2019-2020 NCAA Men’s 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.

Sure, we just wrapped up our College Swimming Previews series, which was a power ranking of sorts for the top 12 programs. But those longform previews have been in the works since late August, and a lot of recent redshirt news have caused some significant upheaval. Our first edition power rankings are a more up-to-date look at how we rank the top 20 programs nationally in the ‘preseason’ – dual meets have officially started, but there hasn’t yet been enough action to change much in our minds.

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: Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Northwestern)

#20: Purdue Boilermakers (2019 NCAA finish: 23rd)

The redshirt of diver Brandon Loschiavo drains the discipline that really carries this team. The recruiting class is pretty good though. Keelan Hart (20.6/44.4/1:38.4 freestyle) out of New Mexico is a name to watch. -JA

#19: USC Trojans (2019 NCAA finish: 20th)

Both Victor Johansson (3 points) and Alexei Sancov (no NCAA invite) have way more talent than their postseason production last year shows. An increased focus on long course could be a worry with them in the Olympic year, though. -JA

#18: Missouri Tigers (2019 NCAA finish: T-11th)

Missouri was 10th last year and they went a whopping 49.5 points backward from seed. Now, they graduated all four of their scorers, but the ceiling remains pretty high for the returning non-scorers. Danny Kovac should be in line for a big year after going from 46.6 to 45.7 in the 100 fly and 1:46.2 to 1:43.1 in the 200 IM as a freshman. -JA

Yeah, they lost a number of scoring seniors and key relay members. However, looking at the top times from last year, and the incoming freshmen, Mizzou looks like they’ll be just fine in terms of NCAA point production. There’s still a lot in the air. I definitely see them in the top 20, and I think they’ll be closer to 10th than 20th. -SP

Senior losses hurt, but they’ve got a young, promising core, and made the top ten last season despite an uncertain coaching situation. -RG

#17: Minnesota Golden Gophers (2019 NCAA finish: 19th)

33 of Minnesota’s 84 points last year came from Max McHugh. If he’s fully recovered, they should be right in the same tier they were last year. If not, they could easily fall out of the top 20. -RG

Freshman Gavin Olson has a chance to be the best Minnesota backstroker since David Plummer. No, seriously. Olson’s career-bests (47.7/1:43.0) put him in striking distance of the Olympian’s school records (46.3/1:42.4) that have held up since 2008. -JA

#16: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2019 NCAA finish: 24th)

They rank 13th in our “no seniors” returning points metric, but they need to take advantage of having one of the top breastrokers in the nation (Caio Pumputis), and score some medley relay points to crack the top 20. -RG

Georgia Tech potentially surpassing Georgia would be a very fun underdog narrative to follow. -KO

#15: Alabama Crimson Tide (2019 NCAA finish: 7th)

It’s a long drop for last year’s 7th-place team, but that’s what happens when you graduate all but one key contributor from last year. New coach Coley Stickels inherits some nice recruits, but there’s lot of holes to fill. -JA

The number of post-grads following Coley Stickels from Indiana to Alabama bodes well. That, coupled with a strong freshman class, should mean that Alabama will be better than they should on paper after losing all those senior points. -RG

#14: Arizona State Sun Devils (2019 NCAA finish: 21st)

Jack Dolan is a really nice addition to a program that’s had great success in the 100/200 frees with Cameron Craig and Grant House. Unfortunately, Craig has transferred and House is redshirting, so ASU’s roster probably isn’t ready for a huge leap until 2021. -JA

Just a reminder that the Sun Devils made the A-final of the 400 free relay last year with a relatively young team. Lots of talent should allow them to move up a little from last year, depsite lacking Grant House. -RG

#13: Georgia Bulldogs (2019 NCAA finish: 18th)

Dillon Downing could be a major difference-maker on the Bulldog relays. I’m curious how he’ll do in a program not really known for true drop-dead sprinters, at least not recently. Dressel taught us not to worry so much about that, but Dressel was also a 1:34 200 guy out of high school and could clearly handle volume. Not all sprinters are that way. -JA

On one hand, it seems to tough to expect this team to do better than last year, especially now that Javier Acevedo is redshirting. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have a long record of success, and there’s a few really big talents here. -RG

Dillon Downing is the light at the end of the sprint-drought tunnel. -KO

#12: Texas A&M Aggies (2019 NCAA finish: 17th)

Shaine Casas may have been the biggest freshman surprise last season, and the Aggies return 17/20 relay legs. This should be a fun team to watch this year. – RG

