2018-2019 Women’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 penultimate edition of our NCAA Power Ranks, tracking the top 20 teams in the nation heading into conference championships.

January and February make for tough times to draw hard and fast conclusions, with most teams swimming in various stages of exhaustion and most coaches seeming to care little about final dual meet scores. That’s caused our rankings to see a little less moving and shaking from our last round of ranks – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some major moves.

The four-team race at the top continues. We have a unanimous #1 once again, but our #2 team has changed from last ranks. Towards the bottom of the list, we had the most consensus we’ve had, with the same 20 teams making up all five voting ballots.

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: N/A)

#20: Arkansas Razorbacks (Previous Rank: #20)

Anna Hopkin and Brooke Schultz are basically the wonder twins at this point. They could combine for four top-5 finishes individually, and Hopkin’s otherworldly splits have gotten three Arkansas relays into scoring contention. -JA

#19: Arizona Wildcats (Previous Rank: #19)

Recent NCAA sanction news aside, Arizona’s distance group looks solid. That’s become a pattern for head coach Augie Busch and distance coach Cory Chitwood, who had tremendous success with Leah Smith in their last coaching stop. -JA

#18: Missouri Tigers (Previous Rank: #18)

Missouri is swimming great, even with head coach Greg Rhodenbaugh‘s status in doubt most of the season. It’s reminiscent of the 2014 Georgia team that won an NCAA title despite Jack Bauerle missing most of the season with a suspension. -JA

#17: Auburn Tigers (Previous Rank: #16)

In the true NC State coaching tree fashion, Auburn is currently buoyed by its 46 projected relay points. Getting a relay or two into the top 8 (the 400 free relay is ranked 6th at the moment) would be a huge win for coach Gary Taylor in year 1. -JA

#16: Florida Gators (Previous Rank: #17)

One of our least polarizing teams to rank, Florida got almost unanimous 16th-place votes. The fascinating piece will be seeing how Jeff Poppell‘s program approaches the postseason and how their taper works. There’s serious talent on this roster. -JA

#15: Georgia Bulldogs (Previous Rank: #14)

UGA is looking short-handed. They should smooth things out by March, though Courtney Harnish in particular has looked incredible. -KO

It might be a bit of a two-year rebuild for UGA. Hanging around the top 12 this year and getting scoring experience from their standout freshmen would be a major success. Next year, with another good class coming in and Eva Merrell (maybe?) coming back, the ‘Dawgs could be back to their former dominance. -JA

#14: Wisconsin Badgers (Previous Rank: #15)

Current scoring projections are Beata Nelson and relays mostly made up of Beata Nelson. How much can one swimmer score? I think Wisconsin is a clear top-15 team, but the ceiling is a bit low without more depth. -JA

#13: Kentucky Wildcats (Previous Rank: #13)

The Wildcat women looked fantastic against Louisville. -KO

They’re a little thin on projected scorers right now with only three individuals, but they add up to some pretty potent medley relays, thanks especially to Asia Seidt‘s versatility. -JA

#12: Virginia Cavaliers (Previous Rank: #12)

Tough loss to NC State aside, I trust Todd Desorbo to have his crew primed for the postseason. The swimulator isn’t kind to the Cavaliers right now, but they’ve got a returning scorer who seems to be swimming pretty tired (Megan Moroney) and Paige Madden has been great in January. It’ll come around in Charlottesville. -JA

The ‘Hoos got rolled by NC State, but they’ve been strong all season. Morgan Hill‘s unsuited 21.2 relay split was jaw-dropping, and I think by ACCs we’ll see how strong this team really is. -KO

#11: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Previous Rank: #11)

With two solid backstrokers and an elite breaststroker, the medley relays should move up from current projections (15th in the 200, 17th in the 400). Factor in a massive diving boost, and this is an overlooked borderline top-10 squad. -JA

#10: NC State Wolfpack (Previous Rank: #9)

