NCAA Tracker: Tide takes top match-play seed

Alabama's Cory Whitsett at No. 3 during the final round of stroke play at the 2012 NCAA Championship.

Men's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Casey FernandezSo. Miss.  66.31 
2Tomasz AndersonJ'Ville St  67.12 
3Chase KoepkaUSF-Bulls  67.27 
4Hunter StewartVanderbilt  67.27 
5Maverick McNealyStanford  67.32 

Men's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1South Florida 68.18 
2Illinois 68.90 
3SE Louisiana 69.66 
4Florida State 69.78 
5Baylor 69.89 

Complete Round 3 scores can be found here.

• • •

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- After two rounds of the NCAA Men's Championship, Alabama entered day three with a four-shot lead at Riviera Country Club and came out with a two-shot lead, at 7-over 859, to garner the No. 1 seed for the match play portion. Illinois' Thomas Pieters takes the individual title at 5-under 208.

Today's final round of stroke play will prove to be one of the most exciting days of the college golf season. With so many teams in contention for a match play spot, every stroke will present a crucial, make-it-or-break-it situation.

With four of our college experts on the ground in Southern California, each will keep you up-to-date with blogs, commentary and things to look out for throughout the day.

(In case you missed our preview package and Rounds 1 and 2 coverage, check it out here)

And off we go!

• • •

Update #31: 11:05 p.m. EDT

Seven of the eight teams are set for match play. Those advancing: Alabama, UCLA, Texas, California, San Diego State, Washington and Oregon. After the Pac-12 struggled over the first two days, four of the eight teams will come from the conference.

Due to darkness, Florida State and Kent State will face-off for the final spot on Friday morning at 11 a.m. EDT. Each player will take to the 18th tee and the top-4 scores for each will count. If it remains tied, the playoff will move to the 10th hole.

• • •

Update #30: 10:36 p.m. EDT

Patrick Cantlay, this year's Ben Hogan Award winner, shot 5-under 66 today, the low round of the tournament. The UCLA sophomore is tied for fourth with Kent State's Corey Conners and Alabama's Cory Whitsett at 1-under 212

• • •

Update #29: 10:26 p.m. EDT

With two teams – Kent State and Florida State – tied for the eighth spot, unless anything unusual happens with Texas, San Diego State or Oregon (which are all still in the field with a couple holes to play) a playoff will ensue Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. PDT/11:00 a.m. EDT.

• • •

Update #28: 10:10 p.m. EDT

Alabama finishes at 7-over 859, with a two-stroke lead over UCLA, which finishes second at 9-over 861.

California finishes fifth at 19-over 871, while Washington finishes T6 at 20-over 872. Kent State and Florida State finish tied for eighth at 23-over 875.

Illinois' Thomas Pieters takes the individual title at 5-under 208. He's followed by Julien Brun of TCU and Tyler McCumber of Florida, tied for second at 2-under 211.

• • •

Update #27: 9:48 p.m. EDT

Alabama is now 7 over, and has a three-shot lead over second-place UCLA.

Kent State finished ninth at 23 over, but Florida State, currently in eighth, has a couple of holes left and is only one shot ahead at 22 over. Oregon, in seventh, is 21 over with several holes left to play.

• • •

Update #26: 9:25 p.m. EDT

FROM SEAN MARTIN: San Diego State is 4 under as its players progress deep into the back nine. How impressive is the Aztecs' round? The low team score this week is 1-over 285, shot in the first round by Alabama and Thursday morning by Texas A&M. The Aztecs started Thursday in 15th place, three shots outside the cut line, but are currently in third. J.J. Spaun, the Mountain West Conference player of the year, is 3 under through 13 holes, while Matt Hoffenberg is 2 under after 15 holes. The Aztecs are No. 14 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after winning five times this season. Could they be the next Augusta State, an accomplished team from a non-Bowl Championship Series conference to make its way through the match-play bracket?

• • •

Update #25: 9:23 p.m. EDT

At 9 over, Alabama leads by one stroke, but UCLA is hot on the Crimson Tide's tail, just one stroke back at 10 over. San Diego State sits at third at 15 over.

Washington, already in the clubhouse, is in seventh at 20 over.

Kent State and and Florida State are tied for eighth at 22 over, while Liberty, with just a few holes left to play, is 23 over in 10th.

• • •

Update #24: 9:08 p.m. EDT

For some more information on Thomas Pieters, check out Sean Martin's story from yesterday. Pieters won earlier this year at Muirfield Village, site of this week's Memorial. Now he's the likely winner of the NCAA Championship at Hogan's Alley, Riviera Country Club. He has a knack for winning on PGA Tour venues.

• • •

Update #23: 8:52 p.m. EDT

FROM RON BALICKI: TCU freshman Julien Brun officially can go home. No need to wait around any longer. Brun playing in the morning wave Thursday shot a 4-under-par 67 and stood at 2-under 211 for the 54-hole stroke play portion of the championship at Riviera Country Club. His score matched the best single round of the tournament and sent him up the leader board from his tie for 16th start.

Then all he could do was wait to see if his score might stand up and give him the NCAA individual title.

