There were several teams that made statement victories this past week, but there were also a few that failed to perform up to expectations. Let’s see who did well, and who disappointed, in thumbs up/thumbs down.
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1. Alabama. For most of the year, the battle for the No. 1 spot in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings has been between Oklahoma State and UCLA. However, Alabama might start to get close to that No. 1 spot after winning its third tournament of the season. With a five-stroke victory over Georgia Tech, and by finishing 11 strokes better than Oklahoma State, ’Bama certainly looked like a No. 1 team. The Crimson Tide have three players ranked inside the top 40, and Hunter Hamrick who has struggled a bit this year is 108th. We know that Hamrick is talented, as is the rest of the Alabama squad, and they might be able to solidify that with a No. 1 ranking when the spring wraps up.
2. Iowa State (women). After flirting with pulling off the upset at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, the Cyclones sealed the deal this time at the Central District Invitational. Iowa State nearly upset top-ranked Alabama in Puerto Rico, but this time they were able to hold off and defeat fourth-ranked LSU by nine shots. This Cyclones team has quietly climbed the rankings – now 20th in the country – and after this victory will go up a few more spots. This win was the team’s second on the season, to go along with its three runners-up and two fourth-place finishes. The Big 12 has been dominated by Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M the past few years, but that is going to change as the Cyclones are now the team to beat from that conference.
3. Kentucky. If there was one team that needed a strong finish at a tournament this week, it was the Wildcats. Entering the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate, Kentucky was ranked 115th, with a head-to-head record of 37-37-1. Both of those numbers will improve as Kentucky finished second behind Middle Tennessee State. This was the team’s third top-5 finish of the season, but Kentucky still has more work to do after a very slow start in the fall. A victory would have been great for Kentucky, but so is a second-place finish in which the Wildcats beat several teams ranked ahead of them. Crunch time started for the Wildcats when the spring season started, and it’s good to see they have come out ready to go.
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1. Louisville. It was this time last year that Louisville was a team on the bubble to make the postseason, but also a team favored to win the Big East Conference. Now, this team is ranked 99th in the country and just finished 11th at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate. The Cardinals don’t have a victory this season, and their best finish has been a fourth-place finish (twice). Luckily for Louisville, the Big East isn’t as strong as other conferences, and has only one other team ranked inside the top 100 (Notre Dame, 29th).
2. The Big Ten. With four teams ranked inside the top 35, only one posted a top-10 finish at the Puerto Rico Classic. That was Ohio State, which finished 10th. There is no doubt that the Big Ten has strong, competitive teams, but in a field that had teams from the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, the only teams the Big Ten schools defeated were UNC-Greensboro of the Southern Conference and East Tennessee State of the Atlantic Sun. If the Big Ten wants to start gaining more respect, then it’s going to need a few of its teams to post some good results in tournaments full of top-20 teams.
3. Arkansas (women). The Central District Invitational was Arkansas’ first tournament of the spring, but it was for a few other teams in the field, as well. The Razorbacks finished 11th and were the second-highest ranked team in the field, after conference rival LSU. Arkansas is ranked 13th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and picked up head-to-head losses to nine of the 10 teams. Next up for Arkansas will be the Lady Gator in Gainesville, Fla., and that should be a place for the team to rebound. The Razorbacks are a legitimate top-15 team and should be able to play better at their next event.