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The Syllabus: What happens in Vegas ...

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

Men
Texas logo.jpeg1. Texas (Last week: 1)
5th, Win, Win, Win, Win, T-6 vs. T-10, 7th, 13th, 12th, 13th, 13th. The former is the Longhorns' results during the 2011-12 season to date. The latter is the Longhorns' results the past six years at Southern Highlands. The two worlds collide this coming weekend. I'm betting the former wins out.
Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Southern Highlands CC, Las Vegas, March 9-11

Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (2)
The Crimson Tide has lots of momentum going to Vegas after their win in Puerto Rico last month. That said, there's confidence and there's overconfidence. Jay Seawell's job is to make sure his group doesn't venture too far into the red on this one. 
Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Southern Highlands CC, Las Vegas, March 9-11

Auburn logo.gif3. Auburn (3)
The Tigers catch their breath for another week before back-to-back weekends of action. My guess is they're going to have a watchful eye on Golfstat this weekend to see how their competitors are doing in Sin City. 
Next event: Schenkel Invitational, Forest Heights CC, Statesboro, Ga., March 16-18

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif4. UCLA (4)
It's go-time for Patrick Cantlay, who said he's doing his best not to let his upcoming Masters appearance distract him from his college pursuits. A solid showing in Vegas serves both masters for the sophomore. What he's got going for him is the fact that he proved last summer he could turn it on when the lights are brightest.        
Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Southern Highlands CC, Las Vegas, March 9-11

UNLV school logo 2009-10.gif5. UNLV (5)
Should the Rebels play well this weekend, many will suggest home-field advantage played a key role. I'm not saying it won't, but I hope people recognize that these Rebels are actually good regardless of the venue.
Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Southern Highlands CC, Las Vegas, March 9-11


Women

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif1. UCLA (1)
The Bruins are obviously not perfect, as their runner-up finish to Pepperdine at the Bruin Wave can attest. Yet even when coming in second, they seem to show some muscle. The two-stroke defeat happened despite the squad only playing with four players. It's like they were giving strokes to the rest of the field. 
Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz., March 30-April 1

Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (4)
After sputtering out of the gate this spring at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Crimson Tide carded their first win of the season at the rain-shortened Darius Rucker Invite. Timing is pretty important in college golf, and the fact that Mic Potter's team bounced back as well as it speaks well of the direction his team is heading. 
Next event: Lady Gator Invitational, Mark Bostick GC at U. of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., March 16-18

LSU logo.gif3. LSU (2)
Karen Bahnsen has a bunch of characters in Baton Rouge--yes, I'm talking about you Ms. Ernst (aka GolfNasty)--but she's also got a group with character. Hard not to think that their home tourney is going to be win No. 4 on the 2011-12 season.
Next event: LSU Tiger Golf Classic, The University Club, Baton Rouge, La., March 9-11

Arizona 2009-10.gif4. Arizona (3)
I'm on the Wildcats bandwagon, having been thoroughly impressed with their play in the first two starts of the spring. Maybe I get thrown from the cart in the next few weeks, but I'm kind of looking forward to the ride.
Next event: Battle at Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Bernardo GC,
Rancho Bernardo, Calif., March 18-20

Auburn logo.gif5. Auburn (5)
The Tigers have had a some extra time to stew over their so-so T-8 finish at the Sugar Bowl. For some teams that's a help. For others, it's a hindrance. I'm putting my M&Ms on the help side of the bet.    
Next event: Lady Gator Invitational, Mark Bostick GC at U. of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., March 16-18



STAT OF THE WEEK
Ben Kophles winning Palmetoto.jpg6
Number of career wins for Virginia senior Ben Kohles after he claimed the title at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. The Cary, N.C., native now has more victories than any golfer in the history of the Cavalier men's program.

"To be honest, it's a pretty sweet feeling," Kohles (right, photo courtesy of VirginiaSports.com) said of moving to No. 1 on the school's all-time win list. "It was pretty cool to do it this early in the spring. I wasn't hitting the ball all that great out there, but I concentrated on picking my spots. That's probably what I did best this week. I tried not to make mistakes and just play smart."



TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tweet of the week 3:9:2012.jpg—Jon Reehorn, Oregon State men's coach
I like the fact he tried to use Twitter to make a valid point. Tweets don't have to all be one-liners.



RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Admit it, when you heard that sales of Oreo cookies were $2 billion last year and that rough 20 billion were sold in more than 500 million packages, you started trying to figure out how much you contributed to the total.



WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Sadly, I will not be in Sin City this weekend for the biggest tournament thus far in the 2011-12 season, the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm not looking forward to the tournament. On the contrary, I haven't really been this excited about a regular season college event in a while now.

Thankfully, what goes on in Vegas this weekend will not stay in Vegas, as the outcome from the tournament will be felt around the country. With a field packed 10-deep with top 25 schools in the most recent Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll—and so many teams with seemingly legitimate chances to win, there is a lot we can learn from what's going to happen over the course of the coming three days at Southern Highlands GC.

So, how do I see it shaking out? Predictions are dangerous business but I see this becoming a three-team tussle between Texas, UNLV and UCLA. Given the Rebels' impressive record in the event in the recent past--they've won the tournament outright or claimed a share of the title four times in the last six years and five times since the event moved to Southern Highlands in 2002--I think Dwaine Knight's squad proves that combining local knowledge with roster depth results a fifth win in 2011-12, and their biggest one yet.


2. The UCLA women played short-handed at the Bruin Wave Invitational this past week, with only four players (Lee Lopez, Erynne Lee, Tiffany Lua and Ani Gulugian) competing while Kyle Roig and Brianna Do were left out of the lineup. The two player who missed the event had been suspended for violating team rules. Both will be eligible to compete in the team's next start.

School officials would not elaborate on what the players did to warrant the suspension except to say that it was "no big deal." Maybe that's the case, but if what Roig and Do did was serious enough to keep them from competing, and keep the Bruins from playing with five players, it's hard to think it was all that minor a thing. After all, without the luxury of being able to drop a score, UCLA finished second in the tournament to co-host Pepperdine, losing by two strokes. You could make the argument that the suspensions cost UCLA a team title. Granted it wasn't a Pac-12 or NCAA title, but every tournament victory that a school can earn is valuable.

Coach Carrie Forsyth can only hope that by virtue of the fact that UCLA didn't win the event, the lesson that was being suspended was indeed heard loud and clear. The defending national champions have every right to believe that if they keep focused, they can claim a second NCAA title in May. But even the slightest distraction makes what seems like an inevitable win become a much tougher proposition.   



TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Southern Highlands GC, Las Vegas
March 9-11
Host: UNLV
Defending champions: Oklahoma State (-1/863) by seven strokes over Texas A&M; Oklahoma State's Morgan Hoffmann (-10/206) by two strokes over Texas A&M's Jordan Russell
Field: Alabama, Arizona State, California, Duke, Florida, New Mexico State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UCLA, UNLV, USC
Skinny: Forget about the standout field. The course itself makes this a premier event. Expect Augusta National-like slick greens.

Seminole Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Southwood GC, Tallahassee, Fla.
March 9-11
Host: Florida State
Defending champions: Arkansas (-8/844) by three strokes over Kennesaw State; Florida State's Drew Kittleson, Kennesaw State's Jeff Karlsson and Arkansas' Sebastian Cappelen (-5/208) co-medalists
Field: Arkansas State, Boston College, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Jacksonville, James Madison, Kennesaw State, Michigan State, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Florida, Toledo, Troy
Skinny: With Georgia Tech in the same field as Boston College, it marks only the second time in the 2011-12 season that the Eagles will in the same tournament with another ACC school. (First came at N.C. State's Wolfpack Intercollegiate last October.)

Golf Pride Pinehurst Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Pinehurst Resort, No. 6, Pinehurst, N.C.
March 10-11
Host: Pinehurst Resort
Defending champions: UNC Wilmington (+21/873) by six strokes over Virginia Tech; UNC Wilmington's Josh Brock (-1/212) in a playoff over VCU's Matt Ball Jr.
Field: Ball State, Belmont, Eastern Kentucky, Marshall, Old Dominion, Penn State, Richmond, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, VCU, Villanova, Virginia Tech
Skinny: No. 52 Virginia Tech is the highest ranked program in the field, according to Golfstat

General Jim Hackler Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
DeBordieu GC, Georgetown, S.C.
March 11-12
Host: Coastal Carolina
Defending champions: Augusta State (+14/878) by three strokes over Virginia; Augusta State's Henrik Norlander (-6/210) by four strokes over Virginia's Amory Davis
Field: Air Force, Arkansas, Augusta State, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Furman, Lamar, Maryland, Navy, New Mexico, North Florida, Pepperdine, Tennessee, Virginia
Skinny: The tournament has a new home after being held at TPC Myrtle Beach for the past nine years. 

