The Loop

This Week's Syllabus: Jan. 27-Feb. 2

January 27, 2011


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


__[#image: /photos/55ad7373add713143b424ee7]|||Thumbnail image for Oklahoma-state-logo-latest.jpg|||

1. Oklahoma State (Last edition: 1)

To those Cowboy fans who believe I've been showing disrespect to Brandon Weeden and his addition to the OSU roster, that's not my intention. Adding the All-Big 12 quarterback could prove to be a brilliant move by Mike McGraw in terms of having this veteran athlete relate his experiences to the team and offer some leadership. My point, though, is that it's going to be highly unlikely he ever actually cracks the starting five on a team as talented as OSU.

*Spring opener: *Hawaii-Hilo Invitational, Waikoloa Beach Resort, Kohala Coast, Hawaii, Feb. 2-4


2. UCLA (2)

Gregor Main and Patrick Cantlay got nice starts to the spring season by attending the U.S. Walker Cup practice session earlier this month in Florida. The Bruins will need any edge they can get considering they have arguably the toughest schedule of any team entering the second half of the 2010-11 campaign.

*Spring opener: *Hawaii-Hilo Invitational, Waikoloa Beach Resort, Kohala Coast, Hawaii, Feb. 2-4


3. Florida (4)

You've got to like the Gators chances to get off to a good start in the spring; they're one of only two top-25 teams competing at the Stadium Course in their opening tournament, then play host at the Gator Invitational, an event they have won the past seven years.

Spring opener: Jacksonville Invitational, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 1-2


4. Alabama (3)

The cover of the Crimson Tide's interactive media guide is great. If the players carry half the swagger it looks like they have in those pictures, the Tide will most certainly roll this spring. Most importantly, I think they can back that attitude up on the course.

*Spring opener: *Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 20-22


5. Georgia Tech (NR)

OK, maybe I'm guilty of drinking the Kool-Aid, but after talking with Bruce Heppler about his squad, I like the fact he's got four guys back from a team that reached match play at last year's NCAA Championship. Better yet, three (J.T. Griffin,Kyle Scott and Paul Haley) are fifth-year seniors who've all but wrapped up their academic load and will be able to focus pretty exclusively on golf this semester.

*Spring opener: *Hawaii-Hilo Invitational, Waikoloa Beach Resort, Kohala Coast, Hawaii, Feb. 2-4



1. Alabama (1)

The Crimson Tide enter the spring with a shag bag full of expectations. The players no doubt have the talent to claim conference and national titles, but how will having the proverbial bullseye on their back after their mental approach? That's the biggest question for Alabama fans entering the spring

Spring opener: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 13-15


2. UCLA (2)

I don't think there is any clear cut favorite in the women's game, with the Bruins hanging tough with Alabama and the others behind them not far away either. However, if I had to pick one team could run away from everyone this spring, I think I'd go with the ladies of Westwood.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 14-16


3. USC (3)

Considering all the roster turnover in the offseason, the Trojans' fall performance was impressively strong. Only true concern is whether Lisa McCloskey can sustain the level of play she's shown since last summer. It's a lot to expect out of anyone to play at as high a level as she has.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 14-16


4. LSU (4)

The Tigers may benefit from having the spotlight in the southeast on Alabama. Let the Crimson Tide be the team everyone is chasing. Karen Bahnsen has enough good players to give anyone a run for their money this spring.

Spring opener: Central District Invitational, River Wilderness GC, Parrish, Fla., Feb. 21-22


5. Purdue (5)

Had Proposal 2010-99, which would have likely severely limited teams ability to compete in U.S. territories, not been defeated at the recent NCAA Convention, this tournament likely would have been played for the last time. Don't be surprised if Purdue coach Devon Brouse and his group  celebrate the proposal's demise by running off with the team title.

Spring opener: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 13-15


__4.44 & 5.84

Average number of tournaments being played by the top 25 teams on the Golf World/NGCA women's coaches' poll compared to the average number of tournaments being played by the top 25 teams on the Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll.


We're all getting old here as__Phil Mickelson is set to play in the PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines this week for the 22nd time in his career.


__Over the past decade, college programs have routinely filled out their rosters at mid-season by bringing in new recruits at the start of the spring semester. News out of Atlanta, though, put a different twist on the practice of January freshman, or J frosh, one that might be something other schools look into down the road.

Ollie Schniederjans and__Anders Albertson both joined the Georgia Tech men's team earlier this month__, enrolling at school after being among the top high school prospects in the state of Georgia. While on scholarship and able to practice and play for the team, the current plan says Yellow Jacket coach Bruce Heppler is for the two not to play in any tournaments during the spring semester, using the time instead to get acclimated to college life and keeping their full four years of eligibility. It's the same blueprint that was followed a year ago by current Tech freshman Richard Werenski.

