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This Week's Syllabus: April 21-27

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

MEN
Thumbnail image for Oklahoma-state-logo-latest.jpg1. Oklahoma State (Last week: 1)
The team winning streak ended at three with the Cowboys runner-up finish at the Aggie Invitational, but Peter Uihlein's return to the college game went swimmingly with his individual victory. Meanwhile, it's hard to pick against OSU at Prairie Dunes as Uihlein, Morgan Hoffmann and Kevin Tway have all had two top-10 performances there, each finishing either second or first once.
Next event: Big 12 Championship, Prairie Dunes GC, Hutchinson, Kan., April 25-27
Florida logo.gif2. Florida (NR)
A year's worth of built up confidence became evident quickly at Sea Island, as the Gators jumped to an early lead and never lost control en route to their 15th SEC title, and first since 2003. Meanwhile, the emergence of Andres Echavarria in the last few months gives U of F a 1-2 punch (with Bank Vongvanij) that might rival any in the country.
Next event: NCAA Regionals, May 19-21

Thumbnail image for UCLA logo 2008-09.gif3. UCLA (3)
The Bruins victory at the Western Intercollegiate last week showcased what a balanced squad they've got in Westwood. Four golfers placed in the top 15, with their fifth coming in T-23. Going to be particularly important considering Pac-10s are a play-six, count-five tournament
Next event: Pac-10 Championship, Stanford GC, Palo Alto, Calif., April 29-May 1

Thumbnail image for Alabama logo.gif4. Alabama (2)
The Crimson Tide didn't fall to Florida at SECs without a fight, posting their best team score during the final round only to still fall short of the Gators. A bad first round, however, cost them, something coach Jay Seawell I'm sure will be reminding the boys the next few weeks to make sure its not something they repeat at regionals.
Next event: NCAA Regionals, May 19-21

Texas A&M logo 2008-09.gif5. Texas A&M (NR)
Sure, playing at home might have helped as the Aggies knocked off No. 1 Oklahoma State last week in winning the Aggie Invite. That said, they did win by 18 strokes and it was the team's 10th top-five finish in 11 starts this year. Can you say sleeper?
Next event: Big 12 Championship, Prairie Dunes GC, Hutchinson, Kan., April 25-27


WOMEN
Thumbnail image for USC logo.gif1. USC (Last week: 3)
Big time win for the Trojans at Pac-10s, particularly having to play without Lisa McCloskey in the final round after she WD'd with a rib injury. Her status will obviously be a question mark for the NCAA postseason. USC is talented enough to get through without her at regionals but winning an NCAA title will be much tougher.
Next event: NCAA Regionals, May 5-7

Thumbnail image for UCLA logo 2008-09.gif2. UCLA (2)
Hard to find fault with a squad who had all five players finish inside top 22 at the Pac-10s. Still the Bruins' third-place team finish at Karsten GC had to be a disappointment given the way Carrie Forsyth's group was playing. Shows just how solid you've got to be playing to be victorious in the postseason.
Next event: NCAA Regionals, May 5-7

Thumbnail image for Alabama logo.gif3. Alabama (1)
The Crimson Tide might have gotten a taste of their own medicine when they fell to Auburn on the Tigers' home course last week in finishing second at SECs. A year ago, Bama won the title on one of its home courses. The good news was the impressive play of their No. 5 player, Hannah Collier, who carded a T-6 finish. That said, they need Jennifer Kirby and Camila Lennarth to turn things around here soon to have their best shot at an NCAA title.
Next event: NCAA Regionals, May 5-7

Purdue logo.gif4. Purdue (4)
Hard to think the Boilermakers aren't without a lot of confidence as they try to claim their fourth straight Big Ten title after posted wins at Augusta State and San Diego and a runner-up showing at the Liz Murphey. The defending NCAA champions look like their peaking at the right time. 
Next event: Big Ten Championship, Lake Shore CC, Glencoe, Ill., April 22-24

Arizona 2009-10.gif5. Arizona (NR)
The Wildcats have quietly posted two wins and nine top-five finishes in 10 starts this season, and were the ones making USC nervous in the final round at Pac-10s. Will the experience gained from last year's win at NCAA Regionals carry over to 2011?
Next event: NCAA Regionals, May 5-7



STAT OF THE WEEK
40
The approximate average margin of victory by the Oral Roberts women in winning the Summit League each of the last 14 years. The Golden Eagles claimed this year's crown by "only" 26 strokes on Western Illinois. Oral Roberts has never lost the conference title.


