2018-2019 Men’s NCAA Power Rankings: First 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.

The Division I NCAA swim season is underway, and that can only mean one thing: the return of SwimSwam’s Power Rankings!

We started this process with preseason ranks we published early in our College Preview magazine, then used to count down our College Swimming Previews series on the web. These rankings are a bit different, in that they average out the ranking ballots of five of our top college swimming reporters periodically throughout the NCAA season.

After a thrilling, five-way battle for the NCAA team title last year, the ranks looks quite a bit different in the early goings of 2018, including a nearly even split of first-place votes. And last year’s five contending teams are spread between 1st and 11th coming back.

Averaging our ballots really shows the consensus top teams compared to where things get really, really fuzzy. The top 7 teams don’t see much variation in their ranks from any of the five rankers. But just outside the top 10, projections get very tricky, as basically each ranker has their own ranking order, and 17 different teams received votes between 10th and 20th between the various ranking ballots.

Check out all our 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: Ohio State, Missouri, Florida State, LSU, Virginia Tech)

#20: Auburn Tigers (2018 NCAA Finish: 12th)

Auburn snuck into the top 20, huh? Sprinter Zach Apple (38.5 points) and IMer Hugo Gonzalez (7 points) left the program, along with the bulk of the coaching staff and top recruit Antani Ivanov. There’s still some talent on the roster, but new head coach Gary Taylor has his work cut out for him to reload this team on the fly. -JA

#19: South Carolina Gamecocks (2018 NCAA Finish: 17th)

Mark Bernardino and a couple of the program’s best distance men are gone. But Brandonn Almeida is better than his 2018 short course performances indicate. -JA

South Carolina lost a lot, but Brandonn Almeida should be better than he was last year. -SP

#18: Arizona State Sun Devils (2018 NCAA Finish: 20th)

Felt like ASU underperformed last year. Their incoming freshman class is insanely good, and built to stack relays. With names like Grant House and Cameron Craig already in the mix, the relay point potential is massive for a team that got just 36 relay points in 2018. -JA

The Sun Devils had a super-young freestyle core last year: their 10th-place 800 free relay at NCAAs, for example, had 1 sophomore and 3 freshmen on it. On the flip-side, their medleys were old: the 13th-place 200 medley was all seniors. This ranking is contingent upon Cameron Craig being good-to-go after sitting out the long course season. -BK

I don’t think ASU will end up this low (#19) by the end of the season, but I’ll need to see what their freshmen and transfers can do before I move them up. -SP

ASU lost a lot, but also brought in the #5 class in the nation. The Sun Devils have a much higher ceiling than this, if things break right for them. -RG

#17: Alabama Crimson Tide (2018 NCAA Finish: 13th)

Senior Robert Howard might be the most overlooked college sprinter, but there’s a chance he could end up with his hand on the wall first in what looks to be a wide-open 100 free. -RG

Alabama lost a lot of key relay pieces, and I’m not sure if it will be entirely reloaded this year. Robert Howard is still a great sprinter to have leading the way, and if his 200 comes down just a little, he’ll be scoring in all 3 of his events. -SP

#16: Purdue Boilermakers (2018 NCAA Finish: 19th)

Adding the defending ACC Diver of the Year Greg Duncan to their roster late in the summer is huge. This might be the best men’s diving team, in terms of number of NCAA scorers, ever assembled, led by Steele Johnson -BK

It’s highly unlikely we’ll see any swimmers scoring here, but this diving team is pretty unreal. This is a diving squad that could score 75+ points, which would land them very comfortably in the top 20. -SP

#15: Harvard Crimson (2018 NCAA Finish: 18th)

Dean Farris memes aside, Harvard did its job recruiting last year. Jake Johnson is a solid back/fly prospect to replace the graduated Steven Tan. Simon Lamar is one of the best in a loaded distance recruiting class. Umitcan Gures could be an impact international. This roster took 18th last year with Farris having a hand in 52 of the Crimson’s 58 points. He should get a little more support this year as Harvard takes a leap. -JA

Dean Farris is leading the way for this Harvard team again, and Logan Houck and Brennan Novak should score more than the 3 points each they did last year. They lost some important free relay members, but nothing that’s impossible to replace. -SP

#14: Minnesota Golden Gophers (2018 NCAA Finish: 15th)

Stud sprinter (Bowen Becker), stud breaststroker (freshman Max McHugh). Can Minnesota fill in enough to contend in the medleys? Diving, as always, is a major bonus. -JA

