship Golfweek's Ron Balicki, Lance Ringler and Cassie Stein tackle five questions from the college golf season.

What was the biggest storyline from the fall season?

Ron: The big storyline from this fall is simply a carry over from last spring – the dominance of Alabama. The Crimson Tide finished the fall No 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings after winning all four of its tournament starts. Impressive, for sure. But go back to last spring and coach Jay Seawell’s Tide have captured 10 consecutive tournament titles and 11 of its past 12 starts, including ending the spring with victories at the SEC, NCAA Baton Rouge Regional and NCAA Championship. No doubt, Alabama will continue to be the team to beat on the road to this season’s NCAA.

Lance: It has to be what Alabama has continued to do. After winning the NCAA Championship, the Crimson Tide picked up where they left off, winning all four events they played in this past fall. Playing the fourth toughest schedule, Alabama’s average margin of victory is 12.3.

Cassie: Alabama being undefeated, but on a 10-tournament winning streak. The Crimson Tide picked up where they left off last season – by winning. With Justin Thomas to the pro ranks, Alabama thought a spot would needed to be filled quickly for them to have success and it has been by freshman Robby Shelton. Last year when California won 11 of 13 tournaments, many thought it could never be done again, let alone in back-to-back years, but I believe if any team could pull off this feat of winning that many tournaments, it’s the Tide.

Which team (or player) was the biggest surprise?

Ron: How about the University of South Florida Bulls? Here’s a program that has never finished a season in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings top 50. That’s a span covering the last 14 years. In fact, eight times they didn’t crack the top 100. But things are a changing down there in Tampa. Led by sophomore Chase Koepka, coach Chris Malloy, now in his fourth season, has the Bulls making plenty of noise. USF finished in the top 5 in each of its four fall starts, including a win at the Invitational at Kiawah. And Malloy’s squad will start the 2014 spring season No. 20 in the rankings.

Lance: Good things were expected from Alabama Birmingham this year. After all, The Blazers returned its top four players from last year’s squad that finished 4th at the Conference-USA Championship and ninth at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional. However, not many expected UAB to crack the top 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings or the Golfstat Head-to- Head Rankings – the Blazers are ranked 10th in both. Led by seniors Wilson McDonald and Sam Love, UAB has placed in the top 3 in each of its four starts including a 22-shot victory to close the fall at the Georgetown Intercollegiate.

Cassie: Ben Crancer. Why? Because during his freshman campaign at Texas A&M, he had two top-five finishes, but this fall he broke through with his first collegiate victory. Unexpected, maybe, only because of his play over the summer, but he has plenty of talent to win more for the Aggies. He finished the fall with another eighth-place finish and a T-23 finish. More to come from this sophomore who was named to the Haskins Award midseason watch list.

Who made an impact as an individual?

Ron: For the past three season’s Alabama senior Trey Mullinax has pretty much played in the shadow of Crimson Tide stars such as Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett, also Alabama seniors this season, as well as the likes of Justin Thomas and Hunter Hamrick. This fall, Mullinax is casting his own shadow. He has finished in the top six in each of his four fall starts, including a big win at the Isleworth Intercollegiate. Mullinax finished the fall campaign ranked No. 1.

Lance: So far this season, no past All- American or big-name player has emerged to make significant headlines. But, there are a few names that have done everything they can to be noticed while not facing the top competition each week. Western Carolina’s J.T. Poston, San Jose State’s Cody Blick, Cal-State Fullerton’s Mark Anguiano and Hartford’s Evan Russell all rank inside Golfweek’s top 32 players at the midway point. The foursome has combined for a 1,338-20-9 overall head-to-head won- loss-tie record.

Cassie: South Florida’s Chase Koepka has blossomed into a top college player after picking up his two collegiate victories this fall. He finished the fall ranked sixth in the nation behind some big-named players on top of the Golfweek Rankings. If the team doesn’t make it to nationals, Koepka could be one of the individuals in the field at Prairie Dunes in May.

What if you missed this... ?

Ron: Purdue enjoyed one of its best fall campaigns in quite some time. Coach Devon Brouse’s Boilermakers went 5-for-5 in top-5 finishes, including a pair of seconds at the D.A. Weibring and Crooked Stick. Over the last few years, Purdue has struggled to reach the .500 won-lost mark and be eligible for the NCAA post season. Doesn’t look like that will be this case this time around.

Lance: Kentucky finished the fall with four top- five finishes in four starts. The Wildcats, ranked No. 35 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, have finished outside the top 40 in each of the last seven seasons dipping to a low of No. 100 just three years ago. The Wildcats have a veteran group. Seniors Ben Stow, Martin Snyder and Stephen Powers are joined by junior David Snyder to make this Kentucky team one to keep an eye this spring.

Cassie: Remember when California finished the 2012-13 season with 11 wins in 13 tournaments? Maybe, maybe not and that’s because of the streak that Alabama is on. But the Bears haven’t gone away. Cal won three tournaments this fall, the St. Mary’s Invitational, the Jack Nicklaus Invitational and The MacKenzie, and finished fourth in the Golfweek College Rankings. Expect the Bears to come out firing in the spring and make another run at the national title.

Who would be your top eight teams if Match Play started today?

Ron: Alabama, California, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia

Lance: Alabama, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas, SMU

Cassie: Alabama, California, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Central Florida, Georgia, UCLA

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