Entering this season, Cal seemed like nearly a sure-thing to win the NCAA Title. But after one big miss in qualification, this is now basically a dead-heat. The roughly 40 point gap in the psych sheet scoring should evaporate pretty quickly with relay improvements (Leverenz, one of the country’s two best breaststrokers, wasn’t even on their medley relay). Both teams have a lot of important swims wrapped up in freshmen; Georgia’s freshmen have been better this season than Cal’s.
Here’s a telling stat that, for me, was basically the tie-breaker on this meet: Georgia is projected to have 28 scoring swims, whereas Cal is projected to have only 21. That means that Georgia has a lot more opportunities to move up in the scoring, and subjectively, I think there’s about 5 or 6 more scoring swims in the Bulldogs’ eyes. The corollary to that is that it feels like Georgia has a few more spots where swimmers could move down in the standings, as well. A few of their freshmen are unlikely to hold very high seeds, especially in the distance events.
My gut still tells me Cal, but that’s largely because I’ve been on the Cal bandwagon all season. My brain tells me Georgia, so I have to go ‘Dawgs.
Arizona, especially with diver Sam Pickens, should easily hold on to the 3rd spot, and with relays that will out-swim seeds, there’s still an outside chance that they slide up and challenge the top two.
Running through picks further down in the standings, based on history Tennessee will fall a few spots, but with a great diver of their own this season, they should do well with a 7th-place finish. Texas A&M should get the most diving points, which jumps them way up the standings, even ahead of a Florida team that, much like A&M, is loaded with individual talent, but sans the divers.
And way down at the bottom, I like Ohio State to move all the way up into the top 20 on the strength of qualifying relays. There are some other teams that have good chances at the top 20 (including schools like Purdue), but you’ve gotta take chances on the team that got two relays invited.
Check out the rest of the top 20, and sound off in the comments with your picks.
8. Texas A&M
17. Arizona State
18. Penn State
19. North Carolina
20. Ohio State Buckeyes