Triumph at Paumn Valley
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Pauma Valley GC, Pauma Valley, Calif.
March 12-13
Host: San Francisco
Defending champions: Central Arkansas (+22/874) by 19 strokes over San Francisco; San Francisco's Ji Hwan Park (-3/210) by one stroke over Central Arkansas' Steven Lecuyer
Field: Army, Austin Peay, Bowling Green State, British Columbia, CSU Bakersfield, CSU San Marcos, Central Arkansas, Columbia, Manitoba, San Francisco, Yale
Skinny: Among the most eclectic fields (two Ivys, two Canadian schools and just three from California) of any tournament this spring


WOMEN
LSU Golf Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
University Club, Baton Rouge, La.
March 9-11
Host: LSU
Defending champions: Arkansas (+24/888) by seven strokes over Virginia; Duke's Lindy Duncan (+2/218) in a playoff over Louisville's Anna Karin Ljungstrom
Field: College of Charleston, Kentucky, LSU, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisville, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Purdue, TCU, Tennessee, UNC Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Virginia
Skinny: Three of the top five teams in last year's event (Arkansas, Duke, Alabama) are missing this time around.

Rio Verde Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Quail Run at Rio Verde CC, Rio Verde, Ariz.
March 9-11
Host: Western Michigan
Defending champions: Eastern Michigan (+46/910) by one stroke over Northern Arizona; Missouri State's Catherine Dolan (+2/218) by four strokes over four players
Field: Akron, Arkansas-Little Rock, Ball State, Bradley, Eastern Michigan, Kansas, Missouri State, Northern Arizona, Ohio, Penn State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Toledo, Western Michigan, Wichita State, Xavier, Yale
Skinny: Several Midwestern programs trying to duck the cold weather one last time this spring with a trip to the Arizona desert.

JMU Eagle Landing Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Eagle Landing GC, Orange Park, Fla.
March 9-11
Host: James Madison
Defending champions: Chattanooga (-5/859) by 33 strokes over East Carolina; Chattanooga's Christine Wolf (-7/209) by four strokes over Chattanooga's Emma de Groot
Field: Campbell, Chattanooga, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Elon, Illinois, Illinois State, Jacksonville, James Madison, Maryland, Morehead State, Old Dominion, Radford, Samford, South Florida, Stetson, UNC Greensboro, Western Carolina
Skinny: Can Chattanooga blitz the field like it did last year? The Lady Mocs posted the lowest score in each round by seven strokes, five strokes and 20 strokes, respectively.

Fresno State Lexus Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Copper RIver CC, Fresno, Calif.
March 12-13
Host: Fresno State
Defending champions: UC Davis (+29/893) by 17 strokes over Cal Poly; San Francisco's Katrina Hegge (E/216) by three strokes over UC Davis' Alice Kim
Field: Boise State, Columbia, CSU Fullterton, Fresno State, Montana, Nevada, Portland State, Sacramento State, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, UC Riverside, Wyoming
Skinny: Is this the week San Jose State finally breaks through? The Spartans haven't finished better than fifth all season, but they're the top-ranked team at No. 71 in the field at Copper River, according to Golfstat.

Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Kaneohe Klipper GC, Honolulu
March 13-14
Host: Hawaii
Defending champions: Arizona State (+23/887) by 15 strokes over Arizona; Arizona State's Carlota Ciganda (-1/215) by one stroke over Arizona's Alejandra Llaneza
Field: Coastal Carolina, Gonzaga, Hawaii, Hawaii-Hilo, Idaho, Iowa, Montana State, North Texas, Northern Colorado, Texas A&M, Texas State, UC Davis, UTEP, Washington State
Skinny: At 5,907 yards, Kaneohe Klipper would seem like a push over. But don't let the yardage fool you; only once in the last five years has the winning team score been lower than Arizona State's 23-over showing last year (2008, Oklahoma State, +13), and the medalist broken par just twice (Arizona's Alison Walshe, -3, 2008 and Ciganda last year).

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