- Wednesday February 27th – Saturday March 2nd (Co-Ed); Prelims 10 AM, Finals 6PM, Diving Noonish
- Location: IUPUI Natatorium, Indianapolis, Indiana (Eastern Time Zone)
- Defending Champion: Notre Dame (results)
- Live Results: Available here.
- Live Video (If available):
- Championship Central
The Big East conference gets the first peek among the major Division I conferences at the IUPUI Natatorium that will play host to the NCAA Championship meet. Most NCAA Championship level swimmers have raced at this pool at some point in their careers, but to be there in a college setting, with your college team, a month out of the big meet gives at least a marginal advantage to those teams like Notre Dame and Louisville, who will make some noise at the end of March.
This one was one heck of a battle last season. The Notre Dame men, I think it would surprise many people to learn, are actually the defending champions, having won by just shy of 30 points last season. That’s despite Louisville far outscoring them at NCAA’s. There’s a few reasons for that.
One is that Louisville’s relays, which were so good last season, don’t have a huge impact at the conference level but they do at the NCAA level; they only made a +30 point margin by sweeping all five at Big East’s.
The other is diving. Even with no scoring platform diving at Big Easts, Notre Dame outscored Louisville 129 – 27 in those events. They graduated one of their divers, Sean Rademaker who was an A-Finalist last year, but four of their best including Nicholas Nemetz and Michael Kreft were just freshmen.
This year, platform diving has been added as a scoring event (it was exhibitioned in the past). In theory, that should give Notre Dame an even bigger advantage, though the balance of numbers of swimmers vs. divers on the scoring roster will play in there somewhat. Diving should still be a big advantage scoring-wise for Notre Dame, though Louisville has a good freshman in Sean Piner.
(Interesting to note that this is the first year Big Easts will have platform diving, after the schools with towers have been fighting to get it added for years. Just as this change happens, every team in the conference that has platforms on campus are leaving, though if Houston still joins the conference next season they have one of the best diving facilities in the country, bar-none.)
Keep in mind that Notre Dame already beat Louisville in a mid-year dual meet this season by 10 points: a meet that seemed pretty fair in terms of level of “rest” and “preparation,” (in other words, nobody was putting up times that were way out of the ordinary for that time of year).
In the constantly-shifting landscape that is the Big East, there are 9 men’s teams remaining this season with the loss of West Virginia, who was 4th last year. Those points should be distributed to largely to the mid-level teams like Pitt and UConn, with Notre Dame being the beneficiary of a solid diving group going to the Big 12.
UConn – Kungsoo Yoon (senior sprinter), Michael Lemon (freshman distance swimmer), Lachezar Shumikov (sophomore breaststroker), Grant Fecteau (senior diver) – This is a very experienced squad and in all likelihood will be one the conference’s best teams next season (assuming all changes stand as currently expected), alongside SMU.
Cincinnati – Awse Ma’aya (sophomore backstroker), Joe Bott (freshman distance), Joe Scherpenberg (junior middle distance/backstroker) – Sprinter Josh Schneider is the program’s most famous recent alumni; but their biggest scorer this year might be a freshman miler Joe Bott.
Georgetown – Paul Quincy (senior distance/IM), Austin Evenson (freshman distance) – Quincy is the school record holder in four different events, and came close to a 5th this year in the 400 IM (which he’d probably also get if he swam it at Big Easts). He usually has strong drops from his mid-year rest meet to Big Easts.
Louisville – Joao de Lucca (junior sprinter), Carlyle Blondell (sophomore sprinter), Bryan Draganosky (freshman distance), Kameron Chastain (junior breaststroker), Addison Bray (sophomore breaststroker) – The Cardinals look very good again this year, especially at the top end; they’ll have the top seed in every race coming in except the backstrokes and the 500 free.
Notre Dame – Frank Dyer (junior freestyler), Bertie Nel (junior backstroker), John Williamson (sophomore butterflier), Nicholas Nemetz (sophomore diver) – The Irish have a big star in Dyer, and easily the best diving group in the conference. There’s depth here too – they’ve fot 8 of the 10 best 500 freestylers in the Big East this season as well.
Pitt – Adam Maczewski (senior backstroker), David Sweeney (freshman middle distance), Luke Nobisch (sophomore middle-distance), Erik Moore (senior diver) – Maczewski is already a Big East and ECAC Champion; with the new NCAA qualifying rules in place, if he has the kind of taper that he normally does, he should be an NCAA qualifier this year.
Providence – Ben Kardian (senior diver), Justin Tse (sophomore distance), John Fatigati (sophomore IM’er) – The Friars had a good recruiting class last year, and they should see that start to pay off at this year’s Big East Championships.
Seton Hall – Ryan O’Shaugnessy (senior breaststroker), Logan James (sophomore breaststroker), Ian Delisio (junior breaststroker), Tyler Naumann (junior butterflier) – This teams power lies mainly within its deep breaststroke group.
Villanova – Scott Thiede (senior sprinter), Russell Paulson (senior distance), Roy Sung (sophomore breaststroker), Ben Smith (junior butterflier) – Not as strong this year as their women’s team, but the ‘Nova men did get a big dual-meet win over Georgetown already this season.
200 freestyle – In a league as misbalanced as this one, there’s not a ton of great showdowns. The one monster-battle though could be as good as you’ll see in any conference in the country. In the men’s 200 free, we’ll get Louisville’s Joao de Lucca, 3rd at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, against Notre Dame’s Frank Dyer, 4th last year. Both are juniors, and both teams are going to the ACC next season, so luckily we’ll get to watch this battle one more time at the conference level (with maybe some Parker Camp and Jonathan Boffa thrown in next season). For what it’s worth, in 2012 both had their season-bests at Big Easts, and entered the big meet seeded first and third overall. This year, de Lucca is basically a lock to qualify for NCAA’s with times he’s already put up, whereas Dyer will need to go a season-best (either here or in the 500) to do the same.
100 breaststroke – Kameron Chastain and Addison Bray, both from Louisville, have battled in this 100 breaststroke all season, and come in as the top two seeds separated by only .02 seconds. Don’t sleep on Notre Dame senior Chris Johnson though; he was second in this race at last year’s meet, better than Bray, and can certainly get to a 53-low or a 52-high with those two.
100 backstroke – Pitt’s Adam Maczewski will probably be swimming alone in this race (unless a handful of guys at 48-mids can get down and chase him). But, as alluded to above, he’s got a shot at being Pitt’s first male NCAA qualifier in a few seasons. Everybody loves an underdog, and Maczewski was one of the swimmers who were likely cost a spot at the NCAA Championships last year by the strange way qualifying shook out
Notre Dame, as discussed, are the defending champions. They graduated no Big East scorers, whereas Louisville graduated three guys who were Big East champions. That, along with the addition of a new diving event makes the math pretty clearly in Notre Dame’s favor to defend this season, even if Louisville still ends up placing higher at NCAA’s.
1. Notre Dame
8. Seton Hall