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This week's syllabus: March 18-24

THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five school in the country right now

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Stanford logo 2008-09.gif1. Stanford (Last week: 1)
The Cardinal earned the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Match Play event outside Tucson. It's a great opportunity to gain some team experience in the format, although I disagree with coach Conrad Ray and would have liked to have seen the event keep one day of stroke play to seed the teams, so that schools can gain experience in adapting to the transition from stroke to match play. 
Next event: Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Ariz., March 21-23

Thumbnail image for UNLV school logo 2009-10.gif2. UNLV (NR)
I can't point my finger on a go-to person for the Rebels but after winning the John Burns Invite earlier this spring and then sharing the title at home last weekend at Southern Highlands, there's no question this group is building some momentum.
Next event: Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Ariz., March 21-23

Texas logo 2009-10.gif3. Texas (3)
The Longhorns no doubt were hoping for better than a seventh-place finish last weekend in Las Vegas after their fireworks in Puerto Rico. No time to dwell on that, however, as Texas quickly flies off to Tucson to play in this week's NIT event, an event that's in progress.
Next event: Morris Williams Intercollegiate, University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, April 5-6

Oklahoma-state-logo-latest.jpg4. Oklahoma State (2)
Do I really think the Cowboys are the fourth best team in the country? No, but after the dreadful 11th-place performance in Las Vegas, you've got to wonder about just where this group stands mentally as we get into the dog days of the spring season. Ultimately, there's too much pride on this team to believe that Southern Highlands was anything but an aberration.
Next event: Linger Longer Invitational, Reynolds Landing GC, Greensboro, Ga., March 26-28

Thumbnail image for Washington logo 2008-09.gif5. Washington (4)
I give the Huskies the nod over Oregon right now, only because they have a 1-0-1 head-to-head record against the Ducks. That said, a victory in the next few weeks would go a long way to assuaging any concerns that Washington might be a notch or two below last year's Elite Eight squad.
Next event: Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Ariz., March 21-23


WOMEN
Thumbnail image for USC 2008-09 logo.gif1. USC (1)
Golfweek has the Trojans at No. 5. Golfstat has them at No. 5. Even the Golf World/NGCA poll has them at No. 5. So what am I missing? My eye-ball test tells me this team with three wins (one more than Arizona State and three more than UCLA) has as much talent as anyone. Are you really ready to say that there are four teams that USC would lose to if their roster is 100 percent healthy? 
Next event: Ping ASU Invitational, Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz., April 9-11

Thumbnail image for Arizona State logo 2008-09.gif2. Arizona State (2)
The Sun Devils are no doubt a tight knit group. Latest example? Coach Melissa Luellen is training for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer this summer in San Francisco, where she'll honor associate head coach Missy Farr-Kaye, a breast cancer survivor.
Next event: Ping ASU Invitational, Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz., April 9-11

Thumbnail image for Auburn logo 2008-09.gif3. Auburn (NR)
Most impressive part about the Tigers' victory in New Orleans last weekend (their second win of the season) was that the team made eight birdies and an eagle on the final six holes at English Turn G&CC. That's what you call closing out a tournament.
Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., March 26-28

Thumbnail image for UCLA logo 2008-09.gif4. UCLA (3)
You can't argue with the fact the Bruins have impressive stats. I need to see them come through in the final round and win a title, however, before I'm ready to say they're the best team in the land, as Golfstat professes. Of course there's still time to take that next step. 
Next event: Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, March 26-28

Thumbnail image for Alabama logo 2008-09.gif5. Alabama (4)
I have officially been silenced by the Crimson Tide, who finished third at the Tiger Wave Classic after their month-plus layoff. So much for knowing something about momentum? Now, though, can the Tide roll in Georgia next week?
Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., March 26-28


STAT OF THE WEEK
6
Number of subpar rounds shot by N.C.State junior Matt Hill. A year ago at this time the Canadian who went on to claim the NCAA title and national player of the year honors had nine. He then proceeded to break par in 18 of his final 19 rounds of the season.

Two points here: 1) While Hill's year has yet to live up to the season he had a year ago, it was a torrid closing stretch that earned him all his post-season accolades. Before anyone describes 2009-10 as a bust for Hill, he could once again get on a role, starting at this week's Schenkel tournament, the same event that the hot streak began at last March.
2) This year's player-of-the-year race is wide open ... so much so that any player in the country, should he get on a hot streak like Hill's last year, can snatch POY honors.
  

WHAT TO WATCH FOR


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
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Desert Shootout
Palm Valley GC, Goodyear, Ariz. (Par 71, 7,015 yards)
March 18-20
Host: Denver
Field: Boise State, BYU, Denver, Eastern Michigan, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Nebraska, Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa, Pacific, Southern Utah, Utah, VCU, Wichita State, Xavier
Defending champion: Denver (-35/829) by one stroke over Tulsa; Air Force's Tom Whitney (-16/200) by one stroke over Tulsa's Nicolas Geyger and Coastal Carolina's Zack Byrd
Skinny: The host Pioneers are still looking for their first victory of the 2009-10 season. Senior Espen Kofstad also is looking for his first individual title after four top-three finishes and six top-10s.

