Every 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play golfer as a 2018 NCAA basketball tournament team
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Every 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play golfer as a 2018 NCAA basketball tournament team

The UMBC (Chesapeake Bay) Retrievers stole the country's hearts.

Cue up the Andy Williams and forget the holiday decorations because this, friends, is the most wonderful time of the sports year. And while Jim Nantz gears up for the greatest 10 days in the broadcasting profession, the rest of us get our golf and hoops fix together a couple weeks earlier.

Just mainline the brackets straight into my veins!

This year, the timing works out to give us hope in our prognostication. While your NCAA Tournament bracket likely imploded over the past couple of days, you haven’t whiffed on your World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play selections yet. Keep in mind, though, that only 31 percent of the top seeds advanced out of their pods in 2017. Chaos reigns!

In order to celebrate the two greatest knockout sporting events of the year, it’s time to continue another tradition: identifying the doppelganger for each player and team. Here we go...

  • Dustin Johnson is Kansas: DJ has won a tournament in 11 straight PGA Tour seasons. No current player comes close to that. Kansas has won 14 consecutive Big 12 titles and made 29 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. No other program comes close to that. Each are the end of the ‘death, taxes and [fill in the blank]’ debate in their sport. But, are they the darling? DJ is mysterious and will always have aging skeletons in the closet. Kansas has enough questions surrounding recruiting to send up smoke signals. Will either be fully embraced for their greatness?
  • Justin Thomas is Villanova: While many don’t want to admit it, this brand has been the best in the game for the last year plus. Nova was on top in 2016 and has been a top-two seed in the tournament for five straight seasons. JT is the reining player of the year, has won as much as anybody this season. Both just get it done and have developed a culture of winning and consistency that seems poised to continue with no end in sight.
  • Jon Rahm is Cincinnati: New, dominant kids on the block, but both owe so much success to a previous generation. The Bearcats won titles in 1961 and 1962 after Oscar Robertson put the program on the map. Today, grittiness and power has returned Cincy to the mainstream. Rahm, meanwhile, doesn’t like comparisons to Seve, but fully embraces what his idol meant to him as a golfer. With grittiness and power, Spanish golf is back on top.
  • Jordan Spieth is Duke: The All-American brand of the sport. It hasn’t been perfect this year, however. Spieth has been unspectacularly steady, with the inability to putt at a championship level. Duke has been one step below the top, with the inability to guard anybody. Both, however, own a talent that could win the whole thing and ignite a nationwide duel of fans vs. haters. Plus, Spieth barking at his ball is the Grayson Allen elbow/hip check of golf.
  • Hideki Matsuyama is Xavier: A consistent winner, year in and year out, but will the glass ceiling be shattered? Xavier has won more tournament games without reaching the Final Four than any other school. Matsuyama has won 14 times but a major still eludes him. Is this the year?
  • Sergio Garcia is Michigan State: As good as both have been in the last 20 years, there is only one major win to show for each, which seems unfair the older each gets. Sergio has become more than likable, the way Tom Izzo is the wise sage of college coaches.
  • Jason Day is Purdue: Both of them have a rich history, but it seems longer ago than it should be. Both have reached levels of success this season that are higher than most realize (Day won at Torrey? Purdue was ranked Top 3?), but do we really trust either at this point? (Tip of the cap to Josh Masariu, @NatrlBB1, for the suggestion here)
  • Tommy Fleetwood is Texas Tech: Yes, they are good. Yes, they are this good. No, it is not a fluke. No, don’t expect them to fade quickly. Also, I’m not exactly sure what a Red Raider is, but I imagine him with Fleetwood’s manly mane.
  • Paul Casey is Clemson: Sometimes staying the course is the right way to go. Casey’s commitment to his strengths built consistency that eventually was rewarded with his first win in years. Clemson elected to believe in its coach, Brad Brownell, when other programs would have cut bait. Consistency of leadership earned the Tigers their highest seed in a decade.
  • Rory McIlroy is Kentucky: The big, bad wolf has fallen from the top of the rankings, but can you really sleep on the prodigious talent here? If this is the floor, others would gladly swap places. And we know what the ceiling looks like! (How about the weekend for both?!)
