Men's countdown: No. 24 UNLV
We are counting down the top 30 men's teams heading into the fall college season.
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2012-13 Golfweek rank: 27
Go-to guy: Sophomore A.J. McInerney
Season outlook: The initial goal for the Rebels this season will be finding someone to replace Kevin Penner at the top of the lineup. Penner led the team in scoring average (72.11), won the Mountain West Conference individual title and tied for second at the NCAA Championship as a senior. The Rebels also lost Blake Biddle, who started as a junior the first part of last season before transferring to Arkansas.
But UNLV's cupboard isn't exactly bare. Head coach Dwaine Knight returns four postseason starters from the team that advanced to the quarterfinals at the NCAA Championship last spring: juniors Kurt Kitayama and Carl Jonson, sophomore A.J. McInerney and senior Nicholas Maruri. Of those four, all but Maruri logged at least 33 rounds and had scoring averages of 73.69 or less last season.
"Our depth is going to be pretty good," Knight said. "I like the competitiveness. We're going to be looking for a leader. . . . All those guys played really well at times. (McInerney) could really step up and be a big factor for us. I think he's got the game to really be outstanding and to be one of the best players in the country."
If either or both of the freshmen – Taylor Montgomery, whose father Monte played for UNLV from 1989-92, and Chris Tuulik – can have an immediate impact, UNLV could boast a solid lineup from Nos. 1 to 5 and make another NCAA finals appearance this year.
"Those experiences (of making the NCAA quarterfinals) will bode real well," Knight said. "I think this team will grow from that, come back and have another shot at the whole thing."