I am all arms and legs within the Shaine Casas bandwagon at all times, right now. -KO

Shaine Casas is set to explode. Aggies return a solid number of points. -SP

#11: Virginia Cavaliers (2019 NCAA finish: 10th)

Another top ten finish for the Wahoos will be contigent on the sprint-centric “first year” class developing quickly and racking up points in the free relays. -RG

UVA ranked #1, though, in terms of fanbase volume. On a serious note, the relays are going to take a big step forward. I’ll say all five will score and they’ll earn 75+ relay points overall (UVA scored 46 last year). -JA

#10: Arizona Wildcats (2019 NCAA finish: 16th)

The Wildcats had a nice NCAA performance despite a lack of big names. They will need someone to step up and replace Chatham Dobbs on the relays. -RG

Look past their clunker opening meet this weekend. That’s par for the course for the Wildcats -BK

#9: Florida Gators (2019 NCAA finish: 6th)

I have been saying (maybe to myself, but you can ask my roommate to verify) that Kieran Smith is going to keep blowing up. This past summer was evidence of as much, but the 200 free was really where his improvements happened. -KO

In 2018, Florida graduated a small army of points, but found a way to bounce back. This time around, they lose a crowd to transfers and still look like a top 10 team. I don’t know how they’re going to top it next year. Maybe everyone turns pro, but the Gators still stick in the top 10. -JA

The transfers hurt, but they’ve still got a stud sophomore trio of Bobby Finke, Trey Freeman, and Kieran Smith that should haul in big points. -RG

#8: Indiana Hoosiers (2019 NCAA finish: 3rd)

The Brinegar/Capobianco redshirt news was a 1-2 punch to a team we previously ranked 3rd. The relays will still reload just fine (those two only drain from the mile relay and the springboard diving relays). Brendan Burns and Zane Backes step into big relay roles. -JA

I’m really unsure how to feel about the Hoosiers. IU has been branded as a top-end speed program lately, but they have so many swimmers that are on the cusp of being in NCAA scoring position. They have enough of a sprint core that I think all five relays will still score. The incoming class should be helpful in mitigating the damage from the graduated seniors. -SP

Bruno Blaskovic and Mohamed Samy getting back to their 2018 times would go a long toward helping this team weather all the losses due to seniors and redshirts. -RG

#7: Stanford Cardinal (2019 NCAA finish: 15th)

Stanford had the nightmare year of all nightmare years last season and was still 15th. Even more, their projected returning points are in the triple digits – only five other teams can say that. And those numbers don’t include any projected points for Jack LeVant or Grant Shoults, who missed NCAAs last year. -JA

This feels like the Indiana team c. 2012 or Georgia c. 2017 where there’s some good individual scorers and stroke swimmers, but not a sprint freestyler in sight. The Cardinal graduated every sub-20 freestyler on the roster from last season, but bring in a freshman who’s already been there: Will Tarvestad (19.94). The most intriguing prospect perhaps in the Pac-12 is Indian swimmer Neel Roy, who should get under 20 this season as well. -BK

A new coach and a couple big names coming back from medical issues make it’s difficult to peg the Cardinal. Wouldn’t suprise me if they finish anywhere between 5th and 15th. -RG

They’re getting back on track after a season marked by illness and injury. -KO

#6: Louisville Cardinals (2019 NCAA finish: 5th)

Is Louisville going to finish 4th? Probably not. But right now, they get a little boost for track record, few major losses, and relay strength. -RG

Graduating Zach Harting doesn’t sting like it should, at least on the medley relays. Move Nicolas Albiero to fly, slot in rising star Mitchell Whyte on back and bada-bing, bada-boom, medleys reloaded. -JA

#5: Ohio State Buckeyes (2019 NCAA finish: 9th)

I love the way Ohio State looks heading into this season. They lost their fastest backstroker and flyer. Also, Ruslan Gaziev, who was the fastest 50 free on the team last year, is redshirting. However, this team has an unreal amount of depth, particularly in the sprint frees. OSU had 10 swimmers under 20 seconds in the 50 last year. 6 of those swimmers are on the roster this year, and Cameron Craig brings in another sub-20. Craig also brings a 1:31.7 flat-start 200 free to an 800 free relay that already had flat-starts of 1:32.0 (Paul Delakis) and 1:32.5 (Andrew Loy). -SP

Could be a historic year for Ohio State. The question mark is how much we should project from Cameron Craig. Is he still the star 200 guy he was in Tempe? He might be trying to go shorter as he leaves the high-volume ASU program, and he’s just not the same type of impact as a 50/100 guy. -JA