Minnesota has one of the best returning sprinters in Bowen Becker, and Max McHugh is set do damage control for the loss of his older brother in the breaststroke events. McHugh is a solid sprinter too, so the Golden Gophers could see more of their relays in scoring position this year. Minnesota has also somewhat quietly assembled a strong diving squad too, led by Nick Yang, who placed 6th in platform diving last year. -SP

#13: Texas A&M Aggies (2018 NCAA Finish: 14th)

A&M is trending in the right direction. Because of big graduations, the improvement is going to be muted in their NCAA finish this year, but their trajectory has them well-inside of the top 10 by 2020 or 2021. They’ve got a ton of divers, too – a well-rounded program. -BK

A really good freshman class: Shaine Casas, Coco Bratanov and Clayton Bobo could turn out to be three-quarters of a scoring medley relay as rookies. -JA

Graduation hurt Texas A&M, but they’ve been building steadily, so while this may not be a breakout year for them, I expect that they’ll be well into the top 20. -SP

#12: Virginia Cavaliers (2018 NCAA Finish: 29th)

When you remove seniors from last year’s scoring, the Cavaliers bring back 90 points, just a notch behind Louisville and well ahead of Florida, Georgia, and Harvard. -RG

Desorbo’s women sprint freestlylers exploded seemingly out of nowhere at the end of last year, and I’m going to try to get out ahead of the curve this year and say it will happen to the men too. Lots of guys just outside scoring last year, and I’m betting on some pretty fast free relays too. -SP

Scored just 19 points last year, but had four men just outside the top 16 in various events. If Todd Desorbo‘s typical overperforming relays show up with this group, they might have an insane jump at NCAAs from 29th last year. -JA

#11: Florida Gators (2018 NCAA Finish: 5th)

Florida was the hardest team to place. They graduated so much – and not only Dressel – and also brought in a new coaching staff (one that looks a lot like the old staff, just without Gregg Troy at the top of the pyramid). Any places between about 7 and 20 are defensible right now. It’s time for juniors Maxime Rooney and Khader Baqlah to step up and carry the team. The Gators go as far as those two take them. -BK

The hardest team in the nation to predict right now. New coaching staff and an almost-entirely new roster. But longtime assistant (now head coach) Anthony Nesty has familiarity with the program the recruiting class is too good to rank outside the top 10, at least for now. -JA

I’ve got a feeling we’re all going to feel silly in March for ranking Florida this low. However, Caeleb Dressel is gone, it’s the first year after the Gregg Troy Era, and a lot of Florida’s hopes will ride on the success of its much-touted freshman class. If those freshmen come through, the Gators will easily finish in the top ten. If they don’t, well, the Gators might be bait. -RG

Florida just lost too much for me to keep them very high right now. They have a very fast incoming class, but they also lost 167 individual points from last year’s NCAAs. On top of that, their relays are not going to be as fast or place as high as they did last year because Caeleb Dressel’s relay value will not be able to be replaced any time soon. -SP

#10: Tennessee Volunteers (2018 NCAA Finish: 11th)

Diver Colin Zeng scored the vast majority of Tennessee’s points, and he’s back. Kyle Decoursey should have a much bigger individual impact than last year. -JA

Lots of uncertainty here, with two keys at NCAAs being Kyle DeCoursey and whoever replaces Peter John Stevens on breast. Still, a very strong diving corps gives the Volunteers a strong floor, while the swimmers will determine their ceiling. -RG

Colin Zeng is poised to score 50+ points again, and Tennessee had a number of swimmers last year who were could be in scoring position with just a little improvement. If all goes right, the Volunteers can be in the top 10 -SP

#9: USC Trojans (2018 NCAA Finish: 6th)

So much outgoing talent, but some speed incoming, too. Alexei Sancov is one of the best recruits on the market. The medley relays aren’t going to contend like they did last year, but this is still a solid roster. -JA

The Trojans are another team that lost a lot, but Alexei Sancov should be a huge-impact freshmen, and he’s valuable to fill relays holes too. USC will almost certainly finish lower than they did last season, but I think they’ll have no problem whatsoever cracking the top 10. -SP

#8: Georgia Bulldogs (2018 NCAA Finish: 10th)

This still seems fairly high for Georgia, and that’s really a testament to just how much teams like Florida and USC lost. -RG

