Events to watch: Ridges, Lone Star, David Toms
Bank of Tennessee at the Ridges
Date: Oct. 15-17
Field: Chattanooga, Coastal Carolina, Denver, ETSU, Kent State, Louisville, Michigan, Missouri, UNCW, UNC, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest.
The scoop: This 14-team field will be a fun one to watch. Traditionally, schools from Tennessee play well, but neither UTC, ETSU nor Tennessee are guaranteed the win. Several other teams in the field are looking to rebound after a slow start to the year, like UNC, Kent State and Missouri.
Wildman’s pick: Michigan. Based on rankings, Wake would be the pick, but I like the Wolverines in this one. Earlier in the week I spoke with Indiana coach Mike Mayer and he said it best when describing teams in the Big Ten: “Sneaky.” The Wolverines let one slip away at the Rod Myers Invitational after holding the lead through 18 holes. Lion Kim is playing well, and Big Ten teams often are overlooked. This week I’m looking at the Wolverines to make a statement victory, not just for them, but for the Big Ten, as well. Let’s see if the one Big Ten team in the field can sneak out the ‘W.’
Sleeper: Virginia. If the Big Ten is a sneaky conference, then the ’Cavs have been sneaking around the top 25 of the rankings the past couple of years. Virginia played OK at the Ping/Golfweek Preview, finishing 10th, but then they came back strong and won the Koch Intercollegiate. For some reason, Virginia continues to be a team that just can’t seem to get that reputation for having a strong team, and that needs to stop.
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Lone Star Invite at Briggs Ranch
Date: Oct. 17-18
Field: UTSA, North Texas, Houston, Notre Dame, UT Arlington, UTEP, SFA, Louisiana Monroe, Weber State, UT Pan American, Sam Houston State, Texas State
The scoop: The tournament looks like a Texas Shootout, as nine schools from Texas will compete in the 12-team field. A couple schools come in with some momentum, like Notre Dame, which nearly won this week’s Firestone Invitational after losing by a shot to Indiana. North Texas finds itself ranked No. 20 in the country after starting the year with a win at the UTA Watherchase Invitational and a second at the William Tucker Intercollegiate.
Wildman’s pick: Notre Dame. Had I just said a team from Texas, I had a 75 percent chance of getting it right. Instead, I’m going with the Irish and hoping their luck rubs off on my pick. Notre Dame played really well at the Firestone, shooting 14 under as a team and nearly pulling out a victory. So far this year, Notre Dame has been impressive with a second at Kiawah, a second at their home event (the Fighting Irish Classic), and then this week’s runner-up at the Firestone. Can the Irish get over the hump this week and step in to the winner’s circle? I think yes.
Sleeper: North Texas. What a job Brad Stracke has done with the Mean Green. If I were to ask you to think of top 25 teams in the country right now, would you even think to say UNT? This tournament means more to a program like UNT because, with all of those Texas schools in the field, you know coaches will use that as a recruiting advantage. The winner of this tournament, if from the state of Texas, will earn more than a trophy for a case, but also perhaps some bragging rights to use down the road in a potential recruit’s living room.
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David Toms Intercollegiate
Date: Oct. 18-19
Field: Arkansas, Georgia Southern, Kansas State, LSU, Louisiana Tech, MTSU, Miss St., UNF, Ole Miss, Rice, South Alabama, Southeast Louisiana, UAB, Louisiana-Lafayette.
The scoop: LSU alum David Toms hosts the event as he welcomes teams to compete against his alma mater. A solid 14-team field will try to go down to the Bayou and defeat the local favorite LSU. Kansas State is a team constantly on the postseason bubble, but could use a strong finish here to change that. Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, and UNF will also give LSU a run for its money.
Wildman’s pick: LSU. There is no secret that the SEC is a very talented and deep conference. It is also no secret that LSU is a very strong team early in the season. Last year LSU struggled a bit down the stretch, and we were left wanting more from the Bayou Bengals. Coach Chuck Winstead started his team off with a win at the Gopher Invitational before there most recent sixth-place finish at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational. The Tigers won their home event last year, and I see them doing the same thing again this year.
Sleeper: Louisiana-Lafayette. Not exactly a rival of LSU, but it is in-state competition. The Ragin’ Cajuns are currently ranked No. 92 in the country, but that could change with a win this week. Led by juniors Andrew Noto and Phillip Fendt, coach Theo Sliman’s squad can really cause a raucous by winning LSU’s home event. Lafayette started the year with a second at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate, then an eighth at the Kansas Invitational. But now it will have the chance to really accomplish something special at an in-state rival’s home turf. That should be plenty of motivation.