Following up our opening 2016-17 Women’s NCAA Power Rankings from last week, here are the opening 2016-17 men’s season. Familiar faces make up the top five in the same order they finished at last year’s NCAA’s, but from there on down, there’s plenty of movement.
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. Virginia Tech Hokies (2016 NCAA finish: #19)
Brandon Fiala was one of the breakout swimmers of the 2015-16 NCAA season, and he’ll have help this year. Robert Owen will continue to hold down the fort in the backstrokes and IMs, and sophomore Norbert Szabo is proving to be an important piece.
19. Wisconsin Badgers (2016 NCAA Finish: #18)
Not the deepest team by a long shot, but Wisconsin has NCAA scoring talent, led by senior Matt Hutchins. For now, though, it’ll be tough sledding for a dual meet season where the Badgers, already 0-3, have upcoming duals against Georgia and USC.
18. UNC Tar Heels (2016 NCAA Finish: #26)
Starting the season 0-2 against Georgia and Tennessee, but there’s reason for optimism. Transfer Jorden Merrilees has been a big addition for the Tar Heels.
17. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2016 NCAA Finish: #20)
Contrasting to their archrival Wisconsin, Minnesota brings in a deep dual squad, but the jury is still out on how it will translate to an NCAA format. Bowen Becker (19.92 in the 50 against Wisconsin) has had a great start to the year.
16. Ohio State (2016 NCAA Finish: #15)
The Buckeyes haven’t competed officially yet, and it’ll be smooth sailing all the way until their fall invitational; their next four competitions are against Kenyon, Denison, Cleveland State, and Miami (Ohio).
15. Arizona Wildcats (2016 NCAA Finish: #16)
A young team that took the Pac 12 by surprise last season is back and should be better this year. Only two meets so far (with the most recent one at altitude against Utah), but the season kicks into gear next weekend when the Wildcats head to Los Angeles to take on USC.
14. USC Trojans (2016 NCAA Finish: #13)
The Trojans took a step back last season. That seemed inevitable when you have as many graduations and redshirts as they did. Dylan Carter is back on the roster, but how USC finishes at NCAA’s will depend on if last year’s loaded freshman class (Carsten Vissering, Alex Valente, Patrick Mulcare, among others) can make a similar leap to what we saw from the Carter/Condorelli/Domagala contingent during their sophomore year.
13. Tennessee Volunteers (2016 NCAA finish: #7)
Some big gaps to bridge to get back to their 7th place finish from last year, but Kyle Decoursey (20.0/44.2 last weekend) looks primed to take over as the #1 Volunteer sprinter. We’ll know more after they take on Louisville and Indiana this weekend.
12. Stanford Cardinal (2016 NCAA finish: #14)
The Cardinal have had just one day of competition, so we don’t know much yet about how they plan to improve upon their worst NCAA finish since 1979. Sam Perry should hold down the sprints, and True Sweetser (already 4:21.8/15:03.0 in the 500/1650) is a double-distance threat.
11. Auburn Tigers (2016 NCAA finish: #10)
After a promising 2016 conference meet, the Tigers had a puzzling NCAA’s. Luckily, almost the entire NCAA team is back from last season, including the increasingly-versatile Joe Patching.
10. Missouri Tigers (2016 NCAA finish: #8)
We didn’t see much in terms of depth in their loss to Alabama, but this is an underrated squad that should crack the top ten at NCAA’s again. Michael Chadwick (19.8/43.3) is off to a fine start, once again.
9. Louisville Cardinals (2016 NCAA finish: #11)
Like it or not, Grigory Tarasevich is eligible and tearing it up; his 46.00 in the 100 backstroke against Michigan is already a full second clear of the next fastest swimmer this season.
8. Michigan Wolverines (2016 NCAA finish: #12)
Michigan really underperformed at NCAA’s, but this freshman class will address a lot of the problems with last year’s squad. For starters, Jacob Montague looks like the real deal as a breaststroke option, clocking in at 54.7 in the 100 breaststroke against Louisville.
7. Alabama Crimson Tide (2016 NCAA finish: #6)
Sadly for the Tide, Kristian Gkolomeev is out of eligibility, but freshman Zane Waddell (19.9/44.4) and sophomore Laurent Bams (44.0/1:36.4) have filled in nicely to start off the season.
6. Indiana Hoosiers (2016 NCAA finish: #9)
The Hoosiers looked great against Texas and Florida, but we won’t place them above either of those squads at this point. The sprint group continues to flourish under Dennis Dale, with three sprinters at 44.0 or better this season. Adding distance stud Marwan El Kamash helps, too.
5. Georgia Bulldogs (2016 NCAA finish: #5)
Downed UNC in their opener. With Chase Kalisz back, and freshman star Javier Acevedo already contributing, the Bulldogs have a real shot at grabbing a team trophy at NCAA’s.
4. NC State Wolfpack (2016 NCAA finish: #4)
No more Simonas Bilis, but Olympian Ryan Held looks like he can handle the sprinting duties himself; he’s already been 19.47 and 43.74 in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Anton Ipsen is red-hot, as well, dropping the nation’s only sub-15-minute 1650 (14:57.58).
3. Florida Gators (2016 NCAA finish: #3)
Caeleb Dressel is the straw that stirs the drink, but Jan Switkowski and Mark Szaranek are who make the Gators dangerous from a team perspective. The kicker will be if freshman Chandler Bray can develop enough to take over the breaststroke leg from Dressel on the medley relays.
2. California Golden Bears (2016 NCAA finish: #2)
No Matt Josa yet, but the rest of #1 freshmen class in the country is already showing up big. Michael Jensen dropped a 43.22 in the 100 free earlier this month, good for the nation’s top time.
1. Texas Longhorns (2016 NCAA finish: #1)
Defeated Florida, but fell to Indiana in a tri-meet to open the season. No matter; the Longhorns were without Joe Schooling, Ryan Harty, and Will Licon. It will be interesting to see if the squad is fully intact for their showdown against NC State next weekend.