Making this year’s men’s picks are by far the biggest challenge we’ve had in 5 years of doing this. By psych sheet scoring, Florida and Michigan have pretty strong clearance ahead of the rest of the field. But Cal and Texas have a ton of qualifiers, and as we saw with the Georgia women, sometimes that’s what pays off – those opportunities to get swimmers into scoring finals.
Diving won’t play much of a role in this NCAA title, unless Texas can make up the 230 point psych-sheet deficit with their four divers and expected big taper. With that exception, I guess that means diving will have a huge impact on Texas’ NCAA points.
This is truly a meet where whoever among the top four teams gets on a roll is going to win, and everyone’s going to have their own opinion (based on their affiliation, based on which team they’re most familiar with).
If history holds true, Michigan and Florida will be right around their seeded scoring. Texas and Cal will outpace their seeded scoring by 120-130 points. In other words, this meet is a dead heat.
Update: we accidentally passed over Alabama, so this list has been updated since first posting, and thus is why we’ve included a #26.
26. Virginia Cavaliers (Mid-Season: #24)
Losing Parker Camp from individual events hurts, and hurts bad. He was expected to be the team’s top individual scorer. If he’s out of relays too, then the Cavliers will be in quite a pickle. JB Kolod, as a diver, should give them some points, and they’ve got a few individual scorers floating around like David Ingraham (400 IM), plus possibly Jan Daniec and Brad Phillips.
25. Minnesota Golden Gophers (Mid-Season: #20)
Derek Toomey is a great sprinter, but he can only carry this team so far. If the Gophers can get Daryl Turner to swim his season-bests on relays at NCAA’s, then combined with Minnesota’s three individual scorers (Toomey, Jakub Maley, and CJ Smith), this could be a top-20 team.
24. Utah Utes (Mid-Season: #23)
Nick Soedel is a true sprint star in Salt Lake City, and combined with Bence Kiraly and Kristian Kron, the Utes have good relays. Their women’s team swam very well at NCAA’s, and the Utah men also have a diver, Josiah Purrs,
23. Wisconsin Badgers (Mid-Season: Unranked)
Nicholas Caldwell, a great prep distance freestyler, has returned to form, and defending NCAA champion Andrew teDuits is back. However, the Badgers will be hard-pressed to find many points elsewhere. They are bringing just three individual swimmers to NCAA’s, and are currently seeded to score in just one relay.
22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Mid-Season: Unranked)
Frank Dyer, a breakout start back in 2012, is back after a disappointing 2013 season, turning in a top five time nationally in the 200 free at ACC’s. The Fighting Irish are also bringing on the country’s best breaststrokers to NCAA’s in Zachary Stephens, who is seeded to score in two events.
21. Duke Blue Devils (Mid-Season: #19)
Doesn’t look like Nick McCrory will get much scoring help, though Hunter Knight did qualify to swim individually. But he alone will be a 50-point scorer, and 50 points gets into the top 25 at NCAA’s.
20. Missouri Tigers (Mid-Season: #14)
The Missouri men have fallen in our rankings since mid-season on the basis of losing sophomore Max Grodecki for an unspecified violation of team rules. He’s not entered in the meet individually (he wouldn’t have been invited), but if he does show up at NCAA’s to swim relays, and is in shape, Missouri’s chances at another top-15 finish would greatly improve. Missouri has two divers qualified for the meet, though, which buoys their chances at a high finish.
19. Virginia Tech Hokies (Mid-Season: Unranked)
The ACC Champions from Virginia Tech will get just as much of a bump from diving at NCAA’s as they did at ACC’s with three qualifying through Zones. Expect Kyle Butts to well outscore what he did at NCAA’s last year on the boards after looking very, very good in qualifying. Swimming-wise, relays will be their main scoring threat, but they could pick up some points, for example, by Morgan Latimer in the 200 fly.
18. Penn State Nittany Lions (Mid-Season: #17)
Penn State’s trap is that as good as Shane Ryan and Nate Savoy are, with only three individual qualifiers, there’s not a lot of room for error at NCAA’s – and last year, Savoy had trouble matching his seed times in individual events. If Ryan can lead them to scoring 5 relays, though, this team could click up a few spots in the standings.
17. Purdue Boilermakers (Mid-Season: #18)
The Purdue men’s diving group is having another banner year, and put four individual qualifiers into NCAA’s. It was a blow when U.S. Open 50 free champion Danny Tucker didn’t qualify in any individual races, but he’ll be there leading the Purdue relays, and the Boilermakers have two individual qualifiers: Lyam Dias and Guillermo Blanco. If they score as expected and the relays can move up a handful of scoring spots, we’re confident that their divers can do the rest of the work to get them up to the 60-80 points they need to place 16th.
