2017 NCAA Men's Golf Preview: Teams to Watch

The 30-team field is set for the 2017 NCAA Men’s Championship which will be held at Rich Harvest Farms, about an hour west of Chicago. Rich Harvest will pose a unique test with its immaculate conditioning, brutally long setup and numerous head scratching hole designs.

The format for the championship is 72 holes of team stroke play with the top eight teams advancing to the match play portion of the championship. The stroke play format consists of each team’s five golfers playing and counting the top four scores of each round. In the match play portion, the teams are seeded 1-8 based on their stroke play results and they square off in single elimination match play with each team’s five players playing individual matches with the team winning more matches moving on.

Tournament Schedule

Stroke Play - May 26th - 29th

Match Play - May 30th & 31st

Golf Channel Broadcast Schedule - All Times CST

Monday, May 29th - 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Tuesday, May 30th - 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM (Quarterfinals) 3:30-7 PM (Semifinals)

Wednesday, May 31st - 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM (Finals)

The Favorites

USC following their win at Cypress Point

USC following their win at Cypress Point

USC

Southern California is back at the NCAA’s after making the semifinals last year in Eugene and the finals in 2015. This year’s squad is the most talented team in college golf, led by Walker Cup candidates Rico Hoey and Sean Crocker who each have a truckload of experience at NCAAs. The Trojans also have one of college golf’s biggest surprises, Justin Suh, who started the season fighting to find a spot on the traveling team to now being considered one of college golf’s finest players with two wins and a runner up at their regional site.

Key Player: Jonah Texeira - USC’s big three is the best in college golf but to win the championship they will need strong play from their entire roster. Teixeira has the experience and talent to contend at the highest level and if he does so at Rich Harvest, USC will be nearly impossible to beat.

Average Sagarin Rank (Golfweek's individual player rankings): 53.8

Vanderbilt

The Commodores captured the SEC Championships’ stroke play and match play championship and come into Chicago in top form after a second place finish at the College Grove Regional, earning their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA’s. Vandy is led by Senior Matthias Schwab and Sophomore star Patrick Martin who each rank inside the top 20 in Golfweek’s Sagarin Rankings and boast one of the most balanced rosters with four players inside the top 75.

Key Player: Matthias Schwab - The straw that stirs the drink for the Commodores is senior leader Matthias Schwab who will look to finish off his spectacular career at Vandy with a National Championship.

Average Sagarin Rank: 49.2

LSU

Led by Sophomore Sam Burns who won the Baton Rouge regional for his fourth title of the season, LSU will head to Rich Harvest Farms looking for their seventh title of the season. The Tigers have young firepower with Burns, Luis Gagne and freshman Phillip Barrabee and championship experience from Seniors Eric Ricard and Brandon Pierce who were integral pieces to the Tigers 2015 title team.

Key Player: Phillip Barrabee - Barrabee should be finishing up his senior year of high school but opted to graduate early and join the Tigers for their title run. The youngster has plenty of talent but the question lies with his experience and patience at the tricked up Rich Harvest setup.

Average Sagarin Rank: 81.2

Contenders

A Hogan Award Finalist, Dylan Meyer has four wins on the season for Illinois

A Hogan Award Finalist, Dylan Meyer has four wins on the season for Illinois

Illinois

The Illini made a late charge at the West Lafayette to secure their spot in the Championship field for the 10th straight season. The Illini have made the match play portion the past four seasons and are led by Junior stars Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy, who together have medaled in the last four events that the Illini have teed it up in. The key for the Illini will be the back half of their roster which has been volatile in the spring and led to some disappointing results.

Key Player: Michael Feagles - Illinois’ standout newcomer has had some good performances this season and will be the key to the Illini earning a fifth consecutive trip into the match play portion of the championship.

Average Sagarin Rank: 106.4

Oregon

One of the hottest teams in the country are the defending National Champion Ducks who have won four times in the spring season including the Pac 12 Championships. The Ducks boast the country’s top player in Wyndham Clark and also the nation’s best Freshman Norman Xiong who joined the Ducks this spring after graduating high school early. The Ducks remaining roster include veterans who were a part of last season’s NCAA win.

Key Player: Norman Xiong - Since the Freshman’s mid-season arrival, the Ducks have gone from a fringe NCAA Championship team to one of the best in the country. Xiong is a transcendent ball-striker who I expect to play well at the demanding Rich Harvest Farms setup.

