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The Syllabus: SEC filings

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

Texas logo.jpeg1. Texas (Last week: 1)
The Longhorns traveled to the West Coast and took care of business (as the kids like to say) at the Western Intercollegiate. Sounds a lot like the desired itinerary come Memorial Day. Unlike some past UT squads, this group shows few signs of letting up as the stretch run begins.
Next event: The Aggie Invitational, Traditions Club, College Station, Texas, April 21-22
Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (2)
For all the glossy victories the Crimson Tide have put up this spring, it's time to make it count when it matters this weekend at Sea Island. No one doubts they've got the talent to win. The only question is whether they press a teeny bit too much with the hardware that's on the line. A great test for the pending NCAA postseason.
Next event: SEC Championship, Sea Island GC (Seaside Course), Sea Island, Ga., April 20-22

Arkansas.gif3. Arkansas (4)
With all due respect to a fantastic regular season, one that should earn Brad McMakin huge accolades, to help legitimize the success the Razorbacks need to have a top-three showing this weekend at SECs. Otherwise, the critics who suggest the team's record is a product of mid-sized schedule gain more leverage.
Next event: SEC Championship, Sea Island GC (Seaside Course), Sea Island, Ga., April 20-22

Auburn logo.gif4. Auburn (5)
Tigers fans: read the above comments for the Razorbacks and appreciate they apply to you too. Blayne Barber provides Nick Clinard's squad as much marquee power as any squad playing in Sea Island. I'll be curious to see just how broad his shoulders become this weekend.
Next event: SEC Championship, Sea Island GC (Seaside Course), Sea Island, Ga., April 20-22

Cal logo.gif5. California (3)
Bears fans: read the above comments for the Razorbacks AND Tigers and appreciate they apply to you too too! Great season thus far and you can't take away those memories or experiences. Yet a teams historic greatness is typically defined by its final three starts of the season.   
Next event: Pac-12 Championship, Trysting Tree GC, Corvallis, Ore., April 27-29



Women
UCLA logo 2008-09.gif1. UCLA (1)
Writing about the Bruins is become a bit like a MadLib game:
A ho-hum __-stroke victory at the __________ was the ____ of the season for UCLA. Meanwhile ________'s share of medalist honors made her the ______ "new" winner this season for the Bruins. (For the record, this week's answers are 6, Pacific Coast Intercollegiate, 6th, Erynne Lee, 4th)
Next event: Pac-12 Championship, Palouse Ridge GC, Pullman, Wash., April 27-29

Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (2)
The nice problem that Mic Potter has entering SECs this weekend is to figure out who his hottest player is write now. Jennifer Kirby is stepping up nicely while Brooke Pancake and Stephanie Meadow appear to be their reliable selves. If the Crimson Tide gets things going early, this could be a runaway. 
Next event: SEC Championship, Blessings GC, Johnson, Ark., April 20-22

USC logo.gif3. USC (3)
If this group gets all five players going at the same time, they can beat anybody. Problem is that they haven't really all been in synch at any point this season. Senior Inah Park posts a career-best T-3 finish at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate this week, but others struggle leaving the Trojans in second place. There's still time to get things moving in the right direction, but not unlimited time.
Next event: Pac-12 Championship, Palouse Ridge GC, Pullman, Wash., April 27-29

LSU logo.gif4. LSU (4)
1992 is the relevant number for the Tigers to think about entering the weekend as it's the year that LSU last won an SEC title. That said, this group has as good a shot at ending the conference championship drought as any from Baton Rogue in quite a while. Only hitch is figuring out if they're bringing Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde to Blessings GC.  
Next event: SEC Championship, Blessings GC, Johnson, Ark., April 20-22

Duke logo.gif5. Duke (NR)
Dan Brooks has had deeper Blue Devil teams in years past, but the newly crowned ACC champions have showed great character with their improvement over the season. Of course, having national player of the year-elect Lindy Duncan in your No. 1 spot doesn't hurt.
Next event: NCAA Regional, May 10-12




STAT OF THE WEEK (Part I)
11
Number of strokes that Chattanooga's Stephan Jaeger defeated teammate Chris Robb and Wofford's Brannan Hudson to win the individual title at the Southern Conference Championship on Tuesday. Jaeger's nine-under 207 total at Daniel Island Club in Florence, S.C., allowed him to tie the conference record for largest margin of victory in the 80-year-old event, matching the 11-stroke victory that Furman's Brad Faxon won the title by in 1983.

