Happy holidays, everyone! What better way to celebrate almost-Christmas/the fourth night of Hanukkah than some power rankings? Not a ton of movement from 1-7, but some significant shifts in the rest of the order. We’re going in reverse order from now on to build some more suspense. Be on the lookout for men’s rankings coming on Monday. Remember that these polls are primarily focused on end-of-season expectations, and aren’t overly-reactive to dual meet results.
25. LSU Tigers (Previous Rank: #19)
The Tigers have three individual swimmers and three relays in the top 16. That’s enough to keep them in the top 25.
24. Miami Hurricanes (Previous Rank: NR)
Diving. It’s the bane of so many college teams existence, but it’s what the Hurricanes live and die by. The ‘Canes were 21st at NCAA’s last season, and return all of their points. Cheyenne Cousineau, who didn’t even score in Minneapolis, has arguably been the most impressive Miami diver.
23. Kentucky Wildcats (Previous Rank: #25)
Tina Bechtel has continued to impress (#1 in the 200 fly, #2 in the 100 fly), and the Wildcats should get some points from returning All-American diver Christa Cabot.
22. UCLA Bruins (Previous Rank: NR)
After a so-so freshman year, Linnea Mack is living up the hype; she sits in the top 8 in two individuals. The Bruins were also the top collegiate team at U.S. Winter Nationals, displaying more depth than we realized they had.
21. SMU MUSTANGS (Previous rank: #19)
After an excellent SMU Classic, we were hoping to see more from the Mustangs at the Art Adamson Invite. With two good breaststrokers and Isabella Arcila supporting Marne Erasmus, the Mustangs should make noise in some relays.
20. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (Previous rank: #22)
We all know about Alyson Ackman, but the Nittany Lions have more beneath the surface. Carolyn Fittin is an excellent #2 sprinter, and Melissa Rodriguez was on the verge of scoring in the breaststrokes last March.
19. Florida State Seminoles (Previous rank: #21)
Chelsea Britt has arrived. The sophomore crushed her previous lifetime bests a couple weeks ago, and currently sits in the top five in both butterfly events. Complimented with a top 30 backstroker (Bianca Spinazzola), breaststroker (Sami Pochowski), and sprint freestyler (Kaitlyn Dressel), the Seminoles have the makings for some really good medleys.
18. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (Previous rank: #23)
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17. AUBURN TIGERS (Previous Rank: #16)
Auburn wouldn’t be Auburn if they weren’t at least in the top five in the 200 free relay. Despite dropping a spot in our rankings, the Tigers are trending up with their performance at the Georgia Invite where they put four relays in the NCAA’s top 16.
16. Indiana Hoosiers (Previous rank: #12)
Help wanted: sprinters. Freshman Kennedy Goss has done an excellent job filling Lindsay Vrooman’s shoes, but the Hoosiers still don’t have an answer yet to the graduation of Kaitlyn Flederbach and Stephanie Armstrong. The breaststroke group needs support, too. Indiana currently sits outside the top 30 in three of five relays.
15. Missouri Tigers (Previous rank: NR)
The Tigers are the biggest jumpers of the year after exploding at their invite last month. Dani Barbiera has picked up where she left off, and freshman Hannah Stevens is ranked in the top 10 in two events.
Did Missouri deserve to be in our first set of power rankings? Yeah, probably (they also have four relays in the top 10 currently, as well). They have a ton of talent, but severely underperformed at NCAA’s last year. Depending on how they swim in March, the Tigers could be anywhere between 13th and 30th.
14. WISCONSIN BADGERS (Previous rank: #15)
This is mostly Ivy Martin’s show, but the Badgers have enough of a supporting cast (Aja Van Hout, Chase Kinney, Annie Tamblyn, Dana Grindall) to score some solid points in at least four relays in March.
13. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (Previous rank: #14)
Woah, Kelsi Worrell! That 50.91 at U.S. Nationals was a lifetime best and is currently #1 in the NCAA. She’s stepped up her freestyle game, too, clocking a 22.02 in the 50 and 48.36 in the 100. If the Hannah Magnuson can continue to develop, Louisville will have some dangerous medleys at the end of the year.
12. Michigan Wolverines (Previous rank: #13)
The future continues to look bright in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines were solid at US Nationals, putting all five relays in the top 16 at the mid-season mark, and a half-dozen swimmers who have at least a good shot at scoring points for U of M (including likely top 8 finishers Clara Smiddy and Gillian Ryan). Who knows, maybe Jim Harbaugh ends up there, too.
11. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (Previous rank: #11)
Kierra Smith has never looked better. Her 2:05.12 from last month in the 200 breast—easily the top time in the country—would have been good enough to finish second at NCAA’s last season, and she nearly medaled at Short Course Worlds. Freshman Brooke Zeiger continues to excel (currently top 10 in two individuals), as well. The Gophers should have enough depth to score in at least 4 relays.