It did not. Just moments ago, Illinois sophomore Thomas Pieters, the second round leader, completed his third round with an even par 71 and became the leader in the clubhouse at 5-under 208.

While his chances appeared very good for that total to hold up, it still left Pieters now playing the waiting game.

Still on the course with outside chances to catching him were Alabama’s Cory Whitsett, 1-under through 13, and Kent State’s Corey Conners, UCLA’s Anton Arboleda, and Alabama’s Justin Thomas, all at even par with 5-6 holes to play.

Still, at this point and with the way Riviera has played this afternoon, I’m sure liking Pieters’ chances of becoming the Fighting Illini’s second NCAA champ in the last three years, joining 2010 winner Scott Langley.

• • •

Update #22: 8:38 p.m. EDT

FROM SEAN MARTIN: There's some dueling omens at work for UCLA, which is battling for the No. 1 seed in match play. The Bruins won the title the last time USC hosted, in 1988 at North Ranch CC in Westlake Village, Calif. However, the Bruins were the No. 1 seed last year and lost in the first round of match play.

• • •

Update #21: 8:32 p.m. EDT

FROM RON BALICKI: Talk about getting intense in the team battle for the final spots in the eight-team match play bracket.

Right now there are four teams tied for seventh at 21-over par -- Oregon, Liberty, Florida State and Kent State. Oklahoma is just one shot back while North Florida is three off the magic number.

Everyone’s on their final nine holes and it’s nail-biting time at its best.

• • •

Update #21: 8:27 p.m. EDT

FROM LANCE RINGLER: Oklahoma is finishing on the 18th hole right now and could be the first to post the target number of 22 over, thought by many to be the score that should get a team into the top eight.

• • •

Update #20: 8:20 p.m. EDT

UCLA now has the lead, at 8 over. Alabama's one shot behind at 9 over. Seven strokes back is San Diego State, which is in third at 16 over. Things are close from that point, as Texas and Washington are tied for fourth at 17 over and California's in sixth at 19 over.

Kent State, Florida State and Liberty are 20 over, all tied for seventh, while Oklahoma sits in tenth at 21 over.

• • •

Update #19: 8:08 p.m. EDT

FROM RYAN LAVNER: USC, which supposedly enjoyed a huge home-course advantage playing at Riviera, appears likely to miss the match-play cut. With only a few holes remaining, the Trojans are tied for 15th -- eight shots back of the all-important eighth spot. Jeffrey Kang, their No. 1 player, is currently 5 over through 15 holes.

• • •

Update #18: 8:05 p.m. EDT

FROM RYAN LAVNER: Jordan Spieth has been much better in the final round, even though he clearly is still battling his swing. Starting on the back, he made the turn in 1-under 35, and has helped push Texas inside the top 8 as it plays its final nine holes. On Wednesday, Spieth, a Player of the Year candidate, shot his worst round of the season, a 79 that the Longhorns were forced to count.

• • •

Update #17: 8:03 p.m. EDT

FROM SEAN MARTIN: Thomas Pieters seems to be closing in on the individual title. He's two ahead with two holes remaining. A win would make him Illinois' second NCAA medalist in three years. Scott Langley, who won the 2010 NCAA title, Monday qualified for this week's Nationwide Tour event. He's in his first year as a professional.

Pieters three-putted the 7th hole, while Florida's Tyler McCumber got up-and-down from behind the 7th green to stay two back.

• • •

Update #16: 7:55 p.m. EDT

Alabama leads by one stroke yet again, 6 over to second-place UCLA's 7 over. Washington sits in third place at 13 over, followed closely by California at 14 over, Florida State at 15 over and Texas at 16 over.

San Diego State is 17 over, followed by Kent State and Liberty, both tied for eighth at 19 over.

In the individual race Thomas Pieters of Illinois isn't letting go of his lead. At 6 under, Pieters leads by three strokes over Florida's Tyler McCumber. TCU's Julien Brun, Alabama's Cory Whitsett and UCLA's Anton Arboleda are tied for third at 2 under.

• • •

Update #15: 7:42 p.m. EDT

FROM SEAN MARTIN: Interesting sight at Riviera. Greens are being watered after groups putt out, forcing subsequent groups to wait in the fairway to hit their approach shots. A member of the Riviera greens staff said the light dusting of water doesn't impact the greens' speed or firmness, but is meant to keep the stressed greens healthy.

• • •

Update #14: 7:20 p.m. EDT

Alabama picks up two strokes to move to eight over. The Crimson Tide are now tied for the lead with UCLA, followed by Washington, which is 4 strokes back at 12 over.

FROM SEAN MARTIN: Texas just got some help in its bid to make match play. Dylan Frittelli holed a 70-foot birdie putt on the tough par-4 15th hole. The ball had to roll in the rough 10 feet of fringe before reaching the green. That makes up for the 3-foot putt he missed on the previous hole. Texas, the nation's No. 1 team, is currently sixth.

• • •

Update #13: 6:54 p.m. EDT

At 6 over, Alabama has a one-shot lead over UCLA. Washington is now 12 over but remains in third.

Kent State regains some ground and is now 17 over and tied for seventh with Texas. Oregon, in ninth, trails by one stroke.

