2019 Men’s SEC Champions Fan Guide: Upstarts Threaten Florida Streak

2019 SEC MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 2019 SEC Championships kick off tonight in Athens, Georgia, with the Florida Gators looking for their seventh men’s title in a row. This year’s SEC meet could be close between several teams, and there’s no overwhelming favorite this time around. The SEC will be without Caeleb Dressel, Hugo Gonzalez, and Jan Switkowski among other 2018 champions, but there’s plenty of talent waiting to shine this week in Athens.

This season’s freshmen should have a big impact and we could see some new NCAA faces on top of the podium in their first-ever conference meet. Among the top prospects of the freshmen are Andrew Abruzzo (Georgia), Trey Freeman (Florida), Robert Finke (Florida) and Kieran Smith (Florida), who have all represented the USA internationally.

SCHEDULE

Tuesday:

  • Women’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Medley Relay
  • Men’s 3-meter diving
  • 800 Free Relay

Wednesday:

  • 500 Free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 Free
  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Free Relay

Thursday:

  • 400 IM
  • 100 Fly
  • Women’s 3-meter diving
  • 200 Free

Friday:

  • 200 Fly
  • 100 Back
  • 100 Breast
  • Men’s Platform diving
  • 400 Medley Relay

Saturday:

  • 1650 Free
  • 200 Back
  • 100 Free
  • 200 Breast
  • Women’s Platform diving
  • 400 Free Relay

STARS

Alabama – Laurent Bams (senior freestyler), Zane Waddell (junior sprinter), Robert Howard (senior freestyler) – Howard, a U.S. Open champion, will be a major threat in the sprints along with teammate Waddell.

Auburn – Scott Lazeroff (senior diver), Petter Fredriksson (junior backstroker), Santiago Grassi (junior butterflier), Liam McCloskey (senior free/butterflier) – Though they lost 2018 champions Gonzalez and Apple, the Tigers still return several finalists this season under new Head Coach Gary Taylor. That includes butterfly finalists McCloskey and Grassi.

Florida – Maxime Rooney (junior freestyler), Khader Baqlah (junior freestyler), Robert Finke (freshman freestyler), Trey Freeman (freshman freestyler), Kieran Smith (freshman IMer), Grant Sanders (junior IMer) – Florida lost a handful of last season’s champions due to graduation, but champions Rooney and Baqlah are back as the Gators vie for 7-straight. Freshman Smith could be a big contender in the IMs along with teammate Sanders. The Gators’ freshman contingent should have a huge impact between Smith, Finke, and Freeman.

Georgia – Javier Acevedo (junior free/backstroker), Andrew Abruzzo (freshman free/IMer), James Guest (junior breaststroker), Walker Higgins (junior freestyler), Camden Murphy (sophomore butterflier) – Abruzzo, a World Junior champion, could be a key player in the distance freestylers with the Bulldogs. Acevedo returns as one of UGA’s top performers last season. Murphy is the leading SEC man right now in the butterflies.

Kentucky – Sebastian Masterton (senior diver), Glenn Brown (junior IMer), Mason Wilby (freshman fly/back/freestyler) – Masterton returns after making the championship final in all 3 diving events last season.

LSU – Juan Celaya Hernandez (junior diver), Karl Luht (junior backstroker), Matthew McClellan (senior diver), Harrison Jones (senior fly/IMer) – Celaya Hernandez and McClellan racked up some big diving points for LSU last season and should be instrumental in coming out on top of what could be a close team finish.

Missouri – Mikel Schreuders (senior freestyler), Daniel Hein (junior backstroker), Kyle Goodwin (senior diver), Luke Mankus (senior sprinter), Nick Alexander (junior back/IMer), Alex Walton (senior back/IMer) – Alexander is the fastest man in the SEC this season in the 200 IM. Schreuders is one of the title threats in the sprint to middle distance freestyles.

South Carolina – Cody Bekemeyer (senior freestyler), Fynn Minuth (senior freestyler)  – South Carolina has had a strong presence in the distance freestyles over the past couple of seasons with Mahmoud and 500 free champion Minuth. This season, Minuth returns to defend his title.

