2018 M. NCAA Picks: Dressel Anchors For 1st Relay Title In 200 Medley

2018 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 MEDLEY RELAY

  • NCAA Record: 1:21.54, Texas, 2017
  • American Record: 1:22.40, California, 2015
  • U.S. Open Record: 1:21.54, Texas, 2017
  • 2017 NCAA Champion: Texas (1:21.54)

The 200 medley relay may be the most difficult event to project on the NCAA schedule. With stroke 50s not traditionally swum throughout the college season, we pretty much have to go off of relay performances throughout the season, relays from last year, and how the swimmers expected to swim have fared as a whole throughout the year.

As is the case in four of the five relays at the meet, Texas comes in as the defending champion. They swam the fastest time in history last year in 1:21.54, but have lost a key piece in breaststroker Will Licon, who had the fastest split in the entire field at 22.91.

In their two “rest” meets of the season they swam this event two different ways, one with Joseph Schooling on breast and one with him on fly. The times came out virtually identical, with the difference between Schooling and Austin Temple on breast (0.76) slightly smaller than the difference with Tate Jackson on fly (0.93). However, Jackson was a full 0.41 faster on the ‘B’ relay at Big 12s than he was in that swim at the Texas Invite, which may tip the scales in favor of Schooling doing breaststroke. Ultimately I think Jackson is capable of going sub-20 for a fly split (20.12 at Big 12s), meaning keeping Schooling on breast is theoretically the best choice. Those two, along with John Shebat (20.84 lead-0ff last year) and Brett Ringgold (18.3 anchor) have a great shot at the title. Even if Temple is used in prelims and proves himself with a sub-24 leg and that’s what they decide to go with in the final, they’ll be in title contention either way.

Leading the nation this year is Florida, who snagged the win over Tennessee at SECs with a monster 17.92 anchor from Caeleb Dressel. If Michael Taylor (21.11 on back) and Jan Switkowski (20.16 on fly) can match their legs and Chandler Bray can drop his 23.75 breast split by a tenth or two, Dressel just may be able to mow down everyone for the win. Unless it happens earlier in the meet (perhaps the 800 free relay, if he swims it), Dressel will be anchoring for his first ever NCAA relay victory.

Tennessee will be looking to snatch the title with breaststroke sprint specialist Peter Stevens in his final year of eligibility. Stevens is a reliable sub-23 split, which should shape up to be the fastest in the field this year with Licon and Fabian Schwingenschlogl (Missouri) graduated. They have Braga Verhage on back and Ryan Coetzee on fly who are both solid, and then Kyle Decoursey on the anchor. Decoursey did everything he could to hold off Dressel at SECs, splitting an insane 18.14, but it wasn’t quite enough. If Verhage and Coetzee can make modest improvements they’re right there.

Cal was the consensus pick in our pre-season predictions, and that could very well hold true as they come in 3rd ranked at 1:23.14. Freshman Daniel Carr led-off at Pac 12s in an impressive 21.16, and then they have seniors Connor Hoppe and Justin Lynch on breast and fly, both looking capable of sub-23 and sub-20 legs after coming very close at Pac-12s. The anchor leg could change depending on who performs in the 200 free relay, but whoever it is they’re getting an 18-mid split. Ryan Hoffer swam it at Pac-12s in 18.86, but can definitely be at least a few tenths better. If they have to switch it up, they also have Paweł Sendyk or Michael Jensen capable of stepping in and delivering.

The other team who received votes to win this event at the start of the year was NC State. Their invite time from early in the year (1:23.53) has them coming in 5th, but that was done with both Ryan Held and Justin Ress. Those two swam the other four relays at ACCs, so it looks like the Wolfpack may be going with their ACC lineup. That team is still very competitive, having gone 1:23.93. Coleman Stewart is the fastest 50 backstroker in the nation right now at 20.65, and the rest of their legs are solid with Jacob Molacek (23.83), Giovanni Izzo (20.36) and Cobe Garcia (19.09). An A-final looks likely, but unless they pull a switcheroo and throw Held and Ress in, they won’t contend for the win.

Louisville beat them at ACCs in 1:23.54, boasting a well-rounded squad. Freshman Nicolas Albiero gives them a sub-21 backstroke leg, and Carlos ClaverieZach Harting and Andrej Barna give them competitive legs at 23-mid, 20.3 and 18-mid.