The victory also helped Jaegar claim Southern Conference player-of-the-year honors for a third time, becoming the first player in league history to win the award more than twice.


STAT OF THE WEEK
(Part II)

10
Number of consecutive years that a Pepperdine woman has won the West Coast Conference individual title until yesterday when Gonzaga's Victoria Fallgren defeated Seattle's Caitlin McCleary in a playoff at San Juan Oaks GC in Hollister, Calif., to claim medalist honors, becoming the first Bulldog to ever win the conference championship.

 
 

TWEET OF THE WEEK (alumni division)

Tweet of the week (Scott Langley) 4:19:2012.jpg—Scott Langley, former NCAA champion at Illinois
Rough life, driving courtesy cars at PGA Tour events, huh, Scott? #sarcasm #nicedigoncoach



RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

If any of us experiences a quarter of the cool things that Dick Clark did during his 82 years, we would have lived full lives. Rest in peace.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. If you have a prediction for just how either the SEC men's or women's championship is going to play out, I'm all ears. It would be easy to say that Alabama is the favorite in both, so picked the Crimson Tide to sweep at Sea Island and Blessings GC, but you're making a few big assumptions if you go that route.

On the women's side, yes, it seems a safer pick because of just how consistent Mic Potter's squad has looked this spring. I also think there is some "unfinished business" from a year ago that will serve as strong motivation for this year's squad. Yet playing on a campus site like the Blessings GC outside Fayetteville, Ark., adds a different intangible to the tournament. Recall a year ago the Auburn women weren't playing very well but hosted the SEC Championship and became the event winner with a impressive final-day showing. Arkansas has struggled mightily this season, but don't look too much past the home-cooking angle. LSU would be the team that I think has the best chance to unseat Alabama, but don't look past Auburn and Georgia as a sleeper.

On the men's side, Jay Seawell's 'Bama crew seems the logical choice, but the neutral site effect of being at Sea Island gives several teams a more equal footing. Florida and Georgia traditionally play exceptionally well here, and their track records suggest you don't overlook either team even if their records aren't what they have been in seasons past. Then there's Arkansas and Auburn, which have done a whole lot of winner themselves this season and have every right to think they should be the favorites this year. This is such a tight contest that I say as many as six schools (add LSU to the conversation) could honestly make a legitimate claim to win and you'd be hard-pressed to shout them down.



Georgia Tech ACC 2011 win.jpg2. If Georgia Tech wins the ACC men's title at Old North State Club again this year, you have to wonder whether the rest of the conference is going to seek a new site for the event.

I write this mostly in jest, but it is pretty amazing the success the Yellow Jackets and coach Bruce Heppler have had there over the years, winning at least a share of the title if not the title outright five of the last six seasons and eight times since 1999. This time, only senior James White and sophomore Ricky Werenski have experience playing the New London, N.C., course, so if Tech wins again you do begin to wonder if they've got some kind of magic formula for success there.

Maybe they do. When I talked about Heppler's luck at Old North State prior to last year's ACCs, he suggested that the way they set up their home course, GC of Georgia, was very similar to the conditions at Old North State, allowing for an easy transition.

Moreover, the psychological factor of Tech having won so much there in recent years may well work to the team's advantage, even if three Yellow Jackets players are competing at the venue for the first time.

"I think our advantage is we've won the tournament a lot of times, we don't have to prove anything," Heppler said this spring. "We're going to the NCAA Tournament . . . if we can get our five guys to the first tee and just play Old North State and not think about beating Clemson, or Duke, or Virginia, then I think we've got a chance to be the most relaxed team," he said.

"These other schools, all they're talking about is, 'We're tired of this. It's our time. We've got these recruits. This has got to end.' I think they'll be thinking about us, and we need to get five guys to think about hitting one about 310 down the middle and a four iron on the green and a two-putt for a birdie."

 


Jordan Spieth headshot.jpeg3. If Jordan Spieth can post a reasonable number in the opening round of the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open today, I think the Texas freshman lingers on the leader board throughout the weekend. As my colleague, Ron Sirak, wrote yesterday, the field in San Antonio has just two top-50 players in it, and Spieth is not only playing well but playing with confidence.

"I expect myself to play well coming from playing a lot of really difficult courses already this year in our college tournaments and also playing the [PGA Tour's] Northern Trust [Open]," Spieth said. "I have high expectations for myself."

