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This Week's Syllabus: Feb. 24-March 2

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

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Thumbnail image for Oklahoma-state-logo-latest.jpg1. Oklahoma State (Last week: 1)
Third-place showing at Puerto Rico can be viewed in various ways. The Cowboys can't just show up and expect their opponents to give them anything. Yet it wasn't like OSU played poorly as all five starters had a sub-par round at Rio Mar. If nothing else, failing to win will keep the group focused.
Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Southern Highlands GC, Las Vegas, March 11-13


Thumbnail image for UCLA logo 2008-09.gif2. UCLA (2)
Bruins coach Derek Freeman likes the competitiveness his squad is showing back in Los Angeles, an attitude that's carrying over when the team leaves campus for events. Don't have to travel far this coming week to see if they can keep things going.
Next event: USC Invitational, North Ranch CC, Westlake Village, Calif., Feb. 28-March 1

Thumbnail image for Alabama logo.gif3. Alabama (4)
Guess the little longer layoff didn't really hurt the Crimson Tide boys, did it now? Posting the lowest round in relation to par (-14/274) in three years during the final 18 holes at the Puerto Rico Classic, Alabama made it three wins in five starts this season. Solid contributions from freshman Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett suggest their performances from last fall weren't just beginners luck.
Next event: Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate, Palmetto GC, Aiken, S.C., March 7-8

Thumbnail image for Florida logo.gif4. Florida (3)
The Gators can potentially win a third straight event to start the spring when they play at the John Hayt. Only problem with this is they haven't crossed paths with the other big boys just yet in 2011. The wins would mean more if they had, although it's hard to fault Buddy Alexander's boys for beating the teams they're facing.
Next event: John Hayt Invitational, Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 27-March 1

Georgia Tech logo.gif5. Georgia Tech (NR)
Gave Alabama the best fight in Puerto Rico before coming up just short. Besides medalist James White, Kyle Scott and J.T. Griffin each carded top-10 finishes. Yellow Jackets are third in the country in birdies, suggesting they've got what it takes when you need to go low.
Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Southern Highlands GC, Las Vegas, March 11-13


WOMEN

Thumbnail image for Alabama logo.gif1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
Crimson Tide lead country in first-round scoring and are third in final-round scoring. In other words, they get out in front early and they aren't likely to squander the lead. No wonder their opponents have their work cut out for them.
Next event: Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn CC, New Orleans, Feb. 27-March 1

Thumbnail image for USC logo.gif2. USC (2)
The Trojans venture east to compete in New Orleans, the last time they have to leave the Pacific time zone until the NCAA postseason. They also go with loads of confidence after their victory at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge.
Next event: Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn CC, New Orleans, Feb. 27-March 1

Thumbnail image for UCLA logo 2008-09.gif3. UCLA (3)
Overlook the Bruins at your own risk. Carrie Forysth's squad has too much talent to ignore and she seems to have a way of getting her players motivated as the spring rolls along.   
Next event: Bruin Wave Invitational, Robinson Ranch GC, Santa Clarita, Calif., Feb. 28-March 2

Iowa State logo.gif4. Iowa State (NR)
It took an "upset" victory at the Central District Invitational to force the rest of the college golf world (me included) to check out the Cyclones body of work for the 2010-11 season. Two wins, three seconds and seven top-fives in seven starts suggest that the final play in Florida this past week wasn't quite as surprisingly as you might have thought.
Next event: SunTrust Gator Invitational, Mark Bostick GC, Gainesville, Fla., March 6-7

Thumbnail image for LSU logo.gif5. LSU (4)
If there's a silver lining for the Tigers from their runner-up finish at the Central District it's that Austin Ernst claimed the individual title, her first college win. The freshman is gaining confidence and can help make sure that Megan McChrystal doesn't have to shoulder too much of the load for LSU to contend.
Next event: Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn CC, New Orleans, Feb. 27-March 1



STAT OF THE WEEK
2
Number of men's teams of the four semifinalists at last year's NCAA Championship that currently are ineligible for the NCAA postseason this year because they have do not have a .500 or better winning percentage in their overall head-to-head competitions.

The two that are on the outside looking in are Florida State (32-50-1) and Oregon (39-45).
 

STAT OF THE WEEK, PART II
8
Number of men's teams that competed at last year's NCAA Championship that currently are ineligible because of the .500 rule
Florida State
Oregon
Arizona State
Clemson
Tennessee
TCU
Penn State
Georgia Southern


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Still 82 days until the first round of the NCAA Women's Division I Championship; 96 until first round of the men's.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Christie Martins.jpg* In the hours following her team's nine-stroke victory at the Central District Invitational, Iowa State women's coach Christie Martens was posed a question by her sister, Northwestern women's assistant Beth Miller, about the Cyclones' unusual practice routine since the start of the spring semester.

