During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the 2014 spring season for each conference. Today, we look at the Atlantic 10 Conference:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: VCU
• Player to watch: Danny Pizetoski, Richmond. While VCU may have the best roster top to bottom, Richmond has some standout players. Pizetoski is one of those guys. He shot five of 11 rounds under par this fall.
• Freshman to watch: Keegan Hoff, Richmond. Hoff only played in two tournaments this fall, but impressed while he was on the course. He posted a top-3 finish and a scoring average of 71.6.
• Conference championship: April 25-27, TPC Tampa Bay, Tampa, Fla.
• Past champions (since 2009): Charlotte (2013), George Washington (2012), Charlotte (2011), Charlotte (2010), Charlotte (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
• VCU (74): VCU has a group of players that have proven in the fall they can go low at any time. Five Rams posted a stroke average of less than 74, and four players shot at least one round in the 60s. VCU finished in the top 10 in each of its five fall events and won the Outerbanks Intercollegiate. VCU returns four contributors from its runner-up finish at the A-10 Championship last year, including first team all-conference selections Rocky Khara and Steffen Harm. With perennial power Charlotte moving on to Conference USA – the 49ers won seven of the past eight A-10 Championships – VCU has a chance to step up and win.
• Richmond (135): Richmond posted two top-5 finishes in the fall, including a win in its first tournament of the year and a fourth-place performance at the VCU Shootout. The Spiders were able to beat out host VCU, which may turn out to be the team to beat in the A-10 this season. Richmond lost All-Atlantic 10 first-team selection Daniel Walker, but has seen freshman Keegan Hoff and junior Danny Pizetoski play well in the fall. Hoff led the team with a 71.6 stroke average in the fall, and Pizetoski recorded an individual win at the Marshall Invitational after firing two rounds in the 60s.
• Rhode Island (203): Rhode Island nabbed three top-5 finishes in six tournaments this fall. Sophomore Joe Leavitt led the Rams with four top-10 performances, including an individual win in his final tournament of the fall. Three of the four Rams to play in all six fall tournaments are underclassmen, giving this year’s team a different look from the group that finished 10th at the A-10 Championship last year.
• Dayton (239): Dayton showed a lot of different looks in the fall, with only three golfers playing in all six tournaments and every student-athlete on the roster playing in at least one tournament. With only two of the team’s five leaders in stroke average returning from last season, the Flyers have had to find a new mix to go with. Senior Andrew Steffensmeier led the team in terms of stroke average in the fall (73.71), and freshman Caleb Wolters earned the team’s highest individual finish with a seventh-place showing at the Louisville Cardinal Intercollegiate.
• George Mason (244): In its first fall as a member of the A-10, George Mason did not light up the competition, with a sixth-place finish at the Patriot Collegiate turning out to be its best finish. None of the Patriots turned out a scoring average under 74, and only one shot a round in the 60s during the fall. Sophomore Mark Folkwein carded a 68 and a 69 in the final two rounds of the Patriot Collegiate, taking second place. No other members of the George Mason roster managed a top-10 finish in the fall.
• La Salle (251): La Salle finished the fall season on a positive note, earning a fifth-place finish at the Seton Hall Intercollegiate. Mike Johnson and Greg Goodreds finished in a tie for eighth, taking the team’s only two top-10 individual finishes. Johnson led the team with a 73.9 stroke average, but only posted two of his 13 rounds under par. The Explorers lost only one contributor from last year’s A-10 Championship, where they finished ninth.
• St. Joseph’s (253): Saint Joseph’s did not make much noise as a team in the fall, but sophomore T.J. McNulty proved he could be a force to be reckoned with in the spring. McNulty finished the fall with three top-10 finishes individually in seven tournaments. He earned A-10 Co-Golfer of the Week after shooting a 64 in the second round of the Cobra Puma Invitational en route to a fifth-place finish.
• St. Bonaventure (263): As a freshman, Josh Stauffer led Saint Bonaventure with a 74.4 stroke average, earning three A-10 Rookie of the Week awards throughout the season. He kept the ball rolling this fall as a sophomore, earning several top-10 finishes for the Bonnies. Saint Bonaventure did not play a high level of competition in the fall, but managed six top-10 finishes in as many tournaments.
• George Washington (264): George Washington only had two golfers play in all five tournaments in the fall. None of its players posted a top-10 individual finish or a scoring average below 75. George Washington returns four of its contributors from last year’s A-10 Championship, but lost Howard Hickey, who finished in a tie for seventh individually. Hickey transferred to Armstrong Atlantic State.
• Fordham (272): Fordham finished in the bottom half of the standings in each of the seven tournaments it played in the fall. Only two Rams posted a scoring average less than 79 in the fall season, Jeff Hogan (75.7) and Brandon Nolan (76.9). Fordham does a veteran presence, with eight upperclassmen on a roster of 10.
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Lance Ringler predicts who will win the conference title
VCU is and should be the clear favorite this spring. VCU could be in a situation where it is a must-win to make the postseason. The Rams will be the favorite and if they are in a must-win situation to advance, don’t expect an upset in this conference.