Over the next few weeks, as the Long Course season closes out, new freshman are arriving on campus, and fans everywhere ramp up for another exciting NCAA Season, we will be running a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NCAA season. Starting with the no.12 teams and finishing with the defending National Championships (Texas men and Florida women) we will work our way down the top finishers from last year’s NCAA teams, and will also jump into some rising teams that we expect to break into the top tier this season. Click here to see the other men’s previews, and click here to see all of the previews for both Men and Women.
Key Losses (Individual Points scored at NCAA’s, Relays Swum at NCAA’s): Ricky Berens (31 NCAA Points, 3 relays), Peter Jameson (0 points, 1 relay), Hill Taylor (25 points, 2 relays) Benjamin Van Roekel (3 points, 2 relays), Dave Walters (33 points, 4 relays)
Key Additions (Primary Strokes): Woody Joye (middle distance free, fly, back, IM), Matthew Belecanech (middle distance free, fly, back), Charlie Moore (sprint free, back), Bobby Button (middle distance free), Kerrington Hill (sprint free, fly), Michael McBroom–Minnesota Transfer (distance)
2010-2011 Season Outlook: NCAA Titles are rarely won without a strong senior class, and the Longhorns had a whale of a group last year. Ricky Berens, Hill Taylor, and Dave Walters were a veritable three-headed monster that combined to score 89 points individually, in addition to being huge contributors on the relays.
Besides the loss of three of their best, the off-season has been a tumultuous one in Austin, for reasons not entirely related to swimming. Up until a few weeks ago, the Longhorns weren’t certain what conference they were going to be in beyond the 2010-2011 season, and who they were going to be there with. But after the dust settled, the three men’s programs in the Big 12 (Texas A&M, Missouri) remained in tact, at least for the time being.
The good news for the Longhorns is that they have reloaded in a big way, in addition to returning a ton of scorers to defend their title. Sprint superstar Jimmy Feigen is still there to anchor the relays, but the key to the Longhorns repeating will be finding some freestylers to match up with him due to the departure of Berens and Walters.
The Darkhorse: One of those swimmers might be Dax Hill, who had a great Big 12 Championship meet last year. As a two-sport star in high school, Hill only recently turned his full attention to swimming, and should make a huge jump between his freshman and sophmore years. He went a 44.1 in the 100 free and a 20.4 in the 50, but has the potential to be much better once he becomes a significant piece of the Texas puzzle next season. He also has a lot of potential in breaststroke, with a textile best of 56.99.
Who’s Coming Back: Jackson Wilcox will be one of the best in the country in the distance events in his junior year, after a 3rd place finish in the mile last season. Joined with Michael McBroom, a Minnesota transfer who placed 4th in the mile last season, Texas will have the best distance corps in the country.
Senior Scott Spann, who was the silver medalist in both breastsroke events, should be even better now that he’s finished his first injury-free collegiate season in Austin (after transferring from Michigan, and missing the 2008-2009 season with a patella injury).
Last year’s freshman class had a big impact in their first collegiate season. Austin Surhoff is already a national champion (200 IM), and led the Longhorns with 40 individual points at NCAA’s. He was also 6th in the 200 back (1:40.34) and 10th in the 400 IM (3:43.32).
Cole Cragin, the 100 back National high school record holder, swam B-finals in both backstroke events (46.11/1:42.55). With many top backstrokers graduating, Cragin will be a double A-finalist this season. Nick D’Innocenzo was just shy of an NCAA scoring breakthrough in the IM events. And these are just the highlights of what was an unbelievably loaded class last year.
The Freshmen: Eddie Reese has pulled in another great recruiting class, including Woody Joye, who might be the best swimmer to ever come out of the state of Alabama, where he holds 5 out of the 8 high school state records. He has a textile-best of 48.7 in the 100 fly, and a converted 44.7 in the 100 free. He should be a significant NCAA scorer as a freshman. Matthew Belecanech has already gone a 1:37.2 in his 200 free and should be the latest addition to the great 200 free tradition at Texas. He also has a 4:28 in the 500, is under 50 seconds in both the 100 fly and 100 back, and is better in the 200 distances.
The biggest impact of this class is Patrick Murphy out of New Hampshire, who has been training with NBAC. He is a backstroker and butterflier who has already gone 49.5’s or better in both 100 yard distances, and is just as good in the 200 back. Coupled with Cragin, he will be part of the best young backstroke duo in the country. Due to graduations, the time for finaling will likely rise from the 47.0 that it was at last season, so Murphy has a solid chance at a B-final. This is especially true when he is able to focus more effort on short course racing, where NBAC is known to put most of its emphasis on long course.
The rest of the freshman probably won’t be scorers their first years, but definitely have the potential to develop into solid relay swimmers (or more) for the Longhorns in the long haul.
The Edge: Texas still has their aces-in-the-hole: Matt Cooper and Drew Livingston. Texas’ two star divers scored 54 points at last year’s NCAA Championship, which gives their team a huge advantage, since they only use one roster spot. Divers like those will always make Texas a contender for national titles.
2011 Prognosis: There’s no doubt that Texas will again be one of the best teams in the country. But they did lose some strong leadership to graduation, and it will be interesting to see who steps into to fill that void. The team will turn to their one super-star senior on the roster (Spann), along with very strong contributors Scott Jostes and Bryan Collins, to be the leaders. This team’s fate will be based on their ability to develop new leadership within the team, but even then I don’t know if they’re good enough to knock of Cal.