We’re back with our first set of NCAA Power Rankings in 2015. With just three weekends worth of dual meets since the beginning of December (and many teams competing only once), there’s not a ton to report yet from most teams. To spice things up, we’re keeping the rankings explanations shorter, and paying a bit more attention to some key milestones for a few teams (breaking into the top 10, the top 5, or winning NCAA’s) .
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: #25)
24. SMU MUSTANGS (PREVIOUS RANK: #21)
23. KENTUCKY WILDCATS (PREVIOUS RANK: #23)
22. UNC TARHEELS (PREVIOUS RANK: N/A)
21. UCLA BRUINS (PREVIOUS RANK: #22)
A little bit of shuffling, with just one change in the teams who sit between 21-25: UNC, who jumps into the top 25 after their upset win over UVA this weekend. The Tarheels had some solid swims from their top talent, but the big story was their freestyle depth, which, up to this point, had underperformed. Keep an eye on this group heading into ACC’s. The team to watch in this segment, though, is UCLA.
Team to watch: UCLA
Why: Depth. UCLA’s depth is beginning to show through, and Katy Campbell has been having a great second half of the year. The Bruins have the depth to score in all five relays in March, and Linnea Mack is a three-event scoring threat.
Five reasons they could surprise at NCAA’s:
1) Depth to score in all five relays
2) Linnea Mack should score 20+ points
3) Noelle Tarazona and Katy Campbell can combine for 20 points
4) Madison White should score in both backstrokes again
5) No team incentive to fully taper NCAA swimmers for Pac 12’s
20. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (PREVIOUS RANK: #20)
19. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (PREVIOUS RANK: #18)
18. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (PREVIOUS RANK: #19)
17. INDIANA HOOSIERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #16)
16. AUBURN TIGERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #17)
Like our teams sitting between 21-25, nobody moved in or out of this range, but some things have shifted. Florida State has come out blazing the second half of the year, particularly Kaitlyn Dressel. She’ll be a make-or-break swimmer for the Seminole relays at season’s end. The team to watch, though? The Auburn Tigers.
Team to watch: Auburn Tigers
Why: Sprinters, sprinters, sprinters. They’re off to a hot start the second half of the year, including four sprinters already at 23.1 or better in the 50 this month (Tennessee, with three, is the other team with more than two).
Five reasons they could break into the top 12 at NCAA’s:
1) Four relays with top 10 potential
2) One of the deepest sprint freestyle groups in the country
3) Double returning individual All-American Jillian Vitarius
4) Allyx Purcell is a legitimate #1 sprinter
5) Two breaststrokers already near the 1:00 barrier this year (Natasha Lloyd and Annie Lazor)
15. WISCONSIN BADGERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #14)
14. MISSOURI TIGERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #15)
13. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (PREVIOUS RANK: #13)
12. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (PREVIOUS RANK: #12)
11. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #11)
Minnesota is pretty safe up near the #10 spot, but you could make compelling cases for teams 12-15 to break into the top 10 or fall back towards #20. Two of these teams are heavily dependent on a single swimmer (Ivy Martin for Wisconsin, Kelsi Worrell for Louisville [okay, and Tanja Kylliainen]), one is carried by freshmen who have never gone through a collegiate championship season before (Michigan), and the last severely underperformed last year in March (Missouri).
Team to watch: Missouri Tigers
Why: Loads of talent on an underrated team
Five reasons they could break into the top 10 at NCAA’s:
1) Four relays more than capable of breaking into the top 8
2) Freshman Hannah Stevens’ breakout season
3) Dynamic breaststroker duo in Abby Duncan and Katharine Ross
4) Dani Barbiea is a 100 fly title contender
5) Returning 19 of 20 relay legs
10. ARIZONA WILDCATS (PREVIOUS RANK: #10)
9. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS/WAHOOS/CAVAHOOS (PREVIOUS RANK: #8)
8. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (PREVIOUS RANK: #9)
7. USC TROJANS (PREVIOUS RANK: #7)
6.FLORIDA GATORS (PREVIOUS RANK: #6)
For Florida, German National Champion Theresa Michalak is as good of a midseason addition as you could find, and could have pushed the Gators into the top five. However, they will be without Sinead Russell for the near future (thankfully, she is reportedly “out of danger”… Get well soon!).
