2018-2019 Men’s NCAA Power Rankings: February Edition

As in 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.

It’s the calm before the conference storm in our Power Rankings, with the uneasy split of #1 votes remaining identical to our last ranks.

There hasn’t been much shifting in our top 5, though several of our rankers have predicted some big swings in the conference rounds. Check out our pre-Conference ranks below:

SwimSwam’s Power Rankings are the average of ballots from a panel of our top college swimming reporters. While this should help readers glean which teams are consensus picks at their rank and where in the order things get fuzzy and more subjective, bear in mind that these rankings are not an opportunity to personally attack any specific writer.

(Also receiving votes: Arizona State, Notre Dame)

Update: a previous version of this story included Purdue at #16. But those ranks were submitted before our report that diving Olympian Steele Johnson had foot surgery. Without Johnson in the mix, we re-reranked the bottom end of our ballots, with Purdue dropping out of our composite top 20 and Georgia Tech joining the mix.

#20: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Previous Rank: T-#20)

Right on the bubble in most of our rankings. Georgia Tech doesn’t have a ton of depth, but enough standout swimmers to put up pretty big individual points at NCAAs. -JA

#19: Ohio State Buckeyes (Previous Rank: #18)

I’ve been stanning Ohio State all season, but for good reason. They have competitive relays across the board, and enough potential individual scorers (plus a good diving squad) to easily justify them being in the rankings. -SP

#18: Arizona Wildcats (Previous Rank: T-#20)

They had a rough go of it against Texas and NC State, but were missing Chatham Dobbs. He was back in action and looked strong against Arizona State last weekend. -RG

#17: Harvard Crimson (Previous Rank: #19)

With just Dean Farris [insert meme here] looking to score big points, it’s hard to place Harvard right now. But if some other real individual and relay point potential emerges coming out of the Ivies, Harvard could shoot right up these rankings. -SP

Have to squeeze them in after Dean Farris put on a show at H-Y-P. He’s clearly worth 30-40 NCAA points on his own, but it’s still not entirely clear if Harvard has enough other pieces to pick up the other 10-20 points they’ll need to crack the top 20. -RG

Dean and friends Harvard continues to be that one Ivy we keep looking back to for top 20. It’s not really a big question as to why, but the question remains if Farris will swim through Ivies and deliver the show at NCAAs that his growing fan base is begging for from their god. -KO

#16: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Previous Rank: #16)

Max McHugh keeps riding his wave. Bowe Becker broke Matt Grevers’ 100 free pool record at Northwestern last weekend. -KO

There’s no reason to worry about Bowen BeckerBut it’d be easier to rank the Gophers in the top 15 if he’d already put up 18/41-type sprint swims. Can he and stud breaststroker Max McHugh carry the medley relays? That’s the blueprint for Minnesota, which really needs a backstroker to step up. -JA

#15: Virginia Cavaliers (Previous Rank: #14)

Virginia has been relatively quiet so far, but Zach Fong‘s unshaved 45.5 school record in the 100 fly at a dual meet bodes well for the Cavs heading into championship season. -RG

Expect some fireworks at ACCs, where I anticipate UVA to follow NC State’s strategy of going hard after relays. There’s no reason for a team like Virginia (2 guys safely into NCAAs so far) not to rest big in the conference round. -JA

#14: Missouri Tigers (Previous Rank: #15)

I’m taking this round as a snapshot of this moment in time, and at this moment in time, Missouri is performing at a close-to-top-10 level. Depending on how SECs go, I’m ready to drop them down lower, or who knows, maybe they’ll still be right here [at #11 on my ballot]. -SP

This is another team with a freshman class that has quietly done very well so far this year. It’s also a team that has the depth where their B relays beat their A in-season, so there’s some sifting and strategizing that needs to be done to ensure the Tigers put their best paw forward. -KO

#13: Texas A&M Aggies (Previous Rank: #13)

The A&M freshmen men have shown huge improvements. That makes their relays better than expected at the national level. -BK

Don’t discount a good diving boost (41 points last year) for a young Aggie team. My only concern is how busy Shaine Casas will be at NCAAs with no viable option of skipping prelims of some relays. -JA

#12: Alabama Crimson Tide (Previous Rank: #12)

