The stage is set. The stroke play is over. Now it is mano-y-mano.
In match play, anything can – and will – happen.
Top-ranked California ran away with the stroke-play title by six shots and will take on Arizona State, while host Georgia Tech grabbed the No. 2 seed and will face UNLV. 2012 runner-up Alabama rallied late for the third seed and will face New Mexico, while defending national champ Texas takes on Illinois.
Some intriguing matches will take place Friday: Texas freshman sensation Brandon Stone takes on 2012 NCAA medalist Thomas Pieters of Illinois, while Alabama’s Justin Thomas meets New Mexico’s James Erkenbeck in the final match of the day.
We’ve crunched all of the numbers and looked at the matchups, and here is a preview of each match, slated to start at 10 a.m. EDT with the Bears against the Sun Devils.
• • •
MATCH #1: NO. 1 CAL VS. NO. 8 ARIZONA STATE
Scheduled to start at 10 a.m. EDT
Top-ranked Cal won 11 tournaments as well as stroke play here at the NCAAs. Pac-12 rival Arizona State advanced out of the Tempe Regional despite being the ninth seed there.
Cal is led by NCAA medalist Max Homa as well as Golfweek‘s top-ranked Michael Kim. Arizona State is led by Jon Rahm, who led after 36 holes.
>> California, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 1. Individuals: Michael Kim (1), Max Homa (19), Brandon Hagy (25), Joel Stalter (12), Michael Weaver (9)
NCAA Championship appearances: 9
Best NCAA Championship finish: 1st (2004)
How they got here: Won Pac-12 Championship; won NCAA Pullman Regional; 1st in NCAA stroke-play qualifying (16 under, 277-272-275–824)
>> Arizona State, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 40. Individuals: Jon Rahm (48), Max Rottluff (142), Spencer Lawson (397), Austin Quick (493), Trey Ka’Ahanui (NR)
NCAA Championship appearances: 50
Best NCAA Championship finish: 1st (1990 and ’96)
How they got here: 5th at Pac-12 Championship; 5th at NCAA Tempe Regional; T-6th in stroke-play qualifying (2 over, 270-288-284–842)
>> Cal vs. Arizona State: The matchups
• Michael Weaver, Cal, vs. Austin Quick, Arizona State
• Joel Stalter, Cal, vs. Max Roffluff, Arizona State
• Max Homa, Cal, vs. Trey Ka’Ahanui, Arizona State
• Michael Kim, Cal, vs. Spencer Lawson, Arizona State
• Brandon Hagy, Cal, vs. Jon Rahm, Arizona State
• • •
MATCH #2: NO. 4 TEXAS VS. NO. 5 ILLINOIS
Scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m. EDT
Texas, the defending national champion, has two players ranked in Golfweek‘s top 20.
Illinois came into the 2013 NCAA Championships with two of the past three individual champions, Scott Langley and Thomas Pieters, the latter being the Illini’s top-ranked player, at No. 46.
>> Texas, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 3. Individuals: Brandon Stone (2), Cody Gribble (17), Kramer Hickok (54), Toni Hakula (90), Julio Vegas (143)
NCAA Championship appearances: 63
Best NCAA Championship finish: 1st (1972, ’73, 2012)
How they got here: Won Big 12 Championship; 3rd at NCAA Fayetteville Regional; 4th in stroke-play NCAA qualifying (7 under, 279-271-283–833)
>> Illinois, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 22. Individuals: Thomas Pieters (46), Thomas Detry (130), Brian Campbell (135), Charlie Danielson (193), Alex Burge (511)
NCAA Championship appearances: 21
Best NCAA Championship finish: 4th (1941)
How they got here: Won Big Ten Championship; won NCAA Fayetteville Regional; 5th in stroke-play NCAA qualifying (5 under, 276-281-278–835)
>> Texas vs. Illinois: The matchups
• Julio Vegas, Texas, vs. Thomas Detry, Illinois
• Toni Hakula, Texas, vs. Charlie Danielson, Illinois
• Brandon Stone, Texas, vs. Thomas Pieters, Illinois
• Kramer Hickok, Texas, vs. Brian Campbell, Illinois
• Cody Gribble, Texas, vs. Alex Burge, Illinois
• • •
MATCH #3: NO. 2 GEORGIA TECH VS. NO. 7 UNLV
Scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. EDT
After holding the 36-hole lead, Georgia Tech battled through an over-par round Thursday to stay in second place. Tech is led by all-ACC selections Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans.
