2018 M. NCAA Picks: All Dressel, Dressel, Dressel in the 50 Free


50 Free

Barring some catostrophe, Caeleb Dressel is going to capture his 4th-straight title in the 50 free.  There’s no question there.

With that out of the way, two major questions remain.

First, how fast can Dressel go?  Given his remarkable success in both short course and long course in 2017, his best time of 18.20, while still the fastest time ever recorded, seems a bit stale, given that Dressel set that mark back in 2016.  In case you haven’t heard, Dressel’s been switching things up a bit this year, casually breaking records in events like the 200 IM and the 100 breast, and there’s really no way of predicting whether the variety is going to help him break 18.20, and maybe even dip below 18.0, or if he’s plateaued in this event.  Either way, he’s likely to win by a very comfortable margin.

Second, what happens after Dressel touches? The splash and dash is often a crapshoot even under the best of circumstances, and given the sprint explosion at the college level the past few years, trying to suss out any sort of insight from the psych sheet is even more frustrating than normal.

This year’s psych sheet boasts 12 men who have lifetime bests under 19 seconds, and another swimmer whose best time is 19.00 exactly.  It’s never taken below a 19 to make the A-final at NCAAs, but that looks likely this year, so keep that in my mind when you realize that we’re picking four of the top eight guys on the psych sheet to miss the A-final.  Ouch.

Sitting 2nd behind Dressel on this year’s psych sheet is Minnesota Bowen Becker.  He’d been lurking on the outer edges of the sprint elite for a while, and he busted out a 18.69 in the prelims of the B1G championships last month, then finished a few tenths off that time in finals to secure the title.

Next up is NC State’s Ryan Held, who for the past couple years has arguably been the best college sprinter not named Caeleb Dressel.  His seed time of 18.75 is less than two-tenths off his lifetime best from last year’s NCAAs.  He’s joined in the top eight by teammate Justin Ress, who set a personal best time of 18.96 from the ACC championships.  Held was sporting a beard at ACCs, and Ress had punched his NCAA ticket back in the fall, yet the two men threw down lightning-fast splits as part the Wolfpack’s American Record-breaking 400 free relay at the very end of the meet.

Zach Apple 200 freestyle 2017 USA Swimming World Team Trials (photo: Mike Lewis)

Zappin’ Zach Apple finished 4th last year in this event, then made Team USA’s World Championships team as a member of the 400 free relay squad last summer.  He shaved a bit off his personal best at last month’s SEC Championships, and now sits 4th on the psych sheet with a time of 18.91.

While Texas may be a 200 free factory when it comes to the big pool, their sprint squad has been an underrated part of their three-straight championships.  Remember, they’ve won the 200 free relay in each of those championships, and they’ve got three guys with lifetime bests under 19.  Joseph Schooling is only 24th on the psych sheet, but he went 18.76 at last year’s Big 12s before finishing 3rd at NCAAs with a 18.77.  Tate Jackson had a breakout meet at this year’s Big 12s and sits 5th on the psych sheet with a 18.95.  Senior Brett Ringgold is still looking for his first championship final appearance in this event after finishing 10th as a sophomore (after a three-way prelims tie for 8th) and 9th as a junior, but he too has broken the 19 second barrier, thanks to a 18.96 leadoff last year on the Longhorns’ 200 free relay.

Ryan Hoffer U.C. Berkeley (photo: Mike Lewis)

California’s also had a strong 50 free group over the past few years, and they’re bolstered this year by adding one of the fastest age groupers ever, Ryan Hoffer.  The freshman’s season best time of 19.13 ranks him “only” 15th on the psych sheet, but he went 18.71 back in high school, and anything close to that should make the A-final.  Justin Lynch ranks 7th on the psych sheet with a personal best time of 19.00 from Pac 12s.  Sophomore Pawel Sendyk made the A-final last year thanks to a 18.96 prelims swim, and comes in this year with a 19.09 seed time that’s virtually identical to last year’s 19.10 seed time.  Just for good measure, sophomore Michael Jensen ranks 17th with a seed time of 19.19.

Hey, did we mention that this event had gotten fast?  If nothing else is certain, the 200 free relay is going to be a blast.

But wait, there’s more.  A pair of Big Ten rivals, Michigan’s Paul Powers, and Indiana’s Ali Khallafalla, also sport lifetime bests under 19 seconds.  Powers is seeded 8th with a time of 19.04, but he’s been 18.80 before.  Khalafalla currently sits 18th with a 19.22, but has a best of 18.94.  Powers has made the A-final each of the past three years, topping out at 5th in 2016, while Khallafalla has finished 11th each of the past two years.

Southern Cal has a pair of powerful sprinters in Santo Condrelli and Dylan Carter, although it’s a bit difficult to figure out what to make of their performances at Pac 12s last month.  There, Condrelli recorded his first personal best in three years in this event with a 19.05.  Meanwhile, Carter, who made the A-final at NCAAs last year with a 19.04, was only 19.40, putting him 30th on the psych sheet.

Top 8 Picks

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Best Time
1 Caeleb Dressel Florida 18.66 18.20
2 Ryan Held NC State 18.75 18.58
3 Joseph Schooling Texas 19.33 18.76
4 Ryan Hoffer California 19.13 18.71
5 Pawel Sendyk California 19.09 18.92
6 Zach Apple Auburn 18.91 18.91
7 Brett Ringgold Texas 19.07 18.96
8 Paul Powers Michigan 19.04 18.80

Darkhorse: Jacob Molacek of NC State is seeded 36th with a season-best time of 19.55, but his lifetime best is a 19.08, which he did last spring while he was in between college teams.

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Uh….Dean Farris!!!

sane swim parent

My thoughts exactly!


Nah , only in the 200 free lol

Ex quaker

Bold move picking Becker outside of the top 8…


Tate Jackson should be somewhere in the top 8.

Ryan Hoffer will need to conjure some of his past glory to make the final.

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