2015 Men’s Big 12 Championships Fan Guide: Can Texas stay red-hot in road to NCAAs?

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.

Schedule

Wednesday
200 medley relay
1-meter diving (men)
800 free relay

Thursday
500 freestyle
200 IM
50 freestyle
1-meter diving (women)
400 medley relay

Friday
3-meter diving (women) – before finals
400 IM
100 fly
200 free
100 breast
100 back
3-meter diving (men)
200 free relay

Saturday
Platform diving (men) – before finals
200 back
100 free
1650 free
200 breast
200 fly
Platform diving (women)
400 free relay

Stars

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

Showdowns

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.

Selections

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.

  1. Texas
  2. TCU
  3. West Virginia

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Joel Lin

I’d hope Conger has swum his last collegiate 500 free in a championship meet. It now seems clear that training for and swimming that event had at least some attribution to his somewhat disappointing (for him) freshman year. He is a no brainier 100 fly, 100 back double guy on day two. So glad to see he is on the right track and headed to great things. Not too many historical 44, 44 double guys in 100 fly and back. Conger will add his name to that list very soon.

cut to the chase

He should stick to the butterfly. The lord knows that he is afraid to race Murphy in the backstroke now anyway.

lane 0

Conger STILL has a faster PB in the 200 LCM backstroke

cut to the chase

The lord knows that NCAAs is not LCM. I completely understand that he has been crushing the butterfly races, but you cannot deny the fact that losing to someone by 3 and a half seconds at NCAAs, after (correct me if im wrong) having a better time in high school, might make you switch your training focus. Him swimming the 200 fly is not only because he’s really really good at it, but also because he cannot beat murphy in the 200 back on the third day.
Im not a texas or cal fan, this happens in other sports too. Wrestlers go in different weight classes to avoid certain wrestlers, people switch positions because they cant find a starting spot…

The Lord

I know many things, but even I can’t fathom to comment on ones training/event schedule without some first hand knowledge or inside information.

You make a pretty big assumption stating that one swimmer is afraid of another and has thus altered his training program due to that. Maybe you have some inside information you’d be willing to share. Care to enlighten The Lord?

cut to the chase

@The Lord, It’s the same reason the Pieter Van Den Hoogenbond stopped swimming the 200 free after Phelps beat him by a huge margin in 2007. Cesar Cielo also stopped swimming the 100 free after he felt he could no longer compete for it. Who knows? Conger might swim and win the 200 back at NCAAs and prove me completely wrong. I however feel that he switched his focus to the 200 fly instead of the 200 back after losing the Murphy last year. I am a fan like anyone else, and I am, like any other sports fan, allowed to make assumptions. I am not in the Texas or Cal camp, but as an outsider looking in, and someone… Read more »

lane 0

I’m wondering if Matt Ellis or Trip Cooper could swim the 50 breast on the relay. If Texas wants to beat Cal, They’re gonna need Murray’s 18 low freestyle split.

swimmers to watch:
1. Can Austin temple qualify for NCAA’s individually
2. Does Keith Murphy have something special in the tank for his senior year
3. Clay Youngquist, 200 fly or 100 free?
4. Jonathan Roberts, 1650? 200 back? Both?

TheTroubleWithX

Eddie has a ton of decisions to make. You’ve got four guys with A cuts, another five with almost-guaranteed invites, three on the bubble, and another fifteen with B cuts. He can only take sixteen, right? There are going to be some swimmers who get invited who might have to be left home.

And those relays…so many many options…

Lane 0

Conger, Cooper, Schooling, Darmody, Youngquist, Ringgold, Murray, Ellis, Glass, Licon, Smith, Gustafson, and Lewis are all guys who can score individually at NCAA’s (most of them in multiple events). That’s 12 right there, then you have Martens, Temple, Roberts, and Ganiel who could possibly score as well. And don’t forget divers.

TheTroubleWithX

That’s 13. In addition to the other four you listed, Murphy, Munoz, and Ritter are all seniors who were at NCAA’s last year.

Joel Lin

This is an incredible team. What a well of riches. Is it likely they only roster one diver for NCAAs? It is incredible to think there could be swimmers or divers who can score individually in 2 and possibly 3 events who won’t go, but that is how deep this team is.

Joel Lin

Outlandish comment time:

Conger 43.9 100 fly.

Not going to bite on any trolls…Conger vs. Murphy 200 back is a race we’d all like to see, and a race I agree Murphy is strongest in right now, but the 100 fly and 100 back day two double is the more sensible route for Conger.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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