UNLV made a major rally in the final stroke-play round just to move on to match play – not to mention surviving the 4-for-3 playoff. UNLV is led by Kevin Penner, who is ranked No. 50 by Golfweek.
A closer look at their matchup:
>> Georgia Tech, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 8. Individuals: Anders Albertson (27), Ollie Schniederjans (31), Bo Andrews (93), Shun Yat Hak (158), Seth Reeves (233)
NCAA Championship appearances: 27
Best NCAA Championship finish: 2nd (1993, 2000, ’02 and ’05)
How they got here: 4th at ACC Championship; 4th at NCAA Tallahassee Regional; 2nd in NCAA stroke-play qualifying (10 under, 274-274-282–830)
>> UNLV, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 29. Individuals: Kevin Penner (50), Kurt Kitayama (188), A.J. McInerney (189), Carl Jonson (239), Nicholas Maruri (773)
NCAA Championship appearances: 18
Best NCAA Championship finish: 1st (1998)
How they got here: T-2 at Mountain West Championship; 4th at NCAA Columbus Regional; T-6 in stroke-play qualifying (2 over, 286-284-272–842)
>> Georgia Tech vs. UNLV: The matchups
• Seth Reeves, Ga. Tech, vs. Carl Jonson, UNLV
• Shun Yat Hak, Ga. Tech, vs. A.J. McInerney, UNLV
• Bo Andrews, Ga. Tech, vs. Nicholas Maruri, UNLV
• Ollie Schniederjans, Ga. Tech, vs. Kevin Penner, UNLV
• Anders Albertson, Ga. Tech, vs. Kurt Kitayama, UNLV
• • •
MATCH #4: NO. 3 ALABAMA VS. NO. 6 NEW MEXICO
Scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. EDT
Alabama is looking for a bit of redemption after its heartbreaking loss to Texas in the 2012 NCAA Championship. The Tide have three golfers ranked in the top 10.
The tough New Mexico team showed its mettle in a 4-under 276 Thursday that vaulted it into match play. James Erkenbeck is No. 13 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
>> Alabama, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 2. Individuals: Bobby Wyatt (3), Cory Whitsett (4), Justin Thomas (8), Trey Mullinax (37), Scott Strohmeyer (57)
NCAA Championship appearances: 15
Best NCAA Championship finish: 2nd (2012)
How they got here: Won SEC Championship; won NCAA Baton Rouge Regional; 3rd in NCAA stroke-play qualifying (7 under, 275-276-282–833)
>> New Mexico, by the numbers
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: Team: 5. Individuals: James Erkenbeck (13), Gavin Green (36), John Catlin (66), Victor Perez (75), Benjamin Bauch (196)
NCAA Championship appearances: 44
Best NCAA Championship finish: 4th (1973)
How they got here: Won Mountain West Championship; won NCAA Columbus Regional; T-6th in NCAA stroke-play qualifying (2 over, 292-274-276–842)
>> Alabama vs. New Mexico: The matchups
• Bobby Wyatt, Alabama, vs. Victor Perez, New Mexico
• Trey Mullinax, Alabama, vs. Gavin Green, New Mexico
• Scott Strohmeyer, Alabama, vs. Benjamin Bauch, New Mexico
• Cory Whitsett, Alabama, vs. John Catlin, New Mexico
• Justin Thomas, Alabama, vs. James Erkenbeck, New Mexico
– Research from Brentley Romine was used in this report