I say this at the risk of ever believing a coach or athlete who says they weren’t rested, but I buy Dennis Pursley‘s claim that the team reworked its approach to mid-season resting after regressing at NCAAs last year. ‘Bama is sitting 11th in the Swimulator and has the relay chops to challenge for the top 10. -JA

#11: Georgia Bulldogs (Previous Rank: #10)

Sophomores Greg Reed and Camden Murphy have been impressive recently, but the Bulldogs are probably still a few sprinters short of being a top ten team. -RG

I don’t trust a team that’s this weak in the relays (27 projected points and only 2/5 relays projected to score) to make the top 10. That said, Georgia has made do without true sprinters in the past. I think the Bulldogs are a year or two away from a true resurgence; that said, they’ve got some big guns coming in, including GA high school standout Dillon Downing and breakout star Gianluca Urlando -JA

#10: Tennessee Volunteers (Previous Rank: #11)

Everytime a new breaststroke talent joins a team, everyone gets excited. As if breaststroke is remotely the most exciting event. But the buzz is real in Knoxville, and Michael Houlie certainly is a potential scorer in the 100 breast and will elevate medley relays. -KO

Three words: Houlie, relays, divers. -RG

Houlie is a nice addition to a team that already had a good amount of scoring potential. -SP

Houlie houlie houlie. Houlie houlie? Houlie. Houlie houlie houlie houlie. -JA

#9: Louisville Cardinals (Previous Rank: #8)

I’ve been pretty consistently high on Louisville this season even as they haven’t made a whole lot of headlines. This team nearly tripled its projected Swimulator points from mid-season last year, and returns a bunch of likely scorers. -JA

#8: Florida Gators (Previous Rank: #9)

If someone had told me I’d have Florida this high (#6) at this point in the season, I would have called them crazy. It’s supposed to be a rebuilding year after all. But… their freshmen have been nothing short of incredible, and Stanford is down Grant Shoults, and just like that, here we are. -SP

I think Florida’s freshmen are doing a great job this year. I’m especially excited to see what Kieran Smith, the do-everything IM’er that typically blows up at a program like UF, brings to the table this post-season. Perhaps some event specialization will help him go from fringe international roster member to a full-blown elite talent. -KO

Khader Baqlah has been 1:34 like clockwork this semester. The big hope for the Gators is that junior Maxime Rooney flourishes under a new coaching staff. -JA

#7: USC Trojans (Previous Rank: #7)

Carsten Vissering has been stupid fast in season, and as we’ve noted before, the medley relays look better than expected after losing a ton. Still, it’s hard to ignore just how much they’ve lost since last season. -RG

This team is very close to breaking out even higher than 8th. They’ve been swimming great all season, and have most of their bases covered. -SP

#6: Stanford Cardinal (Previous Rank: #6)

Feels like what was a pretty contentious Michigan-Stanford battle for the #5 spot has been solidified a bit by the loss of Grant Shoults for the season. -JA

Still a great team, but losing Grant Shoults is not helping anything. -SP

No Grant Shoults definitely hurts. On the upside, Jack Levant is swimming out of his mind right now. -KO

#5: Michigan Wolverines (Previous Rank: #5)

The depth Michigan has in breaststroke and IM is pretty absurd, and some of their breaststroke/IMers have filled in nicely on sprint free relays. The backstroke issue won’t sink medleys but it certainly won’t get them into clean water. -KO

Michigan’s team has developed nicely through the season. Great breast/IM group, and some solid relays to boot. -SP

Very interested in how blue chip prospect Patrick Callan performs at Big Tens and NCAAs. I think he’s got Townley Haas upside in the mid-distances. -JA

#4: NC State Wolfpack (Previous Rank: #4)

After a thumping performance against Texas and Arizona, it’s hard to not move NC State up. But Indiana had an equally-impressive pair of performances against Michigan and Louisville, and still has the wildcard of those divers. -BK

Prediction: this is the year Coleman Stewart becomes a household name with a pair of NCAA individual titles and three top-5 finishes. He’s so far ahead of where he was at this time last year (100 fly: 46.81 last year, 45.45 this year; 100 back 46.28 last year, 45.04 this year; 200 back 1:41.68 last year, 1:40.06 this year) that he’s either training at a very different volume or is in store for an incredible postseason. -JA