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Just when the cynic in me questions people's character, I have a week like this where at least five strangers have told me the taillight in my car is out. All trying to be helpful too!


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sophia Popov Pac-10 win.jpeg* We've got one of the best races for national freshman of the year that I can remember in a while, what with USC's Sophia Popov taking the Pac-10 title in a playoff over UCLA's Tiffany Lua, her second straight individual victory and third on the season. The conference crown, along with one four other top-10 finishes and a 71.88 average during the year, likely pushed her out front ahead of Alabama's Stephanie Meadow (two wins, five top-fives, 72.15 avg.) and Arkansas' Emily Tubert (three wins, seven top-fives, 72.00 avg.) but nothing has been decided yet. The interesting thing, too, is that any of the three could also claim national player of the year honors with a strong finish to the season.

* Georgia's Russell Henley and Harris English will be playing in the Nationwide Tour's Stadion Classic at the University of Georgia GC May 5-8, earning the two sponsor's exemptions reserved for current golfers on the Bulldog team. The race for the two spots, however, was amazingly tight. After the SEC Championship, Henley had recorded 1,748 strokes on the season, English 1,750 and Hudson Swafford 1,752. (Swafford will now have to try and Monday qualify for the event). Meanwhile, I have a funny feeling Henley or English them might just actually contend in the tournament in two weeks. Their familiarity with the course is obviously an advantage. Henley knows what its like to play against the pros, having finished T-16 at last year's U.S. Open. He's had a quiet senior season, but perhaps he'll take some inspiration from Florida's Andres Echavarria's runner-up finish at the Nationwide Tour event in Louisiana last month.

* Speaking of Echavarria, I've gotten a fair amount of feedback from my post last week about his inclusion among the Ben Hogan Award semifinalists. (And when I say feedback, I mean comments calling me crazy, particularly after his victory at SEC Championship.) Yes, perhaps I undervalued Echavarria's success summer in 2010 on the amateur circuit. And I don't mean to take anything away from his performance in his Nationwide Tour starts. I think my surprise was more that his Gator teammate, Bank Vongvanij, had failed to make the final 10 despite having arguably one of the best college seasons of any player in the country ( ) At some point, though 10 is not 11, and you have make a cut as to who is on the list and who isn't.

* Which brings me to a point I heard from a few e-mails as well, that the true snub in the Hogan semifinalists was Stanford's David Chung. Chung's amateur summer was outstanding (won Porter Cup and Western Amateur, runner-up at U.S. Amateur, semifinalist at North & South, top-10 at Players Amateur) but he has played only five college events and except for a T-9 finish at the Gifford, he hasn't finished better than T-28 in his other starts. How do you weight the two extremes? Voters obviously decided that the poor college record wasn't countered by great amateur record. Bottom line is that having better balance, as Echavarria has, and Vongvanij and Chung may not have, is what got you on the semifinalist list.


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
ACC Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Old North State Club, New London, N.C.
April 22-24
Field: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Defending champion: Georgia Tech (-23/841) by 13 strokes over Virginia; Georgia Tech's Chesson Hadley (-10/206)
Skinny: Georgia Tech has won four times in the last five years at Old North State and has four players back from a year ago. That said, Virginia and Clemson have been playing well as the spring has progressed.

Colonial Athletic Association Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Pinehurst No. 8, Pinehurst, N.C.
April 22-24
Field: Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Georgia State, Hofstra, James Madison, Old Dominion, Towson, UNC Wilmington, VCU, William & Mary
Defending champion: Towson (+45/885) by 11 strokes over William & Mary; Delaware's Justin Martinson (+3/213) by four strokes over Old Dominion's Eric Onesi
Skinny: Does last year's Cinderella, Towson, have an encore?

Horizon League Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
April 22-24
Field: Butler, Cleveland State, Detroit-Mercy, Loyola (Ill.), Valparaiso, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State, Youngstown State
Defending champion: Detroit-Mercy (+11/875) by six strokes over Wisconsin-Green Bay; Youngstown State's Ryan Stocke (-1/215) by one stroke over Wisconsin-Green Bay's Chad Edert
Skinny: Neither of the conference's usual top teams, Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State, have a great record this season but UDM did win its home tournament last weekend to help build some momentum.