The UVA and Tennessee swap is a two-way street. Tennessee was underwhelming the first part of the year, but the pieces of their talent-laden sprint group are starting to come together, and should also get another 30 points from Molly Hannis.
Had we published this on Friday, we could have been convinced to put Virginia as high as 7th without any qualms. They had been maybe the hottest team in the country over the last two months. Their top five (Courtney Bartholomew, Leah Smith, Laura Simon, Ellen Williamson, Kaitlyn Jones) is one of the best collections of talent in the country, and their developing sprint group could be a big source of points the Cavaliers haven’t historically tapped into. That being said, we’re keeping them down here after their loss at the hands of their archrivals in Chapel Hill. Still… if they don’t whiff at NCAA’s again, despite the lack of depth, look for the Cavaliers in the top 5.
Team to watch: Virginia
How UVA could break into the top five teams:
1) Win the 400 medley relay
2) Top 10 in the other four relays (including at least two A-finals)
3) Top five swimmers each reach at least one A-final
4) Put 2 up/1 down in the 200 IM on day one
5) Get 10+ points from other swimmers
5. TEXAS LONGHORNS (PREVIOUS RANK: #5)
4. TEXAS A&M AGGIES (PREVIOUS RANK: #4)
3. STANFORD CARDINAL (PREVIOUS RANK: #3)
2. CAL GOLDEN BEARS (PREVIOUS RANK: #2)
1. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (PREVIOUS RANK: #1)
Top five remain unchanged, but there is definitely more uncertainty surrounding them than a few weeks ago:
For Texas: Gretchen Jacques has put together her best collegiate season so far, and Tasija Karosas has been one of the NCAA’s breakout swimmers of the second half of the year so far. Questions remain, though, if (a) the Longhorns can maintain this momentum though March, and (b) if they have enough individual scorers to keep them in the top 5. At this point, it’s Jacques (two likely A finals), a resurgent Sarah Denninghoff (two borderline A finals), Kelsey Leneave (two B finals), and Kaitlin Pawlowicz (one borderline A final, one borderline B final). A lot can change, but the ‘Horns need a bit more than that to stay in the top 5 (diving, perhaps?).
For Texas A&M: With Liliana Ibáñez at or near 100%? They jump Maddy Schaefer-less Stanford. Without her? It’ll be tough. Also… maybe it’s because she’s been a perennial All-American, but we can’t believe Sarah Henry is still in college.
For Stanford: What now without Maddy Schaefer? Of course, when you have Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, and Janet Hu on the roster, the relay loss isn’t a death sentence, but the 20-25 individual points lost is enough to push them back a notch.
For Cal: Farida Osman has been great, but Marina Garcia still hasn’t come around. She’s on a better track than last year, but the Bears currently have giant question marks in the breaststrokes, which could cost them anywhere between 10-20 points in NCAA relays.
For Georgia: Okay… maybe we don’t have any big questions about Georgia right now.
Five reasons Georgia will win NCAA’s:
1) Hali Flickinger has been outstanding
2) Two elite distance freestylers in Brittany MacLean and Amber McDermott
3) Three sprinters with lifetime bests of 22.0 or better (Olivia Smoliga, Chantel Van Landeghem, Maddie Locus)
4) More individual scoring depth than any other team
5) We made it through the first four points without explicitly mentioning Kylie Stewart, Jordan Mattern, Lauren Harrington, Megan Kingsley, or Annie Zhu
Dropped from the ranks: Miami Hurricanes (previous rank: 24)