NCAA final rich with storylines for Oklahoma State, Alabama

Robert Sutton

NCAA final rich with storylines for Oklahoma State, Alabama

College

NCAA final rich with storylines for Oklahoma State, Alabama

STILLWATER, Okla. – The spotlight in college golf this spring has been directed at Oklahoma State. With just one day remaining in the season, the Cowboys’ much-anticipated shot at winning an 11th national championship is now just three points away.

But, they must score those three points Wednesday against another blue blood in the sport: Alabama.

A Crimson Tide team who is taking full advantage of the match-play format. The fifth-ranked Crimson Tide qualified for match play with only one stroke to spare. They were the No. 6 seed and have taken full advantage of the reset button that is pushed once the brackets are set.

They beat Texas Tech in the opening round and then swept the No. 2 seed Duke, 5-0. Alabama became just the second team to shutout an opponent in match play. Texas skunked Washington at Riviera in 2012.

Does Alabama’s dominance in the quarterfinals suggest this team is peaking?

“We’ve been waiting as a team, we talked about it, we still haven’t played our best all year. We talked about that last night. But we could feel it coming. A little bit of it happened this afternoon,” said Alabama coach Jay Seawell.

A little bit of it also happened in the second round when they would post, at the time, a Karsten Creek course record 9-under 279. That mark would later be outdone by Duke’s 12-under 276.

The waiting is over. Seawell will be looking to lead Alabama to a third men’s golf title, with the previous two also coming in this format. Alabama won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, with the second championship coming at Prairie Dunes when they knocked off … Oklahoma State.

But, the only thing that is common with that year is the two head coaches. The players are different, even the assistant coaches.

With big crowds expected to be roaming the fairways, and nearly every fan wearing orange in favor of the host team, anything less than a win Wednesday will be deemed a failure for the Cowboys.

They are favored, probably heavily favored. Not only because they are playing at home, the Cowboys are also trying to become the first No. 1 seed to win three matches and claim a national title. All the pressure to deliver is on the Cowboys, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure when you’re as good as we are throughout the lineup,” said junior Zach Bauchou.

If there is any pressure they certainly are not showing it. They expect to win, and why wouldn’t they? The Cowboys have won all year collecting nine victories in 12 starts and now they may be playing in front of the biggest home crowd college golf has ever seen.

They are talented and that talent has produced wins, which has created confidence. All five players are ranked in the top 72 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and all five players have a scoring average below 72.

This will be fun to see the two styles go head-to-head in an atmosphere that may be unmatched to anything we have seen and may ever see again in college golf.

“College kids don’t get to play in (this kind of) setting. This is very unusual, and what a dream scenario to get to perform in front of a crowd,” said Bratton. “We’re excited for the opportunity tomorrow. That’s why you play. And I expect us to come out on top.”

Despite that sea of orange the Alabama players will have to navigate, they will stick to what Seawell has been telling them all week. It’s just golf.

“It’s still five guys playing golf, and that’s what we’ve tried to talk about the whole time. It’s about playing golf. It’s not more than that, it’s not less than that,” he said. “I like the way my guys play golf.”

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