I’m buying that NC State can roughly hold its projected 120 relay points. Maybe that’s a bold gamble, but I trust Braden Holloway‘s track record of keying in on relays in the post-season. The men have certainly overperformed pretty consistently in relays over the past several years. -JA

#9: Texas A&M Aggies (Previous Rank: #7)

Is it weird that a team overlooked and underrated for so long is now arguably coasting on reputation? The Aggies haven’t shown a whole lot this season, but their track record of producing SEC/NCAA scorers out of thin air is keeping them solidly in the top 10. On the positive side, A&M has 8 women currently projected to score in the Swimulator, so their upside should be pretty high. And they have to score more than the projected 18 relay points, right? -JA

#8: USC Trojans (Previous Rank: #10)

All year we’ve been waiting for Erica Sullivan and Courtney Caldwell to show up. Now Sullivan isn’t going to show up at all, and Caldwell didn’t look great in December, then appeared to not compete at USC’s only January meet. Talk about wind out of the sails. -JA

#7: Indiana Hoosiers (Previous Rank: #8)

She wasn’t on track to score this year, but losing Ileah Doctor is symptomatic of IU’s brutal attrition rates. And a 22.1/49.5 sprinter should’ve been a pretty key piece for a team that didn’t have a single swimmer under 23.2 or 50.9 in the sprints at last week’s Louisville dual. Indiana’s still got stellar medleys, great diving and Lilly KingBut the lack of a formidable sprint group is holding them back compared to the top 6 programs. -JA

#6: Louisville Cardinals (Previous Rank: #5)

Not sure, but it might be an internal competition within the Louisville squad to see who can swim the most tired in late January. Results from back-to-back losses to Kentucky and Indiana weren’t pretty. But then again, we know what the Cards can do. No reason to panic, but it’s hard to put Louisville ahead of Tennessee at the moment. -JA

#5: Tennessee Volunteers (Previous Rank: #6)

It’s not just Erika Brown (who now has the fastest dual meet 50 free ever that we can find). The Vols have 7 women projected to score individual points, and the rise of breaststroker Nikol Popov leads me to believe the medley relays will be flying later this month. -JA

#4: Texas Longhorns (Previous Rank: #4)

The Longhorns need to prove they won’t falter come NCAAs. If they swim with big drops and are as tenacious as they’ve been this season, 4th could quickly turn into 2nd… or higher. -KO

Their 400 free relay is a good second and a half faster than anyone else in the NCAA this season. I wouldn’t expect the Longhorns to jump up these rankings after the conference round (they have no real reason to swim fast at Big 12s), but they’re a true threat come NCAAs. -JA

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

Isabel Ivey looked solid in her first weekend with Cal, and she might end up being the factor that tips the scale in Cal’s favor ahead of Texas. -KO

The good? Isabel Ivey is here early. The bad? Amy Bilquist hasn’t looked anywhere near her best yet this year. Cal slips behind Michigan for me, but this is still pretty clearly a three-team battle for second. -JA

#2: Michigan Wolverines (Previous Rank: #3)

Maggie Macneil adds so much, not just for individual points, but to relays. Michigan has a viable shot at #2 this year. -KO

The Wolverines sit #1 in the most updated Swimulator ranks, with the top 400 medley relay in the nation by a full second. -JA

#1: Stanford Cardinal (Previous Rank: #1)

Freshman Carolina Sculti did enough at the Bruin Diving Invitational to keep Stanford at #1 coming out of the break in my mind even with the uncertainty left by their limited dual meet schedule. Some huge swims last weekend, though, reminded us all that the two-time defending champs are still stacked with stars even without Ledecky and Manuel. -BK

Taylor Ruck has looked much better in the back half of the season, and Stanford looks stronger as a whole than they did earlier. By no means, though, are they head-and-shoulders above the NCAA like they were last year. -KO