The other teams sub-1:24 this year are Alabama and Indiana. The Crimson Tide placed 2nd last year in a blazing 1:21.89, but graduated both backstroker Connor Oslin and breaststroker Pavel Romanov. This year they’ve switched Luke Kaliszak from fly to back, giving them a 20-point lead-off, and last year’s anchor Zane Waddell moves over to fly where he split 20.07 at SECs. Robert Howard has been 19.1 flat start this year so should be able to be down into the 18-mids, and then breaststroke is their one weak spot with the versatile Laurent Bams coming in at 23.81 at SECs. Though Oslin’s 20.3 lead-off was key to their performance last year, this team will be dangerous especially if Bams get down to the 23-mid range.

Indiana won the Big Ten title in 1:23.95, with an unexpected 20.95 lead-off from freshman Gabriel Fantoni. If he can hit that time again, Ian Finnerty should be able to go lower than 23.5, and Vini Lanza should be able to stay under 20 for fly. Ali Khalafalla split just 19.5 on the anchor due to a botched breakout, but is capable of being almost a second faster. Fantoni looks to be the key here.

Behind them we’ve got an insane amount of teams having gone 1:24 this year, led by Texas A&M, Minnesota and Arizona. If Brock Bonetti can get back under 21 on back the Aggies have a shot at the A-final, while Minnesota will need to shore up their back and fly if they want to give Bowen Becker (18.2 split) a chance to bring them home. Breaststroker Conner McHugh (23.4) should make up big ground on the teams without breaststrokers. If Arizona can step up, Chatham Dobbs‘ 19.7 fly may sneak them into the ‘A’, and USC is another team to watch if they utilize both Santo Condorelli and Dylan Carter (which they didn’t do at Pac-12s).

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Team Season Best 2017 NCAA Finish
1 Florida 1:22.94 5th (1:23.08)
2 Texas 1:24.28 1st (1:21.54)
3 California 1:23.14 3rd (1:22.28)
4 Tennessee 1:23.02 9th (1:23.64)
5 Alabama 1:23.58 2nd (1:21.89)
6 Indiana 1:23.95 13th (1:24.60)
7 NC State 1:23.53 6th (1:23.18)
8 Louisville 1:23.41 8th (1:24.06)

Darkhorse: Grand Canyon is flying under the radar big time in this event, but they went 1:24.33 at the WAC Championships to put them 12th in the country. With a sub-21 lead-off from Mark Nikolaev, if their three others guys can each drop a little in the morning they could easily find themselves in the A-final. At conference their splits were: Youssef El-Kamash (23.68), Daniil Antipov (20.45), and Bogdan Plavin (19.34).

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Swammer1

Indiana is going to be dangerous in this event. Ali K. split was more than a second slower than where he should be, and Finnerty was OUT in 23.19 in the 400 medley. Tons of room for improvement.

Rafael

Well Indiana could drop from at least 1 Second (Ali K.) to near 2 if Finnerty and Lanza improve something else.. Don´t know if Fantoni can drop more this year.

Daniel Jablonski

Amazing that Dressel doesn’t have a single relay title to his name for being the best swimmer in college, subjectively. My heart wants a Flordia snipe. My head says Texas can pull it off.

Cmon

They could easily change that by putting him on the 800 free relay. We’ll see…

JeahBrah

I don’t see Cal losing this. They are the only team that is stacked at all 4 positions and primed to peak at NCAAs. Taylor and Bray were rested at SECs so they probably won’t drop, and Texas has no breast leg worth a title

JP input is too short

If Hoffer’s underwaters are firing on all cylinders, I wonder if putting him on backstroke might be in the cards. They have enough sprint freestylers that they don’t absolutely need him there, but he might be their best 50 back bet.

tea rex

Good point, it depends on how Carr is looking. If he’s not looking 21 low fast right now, Hoffer could step in – as could Quah. Could even throw Josa on fly and swim Lynch free. They have about 4 swimmers who could be 19.0 flat start.

That’s a huge plus. If a couple guys have off meets and a couple have breakthrough meets – You can mix and match as needed. Durden can go with who is looking best where.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times - SCM (LCM) 50 FR - 24.56 (25.12) 100 FR - 53.58 (56.70) 200 FR - 1:56.07 (2:04.29) 1500 …

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