College roundtable: 5 key questions as fall winds down
With the 2013 fall men's college golf season winding down, Golfweek staffers Cassie Stein and Brentley Romine take a look back on the fall – and look ahead to the spring.
Will top-ranked Alabama equal Cal's 11-win season from a year ago? Who was the biggest surprise? Which freshman made the biggest impact?
They answer those questions and more in this college roundtable:
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1. Can No. 1 Alabama 'pull a California’ and win 11 tournaments this season?
Brentley Romine, Assistant Editor Golfweek.com: Considering Alabama would have to win every tournament through the NCAA Regionals, I'm going to go with no. The Tide is definitely the national-championship favorite as of right now, but 11 wins would be a reach, especially with the Southern Highlands, Linger Longer and SEC Championship on its spring slate.
Cassie Stein, Assistant Editor Golfweek.com: In one word: Yes. The defending NCAA National champions look better than they do last year, even without 2011-12 College Player of the Year Justin Thomas, if that’s possible (no offense, JT). All five players – at different times – have stepped up in certain rounds making for an average of 15.3-stroke winning margin in three tournaments this fall. Everyone said it may not be done again, but think again.
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2. What freshman has had the biggest impact for his team?
Romine: Florida State's Jack Maguire, at No. 34 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, might be ranked well behind Alabama's Robby Shelton, a freshman who is No. 2, has had arguably the biggest impact. He's a major player in the Seminoles' young lineup, which lost its best player, Daniel Berger, after last season.
Stein: When you lose an All-American in Thomas to the professional game, its usually hard to find a quick and easy replacement. But Robby Shelton, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings, has done that. He won in his first tournament with the Tide at the Olympia Fields Illini Invitational. He’s got the game to help lead this team to back-to-back NCAA National Championship titles.
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3. What team was the biggest surprise? Individual?
Romine: Team: Southeastern Louisiana is my surprise team at No. 39 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. The Lions impressed with a 16-shot victory at the David Toms Intercollegiate and finished second in their last event. Individual: Three victories from Virginia Tech's Scott Vincent make the junior from Zimbabwe my surprise player.
Stein: Team: Virginia. The Cavaliers are ranked 12th by Golfweek and picked up a win at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate. Individual: Virginia Tech junior Scott Vincent. He has won three events in four starts, and the other finish: Fourth.
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4. What team has the best chance to get into the top 10 of the Golfweek Rankings in the spring?
Romine: Stanford, at No. 11, is my pick. There's just too much talent – both young and experience – to keep the Cardinal out of the top 10 by season's end. Freshmen Jim Liu and Maverick McNealy have gotten some early playing time, and Patrick Rodgers, Cameron Wilson and David Boote are already proven players. Also, don't be surprised to see a balanced Oklahoma team find its way inside the top 10, as well.
Stein: Central Florida. The team has some veteran leaders as well as a crew of up-and-coming players. The 16th-ranked team has All-American Greg Eason, Ricardo Gouveia and Kyle Wilshire, while freshman Ryan Stovash has made an early impact for the team. Could this be the year where an underdog wins the NCAAs? Maybe, look out for the Knights.
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5. Who is the early candidate for the Haskins Award?
Romine: While I want to go with Virginia Tech's Scott Vincent, who leads the country with three individual victories this fall, I'm going to pick Alabama's Trey Mullinax. He's the best player on the best team right now, and is No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Stein: Everyone’s initial reaction is Va. Tech’s Vincent due to his three victories in four events, but I pick California’s Brandon Hagy. The fifth-ranked player in the country has started the season with four top-10 finishes in as many starts, including a win at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational.