2015 Men’s Big 12 Championships
- Wednesday, February 25 – Saturday, February 28
- Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center – University of Texas
- Prelims 10 AM / Finals 6 PM (Central Time)
- Defending Champs: Texas (18x) (results)
- Championship Central
- Live results
Of the major conferences, the Big 12 is unique in that it’s been steadily declining in numbers while conferences like the ACC, SEC and Big Ten have swelled. Since the departures of Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012, the Big 12 has been reduced to just 3 men’s swimming & diving programs.
Luckily for us, the fans, though, the Big 12 still packs an entertainment punch even with such limited membership. That’s in large part because this season, the conference will feature perhaps the nation’s best team in the Texas Longhorns.
Nobody has been on fire this whole season quite like Texas, putting up monster swim after monster swim nearly all season long. Though they were second at NCAAs a year ago, the Longhorns are now probably the favorites to win the NCAA title in March.
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from Texas at the conference level. No doubt their top swimmers will be saving a full rest for the NCAA Championships, and it’s not like Eddie Reese has to rest his crew much to secure the conference title. But the way Texas has been swimming so far this year, they could be lights-out at this meet without resting much, and there’s almost no doubt at least a few swimmers will throw down some eye-popping times.
The headliner so far this year has been sophomore Jack Conger. Conger is one of the few recruits so highly-touted that an All-American freshman campaign was considered somewhat disappointing, but he’s clearly kicked it up a gear in his second season. Conger has thrown down a 1:40.34 in the 200 yard fly, and also went 51 in the Long Course Meters 100 fly, a time that puts him in the ranks of guys like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte on the current international stage.
Conger could swim any number of events this postseason, but it’s starting to look like the 100 and 200 flys should be his cornerstone races. One interesting aspect of Big 12s will be seeing where Conger enters – will he swim the 500 free again on day 1? The 200 IM? Or will he attempt a double on Friday with the 100 back/100 fly, or Saturday with the 200s of each stroke?
That’s just one storyline in about a dozen surrounding Texas. How will stud freshman Joseph Schooling fare in his first college taper? Exactly how many 100 flyers can Texas put in the 45-second range (it could be something like 7 by season’s-end). Will Clark Smith follow up his outstanding regular season with a big end-of-year? Can the Longhorns find a big-time breaststroker to fill out their medley relays? And most importantly, what will semi-famous SwimSwam commenter HarryP have to say about the team’s performances at conference? (Our prediction: Harry will be both enthusiastically positive and eccentrically weird).
And of course there are non-Texas storylines as well. West Virginia graduated their best swimmer in a long time last year, losing Big 12 backstroke champ Bryce Bohman. But senior Tim Squires was the breakout star of this meet a year ago, beating a tough Texas gauntlet in the 50 and 100 frees. The Mountaineer will have another shot at the titles this season, with Texas clearly gunning to knock him off his perch.
Speaking of the backstrokes, TCU might have the conference’s new rising backstroker in Cooper Robinson, who sits 4th in the Big 12 in the 200 back this year and could move up if Conger doesn’t swim the race. Robinson is probably TCU’s best shot at an event title this week, and the Horned Frogs are also in the running for “meet’s coolest name” with distance stud Thor Stenfjord. That name just sounds like a superhero. Or a viking.
The team battle between West Virginia and TCU was a nailbiter last year, and should be another great battle in 2015. Below, we’ve got a run-down of the top swimmers on each team, plus some races to watch along with our team finish predictions.
200 medley relay
1-meter diving (men)
800 free relay
1-meter diving (women)
400 medley relay
3-meter diving (women) – before finals
3-meter diving (men)
200 free relay
Platform diving (men) – before finals
Platform diving (women)
400 free relay
Texas: Jack Conger (sophomore butterfly/backstroker), Kip Darmody (senior backstroker/flyer), Matt Ellis (junior sprint freestyler/butterfly), Joseph Schooling (freshman butterflyer), Will Licon (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Tripp Cooper (senior butterflyer), John Murray (junior freestyler), Brett Ringgold (freshman sprint freestyler), Clark Smith (sophomore freestyler/butterflyer), Clay Youngquist (senior freestyler) – Too many stars to cover in just this one preview. Probably the best team in the country this regular season with one of the best butterfly corps in NCAA history
TCU: Mitchell Adshead (senior breaststroker/IMer), Sebastian Arispe (senior freestyler), Cooper Robinson (senior backstroker), Thor Stenfjord (senior freestyler), Garrett Hills (sophomore freestyler/butterflyer), Ford Story (junior breaststroker), Josh Mangus (senior freestyler/backstroker) – Robinson is one of the conference’s best backstrokers for the Horned Frogs, who nipped West Virginia for second place a year ago
West Virginia: Tim Squires (senior sprint freestyler), Andrew Marsh (junior fly/back/free), Nate Carrr (sophomore IMer), Daeton Davenport (senior distance freestyler), Ross Glegg (junior sprint freestyler), Chris Brill (senior breaststroker/IMer) – The Mountaineers graduated conference backstroke champ Bryce Bohman, but Squires is a big-time sprinter on a pretty well-rounded roster
100 fly: To say Texas is loaded in the butterfly races is to severely understate the situation. Last season, Tripp Cooper, Jack Conger and Will Glass all made the NCAA’s A final and went 45 in the event. Matt Ellis was a B-finalist and 46.1. This year, freshman Joseph Schooling has been faster than all of them, and Kip Darmody has already been right on the edge of the 46-barrier. The battle between all of the Longhorn studs should be a wild ride, a friendly sparring among perhaps the strongest and deepest butterfly group in NCAA history.
50 free/100 free: The sprint free races are probably the best shot for one of the two underdog teams to steal an event title from the Longhorns at home. West Virginia’s Tim Squires was the breakout champion in both last year, and though he has yet to break 20 seconds this regular season, that just means he’ll have to throw down his absolute best stuff this week to make the NCAA championships. Watch for a big taper explosion from the Mountaineer senior to pass current Big 12 leaders John Murray (19.37) and Matt Ellis (19.41).
100 breast – This might not be a heavyweight slugfest in the conference, but it could have huge national significance. The major weakness on the Texas medley relays continues to be the breaststrokes, where the team has been forced to throw non-breaststrokers in often to stay afloat. Will Licon is starting to look like the solution, and if he could throw down a 52-low in the 100 breast, all of a sudden the Longhorn medleys look downright dangerous. Meanwhile there’s still some buzz about freshman Austin Temple, who has the talent to become the key Texas breaststroke piece. The question is where Temple will be at in his improvement curve in his first season in Austin.
Texas should be the obvious runaway victors here, as the Longhorns haven’t lost a men’s Big 12 Swimming title since the conference was formed back in 1996. The bigger question for Texas will be how the squad looks heading into the NCAA Championships, with their rivals from Cal ready to finally start dropping some big times next week at the Pac-12 Championships.
The battle between West Virginia and TCU was extremely tight last year, with the Horned Frogs winning by just 17 points. We’ll pick TCU again this year based mostly on that close finish and the fact that West Virginia lost the points from graduated 100/200 backstroke champ Bryce Bohman, while TCU didn’t graduate many major pieces from their 2014 squad. In addition, TCU’s Cooper Robinson looks like he’s ready to fill Bohman’s shoes as a non-Texas backstroker who can push the Longhorns for event titles.
The race for second should again be close, though, and depends a lot on how well each team can swim from the top of their roster to the bottom, given how the sparse competition in the Big 12 leaves a lot of points up for grabs.
- West Virginia