16. Ohio State Buckeyes (Mid-Season: #16)
The Buckeyes continue to be one of season’s biggest surprises, qualifying eight individual swimmers for NCAA’s, including multi-time All-American butterflyer Tim Phillips, after battling Michigan to the wire in the teams’ dual meet. There are more pieces, though, with the Buckeyes seeded to score in all five relays. Michael Disalle (seeded 6th in the 200 free), Connor McDonald (#2 in the country at the midseason mark in the 200 back), and Garrett Trebilccock (top 16 in the 100 back) are all having career years.
15. Tennessee Volunteers (Mid-Season: #15)
The Tennessee men weren’t as solid at the SEC championships as they were a year ago, but they’re still bringing plenty of talent and relay potential to NCAA’s. Sean Lehane has turned into one of the nation’s best backstrokers, and Sam Rairden is still dangerous in three different disciplines. Freshman sprinter Luke Percy is starting to come into his own, giving the Volunteers a great chance to A-final in a trio of relays.
14. Alabama (Mid-Season: Unranked)
This is by far the biggest mover in the positive direction as a result of championship season. Kristian Gkolomeev has incredible versatility, much more than he ever had at home in Greece, and has historically shown the ability to be very fast multiple times in a season as an age group swimmer (though, obviously, his training has probably changed since coming to the U.S.). Some of Alabama’s relays have a chance to move up, and others will probably move down, but overall, the Crimson Tide will seek to end the year on the same high-note they had at SEC’s.
13. Florida State Seminoles (Mid-Season: #14)
The Seminoles’ lineup features the two-time defending ACC Swimmer of the Championship, Pawel Sankovich. Although last year, he added a lot of time in his individual events, that was on a half-season of training in the U.S. With a full season this year, and even better times coming into the meet, expect the Belarusian to be big. There’s one really obvious spot for the Seminoles to pick up points here:
12. Louisville Cardinals (Mid-Season: #10)
The Cardinals have very good freestyle depth this year, and the likes of Caryle Blondell and Trevor Carroll will complement Joao de Lucca very well, and those relays are the Cardinals’ strength this year. There’s a smattering of guys around with chances to score individually, and this team should have some overall momentum after Pedro Coutinho got called up in individual races by way of a Parker Camp scratched. Never underestimate the value of momentum at a meet like this.
11. Indiana Hoosiers (Mid-Season: #11)
Eric Ress is on his game this year, and those individual points will help a lot, as will two divers. Steve Schmuhl is having a great year too. The team still lacks a sprinter to complete their medley relays, and they won’t even enter a 200 free relay at this meet. It’s hard, though not impossible, to take a team into the top 10 without scoring in all 5 relays.
10. Stanford Cardinal (Mid-Season: #7)
The picture is not pretty for Stanford swimming after Pac-12’s. They’re only seeded to score 43 points individually. But lest we stave off the doom-and-gloom, they’ll certainly do better than 43 swimming points. With two very, very good divers, including Kristian Ipsen who should go for a minimum of 50 points, Stnaford should be able to hold on to the top 10.
9. NC State Wolfpack (Mid-Season: #12)
The Wolfpack’s explosion at ACC’s was incredible, and fun to watch. If they repeat that performance at NCAA’s, then they’re a top 6 type team. However, they’ll be hurt against Arizona and Auburn in diving, and there’s just not enough history with this team to know how they’ll react on holding their taper over from ACC’s. It just takes one year of holding that taper and all of the doubts will be gone. A top 10 finish, though, would be a monumental step forward for this program. Consider that when mid-season, we had them picked 12th, we got a lot of raised eyebrows about putting them that high.
8. Georgia Bulldogs (Mid-Season: #9)
Chase Kalisz has become a monster this season, and a monster in the classic Georgia mold: a huge individual scorer who won’t swim a lot of relays. But this year, Georgia’s got more of those guys than they ever have, and more of them who will contribute in relays. Ty Stewart has been a great contributor, Andrew Gemmell is coming into NCAA’s looking as good as he’s ever looked on the NCAA level, and Nic Fink looks like he’ll be as close as anybody can hope to be to challenging Kevin Cordes in the breaststrokes. This team is young enough that this won’t be their peak. There’s more big things to come down the road for Georgia.
7. USC Trojans (Mid-Season: #6)
If Vlad were back, the Trojans would be in what would be a five-team conversation for the NCAA title. He’s not, but they’re still a team with a lot of big pieces. It looks like Luca Spinazzola is going to be allowed to swim at NCAA’s, after being held out of Pac-12’s, and that’s been the topic of much conversation out west – because Spinazzola is very, very important to the Trojans’ medley relays. Quintero has become an absolute monster as well.