• • •

Update #12: 6:22 p.m. EDT

Alabama regains its lead, dropping to 4 over. UCLA remains in second place at 5 over. Washington drops to 10 over and remains in third, while California maintains its fourth-place spot at 15 over.

Texas and Oregon are one shot behind California, tied for fifth. Liberty is the sole team in eighth place at 17 over.

In the individual race, Illinois' Thomas Pieters remains in the lead at 5 under. He's followed by Tyler McCumber of Florida and UCLA's Anton Arboleda, both at 3 under.

• • •

Update #11: 6:04 p.m. EDT

UCLA picks up two strokes to fall to 5 over, which puts the Bruins into a tie for first with Alabama. Washington remains in third place at 12 over, followed by Liberty at 14 over and California at 15 over.

Texas and Florida State are tied for sixth at 16 over, while Oklahoma and Florida are tied for eighth at 17 over.

On the bubble are San Diego State and Oregon, both at 18 over, tied for 10th.

• • •

Update #10: 5:47 p.m. EDT

FROM LANCE RINGLER: Match play here at the NCAA Championship has been very memorable the past three years, but a new element has been added. Following play tonight, back at the host hotel, the coaches will now determine the lineups, rather than the Golfstat rankings.

How it works: The better seeded team will decide if they wish to go first or let the opposing coach throw out the first player. Then it alternates in an S-curve fashion until all five matches are determined. The coaches will get sixty seconds to select a player.

This new element is a great addition to the match play portion and and is long overdue.

• • •

Update #9: 5:35 p.m. EDT

UCLA drops down to 2 over and steals the lead from Alabama, which is five over for the tournament.

Anton Arboleda of UCLA is heating up. He's 1 under through two holes and, at 4 under for the tournament, is tied for first with Illinois' Thomas Pieters.

Kent State picked up three strokes, causing the team to move from tied for eighth to tied for 12th.

• • •

Update #8: 5:25 p.m. EDT

At 4 over, UCLA now trails Alabama's lead by one stroke. Florida State's eight strokes off - 12 over - in third place. Washington and Florida trail by one stroke, followed by California at 14 over and Liberty at 16 over.

Four teams - Texas, Oregon, Kent State and Oklahoma - share the eighth spot at 17 over.

UCLA's Anton Arboleda drops to 4 under and is currently tied with Tyler McCumber of Florida. They trail leader Thomas Pieters of Illinois by one stroke.

Julien Brun of TCU and Alabama's Justin Thomas remain tied for fourth at 2 under, while Alabama's Cory Whitsett picks up a stroke, causing him to move to sixth.

• • •

Update #7: 5:10 p.m. EDT

Cory Whitsett birdies his first hole, moving into a share of fourth at 2 under for the tournament. Alabama moves to 3 over and retains a 2-shot lead.

• • •

Update #6: 4:50 p.m. EDT

Birdies from UCLA's Alex Kim and Pontus Widegren put the Bruins at 6 over, just two shots behind the lead set by Alabama.

• • •

Update #6: 4:30 p.m. EDT

Oklahoma moves into a share of fifth with Florida State and North Florida at 13 over, while Washington remains steady in third at 11 over.

• • •

Update #5: 4:06 p.m. EDT

Oklahoma and Washington, at 2 and 3 under for the round 3, respectively, are tied for third at 11 over. Florida State and North Florida follow at 12 over.

• • •

Update #4: 3:40 p.m. EDT

Florida picks up a stroke, moving from T8 to T12 at 17 over for the tournament.

Some movement as well on the individual side - TCU's Julien Brun is now tied for fourth with Alabama's Justin Thomas, who has yet to tee off. Brun, who entered the third round in a share of 16th, began his back nine with an eagle on the par-5 first hole which helped him drop to 4 under through 11 and 2 under for the tournament.

• • •

Update #3: 2:45 p.m. EDT

FROM LANCE RINGLER: Scores at Riviera Country Club are more congested than rush-hour traffic on an L.A. freeway, so the 15 teams playing in the morning wave have to stay a little more focused.

With only four shots being the difference from Auburn, the top team in the morning wave, to the eighth spot, the winner of the morning could very easily climb into the top eight and have a shot at winning the national championship. Currently, the best round of the morning 15 belongs to Stanford at 4-under. However, Iowa is the top team at this point. The Hawkeyes are making the turn just six shots from eighth place.

• • •

Update #2: 2:28 p.m. EDT

The top 15 teams have yet to tee off, but the individual leaderboard has begun to shuffle as Auburn's Dominic Bozzelli, at 2 under through 10 holes – even par for the tournament –, drops from T16 to T7. He's tied with Stanford's Patrick Rodgers, Greg Eason of Central Florida and Oklahoma's Abraham Ancer, who has yet to tee off.

• • •

Update #1: 1:38 p.m. EDT

Illinois' Thomas Pieters, at 5 under, is the individual leader going into round 3. Will UCLA's Anton Arboleda or Florida's Tyler McCumber catch up? Both currently sit at 3 under. And then there's Justin Thomas of Alabama, who occupies a solo fourth spot at 2 under.

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