17. South Carolina Gamecocks
Ahmed Mahmoud will battle for top 3 spots in the 500 and 1650 freestyles, and Nils Wich-Glasen had another career-year in the breaststrokes. The Gamecocks are only swimming one relay, as the last seed in Wednesday’s 800. That means all the pressure is on their individuals, but also that they can focus on just their individuals.
16. Tennessee Volunteers
In a redshirt-filled diving year, the Volunteers should get 50-60 points alone from Mauricio Robles and Liam Stone. Throw in Sean Lehane and a couple of decent relays, and they should clear the 100-point mark.
The Buckeyes graduated some big pieces from last year’s team, but have a ton of momentum after getting two swimmers called up to the meet off the Meet Alternate list. That gives them a bigger travel squad and (theoretically) more team energy for the meet, even if those call-ups don’t end up scoring. The Buckeyes also got two divers into the meet via the primary selection route, plus 2 others via the non-funded route, so 40+ diving points isn’t inconceivable.
14. Missouri Tigers
The Tigers scratched their 800 free relay at NCAAs last year, and this year is seeded only 13th. They have the potential for a studly top-6 type relay if they choose to go after it.
13. Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats are a young team that surprised with the quality of their relays at Pac-12s (particularly the 200 medley). Diver Rafael Quintero was 4th at last year’s NCAAs on platform, and is the highest-returning diver in that event.
12. Stanford Cardinal
Stanford is bringing the third-most swimmers to the meet (14 in total), but a historically-anemic sprint group for Stanford got even thinner when Connor Black scratched out of the meet. They still have some guys who can fill in on relays in a pinch (Andrew Liang, Gray Umbach), but Black also had individual scoring potential, particularly in the 100 fly.
The Cardinal are also bringing four divers (three of which finished first or second in an event at Pac-12’s) to the meet, but with still find themselves at risk of finishing outside of the top 10 for the first time since 1979.
11. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia didn’t have a great NCAA meet last season, but this year seem to have developed some good training synergies in spots where the Georgia men have history: 400 IM, 200 fly, and middle-distance freestyles. To better contend in the team standings, the ‘Dawgs will need to capture some of the relay magic they’ve had over the last several years, particularly from #1 sprinter Michael Trice.
10. Louisville Cardinals
After Joao de Lucca carried the Louisville Cardinals into the NCAA’s upper echelon, a coalition of young swimmers waiting to make the next big push has arrived. That group, led by freestyler Trevor Carroll and backstroker Grigory Tarasevich, is looking to get Louisville another top ten team finish.
9. USC Trojans
The USC men didn’t appear to sell-out to win the Pac-12 title this year (and with Cal’s stars gone, they didn’t have to), so we expect they’ll have some left for NCAAs. Divers Collin Pollard and Dash Enos are coming off a great Pac-12 meets, with Pollard in contention for a platform title in Atlanta.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide are sending a smaller squad to NCAA’s, but it’s one that’s dense with talent. We haven’t seen even close to best efforts from Kristian Gkolomeev or Anton McKee this year, though Connor Oslin has continued to be a stud. If the former two are really saving everything for NCAAs, and hit things right, this is a top 6 team.
7. Indiana Hoosiers
Their traditionally great diving program took a hit this year without All-Americans James Connor and Michael Hixon. Joshua Arndt is untested at the NCAA level, but did qualify, and in an Olympic year with so many redshirts, that could be enough for big points.
On the swimming side of things, the Ray Looze/Dennis Dale combination has formed a deeper and more well-rounded Hoosier team than we’ve seen in the past.
6. Michigan Wolverines
Paul Powers is Michigan’s answer to Caeleb Dressel (or the closest thing to it), and having already been sub-19 this year, could create some magic at NCAA’s. Besides him, this is a veteran Michigan squad led by multi-event contender Dylan Bosch.
5. Auburn Tigers
The Auburn men are on a streak of 6-straight seasons of dropping points versus psych at NCAA’s. After a 9th-place finish last year, their lowest since 1992, the alumni are restless and the pressure is on Brett Hawke and the Tigers to perform well. With a resurrected sprint group, five very good relays, and two solid divers selected to the meet, though, this is the best Auburn team we’ve seen in years.
4. NC State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack looked as good as anybody in the country at the ACC Championships. They’re not quite as deep as Texas or Cal, but could conceivably win four of five relays, and have the best top-end sprinters in the country.
Working against NC State is the fact that over the last three years, they’ve underperformed their seeds by an average of 86 points (partially because of time-adds, partially because of a rash of relay DQs that has almost seemed like more than a fluke. Until they can get over that hump, they’ll have trouble breaking through.
3. Florida Gators
In making this pick, we’ve done our best to put the women’s team’s tough NCAA meet last week, and really challenging season overall, out of our minds. The Florida men have the fastest yards sprinter in history (Caeleb Dressel), which is a big ace in March. Corey Main, a senior from New Zealand, will be a big key and is capable of far outperforming his seeds. With New Zealand Olympic qualifying coming up soon though (he’ll probably swim at Canada’s trials), he’s got a balance to hit. Day 1 is a huge day for the Gators, so they need to get out early and hold on late for a second top 3 finish in the last three years.
2. Cal Golden Bears
Remember that a group of Cal’s best swimmers–including defending NCAA Swimmer of the Year Ryan Murphy–didn’t compete at Pac-12’s, so their psych sheet scoring isn’t as impressive as it could be (they currently sit 5th). Cal has a huge history of far out-performing seed at NCAAs under the Durden tenure; while it’s still a very long shot, they’re the only team with enough upside to possibly catch Texas.
The Longhorns have such a ridiculously full team, that they even had to cut one swimmer who qualified for NCAAs. They have the best distance swimmer in the country, the two best butterfliers in the country, an incredibly deep sprint freestyle group, a swimmer in Will Licon who would be a slam-dunk for swimmer of the meet if not for the impending challenge from Cal’s Josh Prenot and Andrew Seliskar. We can’t forget about their divers, either. Unless they miss what we presume will be an intentionally-muted taper anyway, or get hit by debilitating illness, nothing is stopping this Longhorn train. At this point, their battle is with history. Texas has a few small holes in their lineup, but where they’re good, they’re really good.