"She said, 'OK, when it finally gets warm, are you going to start to hold practices outside or will you stay inside?' "

Indeed, given the quality runner-up finish to top-ranked Alabama at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, followed by the victory over No. 4 LSU earlier this week, the accomplishments are even more impressive considering that Martens' squad had yet to hit off grass during practices in Ames, Iowa.

Martens (right) says her squad will be venturing outside the football teams indoor practice facility as soon as they can. She credits, however, the new access her team had to the indoor bubble for this winter with having her players so sharp considering the bad Midwestern weather impeding the chance to practice outdoors.

"It's really helped us working on our wedge carry distances," Martens said.

In her seventh year with the Cyclones, Martens contends that her core roster--Laurence Herman, Victoria Stefansen, Punpaka Phuntumabamrung, Sasikarn On-iam, Kristin Paulson, Katelynn Hogenson and Prima Thammaraks--have bought into her practice routines and workouts more so than any previous squad she has had. "It's about them taking the initiative and wanting to get better," Martens said. "They're always out there together [at practice]. It's great to see."

Mind you, the question is whether Iowa State can stay focused now that they no longer can sneak up on their opposition. Martens suggests her team actually might have the right mentality to do just that.

"We played with Alabama all three rounds at Puerto Rico," Martens said, "and I was telling them, 'See, you can compete with anyone.' And they said, 'so like was Alabama good? Is that why you're saying this?' And I said to them, 'Yeah, they're the No. 1 team in the country.' And they say, 'Oh, when were they the No. 1 team in the country?' and I said, 'Right now.'

"I guess that's a positive thing. They don't feel like they should be losing to anyone."

Nor right now do they seem intimidated by anyone.

 

Sugar Bowl logo.jpg* To say that the women's golf Allstate Sugar Bowl this coming weekend is more anticipated than the football Sugar Bowl that was play just after New Year's Day of course would be an exaggeration. Still, it's hard to deny the interest in the festivities that are set to take place at English Turn CC in New Orleans. The tournament has six of the top eight teams in the most recent Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll, equaling the most of any tournament scheduled for the remainder of the spring. It's also one of the few times that the "name" programs from the west and east will meet before the NCAA postseason, giving us a chance to see once more how the two sides stack up.

From my perspective, there are a few teams that have more at stake than others. Duke will be playing its first spring event, the last of the top ranked schools to finally kick off their spring seasons. The Blue Devils had a nice fall but have been overshadowed by the other eastern upstarts (Alabama and LSU). How they reacclimate themselves could be interesting to see.

Arizona State is another that I'll be curious about. The Sun Devils first two starts since essentially reinventing themselves in January had gone as well as you could have reasonably expected. With a slightly stronger field in New Orleans than at the Northrup Grumman, ASU will get to find out again just how well they really stack up against the other elite teams in the country.

Lastly there's Purdue. A fourth-place finish in Puerto Rico with arguably their best player back in West Lafayette in no way constitutes room for concern in my mind for the defending NCAA champs. Still, how the Boilermakers fair this time around might offer some perspective in terms of their confidence level. Good news for Purdue fans is that Maude-Aimee LeBlanc is expected to be back in the line-up this week.
 


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate
Classic Club, Palm Desert, Calif.
Feb. 26-27
Host: Wyoming
Field: Air Force, Boise State, Cal Poly, Colorado State, Denver, Drake, Hawaii, Kansas, Long Beach State, Nebraska, New Mexico, Santa Clara, Southern Utah, SMU, Texas A&M, UC Santa Barbara, UNLV, UTEP, Weber State, Wyoming
Defending champion: Santa Clara (+8/872) by four strokes over CSU-Northridge; Wyoming's Gabe Maier (-8/208) by three strokes over Santa Clara's Scott Travers
Skinny: Event previously played in the fall. Spring dates appear to have help land a deeper field.

Seahawk Intercollegiate
CC of Landfall (Nicklaus course), Wilmington, N.C.
Feb. 27-28
Host: UNC Wilmington
Field: Davidson, Delaware, East Carolina, Georgia State, Liberty, North Carolina, Old Dominion, South Carolina, Towson, UNC Wilmington, VCU, Wake Forest
Defending champion: Augusta State (-7/569) by five strokes over South Carolina; Augusta State's Patrick Reed and East Carolina's Jake Colley (-5/139)
Skinny: Hoping for better weather than for first playing of the event last spring, when tournament had to be shortened to 36 holes.

