With midseason invites behind us, it’s time for our first official SwimSwam Power Rankings of the year 2017! It’s still a dogfight at the top, with defending champs Texas playing their cards closer to the vest, California exploding at the Georgia Invite and NC State continuing to swim good opponents very tough.
Stay tuned later this week for our first women’s power rankings of 2017.
Just like previous years, SwimSwam’s Power Rankings are somewhere between the CSCAA-style dual meet rankings and a pure prediction of NCAA finish order. SwimSwam’s rankings take into account how a team looks at the moment, while keeping the end of the season in mind through things like a team’s previous trajectory and NCAA scoring potential. These rankings are by nature subjective, and a jumping-off point for discussion. If you disagree with any team’s ranking, feel free to make your case in a respectful way in our comments section.
#20: Ohio State Buckeyes (Previous Rank: #16)
Established pillars Matt McHugh and Josh Fleagle haven’t really sparkled yet this year and Ohio State’s schedule has been relatively weak. But this is a deep and talented team with a number of swimmers and relays right on the edge of NCAA scoring range. A battle with Michigan in a few weeks should say a lot about where the Buckeyes are at.
#19: Texas A&M Aggies (Previous Rank: N/A)
The Aggies hosted one of the nation’s earliest midseason rest meets, but a few of their times are still standing up extremely well. Mauro Castillo Luna sits among the nation’s best breaststrokers, and backstroker Brock Bonetti and sprinter Cory Bolleter combine for a pretty potent medley relay.
#18: Wisconsin Badgers (Previous Rank: N/A)
Wisconsin continues the trend of great freestyle swimming, led by NCAA title-contending miler Matt Hutchins. But the rest of the roster has to come around for Wisconsin. The sprint group has talent that should come around by post-season, but the Badgers have to fill a massive hole in the breaststrokes and IMs.
#17: Tennessee Volunteers (Previous Rank: #15)
Tennessee hasn’t shown much of its hand yet this year, but should be formidable in the postseason. The Volunteers are really struggling to find a backstroker to replace Sean Lehane – which is sinking the medley relays – but Peter John Stevens is an elite breaststroker and Sam McHugh looks great in the IMs.
#16: Florida State Seminoles (Previous Rank: N/A)
The sprinters are great for FSU, with 4 swimmers currently sitting at 20.0 or better in the 50 free. Breaststroker Jason Coombs rejoining the team was a big boost, with the senior sitting in NCAA scoring range in both breaststrokes for new head coach Neal Studd.
#15: Arizona State Sun Devils (Previous Rank: #17)
The Sun Devils have the makings of a stellar medley relay, complete with big-time backstroker Richard Bohus and flyer Andrew Porter. All five ASU relays are ranked within NCAA scoring range as of now, which would put them far above their 46th place finish from a year ago.
#14: Auburn Tigers (Previous Rank: #9)
Auburn hasn’t quite put it all together yet this year, but maybe that’s for the best. The Tigers seemed to peak too early last year, rolling through SECs but struggling at NCAAs. Peter Holoda, Joe Patching and Michael Duderstadt haven’t looked as great this year as they did last post-season, but the overall talent on this team is too good to rank any lower right now, especially if it all comes together at NCAAs.
#13: Michigan Wolverines (Previous Rank: #11)
Michigan is very hard to rank at this point. The team swam without Paul Powers and PJ Ransford at Winter Nationals, and both focused on Short Course Worlds instead. But the problems run deeper than missing two stars for one meet. There isn’t much support for sprint star Powers, and no Michigan relay currently ranks higher than 19th nationally. This postseason depends heavily on how well a young roster responds to taper.
#12: Arizona Wildcats (Previous Rank: #14)
Some big swims at the Texas Hall of Fame Invite have ‘Zona trending up. Still a young roster, Arizona put together three sophomores and a junior in Texas to hit the 2nd-fastest 200 medley relay time in the NCAA. Sophomore Chatham Dobbs has already hit a lifetime-best in the 100 fly this season and has been just off of PRs in the 100 back and 50 free.
#11: Louisville Cardinals (Previous Rank: #10)
Louisville’s got a nice, round roster and currently holds the #5 spot nationally in the 200 medley relay, 400 free relay and 800 free relay. Plus, breaststroker Carlos Claverie is crushing it so far this season. Also keep an eye on Russian backstroker Grigory Tarasevich, who has put up his best swims in short course meters this year and should have time to drop at NCAAs.
#10: Alabama Crimson Tide (Previous Rank: #7)
Into the top 10: Alabama has 4 relay A cuts to go along with a #2-ranked 400 free relay nationwide. The Crimson Tide is a little bit lighter on individual scorers at the moment, but some of that is a product of a very early midseason rest meet. Key to a successful postseason is getting Connor Oslin swimming back to the insane levels at which he finished last year, along with keeping the momentum of breakout junior Luke Kaliszak going. Kaliszak currently ranks 2nd in the NCAA in the 100 back and hit lifetime-bests in that event and the 50 free at the Georgia Tech Invite in November.
#9: Indiana Hoosiers (Previous Rank: #6)
Indiana started out red-hot, but has been a little more low-key lately with star freestyler Blake Pieroni focusing on short course meters and the Short Course World Championships. Swimming without Pieroni at U.S. Nationals, Indiana has a number of relays in NCAA scoring range but has yet to hit an NCAA relay A cut. That means the Hoosiers will have to hit Big Tens a little harder to qualify its relays for the big show – something that shouldn’t be challenging with Pieroni back in the fold. Flyer/IMer Vinicius Lanza has maintained momentum in his first full season with the team.
