Women’s NCAA conference championships have wrapped up, meaning it’s time for our last Power Rankings of the season. Stanford is still the runaway #1 team in the land, but the rest of the top 20 has shuffled up pretty considerably as more teams start to show their cards in the hunt for NCAA invites.
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: Auburn Tigers (PREVIOUS RANK: N/A)
They’re not the deepest crew nationally, but Auburn does have both sprint free relays in NCAA scoring position. That includes the #7 200 free relay nationwide. Ashley Neidigh is looking more and more like a force in the distance races.
#19: Kentucky Wildcats (PREVIOUS RANK: #14)
After a third-place showing at SECs, Kentucky still looks very strong in the 200 backstroke where they’ve got three in scoring position, including defending NCAA champ Danielle Galyer.
#18: Missouri Tigers (PREVIOUS RANK: 12)
Hannah Stevens remains a huge backstroking threat nationally, but Mizzou has its work cut out for it to get its relays into scoring range nationally. Did the Tigers swim through SECs and save their best stuff for NCAAs? If so, expect a solid jump from this spot.
#17: UNC Tar Heels (PREVIOUS RANK: #19)
The Tar Heels came alive at a hotly-contested ACC meet and boast the nation’s fifth-fastest 200 free relay. Hellen Moffitt was one of the best individual scorers in one of the deepest years the ACC has ever seen.
#16: OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (PREVIOUS RANK: #16)
This team will fly as high as Zhesi Li and Lindsey Clary take it. That’s both the good news and the bad news as that duo is consistently overperforming, but the relays will struggle to eke out points.
#15: Tennessee Volunteers (PREVIOUS RANK: #17)
Meghan Small is looking more and more like the #1-ranked prospect she was out of high school. She sits 4th nationwide in the 200 IM and Tennessee will have shots at A finals in a couple of relays.
#14: Minnesota Golden Gophers (PREVIOUS RANK: #15)
The medley relays were stellar at a tight Big Ten meet, and Kierra Smith picked right up where she left off in short course yards. Getting Brooke Zeiger back healthy will be key for this team challenging the top 10-15.
#13: Wisconsin Badgers (PREVIOUS RANK: #20)
#12: Arizona Wildcats (PREVIOUS RANK: #5)
They’ve fallen some after a stellar midseason rest meet, but Arizona still boasts the 3rd-fastest medley relay in the NCAA. They’ll need some of their young talent to push for individual points to place this high, but it appears the Wildcats didn’t take much out of the bank for Pac-12s and could be on the cusp of a big withdrawal next month.
#11: Indiana Hoosiers (PREVIOUS RANK: #13)
Lilly King is doing historic things in the breaststrokes and singlehandedly carrying IU’s relays into NCAA scoring contention. But the rest of the team needs to step up in a big way at NCAAs. Watch flyer Gia Dalesandro, who also had a great conference meet.
#10: Michigan Wolverines (PREVIOUS RANK: #9)
The newly-crowned Big Ten champs are wicked in the distance races, with three in NCAA scoring range in the 500 (G Ryan, Rose Bi and Becca Postoll). And watch the 800 free relay, which is among the nation’s best.
#9: Louisville Cardinals (PREVIOUS RANK: #11)
Louisville very nearly toppled 9-time defending ACC champs Virginia a few weeks ago. Mallory Comerford is hitting her stride in the relay-distance freestyles, and makes Louisville’s 400 free relay one of the more dangerous around.
#8: Virginia Cavaliers (PREVIOUS RANK:#7)
Their ACC win streak was snapped, but Virginia seems to have its eyes a little more on NCAAs at the moment. Leah Smith is ranked #2 nationwide in the 500 and 1650 frees, Laura Simon is an elite breaststroker and a lot of Virginia’s points are currently centered in the 200 fly and 200 IM.
#7: Texas A&M Aggies (PREVIOUS RANK: #8)
A slight bump for the Aggies after winning SECs in a show of depth. Sarah Gibson sits #2 in the NCAA ranks in the 200 fly and A&M is one of the best teams in the nation through the breaststrokes, butterflys and IMs, while also boasting three top-8-ranked relays (200 medley, 400 medley and 800 free).
#6: Texas Longhorns (PREVIOUS RANK: #4)
Texas didn’t have to show much at Big 12s, and now the real question dogging the Longhorns all year is finally about to be answered: can they back up a stellar regular season with comparable NCAA performances? Madisyn Cox should be a multi-event All-American to lead the way.
#5: NC State Wolfpack (PREVIOUS RANK: #10)
First ACC title since 1980 in hand (or paw) and the Wolfpack looks very strong. Four different relays rank #4 in the NCAA (200 medley, 400 medley, 200 free, 400 free) and NC State has 3 potential 100 back scorers including ACC MVP Alexia Zevnik.
#4: USC Trojans (PREVIOUS RANK: #6)
If the story of the Pac-12 championships wasn’t how great Stanford swam, it would be how great USC swam. Scratch that. If the story of the Pac-12 championships wasn’t about how great Stanford swam, it would be about how great Cal swam, but if it wasn’t about either of them, it would be about another statement meet for the USC women. All five relays sit within the top 5 nationally and USC looks loaded in the sprints and breaststrokes, where coach Dave Salo has excelled lately.
#3: GEORGIA BULLDOGS (PREVIOUS RANK: #3)
SECs wasn’t earth-shattering, but also clearly wasn’t the Bulldogs’ biggest focus. Chelsea Britt is proving a massive pickup in the butterflys and Oliva Smoliga probably has room to move up even in stacked 50 and 100 free rankings.
#2: CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (PREVIOUS RANK #2)
Cal is ranked inside the NCAA’s top 3 in all five relay races and is stronger than anyone but Stanford in the relay-distance (50, 100, 200) freestyles. Backstroke and butterfly should be massive strengths and believe it or not, they’ve got the only top-16-ranked breaststroker of the top 3 teams. A great deal hinges on just how severe Abbey Weitzeil‘s illness is and whether she’s back at full strength for NCAAs.
#1: STANFORD CARDINAL (PREVIOUS RANK: #1)
No reason to drop the Card after several American records and a dominant showing at Pac-12s. The big question is whether Katie Ledecky will swim the 400 IM or 200 free at NCAAs, but in terms of team scores, that’s mostly a moot point. Between Simone Manuel, Ledecky, Ella Eastin, Ally Howe and Janet Hu, Stanford has the current NCAA leader in 10 of 13 individual events plus 4 of 5 relays.