John Hayt Collegiate Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Feb. 27-March 1
Host: North Florida
Field: Arkansas, Auburn, Coastal Carolina, Florida, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville, LSU, Mercer, Mississippi, North Florida, TCU, Tennessee, Tulsa, UAB, UCF
Defending champion: North Florida (+12/876) by 12 strokes over LSU; North Florida's Joe Byun (-4/212) by four strokes over Furman's Austin Reeves, Coastal Carolina's Dan Obremski and North Florida's Sean Dale
Skinny: Underrated event at a underrated golf course.

Charleston Shootout
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
The Links at Stono Ferry, Charleston, S.C.
Feb. 28-March 1
Host: College of Charleston/Charleston Southern
Field: Baylor, Campbell, Charleston Southern, College of Charleston, Gardner-Webb, High Point, Longwood, Navy, Newberry, Presbyterian, Radford, Stetson, USC Upstate, Villanova, Western Kentucky
Defending champion: Georgia (-18/846) by 20 strokes over College of Charleston; Georgia's Russell Henley (-9/207) by one stroke over Georgia's Harris English
Skinny: Bulldogs late entry and eventual easy victory was source of some consternation a year ago. That said, UGa's absence hurts strength of field this time around.

USC Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
North Ranch CC, Westlake Village, Calif.
Feb. 28-March 1
Host: USC
Field: Arizona State, BYU, California, CSU Northridge, Fresno State, Michigan, Oregon, Pepperdine, San Diego, San Diego State, Stanford, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Washington
Defending champion: Oregon (-21/831) by 16 strokes over California; Oregon's Eugene Wong (-10/203) by one stroke over USC's T.J. Vogel
Skinny: A year ago, Oregon pulled off the impressive victory that really gave the Ducks momentum for the rest of the spring. No team could use more deja vu than Casey Martin's right about now.


WOMEN
Kinderlou Forest Challenge
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Kinderlou Forest, Valdosta, Ga.
Feb. 27-March 1
Host: Kennesaw State
Field: Augusta State, Chattanooga, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Florida State, Furman, Georgia, Georgia State, Illinois, Kennesaw State, Texas Tech, UCF, Western Carolina, Wisconsin
Defending champion: Tulane (+13/889) by seven strokes over Ohio State; Tulane's Janine Fellows (-2/217) by two strokes over Vanderbilt's Marina Alex and Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora
Skinny: On paper, Georgia looks like it should roll here. Will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs handle the roll of clear favorite. Might say a lot about where this team is heading into the dog days of spring.

Allstate Sugar Bowl Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
English Turn CC, New Orleans
Feb. 27-March 1
Host: Tulane
Field: Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Denver, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, North Carolina, Mississippi, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulane, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia
Defending champion: Auburn (+25/889) by seven strokes over TCU; LSU's Megan McChrystal (-3/213) by one stroke over Virginia's Calle Nielson
Skinny: Impressive push by Tulane and local officials to promote the tournament in the Crescent City.

Sir Pizza Cards Challenge
Weston HIlls CC, Weston, Fla.
Feb. 27-March 1
Host: Louisville
Field: Arkansas State, Cincinnati, East Tennessee State, Florida International, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, N.C. State, South Florida, Texas State, UNC Wilmington
Defending champion:
Skinny:

Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Almaden CC, San Jose, Calif.
Feb. 28-March 1
Host: San Jose State
Field: California, Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Oregon, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, UC Davis, UC Irvine, Washington
Defending champion: California (+35/899) by two strokes over UC Davis; San Jose State's Cristina Corpus (+1/217) by two strokes over UC Davis' Demi Runas
Skinny: Cal Bears look like a strong dark horse selection come the postseason. The team comes off nice win at Peg Barnard yet looks like it's still improving.

USA Lady Jaguar Invitational
Azalea City GC, Mobile, Ala.
Feb. 28-March 1
Host: South Alabama
Field: Alabama State, Centenary, Jackson State, Louisiana-Monroe, Morehead State, Samford, South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Troy, UAB, Western Kentucky, Winthrop
Defending champion: Memphis (+49/913) by six strokes over Florida International; Stetson's Lauren Cate and Memphis' Marissa Steen (+6/222)
Skinny: Highest ranked squad in the field is Morehead State, 87th in the Golfstat computer ranking.

Bruin Wave Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Robinson Ranch GC, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Feb. 28-March 2
Host: UCLA/Pepperdine
Field: Arizona, BYU, CSU-Northridge, Long Beach State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, UNLV, Washington State
Defending champion: USC (+2/866) by two strokes over Arizona State; Pepperdine's Danielle Kang (-8/208) by three strokes over New Mexico's Jodi Ewart
Skinny: Curious to see if co-host Pepperdine make some noise at "home" event. Waves have talent but haven't had a top-three finish yet this season.
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