The Wolfpack unsurprisingly looked quite sharp in Austin a couple weekends ago, with Justin Ress, Coleman Stewart, and Jacob Molacek all dipping under 44 in the 100 free. -RG

#3: Indiana Hoosiers (Previous Rank: #3)

Indiana is probably the 2nd most well-rounded team out there, behind Cal. It would be very interesting to see a nationally-competitive 500 freestyler and 400 IM’er burst out at Big Tens. If that were to happen, coupled with IU’s stellar diving squad, the Hoosiers would be a very real threat to take the NCAA title. -SP

Nearly moved NC State up a spot, but you just can’t ignore swims like Gabriel Fantoni‘s 46.5 100 back or Michael Brinegar‘s sub-9:00 1000 free against Louisville. -RG

Indiana has a very big roster with a lot of freshmen. I don’t think anyone’s going to touch Texas/Cal in the slightest, but IU definitely has some room to push further from the NC States and Michigans with developmental potential and late-in-the-season surprises from first-years. -KO

#2: California Golden Bears (Previous Rank: #2)

Cal is just too tough a team for me to not have them #1. There isn’t a single hole in their swimming roster, and there are several events where they are insanely deep. I expect February to be Cal’s month, in regards to Cal vs Texas, mostly because their conference meet is much more competitive than the Big 12. -SP

Cal versus Texas is really splitting hairs right now. I’m hoping I’m not underestimating what Texas’s divers can do, and with Hugo Gonzalez still an unknown, there’s not much between these teams. Yes, Texas is known for not swimming fast in-season. No, we can’t make too many conclusions from in-season swimming from any one team. But, my word, has Cal been laying down the gauntlet (especially Mr. Seliskar). -KO

I’m notoriously slow to change my #1 vote, but Cal isn’t making it easy this time around. I have a sneaking suspicion this sophomore class will take the leap from “surprisingly strong rookie contributors” to “bona fide NCAA studs.” For reference, that class includes Ryan Hoffer, Daniel Carr, Sean Grieshop, Bryce Mefford and Trenton JulianIf three of those five are scoring 40+ points individually, watch out. -JA

Still can’t do anything at the top until we know about Hugo Gonzalez and whether-or-not he’ll be eligible this season at Cal. -BK

I see Texas having a slight lead (see below), but if Hugo Gonzalez does show up for Cal, he could/should provide enough points to swing things for Cal. -RG

#1: Texas Longhorns (Previous Rank: #1)

I’ve still got the Cal swimmers scoring about 60-70 more swimming points than Texas, but I’m assuming that the Texas divers are capable of once again scoring 80 points and securing the Longhorns’ 5th-straight swimming and diving title. Once again, it looks like there will no room for error by either team. -RG

All five of our rankers are holding fast on their #1 votes, leaving Texas with a narrow 3-2 advantage. For my part, it’s hard to overstate two pieces of this 2018-2019 Texas crew: the rise of Charlie Scheinfeld at what’s been the team’s clear weak point for several years, and just how many points their diving group will score (last year it was 81). -JA

If there’s no eleventh hour appearance from Hugo Gonzalez, which there may well not be, Texas is probably favored slightly. Maybe? It’s looking like Bush-Gore 2000. -KO

Texas has a lot of freshmen they’re relying on this season. Good news for them, is they have one of the best groups of freshmen I have ever seen. -SP

Full Ranking Ballots

Updated after Purdue diving news:

Rank Jared Braden Robert Spencer Karl
1 Texas Texas Texas Cal Cal
2 Cal Cal Cal Texas Texas
3 Indiana Indiana Indiana Indiana Indiana
4 NC State NC State NC State NC State NC State
5 Michigan Stanford Michigan Michigan Michigan
6 Stanford Michigan Florida Florida Florida
7 USC USC Stanford Stanford Stanford
8 Louisville Georgia USC USC USC
9 Tennessee Tennessee Louisville Louisville Louisville
10 Florida Louisville Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee
11 Texas A&M Florida Georgia Missouri Georgia
12 Alabama Texas A&M Virginia Georgia Alabama
13 Georgia Alabama Missouri Alabama Texas A&M
14 Missouri Missouri Alabama Texas A&M Missouri
15 Virginia Virginia Texas A&M Virginia Virginia
16 Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota
17 Arizona Harvard Arizona Ohio State Ohio State
18 Harvard Georgia Tech Arizona State Harvard Arizona
19 Georgia Tech Arizona State Harvard Notre Dame Harvard
20 Ohio State Notre Dame Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech

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3 years ago

I’m just waiting for all the salty NCST comments

2 Cents
3 years ago

The Hugo situation is a lose-lose either way. The way I see it playing out, if he is eligible and does swim, Cal wins and Texas fans will be complaining about how sketchy it is. If he doesn’t swim then Texas wins and Cal fans are complaining that they could have won with him (and that diving shouldn’t count).

