Wildman's Corner: Breaking down Pac-12
The Pac-12 has become the power conference of college golf. Last season eight of the conference’s then ten teams were ranked inside the top 50 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
Today, I thought I would rank the Pac-12 heading in to this year.
1.) UCLA – Patrick Cantlay is the best player in college golf. He is joined at UCLA by Pontus Widegren and a supporting cast that goes about eight deep. The Bruins will be expected to compete for a national championship, and in case Cantlay does have a bad round or two they are talented enough to still be successful.
2.) Stanford – With the addition of Patrick Rodgers to this lineup, the Cardinal can easily be a top-five team. As a freshman Andrew Yun at times flew under the radar because of all the success Cantlay was having in Los Angeles. The big “if” at Stanford is, whether or not David Chung can return to form. Chung ended last year ranked No. 188 in the country, and he will have to improve if Stanford hopes to win another national title.
3.) USC – The Trojans aren’t a flashy team, but they have consistency across the board. Anthony Paolucci comes in as a freshman, and may be asked the team’s No. 1 player. Steve Lim, Martin Trainer, and Jeffrey Kang are all solid players, but none have proved to be a top 20 player just yet.
4.) Washington – Coach Thurmond’s squad is extremely top heavy which could be a good and bad thing. Chris Williams is one of the best player’s in the country, and people underestimate the addition of freshman Cheng-Tsung Pan. Charlie Hughes would be a solid number two for just about anyone in the country, but with Pan and Williams the Huskies could have two No. 1s. The problems for Washington will be at the back of their lineup, where they have yet to show they have players that can be constant contributors.
5.) California – The Bears may not have one of the big-name freshman coming in, but they do have a solid nucleus coming back. Max Homa is an underrated player in the conference and has the talent to contend for conference player of the year honors. The loss of Ben An is a big blow, but the Bears are still talented enough to make some noise this year.
6.) Oregon – One team that has the talent to compete for tournament titles this year is the Ducks. The Quack Attack will be led by a very seasoned bunch that consists of four seniors and a junior. Daniel Miernicki and Eugene Wong have shown they can be successful in college golf, but now it’s time for them to get the job done before they graduate next May.
7.) Oregon State – Over the summer the Beavers attacked their biggest weakness: depth. With the addition of two junior transfers Nick Chianello (Portland) and Matt Rawitzer (Idaho), the Beavers now have a roster they can tinker with if other players are struggling. Oregon State will have the opportunity to shine because they have one of the toughest schedules in the country. Whether or not they will do so remains to be seen.
8.) Arizona State – It is a fresh start with a program that will have at least three new starters in the line-up as well as a new head coach in Tim Mickelson. The biggest challenge for the Sun Devils this year will be breaking in to college golf. The team enters the year with five incoming freshman and only two returnees. Lucky for ASU, their incoming freshman class is pretty good. This will be a down year for the Sun Devils, but the future is bright in the years to come.
9.) Arizona – The Wildcats also lost quite a bit of talent from their team a year ago. However, coach Rick LaRose often has a roster that is long and at times has some hidden gems. This year the Wildcats will have some ups and downs, but when the post season comes around they normally can find a way in to a regional.
10.) Colorado – The Buffaloes were making some strides in a challenging Big 12 conference. This year Colorado will see some of their new conference rivals a bit more this year, and that will equate to more losses in the “L” column. Colorado will become a better team in the Pac-12, but it will take some time.
11.) Washington State – Last season the Cougars failed to have a player ranked in the top 300 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Expect the team to continue to struggle in the toughest conference in college golf.
12.) Utah – To say Utah struggled last year would be an understatement. Last year the Utes head-to-head overall record was 37-129-2. They also finished dead last in the Mountain West Conference Championship last summer, losing to champions San Diego State by 27 shots. Utah may fall by even more then that at their first Pac-12 Championship next summer.