6. Auburn Tigers (Mid-Season: #8)
The Auburn men come in as the top-seeded 400 free relay by a country mile. Their 2:47.49 from SEC’s will be hard to mount a true challenge against – it would’ve won NCAA’s last year by almost a second, and that’s even with Vlad coming on hard at the end. But they’ve shown to be deeper than anyone expected too. Darmody was fantastic at SEC’s; their medleys should be in the top 3-4 spots as well, and Joe Patching looks like he saved most of his taper for NCAA’s.
5. Arizona Wildcats (Mid-Season: #5)
We see this 5/6 spot coming down to Auburn and Arizona on the basis of both having two divers qualified for the meet, which gives them an edge over teams like Georgia, USC and NC State. Arizona’s medley relays are the best in the country, as compared to Auburn who have the best 200/400 free relays in the country. But Arizona now has Brad Tandy back, who can compete with Chierighini of Auburn, so we like them to hold onto that #5 spot.
4.Texas Longhorns (Mid-Season: #2)
The Texas men scored 25 diving points at NCAA’s last year with two divers. With four this year, and both of those guys from last year returning, the Longhorns have a chance of as much as quadrupling those points. We’ll err to the more conservative side and count them for about 75 points. That puts them right in Cal’s range as far as chasing the top two, Michigan and Florida.
Last year, Texas had some guys with huge drops from their previous season-bests, but there were many other guys who either just matched their in-season bests or who fell way off of them. It was a mix of results, a mix that left them with an overall positive, but it wasn’t just a total jump. We can say with certainty that Texas will easily outscore the 86 relay points they’re seeded for. They’ll get a 60-75 point bump off of those relays alone. With another 20-30 points, from net individual improvements, that still leaves Texas with a hole that will have to be made up by Florida and Michigan falling off of their seeds, plus Cal not doing the same as Texas.
3. Michigan Wolverines (Mid-Season: #4)
This season feels a little differently than last season did for Michigan. They still had a very good NCAA Championship meet, but they haven’t had quite the same week-after-week-after-week success as they did in the run up to the national championship last season.
Michigan’s highest seeded 50 freestyler, Bruno Ortiz, sits 29th coming in. He’s also their highest-seeded 100 freestyler in 16th place. It just feels like the Wolverines might be one sprinter short; one deBorde, one Messerschmidt, one Zack Turk short of repeating as champions. Whereas last year, they just seemed to have one replacement over another all day long in the sprints, this year they don’t feel that way.
But if those guys from the 800 free relay, like Michael Wynalda, can come down into great 50’s and 100 freestyles, then the Wolverines are in the hunt.
2. Florida Gators (Mid-Season: #3)
First, let’s talk about shaving. Yes, several of the Florida men were sporting beards at SEC’s. We’ve seen this “facial hair means no shave” out of the SEC before, and it’s backfired. We’re not sports psychologists, but maybe there’s too much pressure of trying to repeat those performances after the shave comes. Not shaving can’t be confused with not tapering or resting, and so we’re going to take the swims at face value, and presume that Florida was not as unrested as their facial hair might have implied at SEC’s.
And at face value – the Florida men swam fantastic. They broke school records, they broke conference records, and Brad deBorde proved he’s one of the top two-or-three sprinters in the NCAA right now.
They’ve also got a lot of individual swimmers qualified – 14 – which is second only to Cal and Texas. That’s where Florida’s positioned themselves. They’ve got the most seeded points, and they’ve got a deep team going to NCAA’s. For Florida to win, the easiest way will be for Pawel Werner to score the 20-plus points individually that he’s capable of (he’s not seeded to score any). That will give them some serious cushion.
1. Cal Golden Bears (Mid-Season: #1)
With Messerschmidt swimming well, and freshman Ryan Murphy proving that he’s much more than just a great backstroker and butterflier, Cal tops the Top 25 right now, 24 hours from the start of the meet. Of the four contenders for the team title, on paper we’ve got Cal having the best relays, and that’s a huge advantage. It’s especially a huge advantage when you consider they’re tied for the most individual qualifiers. In a battle like this, that’s the sort of comfort that should play huge.
But for this to happen, Murphy needs to be in the A-Final in his 200 IM; Messerschmidt needs to be in the A-Final in both of his sprint events; Tarczynski needs to be in the A Final in all three events; Jeremy Bagshaw needs to sit in the top 8 in the 500 and 1650 freestyles. There’s just a ton of room for Cal to move up here, and they historically take advantage of those opportunities.