The inevitable questions of when he might turn pro also arose this week, and Spieth did his best to deflect them by saying he's only focused on this tournament. I got a chance to talk to Spieth for an upcoming story in the June issue of Golf Digest. He said to me he believes his game is ready to play at the next level and the decision would be predicated on whether he was mentally ready to give up the neat atmosphere you find attending college. I have no inside knowledge of what Spieth is going to do after this college season is over, but my guess is that the specific outcome of the Valero Texas Open isn't going to sway him one or another. I think his mind is pretty close to being made up already. 



TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
ACC Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Old North State Club, New London, N.C.
April 20-22
Field: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Defending champion: Georgia Tech (-33/831) by 20 strokes over Duke; Georgia Tech's Paul Haley (-10/206) by one stroke over Georgia Tech's Kyle Scott
Skinny: I think it would be a good idea to follow Corbin Mills and Clemson play early in the tournament. Mills is coming off two straight pro events, including the Masters, and while he missed the cut at both he hasn't lost any confidence and has gained lots of experience. The reunion with his team this week could prove successful and help the Tigers claim their first conference title since 2004. 

SEC Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Sea Island GC (Seaside), St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 20-22
Field: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Defending champion: Florida (+8/848) by six strokes over Alabama; Florida's Andres Echavarria (-1/209) in a playoff over LSU's John Peterson
Skinny: For how consistently solid the play in the SEC is year after year, it's interesting to note that five different schools (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky) have won the team title in the last seven years and eight programs have won it since 1995.

Boilermaker Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Kampen Course, West Lafayette, Ind.
April 21-22
Host: Purdue
Field: Akron, Bowling Green State, Creighton, Drake, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State, Loyola (Ill.), Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Purdue, TCU, Toledo, Wichita State, Wisconsin
Defending champion: Purdue (+13/877) by 12 strokes over Idaho; Purdue's Adam Schenk (-3/213) by two strokes over IUPUI's Ben Eagle
Skinny: Purdue has distinct home-course edge on this difficult track, but I'm thinking Illinois will be heard from come Sunday as the Fighting Illini prepare for Big Tens.

The Aggie Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Traditions Club, College Station, Tex.
April 21-11
Host: Texas A&M
Field: Baylor, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Utah
Defending champion: Texas A&M (+5/1,085) by 18 strokes over Oklahoma State; Oklahoma State's Peter Uihlein (-6/210) by five strokes over Texas A&M's Jordan Russell and Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway
Skinny: Hard to find more local support/interest in an event that's only six years old. Curious how the Pac-12 interlopers will do in the Lone Star State.

Conference USA Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Texarkana CC, Texarkana, Texas
April 22-24
Field: East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulsa, UAB, UCF, UTEP
Defending champion: UCF (-2/862) by two strokes over Memphis; Memphis'  Jonathan Fry (-7/209) by one stroke over UCF
Skinny: UCF's three-year hold over its conference foes gets tested this year by upstart SMU. Josh Gregory has won the last two NCAA titles as a coach, but this would be his first conference crown if the Mustangs show the life they've displayed earlier this spring.


WOMEN
SEC Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Blessings GC, Fayetteville, Ark.
April 20-22
Field: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Defending champion: Auburn (E/864) by 11 strokes over Alabama; Tennessee's Erica Popson (-6/210) by one stroke over Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora
Skinny: Similar to the SEC men, the conference title has been swapped among several schools in recent years, with six programs having won in the last 10 seasons.

Mountain West Conference Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Wigwam Resort GC (Red course), Phoenix
Field: Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, Wyoming
Defending champion: TCU (+1/865) by five strokes over UNLV; UNLV's Therese Koelbaek (-7/209) by four strokes over Colorado State's Betsy Kelly and BYU's Kelsey Vines
Skinny: The championship is being held for the 13th time this year. In the last 11 editions, the reigning MWC winner has reclaimed its title seven times.

Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
The Scarlet Course, Columbus, Ohio
April 21-22
Host: Ohio State
Field: Baylor, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State
Defending champion: Michigan State (+54/918) by 18 strokes over Kent State; Michigan State's Caroline Powers (+10/226) by one stroke over Wisconsin's Lindsay Danielson
Skinny: The tournament celebrates its 32nd playing this year. The format is play six, count four scores.
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