2018 M. NCAA Picks: For 1st Time in Years, No Clear Favorite in 200 IM

by Robert Gibbs 31

March 19th, 2018 News


200 IM

  • NCAA record: Caeleb Dressel (2018) – 1:38.13
  • American record: Caeleb Dressel (2018) – 1:38.13
  • U.S. Open record: Caeleb Dressel (2018) – 1:38.13
  • 2017 NCAA Champion: Will Licon (Texas) and Mark Szaranek — 1:40.67

For the past few years, it was pretty easy to call this race.  In 2015, David Nolan was the obvious #1 choice after he broke the American Record at Pac 12s.  Will Licon‘s runner-up finish as a sophomore this year led him being the odds-on favorite the past two years, and he delivered, although Florida’s Mark Szaranek nearly pulled an upset when he tied Licon last year.

Hugo Gonzalez
Auburn swimming & diving during SEC Championships on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in College Station, Texas.
Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

In most cases, a returning champion who’s been looking strong this season would be the front runner, and Szaranek certainly has been in fine form all year.  However, the name that tops the psych sheet is that of Auburn freshman Hugo Gonzalez.  The Spanish Olympian has had a smooth transition to racing short course yards, throwing down some monster swims this season.  His seed time of 1:40.67 — the exact same time that won last year — came from February’s’s SEC Champs, where, ironically enough, he finished 2nd, as that was the race where Caeleb Dressel scorched a 1:38.13 to obliterate the American, NCAA and US Open Records in the event.

Dressel’s Florida teammate, Szaranek, comes into this week with a 1:41.00 seed time, also done in that same race at SECs.  He’s steadily improved in this event, moving up from 10th as a freshman to 6th as a sophomore to tied for 1st last year, and if Gonzalez was not swimming, Szaranek would be the clear favorite.

Stanford junior Abrahm DeVine sits 3rd on the psych sheet.  He really blew it up last summer, surprising even himself by earning one of two spots in this event on USA’s World Championships team, and he comes into this week with a seed time of 1:41.17 that’s well over a second faster than his seed time from last year, where he ultimately finished 11th.

Last year, Vini Lanza was seeded 5th in this event, but he added time at NCAAs and wound up finishing 14th.  He’s seeded 4th this year with a time of 1:41.34, so whether or not the Indiana junior makes his first A-final depends on if he can at least hold that time in prelims.

Jan Switkowski is no stranger to this A-final, having finished 4th as a sophomore in 2016.  Last year he was entered with a seed time of 1:42.25, but added exactly a half second to finish 13th in prelims, before ultimately dropping over a second to finish 9th in finals.  His seed time this year is a 1:41.83, so he should be in play for an A-final spot this year.

Photo credit: Tim Binning

After coming out of high school as one of the most versatile age group swimmers ever, California’s Andrew Seliskar is six-for-six in in making the top eight at NCAAs in his individual swims, though he has yet to win his first NCAA event.  Last year, as a sophomore, his name stood at the top of the psych sheet, with a lifetime best of 1:41.24.  He wasn’t quite able to match that at NCAAs, finishing 6th in a tough field.

Those first six men all are seeded under 1:42, but several other men who are competing this week have dipped under the 1:42 mark in previous seasons.  The fastest of those men is NC State junior Andreas Vazaios, who hit the 1:40.77 mark in prelims at last year’s NCAAs, before finishing 7th in finals.  His 1:42.43 is about a second slower than last year’s, but it also looked like some of the top Wolfpack men may have been less tapered for ACCs this year than in the past.

The next-fastest lifetime mark belongs to Georgia senior Gunnar Bentz.  He’s made the A-final each of his first three years of collegiate competition, topping out so far a with a 4th-place finish at NCAAs last year, where he recorded a personal best time of 1:40.90.  He’s missed a lot of time due to an injury at the beginning of the season, but his seed time is only two-tenths slower than it was last year, so you can’t count him out.