Furman Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Furman University GC, Greenville, S.C (Par 72, 6,994 yards)
March 19-21
Host: Furman
Field: UAB, Appalachian State, Charleston Southern, Chattanooga, Clemson, Davidson, East Carolina, Elon, Francis Marion, Furman, Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw State, Marshall, Mississippi State, Old Dominion, Presbyterian, Rhode Island, Samford, Temple, Troy, Virginia Tech, Western Carolina, Winthrop, Wofford
Defending champion: East Carolina (+19/595) by one stroke over Furman and Virginia Tech; Furman's Austin Reeves and Daniel Bowden (+1/145)
Skinny: Do the Paladins have a home-course advantage? Not really when you consider the school has won its home event just twice (1986 and 2004) in the tournament's 39-year history.

Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Forest Heights CC, Statesboro, Ga.
March 19-21
Host: Georgia Southern
Field: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia Southern, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi, North Carolina, N.C. State, North Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia
Defending champion: South Carolina (+1/865) by two strokes over N.C. State and Tennessee; N.C. State's Matt Hill (-7/209) by three strokes over South Carolina's George Bryan IV
Skinny: The historic tournament coincides this year with the opening of the Bennett-Ramsey Golf Center, a 25-acre facility houses the team clubhouse, a dedicated practice putting green, a three-green short-game area, a two-tiered practice tee, a driving range and three practice holes.

Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Ritz-Carlton GC at Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz
March 21-23
Host: GCAA
Field:
Callaway Collegiate Match Play bracket.jpg
Defending champion: Middle Tennessee State over Indiana, 4-1
Skinny: Per the request of the coaches, this year's event is strictly match play with the 16 teams being seeded ahead of time. … Four of the teams that reached last year's Elite Eight at the NCAA Championship (Texas A&M, USC, Washington and Arizona State). … Course is the same one that hosted the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last month.

Oregon Duck Invitational
Shadow Hills CC, Junction City, Ore. (Par 72, 7,020 yards)
March 22-23
Host: Oregon
Field: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Oregon State, Pacific, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, UC Davis, UC Riverside, Washington State 
Defending champion: Washington (-5/859) by 15 strokes over Oregon; Washington's Nick Taylor (-5/211) by one stroke over Oregon's Jack Dukeminier
Skinny: I like the Ducks' chances at home, considering their 71.49 adjusted stroke average is the best in the country and their 75.68 is the best average drop score of any team in the country. Still, the last time UO won its home event? 2004.


WOMEN
UNCW Lady Seahawk Classic
River Landing CC, Wallace, N.C. (Par 72, 6,012 yards)
Host: UNC Wilmington
Field: Appalachian State, DePaul, Elon, Jacksonville State, Longwood, UMKC, UNC Wilmington, Penn, Winthrop
Defending champion: East Tennessee State (+39/903) by six strokes over Elon; Elon's Danielle Mills (E/216) by six strokes over East Tennessee State's Laura Jansone
Skinny: Tournament celebrates its 10th year, although we wouldn' blame the UNCW folks it they were thinking about that other event they're hosting later this spring: the NCAA Women's Championship. 

Pinehurst Spring Challenge
Pinehurst No. 6, Pinehurst, N.C. (Par 72, 6,004 yards)
March 22-23
Host: Charleston
Field: Campbell, Charleston, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Florida State, Illinois, James Madison, Maryland, Minnesota, N.C. State, UNC Greensboro, Princeton, Richmond, SMU, Western Carolina, Wofford
Defending champion: East Carolina (+46/910) by 20 strokes over East Tennessee State; Charleston's Steffi Kirchmayr (+1/217) by four strokes over East Carolina's Emelie Lind     
Skinny: Current weather projections have temps in 60s for the two tournament days, a far cry from a year ago when snow blanketed the course and forced the cancelation of the tournament.

John Kirk/Panther Intercollegiate
Eagle's Landing CC, Stockbridge, Ga. (Par 72, 6,047 yards)
March 22-23
Host: Georgia State
Field: Arkansas State, UALR, Augusta State, Ball State, Chattanooga, Daytona State, Florida International, Georgia State, Murray State, South Alabama, Texas State, Xavier, Troy
Defending champion: Georgia State (+22/886) by nine strokes over Furman; Georgia State's Sandra Maier (E/216) by one stroke over Georgia State's Anna Scott
Skinny: Maier was just the second Georgia State player to win medalist honors in the event's previous 16 editions.

BYU at Entrada Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Entrada at Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah
March 22-23
Host: BYU
Field: BYU, Colorado, Colorado State, Louisville, Nebraska, New Mexico State, North Texas, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, San Diego State, Southern Utah, Weber State, Wyoming
Defending champion: Denver (+13/877) by 22 strokes over Colorado State; Denver's Dawn Shockley (E/216) by five strokes over Denver's Ellie Givens
Skinny: The tournament undergoes a small name change, adding Entrada to its title as the course prepares to host the event for the seventh year. Teams in the event are assigned home families that they'll stay with for the week.