Graduated two high-impact players (Gunnar Bentz, Jay Litherland) and still lost less than several other top-10 programs. Andrew Abruzzo is the perfect recruit for Georgia. -JA

I’m unsure about what to expect from the Bulldogs. The losses of Gunnar Bentz and Jay Litherland certainly hurt, and would lead me to believe they won’t finish as high this year as they did last year. However, despite the losses, their medley relays should be just as fast as last year, and it’s not out of the question that their 800 free relay, which was their highest finishing relay, could be reloaded as well. Combined, Litherland and Bentz scored 48 points at the NCAAs, and judging by how the rest of the team placed individually last year, it’s entirely possible that those points will be made up. -SP

#7: Louisville Cardinals (2018 NCAA Finish: 9th)

Evgenii Somov should jump right into the medley relay slot vacated by Carlos Claverie, and the Cardinals didn’t lose a single leg on their free relays. -RG

Nicolas Albiero has a chance to be a special swimmer in the NCAA format, especially if he and father/coach Arthur Albiero can nail down the ideal NCAA lineup for him. -JA

Louisville is returning every member of their free relays, all of which scored last year. If all the majority of the members of those relays improve from last season, the Cardinals could score substantially more relay points than they did last year. -SP

#6: Michigan Wolverines (2018 NCAA Finish: 8th)

Michigan suffered some losses, but nothing super devastating to their ability to bring in individual and relay points. Their incoming class is really good, with some guys who could make an impact. Given that the Wolverines didn’t lose quite as much as other teams who finished ahead of them last year, I can see Michigan moving up from their 8th place finish last year. -SP

The Wolverines were 6th last year, didn’t lose as much as USC or Florida, and bring in a strong class headlined by Patrick Callan. -RG

The junior class is stellar: potential NCAA champ Felix Auboeck and All-Americans Charlie Swanson and Tommy CopeThe freshman Patrick Callan has real Townley Haas vibes, with incredible freestyle range, and leads a massive class of recruits and transfers. -JA

#5: NC State (2018 NCAA Finish: 4th)

NC State always manages to reload its relays, even when someone like Ryan Held graduates. Nyls Korstanje will be a big boost. -JA

Ryan Held was a huge loss for the Wolfpack, but a lot of teams suffered big losses from last year. I still see a top 5 finish for NC State. -SP

#4: Stanford Cardinal (2018 NCAA Finish: 7th)

I think Jack LeVant is going to be huge for Stanford, and the rest of the freshmen class is looking really good as well. -SP

This stellar freshman class only looks better after the summer. Jack LeVant might turn out to be the most impactful rookie in the NCAA. -JA

#3: Indiana Hoosiers (2018 NCAA Finish: 3rd)

A lot of people seem to be pretty dismissive of the Hoosiers, and I don’t really understand that. This is a team that, by my estimation, should have an A finalist in every event except for 2 (the 500 free and 400 IM), with many of those likely A finalists having an excellent shot at winning events (Ian Finnerty, Vini Lanza, Zach Apple, and I’d throw Michael Brinegar in that category for the mile). On top of that, IU’s medley relays are going to be pretty much unstoppable, with what should be an incredibly fast middle from Finnerty and Lanza. Gabriel Fantoni, Bruno Blaskovic, and newcomer Van Mathias are poised to make sizable individual scoring contributions too. Plus, as always, IU has a top-notch diving program that will bring in a healthy dose of points to help out. -SP

It’s really, really tempting to put Indiana, with Zach Apple, into the top 2. As the season shakes out, I’ll be looking for a sign that they need to be there. -BK

Bringing in Zach Apple pretty much makes up for the loss of Blake Pieroni. They still return the other three legs of their medley relays and 800 free relay, and they’ve brought in a strong freshman class. If things break right, they could top Cal and/or Texas, but it’s hard to project that happening at this point. -RG

The high-profile Apple addition is causing most of us to overlook how good this freshman class is. Michael Brinegar is one of the best high school milers we’ve ever seen. Jack Franzman, Mikey Calvillo, Van Mathias and Zane Backes could all be freshman scorers. That’d be a huge boost to the shaky depth of IU, a team that massively overperformed but basically ran out of swimmers to keep up with Texas by day 4 last year. -JA

#2: California Golden Bears (2018 NCAA Finish: 2nd)