For years, OSU was a team that peaked at Big Tens. Last year they showed they can shift the focus to NCAAs. Can do they it again? And, what can we expect from Cameron Craig after a year out of completion? -RG

I think many of us underestimate this program. But, reminiscent of the Texas A&M women (and maybe to a higher degree), the Buckeye men develop talent very well out of recruits without huge names. Cameron Craig is a massive gain. -KO

#4: Michigan Wolverines (2019 NCAA finish: 13th)

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they seemed to peak at Big Tens last season. The good news is their losses from last year to this year are minimal, and they have a promising freshmen class. Cam Peel could provide another elite sprint free leg that would go a long way to pull the free relays into point scoring territory. -SP

It doesn’t feel like Michigan should be this high, but it’s really murky after the top two or three. -RG

Freshmen Cam Peel and River Wright are already making waves, and the sprint power combined is a big up for Michigan. Charlie Swanson has high expectations to live up to. -KO

#3: NC State Wolfpack (2019 NCAA finish: 4th)

Everybody beyond the top two lost a ton of points and have major question marks. It kind of feels like no matter who we rank 3rd, they’re going to feel too high. NC State is the only one who feels defensible as a 3rd-place pick for now, based on their track record, their incredible incoming class and the presence of Coleman Stewart. -JA

As their fans are fond of pointing out, NC State has done a great job of turning “diamonds in the rough” into top-notch NCAA scorers over the past five or six years. Now we finally get to see what Holloway & Co can do with a stellar recruiting class. -RG

#2: Texas Longhorns (2019 NCAA finish: 2nd)

Almost 30 swimmers and divers have realistic shots at making NCAAs, making this by far the deepest team (ever?) in college swimming. The question is — can enough qualifiers score to regain the title from Cal? -RG

The top two are clearly the top two. Texas has a ton of talent coming in. Excited to see Drew Kibler and Daniel Krueger step up. The concern is that Texas really hasn’t swum very well at NCAAs since maybe 2017. -JA

#1: Cal Golden Bears (2019 NCAA finish: 1st)

It’s always been my power ranking philosophy that the champs are the champs until we get strong evidence otherwise. The Texas transfer machine looks strong, but Cal returns so many scorers and so much sprint prowess. Hugo Gonzalez is a slight concern. He’s projected to make a huge impact, but he didn’t have a great gap year and might be more focused on long course. -JA

I almost feel like Andrew Seliskar’s final NCAA perfomance got a little overlooked. So, let’s take a moment and remember that he became the 4th-fastest ever in the 200 free (1:30.14), 2nd fastest ever in the 200 IM (1:38.14), 3rd-fastest ever in the 200 breast (1:48.70), and he split 44.32 on the 4MR fly leg and anchored Cal’s free relays in 18.40/41.10. That’s got to be one of the greatest NCAAs performances ever, and yet, so great is Cal’s depth that they may not even miss a beat without him. -RG

FULL RANKING BALLOTS

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

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Buddy

It blows my mind that people have Michigan 4th after last year

Landrew

I kinda think Michigan has the most upside of the 3-8 group. They have clear stars in Swanson and Auboeck and I don’t think one disastrous NCAA meet is reason to worry much from a program that typically swims pretty well at NCAAs. I think I’d go with the same-ish order as SwimSwam did here, but also I think if all teams are swimming there best at NCAAs, I’d think I’d say Michigan, NC State, Ohio State, Indiana, Louisville, Stanford would be my order.

Memyselfandi

How did 3/5 votes go for VT on 20 and it was Purdue?

DravenOP

Karl has them at 15th… I guess we can’t see past 20th to see what the average would be…

There is no past 20 on the ballot. Not getting voted in the top 20 is a 0 vote.

The rankings aren’t decided based on what percentage “votes” a team gets in a certain spot. Mathematically, that would be an absolute disaster to manage. A team’s position is assigned a point value and averaged.

In essence, because Karl put them at #15, that was enough to pull their average above Virginia Tech’s 3 20th place votes.

Meeeeee

Purdue #20 with a great diver redshirting. Ha! Last time Dan was handed a great incoming class (see SwimSwam 2013-14 rankings as they were in it) he delieverd ZERO to even make the NCAA meet (except on a relay freshman year).

Daniel Ross

I assume MEEEEE swam for me and I feel bad for your experience. We really like this Freshmen group and returners, I hope you’ll come back and encourage them on even if I failed you in the past! Boiler Up!

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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