2014 M. NCAA Picks: No, Seriously, The Deepest 100 Back Field Ever

Okay, so the “check out how deep/fast this event should be!” card has been a bit overplayed with some of our event previews.  I’m probably the most guilty of using it.  Swimmers are faster than ever these days.  We already knew that with the speed and depth of recent age group competitions, as well as a month’s worth of collegiate conference and national-level meets.

But… alright, one more time.

The men’s 100 back field is absurd.  Here’s a yearly comparison of seed times in the event coming into NCAA’s:

Comparing 100 back NCAA seed times

Under 45.7

Under 46.0

Under 46.5









































*Supersuit year
*Psych sheet not available, used NCAA finals times 

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.  In short:

  • More swimmers have already been under 45.70 prior to NCAA’s this year than the previous six years combined.
  • 16th seed Kyle Dudzinski, with an incoming time of 46.06, would have made the A-final at every previous NCAA’s in history.
  • 16 swimmers in this field have been under 46 seconds in their career (14 in the field, plus Andrew teDuits and James Wells).
  • All 31 swimmers invited to the meet would have finished in the top 16 at every previous NCAA’s.
  • The final invited swimmer (Aaron Gustafson, 46.57) would have made the NCAA A-final just two seasons ago.
  • All of these numbers don’t Jack Conger, one of the world’s best backstrokers, who is swimming the 100 fly instead on day two.

So… Who’s going to win, and what kind of time is it going to take?  Let’s look at some of the bigger names in the field:

Shane Ryan, Penn State (45.13): The sophomore from Havertown, Pennsylvania is back with a vengeance after missing the latter part of what looked to be a very promising 2012-2013 season.  Ryan was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Meet after his 57-point performance in Ann Arbor last month, posting the top time in the country in the 100 back, as well as a new Big Ten record in the 100 free.

Eric Ress, Indiana (45.25): After a three-year lull, Ress, now in his sixth and final season at Indiana, looks to have finally returned to 2011 form, swimming his best 100 backstroke since 2011 NCAA’s and recording a lifetime best in the 200 back at Big Ten’s last month.

Pavel Sankovich, Florida State (45.31): Although the Seminoles had a widely-forgettable 2013 NCAA’s (DQ’ing their best relay and swimming slower than their seed times virtually across the board), Sankovich still managed to put together a solid 100 backstroke.  Like last year, Sankovich had a great ACC Championship meet, cutting more than a half second off his previous best time.

Mitchell Friedemann, Arizona (45.52): “Business as usual” is the best way to describe Friedemann in the 100 back.  Like he has the past three seasons, Friedemann secured an NCAA qualifying spot early in the year with a blistering fall semester swim.  He’s made the A-final in this event in each of his first three years, but is still looking for his first top four finish.

Ryan Murphy, Cal (45.59): We probably haven’t seen Murphy at his best since he arrived in Berkeley last fall, largely because he hasn’t needed to be great.  The incredibly talented Cal freshman was 45.34 last year while competing for the Bolles School Sharks, and is of the rare breed capable of qualifying for NCAA’s in dual meets.  He’ll have the added benefit of swimming a reduced schedule, thanks to Cal’s loaded backstroke/butterfly group.

Nathaniel Savoy, Penn State (45.61): Savoy gives Penn State arguably the country’s best 1-2 backstroke punch.  The junior scored in each of his first two seasons with the Nittany Lions, including an A-final spot in this event back in the 2012.  His 45.61 from Big Ten’s was over a half-second drop from his previous best.

Kyle Darmody, Auburn (45.66): In addition to having one of the more cleaver handles on Twitter (@warDARMeagle), Darmody has had a great freshman campaign in the pool, finishing in the top three in each of his individual events at SEC’s, including a win in the 100 backstroke.

David Nolan, Stanford (45.66): Nolan, now in his third year on the Farm, has had an incredibly decorated NCAA career so far, including a pair of individual NCAA titles last season.  Although he’s the defending champion in this event and the only guy in the field who has been under 45 seconds in his career, he will again have to shoulder the load with a brutal three-day schedule.  He’s managed it very well each of the last two seasons, and if he can safely conserve some energy in a couple of his preliminary swims (and avoid a back injury from carrying Stanford’s team), he’ll have a great chance to repeat.

Bryce Bohman West Virginia (45.89): Bohman’s overall performance, including a win in the 100 backstroke, was one of the best stories of the Big 12 Championships.  The senior will be looking to be a disruptor in his final collegiate meet.

Tony Cox, Cal (45.97): Although he got stuck in the B-final last season, Cox was actually the fourth fastest swimmer at 2013 NCAA’s with his 45.46 consolation-winning performance.  He’ll have a tough schedule to balance, though, with the 100 backstroke being the final event of a likely for him on day two.

Top 8 Picks with Seed Times:

This really came down to four names who look like they’re a cut above everyone else: Ress, Murphy, Nolan, and Ryan.  Ryan and Ress both had great Big Ten meets, but it’s tough to go against Murphy or Nolan.  I picked against Nolan last year in an effort to convince myself of total impartiality, but he has looked better than he ever has prior to an NCAA’s.

1. David Nolan – Stanford – 45.66
2. Ryan Murphy – Cal – 45.59
3. Shane Ryan – Penn State – 45.13
4. Eric Ress – Indiana – 45.25
5. Mitchell Friedemann – Arizona – 45.52
6. Bryce Bohman – West Virginia – 45.89
7. Tony Cox – Cal – 45.97
8. Kyle Darmody – Auburn – 45.66

Darkhorse: With the field this deep, it’s no surprise that a few names are hidden further down the psych sheet.  In this case, they include individual All-Americans James Wells of Indiana and Jacob Pebley of Cal, who each made the big final a year ago.  Pebley, more of a 200 backstroker, has never had as much speed as a lot the other names here, but is still capable of popping off a 45-high/46-low.  Wells was 45.4 at Big Ten’s last year, so we know he has the talent to get into the A-final.

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Ron Molden
6 years ago

Watch out for Paul Le from Missouri State he has no ceiling on his speed.

6 years ago

Nolan – “avoid a back injury from carrying Stanford’s team”

This joke gets funnier every time I see it. Especially when it’s an explanation for his :47 medley relay split the same session as his :45 individual time.

Reply to  iLikePsych
6 years ago

Also, maybe you should have done a joint backstroke article to avoid being guilty one further time, with Murphy/Conger/Nolan/Ress/Pebley/Teduits/more(?) all in the running for the 200 backstroke title. I believe the cutoff time dropped half a second (1:43-1:42.5) just in one year, although I’m not sure if the statistics are as impressive as the ones you’ve provided.

Erle Craven
6 years ago

Look out for Kyle’s Darmodys older brother Kip.

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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