It’s time to make our top-20 predictions for this year’s men’s championship meet. We took some lessons we learned from the women’s meet (notably, pick the favorite as the favorite), and came up with our favorites.
Before we dig into that, there’s one last piece of the scoring. We’ll take a quick look at diving first.
Among programs expected to be contending for the title, Texas should be expecting the most points with their duo of Drew Livingston and Matt Cooper. Livingston is capable of 50+ if he’s on, and Cooper (who red-shirted last year) placed as high as 6th on the platform during his freshman season in 2008. That pair could rack up some major points on the boards, which has to have the Longhorns feeling very good about their chances at this NCAA Title.
Stanford only has one in, but it’s one of the best in Kristian Ipsen. He missed the Pac-12 Championships while competing internationally for Team USA, but he’s an absolute stud freshman diver. He should be good for an NCAA Title on either springboard, but he doesn’t dive platform so that puts him probably around 35 points.
Arizona’s Ben Grado won triple Pac-12 titles, but that was without his big competitors being present at the meet. Still, he did knock off Arizona State’s Cameron Bradshaw at that meet, and Bradshaw was 14th and 22nd on the two springboards, respectively, at last year’s NCAA Championship, so that’s our best benchmark for Grado on the springboards. He won the Zone title on the platform as well, but that’s another event without any depth out west (neither Ipsen nor Arizona State’s Bradshaw or Constantin Blaha dive platform. That weakness also allowed Arizona to get a second qualifier, Andres Guerra, by way of a runner-up finish off of the tower. It’s hard to get a really good feel for the Wildcat divers comparatively, but I think they’d be happy with anything over 15 points.
Further down, looking at possible top-15 teams, Indiana (seeded 12th in swimming points) brings a full-load of 4 divers to this meet, two more than anyone else. Unlike their Hoosier-state compadres from Purdue (who amazingly have none at this meet thanks to the Olympic year), Indiana is still relatively full-squaded. Points are sort of a mystery here too because this group seems to have improved a lot since last year, but one would have to guess maybe more than 30 is a probability.
Texas A&M, whose women we saw come up so big for them, also have two men in the meet. Grant Nel is the star, after placing in the top-three of all three boards at last year’s NCAA Meet. He won’t get a chance to repeat that this year, however. He sat out the platform at Zone’s, which by NCAA rules means that he won’t be able to dive that event at NCAA’s (you can dive any event once you’ve qualified, but you must at least attempt that event at zones to be eligible). Between him and freshman teammate Hayden Jones (younger brother of former USC All-American Harrison) actually swept the springboards in Zone D ahead of Cooper and Livingston, as well as great Missouri diver David Bonuchi. That’s a huge confidence boost for Jones. Something between 40 and 50 points are expected for the pair.
Ohio State also put a pair in (Christian Holstein and Shane Miszkiel) who may score a point or two; Auburn’s John Santeiu also made it in by placing 2nd on both the 1-meter and the platform in zone-B.
Overall a weak diving field this year, so the teams who are good at it stand to benefit with amplification in the scoring column.
I’m not going to make the same mistake that I did at the women’s meet. When looked at from a whole-team, depth perspective, Texas is the clear pick at this meet. They’re the only team in the field that has (largely) had little-to-no rest yet this season. They got all but one swimmer they wanted to in the meet, plus a few surprises. They’ve got a more complete diving squad than either Stanford or Arizona. Horns should win, and I make that pick with fairly high confidence.
Cal versus USC between 5th and 6th should be a great battle. Both teams are very young, with at least one superstar. Cal still has a bit more depth, but USC has a bit more in the way of secondary stars. In this case, I’ll go with Cal’s depth to hold on for the 5th spot.
Ohio State is on a high, and swimming extremely well even with a redshirt from their best swimmer Tim Phillips. I think that they actually jump Florida in the standings.
Louisville is going to surprise some people with the number of entries they have in this meet (13 swimmers) and how diverse they’ve become. They’re so much more than the couple-of-breaststrokers that they used to be, and have 5 outstanding relays all qualified for this meet. There should be a pretty big scoring gap after the top 10. I see A&M next at #11, with a lot of diving points playing a role there. They should also score in both of the sprint free relays (though neither was invited), and that extra relay scoring as compared to Georgia will be a big difference.
I really like Penn State too, on the basis of strong medleys. They didn’t graduate much, and these relays were good last year. With 7 swimmers in the meet, they’re bound to be top-20. Tennessee should be clutch (with some help from great divers of their own).
There’s an outside chance that a pair of Ivy League teams scoring in the top 20 as well. After what was an outstanding Ivy League Championship meet (highly emotional, lots of fast times), both Harvard and Yale have brought relays to this meet.
About the top 5 teams in the country this year can be picked about as you normally would. As the picks move into the lower half of the top 10 and towards 20, however, you have to be careful when considering seeded points. With so few relays invited, there’s going to be a lot of big points that were totally unaccounted for in psych sheet scoring. There’s also going to be an easy opportunity for swimmers who wouldn’t normally be in the battle for points to get there. Team’s have a big chance at moving lots of individuals into the scoring here with even small time drops.
1. Texas (#6 as seeded)
2. Stanford (#3 as seeded)
3. Arizona (#1 as seeded)
4. Michigan (#2 as seeded)
5. Cal (#4 as seeded)
6. USC (#7 as seeded)
7. Auburn (#5 as seeded)
8. Ohio State (#10 as seeded)
9. Florida (#8 as seeded)
10. Louisville (#9 as seeded)
11. Texas A&M (#15 as seeded)
12. Georgia (#11 as seeded
13. Indiana (#12 as seeded)
14. Virginia (#14 as seeded)
15. Iowa (#16 as seeded)
16. Florida State (#13 as seeded)
17. Penn State (#18 as seeded)
18. Tennessee (#33 as seeded)
19. North Carolina (#20 as seeded)
20. Purdue (#17 as seeded)