Heppler said the idea behind the early enrollment, a practice that's caught on dramatically in college football, is fairly obvious. By starting school a semester early, the players have a chance to get acclimated to campus life. Similarly, they get a chance to assimilate into the team environment, get comfortable with the practice routines and learn the golf courses the school uses without the pressure that comes with leaving campus while traveling to events.

"It lets you get your feet wet and learn how to go to college, learn how to start balancing your time," Heppler said. "You begin to have some very long days, which is eventually what college golfers are going to face. To get ahead of that, I think is tremendous."

Heppler noted that Werenski's contributions to the team this past fall, when he played in four tournaments and posted a 73.83 average, can be attributed at least partially to his early enrollment the previous January and having gone through the transition to college well before the 2010-11 season got underway. Particularly, having already played against most of his teammates in qualifiers last spring allow him to be more at ease when they competed again this fall.

In the case of Schniederjans, the Power Springs, Ga., native had considered wrapping up high school a full year early, but wanted to compete in the Junior Ryder Cup among other events last fall. Having already accelerated his high school class schedule, he was able to graduate in December and begin college early. Albertson, from Woodstock, Ga., had also taken larger high-school class loads, which allowed him to inquire about early college enrollment when he met with Heppler.

There are some down sides to bringing in players mid-year, Heppler notes, particularly knowing they aren't likely going to contribute in regular-season and post-season events. There's a risk of alienating high school coaches who will be losing some of their best players during there scholastic seasons in the spring. "Ollie's team won the state championship last year and won it a couple times before," Heppler said, noting that his coach wasn't happy to see him go but understood the situation. "It's not like football, where the players wrap up their senior seasons in the fall and can go off to college without hurting their high school team."

Additionally, there's the cost of tuition, dorms and books. Most schools don't necessarily have scholarship money laying around, nor are coaches inclined to doll out the dollars to players that aren't expected to play. "We were in a situation where we could help these guys this semester and make it where it was affordable for them [to enroll early]," said Heppler, who also noted that both players academic standing allowed them to receive funds through the state's Hope Scholarship program.

For these reasons, Heppler said he didn't think early enrollments for golfers who weren't actually going to compete during the spring would become a regular practice any time soon. "With home schooling, where you've got some flexibility with [when a player is done with high school], maybe you'll see it. But there are some challenges getting it done."

Another potential wrench in the early-acclimation plan: if the early enrollee starts playing well in practice and qualifiers. Heppler said that in the Yellow Jackets qualifying for next week's Hawaii-Hilo Invitational, Albertson actually finished second and earned a spot on the travel team. Heppler gave his newcomer a choice, and Albertson decided to stay home rather than start the clock on his eligibility.

"But you know to jump in there and have some success against some guys that next year you're going to be playing against to [make the starting lineup]," Heppler said. "I think that does a lot for your confidence."

Indeed, with three fifth-year seniors on the roster this year, Heppler knows that he'll have some holes to fill on his roster come next fall. Having Schneiderjans and Albertson already on campus will likely go a long way to addressing that issue.



____Arizona Intercollegiate

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Arizona National GC, Tuscon

Jan. 31-Feb. 1

Host: Arizona

Field: Arizona, BYU, California, Fresno State, Hartford, New Mexico, Pacific, Pepperdine, San Diego State, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UTEP, UT San Antonio, UNLV, Utah

Defending champion: California (29-under 823) by one stroke over Arizona; Arizona's Rich Saferian (13-under 200) by three strokes over Fresno State's Bhavik Patel and California's Michael Weaver

__Skinny:__A year ago, Steve Desimone's Cal squad caught some people off guard by coming out and claiming the traditional spring opener. The Bears won't catch many people by surprise this time around, however, being the 14th ranked team in the final Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll with two team wins in the fall and three players with sub-72.0 scoring averages.

__JU Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Jan. 31- Feb. 1

Host: Jacksonville

Field: Charleston Southern, Clemson, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Jacksonville State, James Madison, Liberty, Mercer, North Florida, Old Dominion, Wake Forest

Defending champion: East Tennessee State (29-over 893) by seven strokes over Wake Forest; Wake Forest's Brendon Gielow (two-over 218) by one stroke over Charleston Southern's Kelvin Day

Skinny: The Stadium Course isn't the easiest venue for players to knock off the winter rust, with third-ranked Florida the clear favorite on paper. It will be interesting to see what kind of start Clemson can get off to, seeing that the Tigers finished the fall unranked and with a 21-31-1 record head-to-head against their opponents.

__Hawaii-Hilo Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Waikoloa Beach Resort, Kohala Coast, Hawaii

Feb. 2-4

Host: Hawaii-Hilo

Field: Arizona State, Colorado, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Hawaii-Hilo, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, San Francisco, San Jose State, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Washington, Western Washington

Defending champion: Stanford (two-over 866) by three strokes over Oregon and Washington; Texas' Bobby Hudson (seven-under 209) by one stroke over Florida State's Brooks Koepka

Skinny: Three of the top five schools in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll, including top-ranked Oklahoma State, and eight of the top 25 make the trip to the Pacific isle.