3 years ago

Wait, our you dismissing Purdue’s great swimming program?

3 years ago

Anyone know why ASUs Cam Craig isn’t swimming?

3 years ago

Agree with Jared’s statement on Patrick Callan’s upside. Smooooth freestyle. It’ll be fun to see him develop.

3 years ago

I could see Notre Dame sneaking into the top 20. Distance, Backstroke and IM event scorers.

Reply to  SwimDad
3 years ago

As a Cal fan, I think Texas is doing the right course for them. Another post here said that Texas could use its diving money for more swimmers. Well, Texas does not need more money for swimmers. They are loaded with a top swimming squad and incoming recruits. They’ll be competing for #1 for years to come. Same with Stanford women’s teams.

JP input is too short
Reply to  SwimDad
3 years ago

I don’t know if I see a backstroker. It’s going to take like 45-mid/1:39 to score this year, not sure if Montesi can do that. I could see their 4 free/8 free relays scoring if Schultz pops off some good swims.

Small bird
3 years ago

Just wanted to reignite the old swimming AND diving debate again:

I haven’t heard the # of scholarships argument pro-Texas very often. Texas uses scholarship money on divers that it could potentially be using for swimmers. It all comes down to money. Texas could use those dollars on swimmers that would then score more swimming points. But it chooses to fund divers, who score diving points.

In essence, every team has the same amount of scholarships to spread amongst swimming and diving. Texas uses its scholarships to fund some divers, and scores the most points.

Reply to  Small bird
3 years ago

They can use the money however they see best to score the most points. That includes diving. You can’t leave big points on the board like that. It’s like if a football team put all of there money into building a great team but then don’t have a kicker. Weird comparison but think about it. To be the best you can’t leave points on the board.

2 Cents
Reply to  Swammer
3 years ago

Ha ha, I see what you did there…. leave points on the “board”.

Reply to  Small bird
3 years ago

I assume Texas is giving its “swimmer money” to the guys who will score in the bigs and/or swim on the 1 relay they are allowed per event at NCAA’s. After that, they have a choice: money for B finalists/non-scorers/non-relay personnel, OR, 2-3 guys who are going to score in events that aren’t already crowded with Longhorns (diving)?

While Coach Reese consistently states that he’s not out for titles, in reality, the way they recruit means titles if all the pieces come together. And that is what makes Coach Reese the greatest college coach of all time (and along with Scoggin, the best staff in history): he makes them faster and better PEOPLE, and the titles come. Kids can go… Read more »

Reply to  Small bird
3 years ago

If it all comes down to money then your logic is flawed because everyone has the same amount of money to give for scholarships so wouldn’t it be a dead heat among all the top schools? It really comes down to reputation and past success. Texas leads and Cal is second and then there is everyone else. It’s so close there isn’t really that big a difference cause Hugo or one DQ can make the difference. I love to make the arguement that Texas isn’t first in swimming just to annoy their fans it’s not that I don’t think they swim out of their minds at the big meet.

3 years ago

Umit Gures went a 45.7 in the 100 fly for Harvard at their tri-meet last week. Could score some nice points at NCAAs

JP input is too short
Reply to  Cgemw
3 years ago

Would have scored exactly zero points last year – though, to be fair, 9 of the scorers were seniors.

Reply to  JP input is too short
3 years ago

It also was an in-season meet, most likely only suited and not rested. I could see him and Dean contributing towards the Medleys, possibly making a final.

Reply to  Cgemw
3 years ago

Those teams always swim out of their minds at H-Y-P, and not much faster at the end of the season.

Small bird
Reply to  Cgemw
3 years ago

Umit is a total unit

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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