  • Tyrrell Hatton is Wichita State: The rising star in recent years took big steps into the mainstream and passed the test. Hatton missed six of seven cuts last summer after rising to 14th in the world, but then won twice late and has flashed form lately to validate the ranking. Wichita joined a bigger conference, still won and validated the quality of the program.
  • Marc Leishman is Tennessee: Everybody says that Leish is underrated, so I guess it must be true. Everybody says the Volunteers are a sleeper, so it must be true.
  • Alex Noren is North Carolina: The Tar Heels weren’t the best in their conference (Virginia), the most talked about (Duke) or the most surprising (take your pick), but you know what they were? Really damn good. Likewise, Noren doesn’t get headlines, doesn’t look pretty all the time (holy pre-shot routine!), but is really damn good. 
  • Phil Mickelson is Arizona: Left for dead and both (allegedly) tied to the Feds at some point, the perennial talent is incredible and a recent surge to fight to the top has many paying attention.
  • Pat Perez is Auburn: Go ahead and have yourself a season! Perez is ranked 42 spots higher than a season ago. The last time Auburn made the tournament, golf’s major champions were Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel. Only one of those players still has a PGA Tour card.
  • Matt Kuchar is West Virginia: Nothing spectacular has really happened in 2018, but there is enough game and recent history to suggest a tournament surge is certainly possible.
  • Rafael Cabrera Bello is Virginia: Okay, I’ll admit it: I wrote this with Justin Rose in this spot until he de-committed. But, like Virginia, Rafa has become a mainstain in the sport with nothing truly sexy about him except really good play.
  • Brian Harman is Ohio State: Complete over-achievers at this juncture. Harman has bullied his way to the top of a couple of leaderboards, while Ohio State nearly won the Big Ten in a “rebuilding” year.
  • Patrick Reed is Oklahoma: Like the Sooners with Trae Young, Reed is must-watch TV when it’s all working around him. Unfortunately, like the Sooners, great play can disappear for stretches at a time.
  • Xander Schauffele is Gonzaga: You didn’t want to believe the hype until last year’s performance to the end forced you to take a look. Now, was it real? This year, we find out.
  • Francesco Molinari is TCU: You are as surprised by the Italian’s steady world ranking as you are by the Horned Frogs getting a six seed in its first trip to the tournament in 20 years.
  • Charley Hoffman is Miami (FL): Ending 2017, the stock for both was about as high as one would want. Then, the Canes lost their best player and Hoffman hasn’t finished inside the top 20 in the calendar year.
  • Branden Grace is Florida: In a world where football will always be biggest in Gainesville, the last back-to-back national champion in hoops can’t get no respect. Grace has been the highest ranked South African at times, but is never the first from the rainbow nation to be associated with the sport.
  • Gary Woodland is Rhode Island: Break down the year for both and you see solid, winning performances littering the schedule. Unfortunately, recent form seems to suggest the best ball is just behind them.
  • Louis Oosthuizen is Missouri: Intriguing if healthy. Mizzou has a lottery pick with a bad back, while Louis is always a threat, if it weren’t for his back.
  • Ross Fisher is Seton Hall: Both have been around for a lifetime of fans in each sport, but neither has really won of late. 2014 was the last year Fisher won a tournament. Seton Hall hadn’t won a tournament game since 2004.
  • Kiradech Aphibarnrat is NC State: The Wolfpack’s best player is a sophomore from Turkey. Aphibarnrat is experiencing his sophomore surge (achieving his highest ranking) in terms of national recognition thanks to work in Brunei.
  • Daniel Berger is Florida State: Let’s keep the Noles together. Like FSU in the ACC this season, Berger is easy to overlook in a peer group that has so many top-level players.
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick is Alabama: Each owns, arguably, some of the best prep talent ever seen in the game. The Tide have dynamic guard Colin Sexton, while Fitz was an amateur wunderkind. So, why the lower seed?!?!
  • Tony Finau is Buffalo: The little engine that you continue to overlook until it will overpower a higher seed in shocking domination.
  • Patrick Cantlay is Houston: So much back story for both. Cantlay persevered through injury and tragedy to win on Tour. Houston took an outcast coach to bring a program back to life. Both feel like this is just the start of something bigger.
  • Kevin Kisner is Kansas State: Getting the most out of a package that many wouldn’t bet on. That’s not a knock. That’s respect.
  • Kevin Chappell is Virginia Tech: If only because Chappell appears to be a couple cases of Busch Light away from looking like Hokies coach Buzz Williams.
  • Bubba Watson is Michigan: Both recent winners (Bubba at Riviera, Michigan at the Big Ten Tournament) that were probably under-seeded entering the tournament. Nobody wants to truly believe they can win it all, but the results eventually force you to. (Thanks to Jim Moeller, @golfkicks, for the submission of this one)
