Men's countdown: No. 25 Illinois
We are counting down the top 30 men's teams heading into the fall college season.
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2012-13 Golfweek rank: 20
Go-to guy: Sophomore Thomas Detry
Season outlook: Illinois made a surprise run all the way to the final of the NCAA Championship, stunning top-ranked California in the semifinals before falling to second-ranked Alabama. But then again, maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise. Illinois head coach Mike Small usually seems to get the most out of his players. The Illini's runner-up finish followed a fifth consecutive Big Ten Championship title and the school’s first NCAA regional title.
Illinois loses one important part of last year's run: Thomas Pieters, the 2012 NCAA individual champion who decided to forego his senior year and turn pro. In 34 rounds last season, Pieters posted a 71.38 scoring average, seven top 10s and one victory. His departure will no doubt hurt, but Illinois has the other four pieces of its postseason lineup returning: sophomores Thomas Detry and Charlie Danielson and juniors Brian Campbell and Alex Burge.
Detry, a Belgium native who was second on the team in scoring average (72.88), tied for second at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional along with Campbell, and Danielson tied for 13th at the NCAA Championship. Sophomore David Kim is a leading contender for the fifth starting spot.
Small, still a top-notch player himself, was busy during the summer, attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open and qualifying for the PGA Championship. Now he’ll turn his focus back to coaching. With four returning starters and Small at the controls, there’s a good chance the Illini could make another postseason run.
– Brentley Romine