Monday Top 5: Upset in Illinois

The Akron men's golf team (from left, Charlie Bull, Scott Landreth, Cameron Simmons, Head Coach Nick Goetze, Lucas Murray and Tim Lew) after winning the Illini Spring Classic

1.) Upset City

Often times regular-season tournaments being played during conference championships get little attention. The Illini Spring Classic was supposed to be more of a conference championship tune-up for nine of the Big Ten schools in the field. Instead Akron became the story and garnered the attention.

Ranked No. 107 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, the Zips posted the best rounds on each day of the competition. Opening with a 6-over 294 and then following with a 1-over 289, Akron cruised to a 10-shot victory over runner-up Illinois (No. 12 in the rankings). The tournament was cut to just two rounds due to inclement weather slowing play during the first round. All five Akron players finished in the top 20 on the individual leaderboard.

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“This win is the biggest win in program history based on the quality of the field and the difficulty of the conditions,” Akron coach Nick Goetze said. “I am very proud of how the guys stepped up to the occasion. Today’s finish to the final round was very impressive. We were able to put the pedal to the metal and pull away from a very strong field.”

Goetze, who was an All-American at Clemson and winner on the Canadian PGA Tour, is in his fourth season with the Zips golf program. Goetze came to Akron after also guiding the the programs at Texas-El Paso, Mississippi State and Florida State.

The victory, which saw the Zips improve 18 spots to No. 89 in the latest Golfweek rankings, probably will not be enough to give them serious consideration for an at-large bid. However, you can bet this will give them a lot of confidence heading into the Mid-American Conference Championship later this month, where the winner will earn the league’s automatic qualifying spot.

2.) Tar Heel Blue

This year was just the second time in school history that a North Carolina women’s golf team won the ACC Championship, but it was one folks will remember. North Carolina finished 24 shots ahead of runner-up and 16-time league champion Duke to win the ACC title for the first time since 1992. Duke had won 13 ACC titles in a row before the championship was moved to Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., three years ago. The Blue Devils have not won since.

The ACC, with nine teams in the league, is top-heavy and North Carolina was the fourth-best team heading into conference play – ranking behind Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest. The margin of victory from a fourth-seeded team is what turned heads to this event.

“I knew we had an extremely talented team and I knew that we would have to play exceptionally well,” said North Carolina coach Jan Mann.. “To be honest, I did not think we would win the tournament by this large of a margin. We have some great teams in the ACC and they always perform well. For our team to come out and play as they did was pretty special.”

Four Tar Heel golfers finished in the top seven with Allie White leading the way, taking second place, and Catherine O’Donnell in third. The victory helped the Tar Heels climb to No. 15 in the latest rankings.

3.) Finally. . .

It took nine starts for Auburn to finally find the winner’s circle and it could not have come at a better time – at the SEC Championship. With 12 teams in the league, an SEC school gets the opportunity to play at home just once every 12 years. Playing at home on the Auburn University Club, the Tigers held off a charge from Alabama, the defending champs and No. 3 team in the country to win by 11 shots.

Playing the nation’s toughest schedule, head coach Kim Evans’ squad had placed 10th or worse five times this season.

“I think this team wanted it so bad, and all year I’ve been working together to piece some great tournaments together,” said Evans. “Individually, they kept on achieving, but as a team they hadn’t been. They decided that they were going to put their head in it, mainly their heart, and pulled it off.”

Could Auburn be a surprise team this postseason?

4.) Uihlein Wins

Oklahoma State has won six tournaments in 10 starts this year. What’s even more impressive about that is head coach Mike McGraw’s squad has won three times without top-ranked Peter Uihlein in the lineup. However, this week Uihlein was in the lineup and the Cowboys did not win. . . but Uihlein did.

The junior, who ended the fall ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, fell out of the top spot for a few weeks this spring is now back in front. Uihlein won The Aggie Invitational with rounds of 72-67-71 for a 6-under total and 5-shot win over teammate Kevin Tway and Texas A&M’s Jordan Russell.

What was looking like a wide-open player-of-the-year race has now become: Advantage Uihlein.

5.) Magic Numbers

It’s that time of the year – when bubble teams really start to dissect their chances of making the postseason. The Magic Number in men’s golf and women’s golf, which is a team’s final ranking, has been very consistent over the last few seasons.

The men have been between 68 and 73, with the 73 coming the first year the .500 Rule was in place, when four teams were eliminated for having a win-loss percentage of less than 50 percent. This year, as of right now the number would look to be at 72. However, that number can change easily.

There are nine conferences that do not have a team ranked well enough to get an AQ. This is what puts the starting number at 72 (81 postseason spots minus nine). If there is an upset in any of the other 19 leagues that get an AQ, that will drop the number each time. As for the .500 Rule this year, only Lamar, Coastal Carolina and Northwestern appear to have any concerns. Each of those three should be alright if they don’t bomb at their conference championships.

On the women’s side, where there is no .500 Rule to deal with, the Magic Number is very simple to compute. Last year, the NCAA added nine teams to the postseason – three to each regional. The women now get 72 teams into the postseason.

There appears to be as many as 12 conferences from which teams will need the AQ to get into the postseason. This will put the Magic Number at 60, and because we are unlikely to see many big upsets in the power leagues, the number should stay fairly put.

All of that being said, the NCAA Championship Golf Committees sometimes go a little renegade and tries to out-think the computers. Every now and then, you will see them compare teams just inside and just outside the number and we will get a flip flop.

Whatever the case may be, this should give you a good idea if your team has a chance or not.

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