Before we spend the next three days of our college swimming energy on Women’s NCAA’s in Greensboro, we’re sneaking in one last post about the Men’s meet, and it’s a big one: our final Men’s NCAA team predictions in what looks to be the deepest team field in recent history.
Remember, while we were evaluating teams throughout the year based on a mix between their dual meet season and end-of-year prospects, these rankings are strictly how we think teams will finish at NCAA’s.
25. IOWA HAWKEYES (PREVIOUS RANK: #21)
Iowa has some dangerous medleys with Grant Betulius and Roman Trussov turning in one of the better front-halves in the country. Betulius has had a breakthrough season, and is looking like a potential A-finalist in the 100 backstroke.
24. UTAH UTES (PREVIOUS RANK: #19)
The Utes had a very up-and-down Pac 12’s, but still have three individual swimming scoring threats in Bence Kiraly, Nick Soedel, and Alexandre Fernandes. Throw in diver Jacob Crayne, and they should crack the top 25.
23. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (PREVIOUS RANK: #19)
It took 28 points to finish 23rd last year. Jordan Wilimovsky is seeded to score 26. We like his chances to get there.
22. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (PREVIOUS RANK: N/A)
The Tar Heels scored just 7 points last season at this meet, but Sam Lewis gives the Tar Heels a legitimate sprint threat that can push their sprint free relays over the top. They’re a scoring threat in both medleys, too.
21. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (PREVIOUS RANK: N/A)
Steele Johnson was excellent on the boards at Big Ten’s for the Boilermakers, finishing 2nd on all three boards in what might be the nation’s strongest diving conference. Throw in some potential points from Lyam Dias, Marat Amaltdinov, and Guillermo Blanco, and Purdue has a shot at the top 20.
20. VIRGINIA TECH H2OKIES (PREVIOUS RANK: #20)
The H2Okies relinquished their ACC title to NC State, but they’re still bringing a quality group (six individual swimmers, four divers, and five relays with ‘A’ standards) to Iowa City next week. 400 IM ACC champion Robert Owen is the top seeded swimmer, and has a shot at getting into the A-final.
19. WISCONSIN BADGERS( PREVIOUS RANK: #22)
The Badgers suffered a blow with Nick Caldwell not qualifying individually, but Matt Hutchins has held down the fort in the distance events, and Drew teDuites has looked more like his sophomore self.
18. UNLV REBELS (PREVIOUS RANK: #18)
UNLV is returning 13 of the 16 legs on their four scoring relays from last year’s NCAA’s, and Dillon Virva has been very good (per usual).
17. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (PREVIOUS RANK: #17)
Top-heavy, yes, but Shane Ryan and Nate Savoy–along with some relays with scoring potential–should put the Nittany Lions in the top 20.
16. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (PREVIOUS RANK: #15)
The Buckeyes had some huge contributors and potential NCAA point scorers come out of the woodwork at Big Ten’s, headlined by 100 fly conference champion Matt McHugh. Josh Fleagle was great, too (19.6/42.7/1:33.2), leaving Ohio State in great shape with relays next weekend.
15. MISSOURI TIGERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #11)
Missouri didn’t quite live up to their mid-year hype, but they still have NCAA ‘A’ standard qualifiers Sam Tierney, Mack Darragh, and Carter Griffin. Diver Clark Thomas could be the difference maker, though.
14. ARIZONA WILDCATS (PREVIOUS RANK: #10)
Things are looking shaky for the Wildcats. Kevin Cordes hasn’t looked like himself… is that cause for concern or a change in strategy? Bradley Tandy only looks to be a threat to score in one event… can he hold it together for a 100 on day three? Can they make the top 8 in a single relay (we’d hope the 200 medley)?
13. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (PREVIOUS RANK: #12)
The Cardinals are held back a bit by their lack of a dominant sprint freestyler, but their medleys are strong, with Grigory Tarasevich, Thomas Dahlia, Pedro Coutinho all slated to score individually in their respective 100 of stroke.
12. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #14)
Tennessee was a mixed bag at SEC’s but if they are all close to their best, they should do some damage. Peter John Stevens will be a contender in the 100 breast if he can hold things together for more than 60 yards, and Mauricio Robles-Rodriguez should add diving points in all three events. The distance trio of Evan Pinion, Robert McHugh, and David Heron wasn’t great at SEC’s, but that could have strategic to save Pinion and Heron for NCAA’s.
11. INDIANA HOOSIERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #16)
Blake Pieroni rose to the occasion at Big Ten’s, and the Hoosiers have the nation’s best diving squad. After a pretty dismal outlook for part of the year, their freestyle relays have come along nicely, thanks to the breakthrough of Ali Khalafaila. Stephen Schmuhl hasn’t hit his usual sixth gear yet, but has a pretty good track record at NCAA’s in the 400 IM.
10. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (PREVIOUS RANK: #13)
Four very good sprint relays behind breakout backstroke star Connor Oslin, returning All-American breaststroker Anton McKee, top 25 sprint freestyler and 100 butterflyer Brett Walsh, and the potentially immortal Kristian Gkolomeev. Throw in underwater superhero Luke Kaliszak and developing sprinter Alex Gray, and you’re looking at somewhere between 125-150 points from relays alone.
9. AUBURN TIGERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #6)
Arthur Mendes has been excellent, and the mid-season adds are coming up huge for the Tigers, particularly Hugo Morris, who already broke Rowdy Gaines’ school record in the 200 free. Auburn’s sprint freestyle relays are already looking dangerous, and we haven’t even seen the best from Kyle Darmody yet.
8. STANFORD CARDINAL (PREVIOUS RANK: #7)
We know what kind of week David Nolan had in Federal Way, but there’s plenty of other scoring talent here, too. The Cardinal have a dozen athletes qualified for next week, and while they’re seeded 10th on the psych sheet, they’re bound to get 70-80 points from diving, and we haven’t seen any particularly rested swims from Max Williamson or Tom Kremer since November.
7. NC STATE WOLFPACK (PREVIOUS RANK: #10)
The Wolfpack are coming. NC State (and Alabama, to be fair) has a shot at becoming just the second non-traditional-power school (Stanford, Cal, Texas, Michigan, Florida, and the like) to win an NCAA relay title since 1995. The addition of Anton Ipsen has masked their most glaring weakness, and their sprint group is even better than a year ago with the way Ryan Held has developed. Their ceiling is as high as fourth if luck falls their way.
6. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (PREVIOUS RANK: #3)
Georgia’s relay times didn’t hold up as well through conferences as they looked at the mid-season mark, but they’re still on the bubble of getting in the top 8 in all five. Even with that, plus all of their individual talent (Chase Kalisz, Mathias Koski, Nic Fink, etc), the Bulldogs will be in a battle for the top five.
5. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (PREVIOUS RANK: #5)
Michigan looks to be in a great spot coming out of Big Ten’s, with all five relays seeded in the top six nationally, including #1 seeds in both day two relays. Those saw surprise legs from Jeremy Raisky (shout-out to a fellow former Birmingham Blue Dolphin) and Jack Mangan.
Those less-experienced and/or supporting swimmers will make the difference for U of M next weekend. Anders Nielsen, Dylan Bosch, Richard Funk, and Bruno Ortiz are going to do what they’re going to do. It’s the next group (Justin Glanda, Paul Powers, Aaron Whitaker, etc) that either pushes Michigan well into the top four, or keeps them outside the top five.
4. USC TROJANS (PREVIOUS RANK: #8)
USC’s Pac 12 performance was arguably the biggest surprise of the conference championship season. There were certainly plenty of known commodities on the squad (Cristian Quintero, Reed Malone, Dylan Carter), but the rest of their famed sophomore class really stepped it up. Steven Stumph won a conference title in the 200 breast, Santo Condorelli grabbed three second place finishes in what has been a breakthrough season, and Michael Domagala was well under his personal bests while qualifying in two individual events.
That, and having Estonian freshman Ralf Tribuntsov has been pretty nice, too.
3. FLORIDA GATORS (PREVIOUS RANK: #4)
Caeleb Dressel has been impressive so far in his opening campaign, but he’s not the only freshman making waves; Mark Szaranek nearly cracked 3:40 in the 400 IM.
Overall, the distance group is even better than a year ago. Mitch D’Arrigo has had the furthest thing from a sophomore slump, and the Gators have three 400 IM’ers seeded in the top eight. We likely haven’t seen the best from Dan Wallace yet, either.
2. CAL GOLDEN BEARS (PREVIOUS RANK: #2)
Cal finished a puzzling third at Pac 12’s, but don’t let that keep you from thinking the Bears inside the top three at NCAA’s. Dave Durden’s squads are the among the best at moving up from their psych sheet totals historically, and its likely none of their top 10-12 swimmers were peaked for conferences. Look for them to add at least 100 points to their seeded total.
1. TEXAS LONGHORNS (PREVIOUS RANK: #1)
The Longhorns don’t have the most seeded swimming points coming into the meet, but they do have (1) three A-final caliber divers, (2) a buttefly group worth 100+ individual points on its own, and (3) a vast number of seeds we expect they will hold or improve on. John Murray, Kip Darmody, and Matt Ellis all tend to lay low in season before getting hot the last weekend of March. Look out for the ‘Horns; this has a chance to be their best team in school history.