Men's preview: No. 25 Illinois

Thomas Pieters of Illinois during the final round of stroke play at the 2012 NCAA Championship.

Men's Rankings »

1Cheng Tsung PanWashington  67.01 
2Lee McCoyGeorgia  67.57 
3Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  67.59 
4Maverick McNealyStanford  67.76 
5Charlie DanielsonIllinois  68.42 

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1Illinois 69.06 
2Florida State 69.55 
3Oregon 70.00 
4Texas 70.08 
5LSU 70.09 

In preparation for the upcoming college season, Golfweek is breaking down the rosters of each of its preseason top 30 teams.

• • •

25. Illinois

2011-2012 Golfweek rank: 30

Go-to-guy: Thomas Pieters

Season outlook: Coming off a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship and a fourth consecutive Big Ten title, Illinois is poised to continue both streaks this season.

In junior Thomas Pieters, the defending NCAA individual champion, the Illini have an anchor at the top of the lineup. This summer, Pieters played on the winning European team at the Palmer Cup, won the Monroe Invitational and ousted Jordan Spieth at the U.S. Amateur. The Belgium native was second on the team last season with a 71.64 stroke average, notching two victories and four other top 5s. His NCAA individual title marked the second by an Illinois player in three years – Scott Langley did it in 2010.

The Illini lost 2012 Big Ten champion Luke Guthrie and his 71.19 stroke average to graduation, but returns senior Mason Jacobs, who played all 37 rounds last season and posted four top-15 finishes. Sophomore Brian Campbell also showed promise as a freshman, playing his best golf late in the season (T-15 Big Ten Championship, T-10 at NCAA regionals). And head coach Mike Small always seems to get the best out of his players.

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