You know what is great about college sports? The unpredictability. Under the bright lights of the national spotlight 20 year-olds have the chance to shine...or shrivel.
The Oklahoma State men’s golf team refuses to shrivel.
OSU won 9 regular season events last season and steamrolled Alabama to win the national championship. They have returned this fall with the same five players from their national title and have already notched 2 victories. Matt Wolff has become a cult hero in recent months. US Amateur Champion Viktor Hovland is the real deal holyfield. Hayden Wood, Austin Eckroat and Zach Bauchou are each averaging 72 or better this season.
The point is that Oklahoma State is the best team in the country and it’s not debatable.
I would go so far as to say that there is only one other team in any league that is displaying the same level of dominance: the Golden State Warriors. The NBA has always been controlled by dynasties and the one we are currently experiencing may just be the best of all. Golden State’s roster is littered with talent that has led them to be the class of the league for the last 5 years. They don’t just beat teams, they embarrass them.
This year presents another opportunity for the Warriors and Oklahoma State to again assert their dominance over their opposition.
With that, I present to you a college golf fall semester wrap-up. This is College Golf: NBA edition.
A League of Their Own
Oklahoma State Cowboys : Golden State Warriors
Thousands of keystrokes have already been dedicated to the brilliance of the OSU golf team this fall, and they are well-deserved. People love a dominant team, and that is exactly what the Cowboys are.
Led by Viktor Hovland (Kevin Durant) and Matt Wolff (Steph Curry), the Pokes have two of the top 5 players in the country. Hovland is the quiet assassin that consistently displays brilliant talent while Wolff is a bit flashier. Together, they make a two-headed monster that is unmatched in the NCAA. Their supporting cast is nothing to thumb your nose at either. Hayden Wood (Klay Thompson) is a top 15 player in the country who just doesn’t get the hype of his teammates. Add in stellar players Zach Bauchou and Austin Eckroat, and you have a starting 5 that is unmatched in the sport.
*It should be noted that the Cowboys took 4th in the East Lake Cup and fell to Texas to take 4th in the Big 12 match play event. They are going to continue to dominate in stroke play events but I do not expect them to cruise to the NCAA title like I expect the Warriors to win the NBA Championship. Match play is a different animal and OSU won’t have their home course to comfort them this year.
These Guys are Good
Alabama Crimson Tide : Boston Celtics
This year’s Alabama golf team is extremely young but possesses the fire power to make a serious run. Led by their all-star point guard Davis Riley (Kyrie Irving), the Crimson Tide have really impressed this fall. A group of young talent backs him up, much like Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Celtics.
Alabama only won once this fall, but they also didn’t finish worse than 5th in any event. Their starting 5 consistently features four underclassmen, and they are going to need reps before being fully comfortable playing against the best in the country. Sophomore Wilson Furr has been very impressive thus far with 9 of his 12 rounds counting for the Tide. It’s not often that you find a bunch of young players ready to step up, but that is exactly what the Celtics and Tide have.
Duke Blue Devils : Denver Nuggets
The team that took the next step and is showing some serious skill this year is Duke. None of their players are big names that the general public would know, but they are a group of seriously talented guys.
Duke is spearheaded by the squadron of Alex Smalley (Nikola Jokic), Chandler Eaton (Gary Harris), Adrien Pendaries (Jamal Murray) and Evan Katz (Paul Millsap). All four have played every round for the Blue Devils thus far and feature scoring averages of 71.1 or below. Their consistency has led them to two victories and a runner-up this fall, the potential they knew they possessed heading into the season.
Georgia Tech: Milwaukee Bucks
A really fun team has been developing at Georgia Tech over the last couple seasons. Similar to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Yellow Jackets have proven themselves to be a real force in 2017 and 2018. Young talent has matured over the last two years, and they are going to be impactful this season.
The fall season was a very solid start for Ga. Tech as they had six players average 71.33 or better. Luke Schniederjans (Giannis) and Luke Strafaci (Khris Middleton) led the charge this fall, combining for five top 10s in three stroke play events. In those three events, the team lost in a playoff, won, and finished 3rd. Ga. Tech will head into the spring as the defending ACC champions and will be the heavy favorites to win their conference yet again.
USC Trojans : Toronto Raptors
No NBA team has had more regular-season success without any postseason accolades over the last few years than the Toronto Raptors. In college golf, USC has continually been one of the strongest teams through conference play, but their teams have just fallen flat in the postseason.
The Trojans are hoping this season is different, and they just may have the talent to change the trend. Justin Suh (Kawhi Leonard) is undoubtedly a top-5 player in college golf. The senior has a win, T4, and T10 so far this fall and is on his way to yet another All-American honor. The rest of the squad is rounded out with three underclassman and one junior. They have a win and a runner-up already this fall and will be defending their Saint Mary’s Invitational title this week.