  • Brendan Steele is Loyola: Both invested in a new way of doing business a half decade ago – Steele in putting, Loyola in facilities – and have been rewarded by being a weekly threat.
  • Haotong Li is Arkansas: When it’s on, it is 40 minutes (or 18 holes) of poetry. When it’s not, it can get rather pedestrian.
  • Webb Simpson is Butler: In improbable fashion, each reached the pinnacle of the sport out of nowhere. Now, tested (anchoring ban for Webb; coaching turnover for Butler), both are still able to be effective in another encore.
  • Adam Hadwin is Montana: Great weather up north, eh?
  • Thomas Pieters is South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits had a big man named Mike “The Daumenator” Daum. As Pieters continues to get bigger, his quiet demeanor will yield a similar, doomsday nickname.
  • Satoshi Kodaira is Nevada: Quick, tell me what either won to get to here? You can’t. That’s okay, they are still really good and will likely beat…
  • Dylan Frittelli is Texas: Both are Longhorns and the road to get to this point has been steady, but maybe not as quick as critics would think. Shaka Smart is still finding his footing with his hoops team, while Frittelli took five years as an international pro to make it back.
  • Jason Dufner is Davidson: Once proud, next level programs that reached the highest heights manageable, both cherish the opportunity to earn a spot again the hard way.
  • Chez Reavie is Marshall: Too many stories to focus on the little guy, but watch him pull an upset or two
  • Jhonattan Vegas is Texas A&M: Just wanted to make a Longhorn squirm a bit at the comparison. Gig ‘em
  • Yuta Ikeda is Saint Bonaventure: No matter what the resume says, you want more proof.
  • Cameron Smith is Providence: The youngster’s flare would make Friars’ coach Ed Cooley proud. Fans, however, still don’t know how to absorb it.
  • Patton Kizzire is Charleston: Both like that Carolina coast style.
  • Charl Schwartzel is Syracuse: Remember the glory days?
  • Si Woo Kim is Texas Southern: The Tigers won a play-in game after not winning a single game before the calendar flipped (lost 13 straight). Kim won the Players after failing to finish 10 of 15 tournaments coming in.
  • Bernd Wiesberger is Georgia State: Veterans in this low seed slot, but running out of headlines and soundbites to garner attention as an up-and-comer.
  • Kyle Stanley is San Diego State: The west coast product that you forget to associate with the west coast.
  • Yusaku Miyazato is UNCG: When I learn something of significance on either, I’ll share it.
  • Russell Henley is S.F. Austin: Both sound like tough outs in a WWE championship bout. Don’t you dare make a joke right here.
  • Zach Johnson is Creighton: A couple of Iowa corn belt products that have had better prospects in previous years of the bracket.
  • James Hahn is New Mexico State: Hey, better than being compared to Old Mexico State.
  • Alexander Levy is Penn: While he is French, the name reads like a Quaker, or at least somebody who could have founded Penn way back in 1749.
  • Peter Uihlein is Iona: I own a lot of Titleist balls that I hope the Uihlein family keeps relevant.
  • Ian Poulter is Lipscomb: I’ve got questions! How can Lipscomb’s mascot be the Bisons? Is Bison the plural of Bison?!?! While we are at it, how is Ian Poulter still ranked in the top 64?
  • Shubhankar Sharma is Wright State: Got hot at the right time, beat up on a weak field(s) and earned some tournament revenue. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
  • Kevin Na is Bucknell: Bucknell’s mascot is the Bison. Now they are just messing with me. Good thing we have Na here. He will take his time to get an answer on this.
  • Charles Howell III is Murray State: Back again, and again, and again, and again. Is this the year to make a mark? Probably not, but the check still cashes.
  • Julian Suri is CSU-Fullerton: The Titans weren’t even a top-three team in their conference and hadn’t sniffed an NCAA bid in a decade. Suri has seen very few big stages in golf to this point and wasn’t in the field until two days before Match Play. Soak in the experience!
  • Keegan Bradley is UMBC: Both are from the northeast. Both are sacrificial lambs to big time talent. Or are they?
  • Luke List is Radford: It took some last-minute good fortune just to make the field, but you make the most of the opportunity, right?

About the author

Will Haskett

Will Haskett

Will Haskett has had the privilege of broadcasting basketball, football, golf, soccer, tennis, cross country, track, swimming and lacrosse on every medium and in almost 30 states. He's worked for ESPN, Westwood One, CBS, Longhorn Network, Fox Sports, Turner Sports, Sirius/XM, the PGA Tour, the NCAA, Horizon League, Butler University, IHSAA and more. He's worked the Final Four, the Masters, PGA Championship and over 100 NCAA championships in 13 different sports.