It’s not out of the question for Cal to end up with 18 A-final swims. That’s assuming there’s no sophomore slump for last year’s breakout stars like Daniel Carr, Bryce Mefford, and Trenton Julian, and that Reece Whitley can at least hit his prep times. Those feel like fairly safe assumptions. Throw in Andrew Seliskar‘s very strong summer, and some reasonable improvement from Ryan Hoffer, and on paper, this is Cal’s meet to lose. – RG

I’m always looking for a reason to pick an upset or be contrarian. Right now, Cal really does seem like they could have enough to outpace Texas. They have so many guys in so many places. -KO

Cal has an excellent shot of scoring the most swimming points at the NCAAs, like they did last year, but their lack of NCAA scoring divers is making me leave them 3rd for now. -SP

This is the most complete roster in the NCAA, considering both depth and event coverage. The freshmen last year were clutch, and the Bears showed up in force at Summer Nationals. Interesting note: Cal has the #1-ranked recruit in three of the four classes on their roster – Reece Whitley (freshman), Ryan Hoffer (sophomore) and Andrew Seliskar (senior). In the class of 2016, they slacked, only getting the #2 recruit in Michael Jensen. -JA

#1: Texas Longhorns (2018 NCAA Finish: 1st)

To me, the Longhorns have to be #1 on our first rankings of the season. They come in having won the last 4 NCAA titles, and with our #1 freshmen class for this year. That being said, however, I think it should be acknowledged that this is likely their toughest road to the title in the past 5 seasons. There’s a number of events where the Longhorns will struggle to score many, if any, points at the NCAAs. However, it has to be noted that where Texas is strong, they are unbelievably strong. The Longhorns will need their freshmen to show up in a big way at the NCAAs in order to hold off Indiana, and luckily for Texas, they have an excellent group of newcomers to do just that. -SP

The Longhorns are never a team to bet against, and they looked dangerous at their intrasquad. If the freshmen thrive, it’s over for Cal. -KO

In our College Swimming Preview, Texas’s report card looked like that of a genius prodigy in Upper Level Freestyle and Advanced Backstroke, but who mostly slept through Breaststroke 101 and Intro to IMs. Luckily, NCAA titles aren’t won on averages. Townley Haas leads a freestyle group that’s stacked beyond compare in the 200. Texas might go pass/fail on the medley relays and be happy with B final showings. They’ll make up for it in diving and the backstrokes. Freshmen Drew Kibler and Daniel Krueger might be the most dangerous sprinting duo in the nation for the next four years. -JA

Full Ranking Ballots

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

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Big Dog Swims
5 years ago

NC State deserves a little more love. Justin Ress and Colman Stewart are solid returners.

2 Cents
5 years ago

I think my above comment about UVA might be a bit more on point now. Whiteside was not in the meet this weekend and upon further look, he is not listed on the roster either. With him healthy, 12th is a bit more accurate… Without him, 14th or 15th is a best case scenario.

5 years ago

Harvard will be top 10. Trust me.

5 years ago

Aggies finish top 5. Mark my words.

Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

I just spit my muscle milk all over my computer screen.

Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

Spoken like a true aggy.

JP input is too short
Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

You know, I wanted to dismiss that out of hand, but it could happen if all the stars align. I think they need Koster sub-19 sub-42 to do that though. They have about the second best sprint recruiting class in the nation but when half of your relay legs are depending on freshmen there is a lot of possibility for variance.

5 years ago

Hoosiers havent lost depth thanks to Apple transfer. They will have 1 or 2 suprise scorers in addition to great incoming talent. They are still hungry and staff will bring out the best as Ray Looze is becoming better tuned to build around NCAA’s as this team should own Big10 this season. Winning??? Probably runner up behind Texas but could surpass Cal. Side note… watch out for NC State.

5 years ago

What about the Hokies??

JP input too short
Reply to  Broooo
5 years ago

Hugo went back home to Spain, so they need to prove a bit first. Good recruiting class though, they could end up up there if they improve.

5 years ago

Cameron Craig didn’t swim in their intrasquad meet last week. Anyone know if he’s done, exiled, being punished or what?

Reply to  Superfan
5 years ago


They Know
Reply to  Superfan
5 years ago

He did not swim at all this summer either.

5 years ago

South Carolina has a great recruiter. He almost talked my freshman into considering SoCar when he wasn’t even close to interested before talking to him – nothing against the school or program, he wanted a cold climate (weirdo). I look for them to continue moving up in coming years.

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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