Pepperdine Waves : Utah Jazz
Similar to Georgia Tech, the Pepperdine Waves have been a burgeoning team over the last two seasons. They aren’t traditionally a school that you think of as being a perennial powerhouse, but they have all the talent needed to compete. They are the Utah Jazz.
NBA fans will know just how fun the Jazz have been since Donovan Mitchell burst onto the scene. Clay Feagler has played that role for the Waves. He has three victories over the last two seasons, including one this fall. He has become a top-10 machine that is an ultra-reliable score for Pepperdine to count on. Freshman Joe Highsmith has been a great add this fall while Josh McCarthy and RJ Manke show signs of greatness.
The team has two wins and two other top 10s this fall but look to add one more in Pebble Beach this week. It is scary to think that they are a top-10 team despite losing one of their best players, Sahith Theegala, to a wrist injury this year. Keep an eye on the Waves.
Oklahoma Sooners : Houston Rockets
Here’s the thing, the Sooners have all the talent you could ever want from a golf team. The issue for them is that they play in the same conference as the most dominant team in the country. This is eerily similar to the situation in which the Houston Rockets find themselves.
Oklahoma won the national title in 2017 and seemed to be ready to defend last year. They ran into the buzzsaw that is Oklahoma State and find themselves in a similar position this year. OU does already have two wins on the young season and a team that will definitely be hungry to compete for a title. Every player who has played meaningful rounds for them has been an upperclassman, very similar to the experience and depth of the Rockets. They’ll definitely be there at the end of the season, but we will see if they can top the powerful Cowboys.
So you’re saying there’s a chance!
Texas Longhorns : San Antonio Spurs
A changing of the guard is what we find in the state of Texas this year. Over the last 10 years, Texas golf has seen Jordan Spieth, Cody Gribble, Dylan Frittelli, Beau Hossler, Doug Ghim, Kramer Hickok, Scottie Scheffler and Gavin Hall. The Spurs have seen Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard all move on and are also left to try to succeed with the new crop.
Cole Hammer is the leader of the new crop for the Longhorns. The freshman made a huge splash this summer with his stellar play but has not yet played his best during the school year. He is joined by a slew of other underclassmen that have been rotating through their top 5 with senior Steven Chervony working his way in as well. Freshman Pierceson Coody is the other young gun to keep an eye on as he already has two top 10s on the season.
Texas is a golf program rich in history, much like the Spurs, and Coach Fields will definitely have them ready to compete for national titles in the near future.
Clemson Tigers : Philadelphia 76ers
The Clemson Tigers have the ability to be really good at golf. The issue I have with them is that they can be a little turbulent and tough to rely on.
Bryson Nimmer is absolutely amazing and may just be a stellar pro whenever he forfeits his amateur status. He is the cornerstone of this Tigers team and will give Matt Wolff/Viktor Hovland a run for player of the year. He has two wins, two runner-ups, and a 7th-place finish this season, the Ben Simmons of this team. Turk Pettit is the other constant in their lineup and surely has the potential to be a difference-maker. Will they be good enough to compete for a title? I don’t think so. They can definitely get to match play at the NCAAs, but I think their lack of consistency could prove costly in do-or-die.
Vanderbilt Commodores : Indiana Pacers
I’ll finish off this fall recap with a team that I just enjoy following, the Vanderbilt Commodores. They have a group of players that is fun to watch, very similar to the Indiana Pacers.
Will Gordon, John Augenstein and Patrick Martin have been great this fall. They combined for six top 10s in four events, and Gordon notched a run-away victory at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational. Outside of those three, Vanderbilt has struggled to find consistency, and that leaves them in a precarious situation. They can win events if they get back-end scoring, much like they did at the Tavistock, but they can also fall into the middle of the pack if they have to count high scores.
Ole Miss - Los Angeles Lakers
Braden Thornberry has probably been the best collegiate golfer over the past three seasons. He hasn’t been as flashy this fall but he does already have two top 5 finishes. He leads a team that has plenty of talent but just hasn’t put it together. He is LeBron leading the Lakers.
This isn’t to say that Ole Miss is a group of bums like the majority of the Lakers. They have some real players and Jackson Suber actually has a better scoring average than Thornberry this far. But everyone on that team knows Thornberry is the breadwinner and is one of the best players in the nation. Ole Miss hasn’t finished higher than 4th yet this season but they aren’t a pushover by any means. They’ll put up a battle but Lebron can only do so much. If only they had a Lavar Ball comparison for us.
Finally, shoutout to Yale golfer James Nicholas, who leads the country in scoring average at a tidy 67.83. Nicholas has done this while sporting a 3.5+ GPA studying Biology at one of the country’s top universities. Nicholas is the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year and has played himself into the early Walker Cup picture.
We’ll see everyone in the spring!