Last year, Indiana’s Ian Finnerty was seeded 6th with a 1:41.86, then added almost three seconds in prelims to finish 25th and well out of either final.  This year he’s seeded 16th with a time of 1:42.94, but he blew up the breaststrokes at the Big Ten championships, so it’s a big hard to gauge what to expect from him in this event this year.

Matt Josa‘s lifetime best of 1:41.94 comes from way back in 2015 when he was swimming for Queen’s at the Division II championships.  Last year at NCAA’s, in his first championship as a Cal Bear, he appeared to again break 1:42 and qualify for the A-final before being disqualified, so assuming that’s not an issue again, he should again challenge for a spot in the championship final.

Josa’s DQ bumped Texas’s Jonathan Roberts into the A-final, the first of three individual All-American appearances for Roberts last year.  This year, the Longhorn senior comes into this event with a seed time that’s about a second faster than last year’s, and he probably represents Texas’s best chance for an A-final appearance in this event.

Michigan senior Evan White and Texas A&M senior Brock Bonetti round out the top seeds with times of 1:42.05 and 1:42.43, respectively.  White has had a heartbreaking go of it thus far in his  experience with this event, having finished 17th, 17th, and 18th at NCAAs the last three years.  If he can finish anywhere close to his seed time, he should at least make the B-final, and a small drop would put him in the running for a spot in the A-final.

Top 8 Picks

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Best Time
1 Mark Szaranek Florida 1:41.00 1:40.67
2 Hugo Gonzalez Auburn 1:40.67 1:40.67
3 Andreas Vazaios NC State 1:42.43 1:40.77
4 Andrew Seliskar California 1:41.85 1:41.26
5 Gunnar Bentz Georgia 1:43.83 1:40.90
6 Abrahm DeVine Stanford 1:41.17 1:41.17
7 Jan Switkowski Florida 1:41.83 1:41.17
8 Matt Josa California 1:42.08 1:41.94

Dark Horse: Longhorn Ryan Harty is seeded 34th with a time of 1:44.21, but he placed 10th as a freshman in 2016 with a time of 1:42.87.  He sat out last year due to injury, but he’s looked strong in the backstrokes so far this season, so he could be in a position to finish right about where he did two years ago, at least, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him challenge for a spot in the A-final.

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Open water lanelines
4 years ago

Lanza’s showing at Big 10s should be scary for people counting him out, the man didn’t lose a single event, he is a freaking animal!

Anyone thinking he tapered for that meet is nuts!

Reply to  Open water lanelines
4 years ago

They did.

Open water lanelines
Reply to  SouthSideT
4 years ago

Resting a few days and a full taper are two vastly different things, rest sure, taper not a chance

4 years ago

Andreas was racing in a mohair sweater at ACCs. Shaving might knock of 10 seconds

Reply to  shasha
4 years ago

I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes it.

4 years ago

IMO there was no clear favorite in 2016. Murphy and prenot were both on fire that meet and ended up within .1 and . 2 of licon respectively.

4 years ago

Dean Farris – 1:38.12 takes it out in 19.9 and does flip turns on breast walls, dies a little coming home but gets the record still.

Reply to  MrBriefStroke
4 years ago

Dean Farris would never die in this race. He would come back in an 18.19 and break 1:30 even though he does an extra 100 breast to keep it fair. All of this with a 50 pound weight on his back and Joseph schooling hanging on to his legs while reciting practice times. Unshaved after a 10k yard practice in a speedo.

Reply to  Bub
4 years ago

With a broken freakin neck

4 years ago

Gators go 1,2. ??

Reply to  E+Gamble
4 years ago

That would be surprising

4 years ago

I really like Szaranek in this. Although seeing Seliskar it Gonzalez winning this would not be surprising in the least.
Also I think Switkowski may surprise in this race. Look for him to drop. The Florida men supposedly did not come down much at all for SECs. I think their IM crew will be scary.

4 years ago

The top times listed are really bunched together. Places 1-7 are within a half-second. Better not go to easy in the prelims and get left out of the final.

Close races like this are what make the NCAA meet exciting to watch.

Sir Swimsalot
4 years ago

I wouldn’t sleep on Seliskar. I just have a gut feeling he will take it.

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