10. ARIZONA WILDCATS (Previous rank: #10)
Not quite ready to bump Arizona out of the top 10 (but the line is getting thin). Sophomore Sara Borendame, who didn’t even qualify for NCAA’s last year, has been a pleasant surprise so far, breaking the 1:00 barrier in the 100 breast and just missing ducking under the 2:10 mark. It appears Bonnie Brandon might be shifting her focus from the ultra-crowded backstroke events to the distance freestyles. So far, so good; she sits 4th in the 200 free and 2nd in the 1650 (where she’s under the NCAA ‘A’ standard along with teammate Tjasa Oder).
9. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (Previous rank: #8)
Molly Hannis and Faith Johnson were National Champions down in Greensboro a couple weeks ago. The Volunteers need more, however, if they’re going to finish in the top 10 in March. At this point, Tennessee doesn’t have a scoring-level individual backstroker or butterflyer, and still need another freestyler to come through the woodwork to support Johnson and Harper Bruens.
8. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS/WAHOOS/CAVAHOOS (Previous rank: #9)
Remember our first women’s power rankings? That time that we said there was a massive drop off between #7 and #8? Well, with four legitimate multi-event top 8 threats and two medley relays with NCAA title potential, Virginia is quickly closing in on the 5th-7th teams. Courtney Bartholomew is the biggest star (it’s hard to ignore a 50.0 100 backstroker), but the difference-maker on is the development of Ellen Thomas, who dropped a 22.1 and 49.0 earlier this month. Laura Simon and Leah Smith also are both already under at least one NCAA ‘A’ standard, too.
7. USC TROJANS (Previous rank: #7)
On the whole, the Trojans didn’t blow anybody away at the Texas Invite last month, especially given what we saw at the SMU Invite earlier in the year. They did, however, get some solid mid-season swims from defending NCAA champion Kendyl Stewart (sub-52) and Andrea Kropp (top 10 in three events). Hannah Weiss will be incredibly important in March; USC was a backstroker away from competing in the 200 medley, but ended up stuck in the consol heat. At this point, Virginia looks like a better swim team at the moment, but USC will also get 45-50 points from All-American diver Haley Ishimatsu.
6. FLORIDA GATORS (Previous rank: #6)
We’ve learned to not expect too much from Florida in the fall, but at this point, they seem a bit thinner than we originally thought. Natalie Hinds, Sinead Russell, and Jessica Thielmann will likely be on the podium at NCAA’s, but otherwise, the Gators only have one other swimmer inside the top 20 in any event. A monster taper is likely, but it still might not be enough for Florida to break into the top five.
5. TEXAS LONGHORNS (Previous rank: #5)
Texas came out swinging the first half of the season. We’ll see if they can continue to outperform expectations through March. With four relays in the top 8 and three different swimmers sitting in the top eight in at least one individual event (Gretchen Jaques, Kaitlin Pawlowicz, and Sarah Denninghoff), the Longhorns are sitting right with the Gators at #5. The 35 returning diving points make the difference.
4. TEXAS A&M AGGIES (Previous rank: #4)
Something we’ve come to expect from a group that’s been deep for years: the Aggies have five swimmers in the top 20 nationally in the 200 IM, and another three ranked between 21-45. Don’t be deceived by where Texas A&M sits nationally in relays; top sprinter Liliana Ibanez Lopez was out for the Art Adamson Invitational, presumably on Mexican National Team duties, but returned to competition against Rice a couple of weeks later.
3. STANFORD CARDINAL (Previous rank: #2)
Stanford has had a break from competition since their impressive performance at the Art Adamson Invitational, so moving down a spot isn’t a result of anything they did or didn’t do. Cal just looked really good. At this point, the Cardinal have a couple more holes than their arch-rivals from across the Bay, lacking a true scoring threat in the IM’s and distance freestyles. Simone Manuel, who is the most valuable swimmer in the country right now, can make up for a lot of weaknesses though.
2. CAL GOLDEN BEARS (Previous rank: #3)
No breaststroker? No problem. Farida Osman is light-years ahead of where she was a year ago, and Cierra Runge has been just as impressive short course as she was this summer. This is the best Elizabeth Pelton has looked in a while, too. And as for that breaststroker, Marina Garcia seems to finally be clicking a little in yards – she swam lifetime bests in both the 100 yard breaststroke (1:01.26) and the 200 yard breaststroke (2:09.16) at the Georgia Invite.
1. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (previous rank: #1)
No change at the top: the Bulldogs are just solid all around, with at least one top eight scoring threat in every individual event, minus the 100 breast. They’re still loaded in the longer events, showing particularly exceptional depth in the 200 fly (three swimmers in the top seven nationally) and 400 IM (four in the top nine).
Georgia might not come close to winning a relay at NCAA’s, but at we can’t pass up picking the Bulldogs at the mid-season mark, especially with the emotional boost from head coach Jack Bauerle’s return to deck.
Dropped from the ranks: North Carolina Tarheels (#18), NC State Wolfpack (#20), Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (#24)