Next up on our men’s 2014 fall countdown, No. 4 Illinois:
Editor’s note: The rankings are those of our college expert, Lance Ringler, as he looked ahead to the collegiate preseason. The official Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings won’t be available until a couple of weeks into the fall season. Our staff of Andy Zunz, Cassie Stein and Brentley Romine are writing the individual profiles of the teams.
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Illinois Fighting Illini
Preseason rank: 4
Final 2013-14 Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 7
2013-14 in review: Illinois won three times during the regular season and finished second at the Big Ten Championship. The Illini then won the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional and took that momentum into the NCAA Championship at Prairie Dunes, where Illinois made match play before falling in the quarterfinals to Stanford.
Notable departures: Jonathan Hauter
Key returnees: seniors Brian Campbell and Alex Burge, juniors Thomas Detry, Charlie Danielson and David Kim
Newcomers of note: freshmen Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer
Circled on the fall calendar: Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational, Sept. 13-15, Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club
Fall outlook: The Illini return five of their top six players from last season, including three All-Americans in Campbell, Danielson and Detry. Freshmen Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer will be expected to compete right away. Illinois has made match play at the NCAA Championship in three out of the last four seasons, but this year’s team could be even better, which is why a lot is expected out of the Illini this season.
Coach’s perspective: “We’ve been under the radar, we’ve had to earn people’s respect, and we’ve done it. . . . All five guys returning have had significant experience. You bring that experience back, including three All-Americans, and you add two junior All-Americans, you’re going to have to learn to deal with bigger expectations.” – head coach Mike Small