#8: Missouri Tigers (Previous Rank: #8)
Missouri has a likely NCAA champ in breaststroker Fabian Schwingenschlogl, who won the 100 last year and leads all swimmers this season by more than a second. Though he’s unlikely to get past Will Licon for the 200 title, Schwingenschlogl should score a boatload of points there as well, and he makes Mizzou’s medley relays instant factors in a league where many top programs are missing a true star breaststroke leg. Andrew Sansoucie has been the breakout star in the butterfly races, and the Tigers’ 4 relay A cuts keep them from dropping in the ranks even as other programs have gone through their midseason rest meets after Missouri’s early focus meet.
#7: USC Trojans (Previous Rank: #13)
The Trojans make a charge in our ranks on the strength of some big swims at the Texas Hall of Fame Invite. Compared to the teams above them, USC has a lot less individual swimmers ranked in the NCAA’s top 16, but are strong in the sprints, which have big relay significance. USC has A cuts in 4 of 5 relays currently and rank inside the top 8 in every single relay. Santo Condorelli is back and swimming great, but probably has even more time to drop if his long course improvements over the past year are taken into consideration. Carsten Vissering sits #2 nationwide in a 100 breaststroke race that should be open to hopeful point-scorers.
#6: Stanford Cardinal (Previous Rank: #12)
Stanford makes the biggest leap of any top 10 program this week (tied with USC) after a huge performance at the Texas Hall of Fame Invite. The distance dominance many envisioned after a targeted recruiting effort is starting to come to fruition, as Stanford has three swimmers each ranked in the top 10 in the 500 and 1650 frees. Freshmen Grant Shoults and True Sweetser lead the way there. But Stanford is also impressing in the IMs with four 200 IMers and three 400 IMers ranked inside the NCAA’s top 16. That does include some short course meter conversions from Abrahm DeVine (who competed at Short Course Worlds), but two NCAA scoring swims a year ago mean DeVine has already proven he can translate that speed to yards.
#5: Florida Gators (Previous Rank: #5)
Caeleb Dressel and Maxime Rooney are a dynamic duo, and account for 5 of Florida’s 7 times currently ranked in the top 8 in the NCAA. Meanwhile Mark Szaranek and Jan Switkowski are an IM duo of their own and currently leading a Florida IM attack that has 5 swims in NCAA scoring position (though one is Dressel’s 200 IM which is an unlikely NCAA entry). The problem for Florida is that things run dry in between those two disciplines. The team currently has no backstrokers or breaststrokers ranked in the top 16, and that weakness is also sinking the team’s medley relays. Florida has reverted to using Dressel as its medley relay breaststroker, getting rid of a potential 17-second and 39-second anchor leg and leaving coach Gregg Troy shouting “A breaststroker, a breaststroker! My kingdom for a breaststroker!”
#4: Georgia Bulldogs (Previous Rank: #4)
Georgia remains #4 since our last ranking, but that certainly doesn’t suggest they aren’t moving forward. A great home invite only proved how dominant the Bulldogs are in the IM and longer stroke races – Georgia currently has three swimmers ranked inside the NCAA’s top 16 in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 fly. The return of Chase Kalisz has been a massive boost, and Kalisz is also looking like a top-shelf 200 breaststroker in addition to his IM prowess. Keep an eye on freshman Javier Acevedo, who hasn’t competed much and still appears to be adjusting to short course yards but could be the sprint weapon Georgia needs to fight for a high spot at NCAAs.
#3: NC State (Previous Rank: #1)
Tough call here between NC State and Texas for 2nd. In terms of pure times and NCAA ranks, Texas has the edge, but NC State has competed better than any other team in the nation this year, walloping a somewhat weakened Texas roster in a dual meet back in November. Surprisingly enough, NC State doesn’t stack up as dominant in the sprint freestyles as you’d expect, with just the 9th-best 200 free relay and 8th-best 400 free relay in the NCAA this year. But Ryan Held is the real deal and only getting better, and there’s little doubt the sprinters will come around for the Wolfpack, which has built its program on a surplus of speed.
#2: Texas (Previous Rank: #2)
Let’s make this clear up front: Texas still feels like the NCAA title favorites, and this ranking isn’t meant as a slight. But we still haven’t seen a full-power Longhorn crew compete yet this year, and it’s hard to rank the ‘Horns much higher until we have a better idea how some of their studs are swimming. Multi-time NCAA champ Joseph Schooling has barely competed and All-American Ryan Harty hasn’t raced at all. Still, Texas has plenty of firepower already to earn the #2 bid despite a dual meet loss to NC State in late 2016. Jack Conger and Will Licon look great, as do Townley Haas and Clark Smith, plus the Longhorns have the nation’s fastest 200 free relay this year, and that’s without Schooling, the fastest split on the team’s NCAA champion relay from last year.
#1: California Golden Bears (Previous Rank: #3)
A great Georgia Invite performance boosts Cal up to #1 in our ranks. The Golden Bears are the only team nationwide to have A cuts in all 5 relays and currently rank #1 in 3 of 5 relay events. In national rankings, they’ve also got at least one swimmer inside the top 8 in every single event outside of the 500 freestyle. Ryan Murphy is still a massive game-changer in the backstrokes and medley relays, Andrew Seliskar is beginning to look every bit the star he was recruited to be and freshman Michael Jensen has been a revelation.