Four teams. Two completely different paths. Interesting, to say the least.
Let’s see, am I reading this correctly? I’m looking at the final 2010 Golfweek/Sagarin fall rankings.
At No. 12, I see Iowa. At No. 14 sits San Diego State. Then going far down the list, there is Oregon at No. 41 and Arizona State at No. 38.
A couple of months ago one would have thought these numbers would be just the opposite when the fall season came to a close.
After all, Oregon, winners of the NCAA Southwest Regional, advanced to the semifinals at last season’s NCAA Championship, finished seventh in the final rankings and, with all five NCAA starters returning, was No. 6 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings.
Arizona State tied for eighth at last season’s NCAA Championship (losing in a playoff to advance to match play), ended the year No. 15 in the rankings and started at No. 9 in the Golfweek preseason rankings.
On the other hand, Iowa (T-6 at the Central Regional) and San Diego State (T-8 at the Southwest Regional) did not even qualify for the NCAA finals at The Honors Course. Iowa finished 49th and San Diego State 24th in the final 2009-10 season rankings and neither were among the preseason top 30.
But the numbers don’t lie and the computer shows no emotion or favoritism.
So let’s give credit where credit is due and in this case, through the fall campaign, that credit goes to the Hawkeyes and the Aztecs.
Iowa coach Mark Hankins has done a fantastic job in building this program and bringing it into national prominence.
And what a fall the Hawkeyes have had – easily the best in school history.
After opening with a sixth place at the Gopher Invitational, Hankins’ Hawkeyes won every other tournament they entered. They captured the Golfweek Conference Challenge, the Fighting Irish Gridiron, the Rod Myers Invitational and finished with a win at Royal Oaks.
Do they deserve to be No. 12? Without a doubt, and they might even deserve a spot in the top 10.
At San Diego State, coach Ryan Donovan has had the Aztecs among the nation’s top 50 for years. If the fall is any indication, it looks like it may be time to take that big step forward and become a permanent fixture within the top 20.
In three fall starts, the Aztecs finished no worse than third, that coming in their season opener at the Husky Invitational. They followed with a victory at the prestigious Tucker Invitational and closed out the fall with a second at the Mackenzie.
No 14 is the best a San Diego State team has ever finished a fall season and you had better believe it was well earned.
Still, there’s a lot of golf to be played. I’ve been doing this long enough to watch many a team have an outstanding fall season only to fizzle out in the spring. And the same holds true for teams that don’t fare well in the fall, but bounce back and turn on the burners over the last four months.
I do think Iowa and San Diego State will continue on a similar path this spring. Maybe not as overly dominating as the fall, but solid enough to make some noise come the NCAA postseason.
And, I don’t think Oregon and Arizona State will remain floating around somewhere in the back of the pack come May. Both teams have too much talent and I can see them turning things around.
I mean, coach Casey Martin’s Ducks had had fall-best of sixth place in five fall starts (also recording finishes of ninth at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and 12th at the Mackenzie while posting an overall record of 30-37). Way too uncharacteristic for such a talented squad.
For as long as I can remember, Arizona State has never been overly dominant in the fall. This again was the case for coach Randy Lein’s Sun Devils, who finished in the top 5 at the Topy Cup and the Prestige, but 15th at Olympia Fields and 11th at the Preview. ASU heads into the spring with an overall record of 16-29.
Four teams. Two different paths this fall. In a couple of months we’ll find out what roads they take and if those journeys take them to Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., to play for a national championship.