Ivy League Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Galloway National GC, Galloway, N.J.
April 22-24
Field: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale
Defending champion: Columbia (+50/890) by three strokes over Yale; Penn's Scotty Williams (+4/214) in playoff over Columbia's Clark Granum
Skinny: It really does seem to be anybody's title to win. Yale, Princeton, Penn and Columbia are all ranked between 160 and 189 by Golfstat.

Boilermaker Invitational
Kampen Course, West Lafayette, Ind.
April 23-24
Host: Purdue
Field: Bowling Green State, Chicago State, Hartford, Idaho, IUFW, IUPUI, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Purdue, Western Illinois
Defending champion: Illinois (-10/854) by 13 strokes over Ohio State; Illinois' Chris DeForest (-10/206) by six strokes over Ohio State's Brad Smith
Skinny: Curious to see how Notre Dame does coming off the post-Big East Championship high?

Robert Kepler Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
The Scarlet Course at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio
April 23-24
Host: Ohio State
Field: Ball State, Dayton, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Xavier
Defending champion: Eastern Michigan (+9/861) by two strokes over Penn State; Penn State's Kevin Foley (-8/205) by four strokes over Charlotte's Corey Nagy
Skinny: Wonder if the scores will be as high as at the Lady Buckeye Invitational there last weekend, when 10-over won medalist honors? Eastern Michigan won the title last year with a tournament record score over nine-over 861.

Conference USA Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Texarkana CC, Texarkana, Texas
April 24-26
Field: East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulsa, UAB, UCF, UTEP
Defending champion: UCF (-6/858) by 18 strokes over Rice and Southern Mississippi; Rice's Christopher Brown (-7/209) by UCF's Brad Schneider, Connor Arendall and Nuno Henriques
Skinny: Rice had its first C-USA medalist last year with Christopher Brown. This year, the Owls' Michael Whitehead may well make it two in a row.

State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Club at Proto Cima, Lake Ozarks, Mo.
April 25-26
Field: Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Wichita State
Defending champion: Wichita State (+82/922) by 11 strokes over Southern Illinois; Wichita State's Dustin Garza (+13/223) by four strokes over Wichita State's Anders Engell and Drake's Brad Reierson
Skinny: While winning nine of the last 12 MVC titles, Wichita State has never won more than three in a row. Well the Shockers are the three-time reigning champs entering this year's tourney. Missouri State has never one the MVC but is currently ranked highest in the conference.

Big 12 Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Prairie Dunes GC, Hutchinson, Kan.
April 25-27
Field: Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Defending champion: Oklahoma State (-19/1,1133) by 13 strokes over Texas A&M; Texas Tech's Chris Ward (-9/279) by two strokes over Oklahoma State's Peter Uihlein
Skinny: There was a four-year period where Oklahoma State didn't win the conference title (2001-04). Apparently that made them mad in Stillwater because they have won six out of seven since then and are favorites again this year.

Ohio Valley Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
GreyStone GC, Dickson, Tenn.
April 25-27
Field: Austin Peay State, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Morehead State, Murray State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee-Martin
Defending champion: Murray State (+1/865) by 18 strokes over Morehead State; Murray State's Nick Newcomb (-1/215) by one stroke over Murray State's Jared Wolfe
Skinny: Six different teams have won the OVC title in the last eight years.

Southland Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Waterchase GC, Fort Worth
April 25-27
Field: Central Arkansas, Lamar, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin State, Texas State, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio
Defending champion: Southeastern Louisiana (-2/862) by 11 strokes over Central Arkansas; S.E. Louisiana's Alvaro Arizabaleta (-8/208) by eight strokes over Sam Houston State's Fergal Rafferty and Central Arkansas' Steven Lecuyer
Skinny: Southeastern Louisiana has never repeated as Southland champions ... until this year.

Sun Belt Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
The Shoals—Fighting Joe Course, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
April 25-27
Field: Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Denver, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, South Alabama, Troy, Western Kentucky
Defending champion: South Alabama (+8/872) by six strokes over Middle Tennessee State; New Orleans' Oscar Zetterwall (-8/208) by five strokes over North Texas' Rodolfo Cazaubon
Skinny: Middle Tennessee State has won three tournaments this spring and is the favorite to take their second Sun Belt title in three years.


WOMEN
Northeast Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
LPGA International, Daytona Beach, Fla.
April 21-23
Field: Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary's, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (N.Y.), St. Francis (Pa.), Wagner
Defending champion: Fairleigh Dickinson (+100/964) by three strokes over LIU; LIU's Natalie Desjardins (+10/226) by two strokes over Fairleigh Dickinson's Michele Holzwarth
Skinny: The defending champions have claimed four team titles this season and look ready for No. 5.

Ohio Valley Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
GreyStone GC, Dickson, Tenn.
April 21-23
Field: Austin Peay State, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Morehead State, Murray State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech
Defending champion: Jacksonville State (+22/598) by six strokes over Murray State; Austin Peay State's Chelsea Harris (+1/145) by one stroke over Jacksonville State's Lucia Fernandez
Skinny: Morehead State enters the tournament with the best ranking according to Golfstat, but the Eagles have never won the OVC title

State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Weibring GC, Normal, Ill.
April 22-23
Field: Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Wichita State
Defending champion: Illinois State (+45/909) by 14 strokes over Drake; Drake's Olivia Lansing (+3/219) by three strokes over Illinois State's Laura Harris
Skinny: Illinois State is three-time defending champs and playing on their home course. Not sure its a good choice to pick against them.

Big Ten Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Lake Shore CC, Glencoe, Ill.
April 22-24
Field: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Defending champion: Purdue (+12/1,164) by 26 strokes over Michigan State; Purdue's Laura Gonzalez-Escallon (-8/290) by three strokes over Michigan's Ashley Bauer
Skinny: Lone Division I women's conference to play 72 holes for its championship.

Big 12 Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
The Club at Old Hawthorne, Columbia, Mo.
April 22-24
Field: Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Defending champion: Texas A&M (+32/896) by one stroke over Oklahoma State; Oklahoma State's Caroline Hedwall (-6/210) by eight strokes over Baylor's Hannah Burke
Skinny: Can Iowa State continue its impressive season by claiming its first Big 12 title? It's more of the more intriguing questions of the postseason in my mind. Texas hasn't won since 2004 and I think is going to have a say in the matter.

Colonial Athletic Association Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Pinehurst No. 6, Pinehurst, N.C.
April 22-24
Field: Dayton, Georgia State, Hofstra, James Madison, Old Dominion, Richmond, Towson, UNC Wilmington, William & Mary, Xavier
Defending champion: Georgia State (+59/923) by nine strokes over James Madison; Georgia State's Charlotte Lorentzen (+1/217) by 10 strokes over James Madison's Nicole Sakamoto
Skinny: Last time the conference championship was held at Pinehurst No. 6 was in 2006, when Georgia State claimed the crown.

Horizon League Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
April 22-24
Field: Butler, Cleveland State, Detroit-Mercy, Loyola (Ill.), Valparaiso, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Youngstown State
Defending champion: Detroit-Mercy (+79/943) by nine strokes over Youngstown State; Detroit-Mercy's Alainna Stefan (+10/226) by three strokes over Detroit-Mercy's Marni Achterhoff
Skinny: Three different champions in three years with Butler winning in 2008 and Youngstown State in 2009. Butler is the top-ranked team according to Golfstat (at No. 158).

Ivy League Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Atlantic City CC, Northfield, N.Y.
April 22-24
Field: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale
Defending champion: Penn (+65/929) by 22 strokes over Yale; Yale's Alyssa Roland (+11/227) by one stroke over Penn's Isabel Han
Skinny: Yale has the conference's dominant player in freshman Seo Hee Moon. Hard to see anyone stopping her or the Bulldogs.

Mid-American Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Longaberger GC, Nashport, Ohio
April 22-24
Field: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green State, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan
Defending champion: Kent State (+28/892) by 19 strokes over Ball State; Kent State's Martina Gavier (+2/218) by three strokes over Ball State's Brittany Kelly
Skinny: Maybe all you need to know is the next time somebody other than Kent State wins the title, it will be the first time somebody other than Kent State has won the title.
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