Spring preview 2019: Big Ten

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Spring preview 2019: Big Ten

College

Spring preview 2019: Big Ten

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As the college golf season gets ready to resume, Golfweek will preview each automatic-qualifier conference in Division I, offering picks to win, midseason All-Conference teams and more.

All of our conference previews will reside here.

Next up: Big Ten
• • •

Men

Conference championship: April 26-28, Philadelphia Cricket Club (Wissahickon)

Defending champion: Illinois

Team rankings: llinois (27), Northwestern (36), Iowa (47), Penn State (49), Ohio State (55), Purdue (58), Indiana (69), Minnesota (71), Michigan State (79), Maryland (89), Wisconsin (99), Michigan (100), Rutgers (117), Nebraska (166)

Midseason All-Conference team: Will Grimmer, Ohio State (17); Alex Schaake, Iowa (55); Timmy Hildebrand, Purdue (56); David Nyfjall, Northwestern (76); Bryan Baumgarten, Illinois (98)

What to expect: Could this be the year? Illinois has boasted a stranglehold on this conference for a decade, as the Fighting Illini have won four straight Big Ten titles and nine of the last 10. Of the streak from 2015-18, the smallest margin of victory was 13. But Illinois slipped a little last season and has done so again thus far this season, and with that the gap between the Illini and the rest of the conference has really shrunk. In-state rival Northwestern is right there and don’t let Iowa’s No. 47 ranking fool you. The Hawkeyes took a big rankings hit after a bizarre DQ. Minus that, they might be in the top 30 right now. But having said all that … Mike Small is still at the helm at Illinois. This may be a dip, but it isn’t the first in his incredible tenure, and he always seems to find a way to reload. So yeah this group may be vulnerable, but still don’t expect this program to cede its Big Ten dominance this spring.

Pick to win: Illinois

• • •

Women

Conference championship: April 19-21, TPC River’s Bend, Maineville, Ohio

Defending champion: Michigan State

Team rankings: Illinois (14), Northwestern (16), Purdue (25), Michigan State (35), Penn State (40), Maryland (49), Michigan (55), Indiana (63), Ohio State (65), Rutgers (87), Wisconsin (94), Nebraska (107), Minnesota (117), Iowa (133)

Midseason All-Conference team: Stephanie Lau, Northwestern (40); Brooke Riley, Northwestern (64); Crystal Wang, Illinois (68); Bing Singhsumalee, Illinois (73); Paz Marfa Sans, Michigan State (79)

What to expect: The state of Illinois is the class of the Big Ten on both sides in the 2018-19 campaign to this point. There could be several different challengers in this one and you don’t ever sleep on Purdue. And while Michigan State hasn’t been at quite the same level this season, the Spartans are the two-time defending champions. Ultimately, this is most likely to come down between Northwestern and Illinois. The difference in the rankings is razor-thin of course. But Northwestern does have the conference’s two highest-ranked players and has a big edge in experience in high-stakes environments, having reached the final of the NCAA Championship in 2017 and the quarters last year. The Wildcats were also co-conference champions in 2013, ’15 and ’16. That all feels like the difference here.

Pick to win: Northwestern

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