Full Ranking Ballots

Rank Jared Braden Karl Torrey Robert
1 Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
2 Michigan Cal Michigan Cal Michigan
3 Cal Michigan Cal Michigan Cal
4 Texas Texas Texas Texas Texas
5 Tennessee Louisville Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee
6 Louisville Indiana Louisville Louisville Louisville
7 NC State Tennessee USC Indiana Indiana
8 Indiana USC Texas A&M USC Texas A&M
9 Texas A&M Texas A&M Indiana Texas A&M USC
10 USC NC State NC State NC State NC State
11 Minnesota Minnesota Wisconsin Minnesota Virginia
12 Virginia Kentucky Kentucky Virginia Minnesota
13 Wisconsin Virginia Minnesota Wisconsin Kentucky
14 Kentucky Georgia Virginia Kentucky Georgia
15 Georgia Wisconsin Georgia Georgia Wisconsin
16 Florida Florida Florida Florida Auburn
17 Missouri Arizona Auburn Auburn Florida
18 Arizona Missouri Missouri Missouri Arizona
19 Arkansas Arkansas Arkansas Arizona Missouri
20 Auburn Auburn Arizona Arkansas Arkansas

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ACC fan

NC STATE is a much better team than Louisville. Not sure what the panel is thinking. ACCs and NCAAs will prove this fact.

I’ll bite. Louisville was 5th at NCAAs last year, with 232 points. They’ve only lost 4 individual points and one relay leg from that team, so I’m willing to bet they’ll end up right around there again, even if they’ve looked a bit slow at dual meets here recently.

The Wolf of Raleigh

Couldn’t agree with you anymore. NC State women have strong history of showing up when it matters. Guess haters are just going to hate.


Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger

> NC State women have strong history of showing up when it matters

Is that true? They choked pretty hard last year, ended up 18th. Top 10 seems like a generous rank for them after the disaster that was 2018

Wolf cub

Hello Troll. I guess you missed the stats presented here last year as to the fact that NC State women had one of the best taper performances in the nation, both ACCs and NCAAs. Reason they ended up 18th last year was because they had TWO 21/47 sprinters out with injuries. And this year’s rank has a lot do do with an awesome freshman class and a healthy Ky-lee Perry, so nothing generous about a 10th place ranking. Did they spank your team? Is that why you’re so trollish?

2 Cents

Hmm… going to put stock into the wolfpack “rolling” the cavaliers, but not into the fact that the cavaliers rolled the Lady Vols or the Cardinals??

I’m all for not really paying attention to the duel meets and focusing on the invites and overall best times this year, but if you are going to use one as a reason, you have to consider them all in your reasoning. I’m not disagreeing exactly, but give me a better reason, like how they beat the Cardinals and Hoosiers in an invite setting, or something like that.

Not sure how much stock was put into it. After the ‘rolling,’ Virginia’s rank didn’t change, and NC State dropped a slot.

2 Cents

Okay, I’ll give you that, and it wasn’t you… it was “KO” but my point was that there should at least be a better reason given because I’m not buying the one given by “KO” which said that UVA was rolled by State.

ACC fan

Dual meets have nothing to do with it. NC STATE women have 11 women currently “likely” qualified for NCAAs (and 4 more I can count that should qualify at ACCs). And great sprinting, which carries relays and big points. those kind of numbers and depth can beat many of the teams in the top 10, including Louisville.


other than dual meets though, what really is there to go off of besides speculation?

Things that would influence this particular set of rankings to change from the previous. Same team vs. same team comparisons to similar timing on prior years. Some big-time diving meets. Injuries Transfers Athletes absent from multiple meets Some teams have swimmers going best or near-best season times in dual meets. Erika Brown’s 21.8 in the 50 free probably was largely responsible for Tennessee moving up a spot. That’s a stupid fast time for a dual meet. It’s all very minor stuff (for the most part). There’s a reason that these ranks really didn’t shift much. We’ll do another after conference, and I’d expect them to move much more significantly, because that’s the next big dual point. This is why we… Read more »



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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