Average Sagarin Rank: 123.2

Stanford

The Cardinal boast the nation’s most decorated player, Senior Maverick McNealy, who will look to end his college career with a bang at Rich Harvest Farms. McNealy hasn’t been able to find the elusive 11th career title to break free of the tie with Tiger and Patrick Rodgers but he has been a consistent force and along with Franklin Huang give the Cardinal a formidable 1-2 punch. Much like the aforementioned Illini, Stanford’s questions arise at the back end of their roster which has been erratic and cost the Cardinal a few titles.

Key Player: Brandon Wu - The Sophomore and Stanford’s three-man has had as many top ten finishes as he has had outside the top 30 finishes. If the Cardinal has hopes of earning a match play bid, Wu will likely need to bring his A-game to support McNealy and Huang’s play.

Average Sagarin Rank: 63.2

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys won the Austin regional and rank fourth in the Sagarin rankings heading into Rich Harvest Farms. The Cowboys lack a standout star player but rather get it done with strong play throughout their roster with all five players ranking inside the top 65 of the Sagarin rankings. This balance should serve the Cowboys at Rich Harvest Farms which can yield some high single round scores with its many demanding holes.

Key Player: Zachary Olsen - If the Cowboys top ranked player can set the tone early, I expect the Cowboys to make the match play portion, a format they should excel in given the depth and balance through their roster.

Average Sagarin Rank: 40.6

Texas

Last year’s runner-up bring back their entire team except for Beau Hossler and earned their spot sharing the Regional crown with Oklahoma State. The talented trio of Doug Ghim, Gavin Hall and Scottie Scheffler give the Longhorns as much talent as any team at the top of the roster. The questions come from the back half where Spencer Soosman and Steven Chervony have struggled to give the Longhorns consistent play. In the 2015 Western Amateur, Gavin Hall finished second in the stroke play portion and should be considered one of the favorites for the individual championship.

Key Player: Steven Chervony - The Sophomore has been inconsistent but when he is on he can play with anyone given his t13th at the elite Querencia Cabo Collegiate field. Texas big 3 will show and if Chervony has a good week they will be tough to beat.

Average Sagarin Rank: 112.4

Sleeper Cells

Oklahoma following their regional berth, please leave those shirts in Norman.

Oklahoma following their regional berth, please leave those shirts in Norman.

Oklahoma

A scary team that’s flying under the radar are the Sooners who rank fourteenth in the Sagarin rankings. While the Sooners have had some erratic play this season, they are hardly short on talent, with star players Max McGreevy and Brad Dalke. Dalke was the runner-up at last year’s US Amateur but has had a disappointing 2016-2017 season until winning the Austin Regional. When Dalke’s putter is right, there might not be a better player in college golf.

Key Player: Brad Dalke - As already mentioned, it was a forgettable regular season for Dalke but Rich Harvest Farms is one of the most demanding courses from tee to green which should suit his strengths quite well.

Average Sagarin Rank: 96.2

Kent State

The highest ranked school from a non-power conference are the Golden Flashes who should have a little bit of a Midwest advantage at Rich Harvest Farms. Kent State’s team is led by star Ian Holt and boasts five players inside the Sagarin’s top 110, excellent balance which should serve them well if they can get into match play.

Key Player: Ian Holt - If Kent State has match play plans, I believe they will need their star Ian Holt to lead them with strong play and set the tone for the rest of their team.

Average Sagarin Rank: 99.6

Virginia

In the fall, Virginia looked like the nation’s top team winning three of four events. The turn of the calendar year didn’t treat the Hoos well, as they struggled after winter break with some erratic spring play. Virginia is led by Senior stars Jimmy Stanger and Derek Bard who will look to end their college careers on a high note.  Stanger will find his way onto All-American lists due to his stellar season while Bard, the 2015 U.S. Amateur runner-up, has had an up and down year.

Key Player: Derek Bard - When the Senior plays well Virginia possesses one of the strongest 1-2 punches in college golf. Bard is a big-stage performer who I expect to have a strong tournament and lead the Cavaliers to match play.

Average Sagarin Rank: 142.8

My pick - Oklahoma State

It pains me to not pick my alma mater Illinois but I love Oklahoma State’s balance. Also, the Cowboys had three players make the 36 hole cut during the 2015 Western Amateur, the most of any competing team. If they make match play, having five elite level players should serve them extremely well.

 

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