We’ve run a series of Power Rankings throughout the season that were somewhere between the CSCAA-style dual meet rankings and a pure prediction of NCAA finish order. With NCAAs kicking off in just over 24 hours, we’re here to give you our final team ranking predictions. Prior rankings are, at this point, irrelevant, as we’re strictly looking at how we think each team will fare this coming week.
As always, 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. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
Purdue has three divers going to NCAAs, two as “selected divers,” which includes Mary-Beth Dunnichay – a title contender on the 1-meter. This year, the Boilermakers are as supported-as-ever by their swimmers, and especially their two distance freestylers Alexa Davis and Kaersten Meitz. The two have been trading school records all season long, and they’re will Purdue will be relying on their swimming scoring.
19. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
May not score a ton of swimming points beyond Brooke Zeiger, but having three-event A-finalist Yu Zhou on the boards helps.
18. UCLA BRUINS
UCLA has depth with 21 swimming entries at NCAAs, but their divers are locked-in this year. The Bruins are sending three as selected divers (Eloise Belanger, Annika Lenz, and Maria Polyakova). It would be no surprise if the three combined for 40 points at NCAAs, and it historically only takes 50-60 to make the top 20.
17. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
The Tar Heels have been inconsistent in their NCAA performances. Over the past 6 seasons, they’ve averaged within 1.5 points of their projected psych sheet scoring (which this year has them at 71 points and a 15th seed). That average is misleading though, as the trend (from 2010-2015) has been -25, -49, -2, +59, -32, +30.5. That inconsistency makes the taper hard to peg.
16. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
The best squad the Buckeyes have brought to NCAA’s in a long time. Lindsey Clary was one of the country’s most improved swimmers this season, and Liz Li is the rock behind 3-4 relays with scoring potential. Diver Haley Allen should score some points, too.
15. MISSOURI TIGERS
The Missouri Tigers, after a few years where they struggled to hit their tapers, finally found the right formula in 2015. They improved 47 points from seed on just a swimming comparison alone, which was second-most behind Georgia. Missouri isn’t counting on much from divers this year, though, which is something they’ve usually had.
14. ARIZONA WILDCATS
This Arizona team has been surprising this year with more scorers than expected coming out of Pac-12’s; the talent their young swimmers bring to the table is paying off ahead of schedule. After two-straight disappointing NCAA Championships for senior Bonnie Brandon, she needs to step up in her last collegiate meet to lead the Wildcats.
13. FLORIDA GATORS
The Florida women have been thrashed by injury, retirement, and transfers, which leaves them in unfamiliar territory entering NCAAs. They do still have one huge weapon that can carry a team in March: sprinter Natalie Hinds, one of the best in the land. In the psych sheet scoring, there’s a fairly-significant dropoff after the top 12 teams, so we’re pretty confident that the top 12 will, in fact, be the top 12, but the one reason why Florida may be able to leap that gap is diver Kahlia Warner. She scored 13 points at NCAAs last year, but has been on-fire as a senior (double springboard SEC Champion) and will a big beneficiary of tons of Olympic redshirts in front of her.
12. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
Mike Bottom and his staff continuing to do wonders at UofM; the Wolverines just won their first Big Ten Championship in over a decade. Of course, it helps to have a pair of freshmen with top-8 scoring potential (Siobhan Haughey, Rose Bi).
11. NC STATE WOLFPACK
The NC State men are all the rage, but the women shouldn’t be overlooked. The Lady Wolfpack gave Virginia a run for their money at ACC’s, boast some of the country’s best sprint freestyle relays, and have a conference champion diver (Rachel Mumma) on their roster. Distance freestyler Hannah Moore has met expectations in her first season in Raleigh/
10. INDIANA UNIVERSITY
It’s a peculiar year for the Indiana Hoosiers, who have only 1 selected diver, Michal Bower, for NCAAs. Bower, an incoming transfer from Arizona who didn’t score at NCAAs last year. Indiana has no Brooklynn Snodgrass this season (Olympic redshirt), but freshman Lilly King has taken over as an NCAA title threat for this team – in a stroke where Indiana had a huge hole last season.
9. TEXAS LONGHORNS
Swimming out of the very thin Big 12 Conference, there’s never much buzz about Texas until NCAAs, but this is a young team that returned a lot of individual scoring. The biggest problem for the Longhorns at NCAAs will be lack of sprinters to fill in top-8 relays. If Carol Capitani’s squad can get more than half of their relays into the top 8, they’ll be in a good spot. It’s no surprise that this team is taking on a very Georgia-like feel: their best relay is the 800, and they have lots of individual scorers in middle-distance events. Also of note, Texas improved 41 points from seeded scoring at NCAAs last year – third-most behind only Georgia and Missouri.
8. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
The Tennessee Volunteers continue to manufacture some of the best medley relays in the country. This year, without an elite breaststroker, they still took the SEC title in the 200 medley relay by squeezing 50 yards out of freshman sprint freestyler/butterflier Maddy Banic. The addition of All-American transfer Kira Toussaint, who continues to perform very well in the backstroke races but has really improved her sprint freestyles this season, is enough to push Tennessee back into the top 10. Diver Rachel Rubadue, the Zone B platform champion, has been a revelation.
7. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS
While technically a backslide from their 6th-place finish last year at NCAAs, this Louisville team is every bit as good, led by the best butterflier in the land Kelsi Worrell. The story for the Cardinals will be if freshman Mallory Comerford, who had a great ACC Championship meet, can continue that momentum into NCAAs and help fill the 41-point (plus relays) gap left by Tanja Kylliainen’s graduation.
6. USC TROJANS
Riding strong momentum coming off their first Pac-12 women’s team title in history, but tough to say how much better they can swim? The depth that won them the conference meet won’t play as well on the big stage, but led by Kendyl Stewart and Chelsea Chenault, this is still a very good team at any level.
5. TEXAS A&M AGGIES
The 2016 SEC Champions are built around a core of swimmers that you may have never heard of, but head coach Steve Bultman is as good as any coach in the country at taking unheralded and unheard of recruits and turning them into college stars. The Aggies will be shooting for a fourth-straight top 5 finish at NCAAs.
4. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Proof that you only need 6-8 swimmers to bring home a team trophy… provided those 6-8 are really, really good. Courtney Bartholomew has gotten progressively better at hitting her stride at NCAAs. Will this be the year she finally gets an individual title?
3. GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Georgia’s 800 free relay is still very good, but overall this year’s Bulldogs don’t sprint as well as we’ve seen from them in the past few seasons. Individual scoring will have to make up for a lack of relay points. Nobody in the country was better versus seed at NCAAs last year than Georgia, though.
2. CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Certainly the team with the most talent. By the time this meet is over, they could have five swimmers with an individual NCAA title to their name (Rachel Bootsma, Elizabeth Pelton, Amy Bilquist, Katie Baker, Farida Osman). The challenge for Teri McKeever is having them all swim fast at the same time.
1. STANFORD CARDINAL
The Cardinal have a great track record of lighting it up at NCAAs, outperforming their psych sheet scores by 50+ points each of the last two seasons. The problem? Individually, Ella Eastin and Lia Neal can’t move up much more; they have a combined five top seeds individually, as well as another second place seed. Stanford does have 2 divers qualified for NCAAs though in a year where diving points can take a huge swing. All things equal with swimmers tapering for NCAA’s (vs. holding over for Trials), Stanford is our pick in what looks like the tightest NCAA team race since 2010.