Thumbs up: Alabama | Thumbs down: Michigan State
It’s Wednesday, which means only one thing: It’s time for Thumbs up/Thumbs down!
Alabama (men). After a disappointing finish at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, the third-ranked Crimson Tide redeemed themselves with an 18-stroke victory over Chattanooga at the Linger Longer. Corey Whitsett and Bud Cauley finished 1-2 in the individual race and combined to shoot 25 under for ’Bama. The victory at the Linger Longer gives Alabama five titles on the season and shows that the match-play tournament is a distant memory. Alabama still has one more regular-season tournament before the SEC Championship, but clearly the Crimson Tide have established themselves as the team to beat in the SEC this season. Next up for Jay Seawell’s squad: the Insperity Augusta State Invitational.
Alex Carpenter (Abilene Christian University). How much higher can this kid’s stock rise? If you are just now finding out about Carpenter, where the heck have you been? The star from NCAA Division II has now won seven tournaments this season after a two-stroke victory at the DBU Patriot Invitational in Dallas. Some may have thought his spirits would be down after failing to make the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, but that clearly is not the case. In eight tournaments this season, Carpenter has failed to win only one of them, and that finish was still a tie for fourth. Carpenter has established himself as not only the D-II man to beat, but also maybe the best collegiate player of the year at any level! Carpenter will go for his eighth win of the season next week at the UCO/Kickingbird Classic.
Wake Forest (women). The Lady Demon Deacons picked up their first win of the season at the Bryan National Collegiate by two strokes over Tennessee. Wake Forest has an up-and-down year, but this victory was over a solid field with top competition. Coach Diane Dailey’s squad picked up impressive head-to-head wins over Tennessee, UNC, Virginia, Duke, Vanderbilt, FSU and Michigan State. The ACC seems to be wide-open this year, with no team clearly establishing itself as the clear-cut favorite. With this victory, Wake Forest now can believe it has the talent and ability to beat top-ranked teams from its conference and country. Next up for Wake is the Liz Murphy later this week, and with another solid performance the Demon Deacons could possibly head to the ACC Championship with momentum and as the team to beat going in.
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Michigan State (women). This spring has not been a kind one so far for the Michigan State Spartans. With their recent 11th-place finish at the Bryan National Collegiate, the Spartans have yet to finish in the top 3 of a tournament this spring. (To start the spring, the Spartans finished sixth at the Regional Challenge and fifth at the Central District Invitational before this 11th-place showing.) In years past, it has been a heated battle between Michigan State and Purdue for the top spot in the Big Ten, but this year it seems like the Boilermakers are pulling away. Time is running out for Michigan State to right the ship. There’s only two regular-season tournaments left before the Spartans head to the Big Ten Championship, where they will try to defeat the three-time defending Big Ten champs, and current defending NCAA winner, Purdue.
Virginia (men). The Cavs never were able to get things going at the Hootie at Bulls Bay en route to their T-10 finish. Virginia shot 25 over for the tournament and finished 28 shots back of LSU. This is only the Cavaliers’ second finish outside the top 5 all season (two titles). Coach Bowen Sargent’s squad has had a good year and has seen his team climb up to No. 15 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. A big problem for Virginia at Bulls Bay was that Ben Kohles and Will Collins combined to shoot 3 over for the tournament. That means UVA wasn’t getting much help from the rest of their lineup. Virginia will look to get back on track next week at the River Landing Invitational, which will be its last tournament before trying to defeat fourth-ranked Georgia Tech at ACCs.
Northwestern (men). What is going on with the Wildcats this spring? Northwestern finished 11th at the FAU Spring Break Championship and finished 46 shots back of tournament winner Ohio State. After winning the Ben Ten Match Play Championship to start the spring, Northwestern finished 13th at the Puerto Rico Classic against a good field. Now, at a weak FAU Spring Break Championship, the Wildcats took some bad head-to-head losses to Florida Atlantic (157), Florida Gulf Coast (72), Miami of Ohio (107), Minnesota (77), DePaul (182), Michigan State (156), Marquette (155) and Nebraska (104). Northwestern started the spring as a top-35 team, but has seen its ranking drop the last couple of months, all the way down to No. 55. The Wildcats can’t blame the winter any longer, because other Northeast and Big Ten schools are doing just fine. Not sure if it’s time to panic for Northwestern, but this recent turn of events has been troubling.