Tennessee – Kyle Decoursey (senior freestyler), Joey Reilman (senior back/freestyler), Matthew Garcia (junior backstroker), Matthew Dunphy (senior breaststroker) – Decoursey is a top sprint threat for the Vols, while Garcia leads the SEC in the 100 back heading into the conference meet and Reilman leads the way in the 200 back. Dunphy is the fastest man in the SEC in the breaststrokes this season.

Texas A&M – Sam Thornton (senior diver), Jose Martinez (junior butterflier), Shaine Casas (freshman back/IMer), Clayton Bobo (freshman sprinter) – Casas and Bobo bring a lot of potential as freshmen. The A&M men should also be picking up a lot of points in diving. Among their returning finalists is Sam Thornton.

SHOWDOWNS

200 Free: As a freshman, Florida’s Maxime Rooney became the 200 free SEC champion. However, he was the runner-up to classmate Khader Baqlah last season as a sophomore. The two will go head-to-head again this year. Missouri’s Mikel Schreuders, Tennessee’s Joey Reilman, and Alabama’s Robert Howard should be in the mix as well. Freshmen Kieran Smith and Trey Freeman also have a shot at a top-3 finish here, but Smith will likely choose the 400 IM over the 200 free.

100 Fly: We could see a close battle in the 45-range for the title here as there are a lot of guys capable of swimming 45-low to 45-high. The top returner is Texas A&M’s Jose Martinez, but Georgia’s Camden Murphy had already been 45.47 this year. Auburn’s Santiago Grassi and Missouri’s Daniel Hein are also favorites to finish in the top 5. Auburn has another returning finalist in Liam McCloskey. With so many guys capable of stepping up, it could take a 44 to win it.

100 Back: The top 5 men in the SEC right now are separated by less than 2 tenths. Tennessee’s Matthew Garcia and Joey Reilman could pick up big points for the Vols here. In addition to Garcia, Alabama’s Zane Waddell, Missouri’s Nick Alexander, and Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas have all been sub-46 this season. Georgia’s Javier Acevedo is the defending SEC champion here, but is absent from the top 10 of the midseason rankings. Acevedo is nearing full strength again after battling with a foot injury this season.

SELECTIONS

This meet could shape up to be a close one and it may be anyone’s game between the top 5. The Swimulator, which does not factor in diving, shows Missouri coming out on top, with Florida closely behind. Texas A&M, Georgia, and Tennessee round out the Swimulator top 5, and these rankings match up with expectations about which teams will be in the running for the title. Below are the full Swimulator projections for the 2019 SEC Championships, with diving not included.

SWIMULATOR

Missouri 1141
Florida 1011.5
Texas A&M 969.5
Georgia 896.5
Tennessee 884
Alabama 717
Kentucky 405
LSU 381
Auburn 375
South Carolina 332.5

SWIMSWAM PICKS

When we consider the diving points that will come into play, Tennessee and Texas A&M should get a good boost, which could propel them ahead of Missouri or Florida. However, Florida traditionally drops quite a bit of time from in-season meets to the post-season. It remains to be seen if that will still be the case under a new staff. Georgia has the home-pool advantage and should be a contender for a spot in the top 3, but placement within the top 5 is hard to nail down considering how close this could be between several teams. It’s also worth noting that Acevedo’s performance following his injury in the fall could make a big difference for UGA.

This conference, in particular, is hard to pin down. The top 5 teams are all in flux, with a few x-factors that we just can’t predict yet: what will Florida’s preparation be like under a new staff? Same goes for Missouri, which has swum under interim head coach Andy Grevers most of the year. In short, the top five could finish in almost any order without registering as a major suprise. We’ve got a sneaking suspicion that a team like Texas A&M or Tennessee could go for broke in the conference rounds, surging to a conference title while some other programs hold a little more focus on NCAAs. But for now, we’ll go with the current leaders from Mizzou.

  1. Missouri
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Florida
  4. Tennessee
  5. Georgia
  6. Alabama
  7. Kentucky
  8. LSU
  9. Auburn
  10. South Carolina

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SwimFan

You’ve gotta include Jacob Wielinksi from Mizzou as one of their stars. 2nd last year in the 1650 at SEC’s and sits 3rd in the SEC, only half a second behind Finke right now.

Yikes

Too bad Mizzou fully tapers for their mid year. I doubt their stars are gunna go as fast as they did in November.

GeorgiaOnMyMind

The disparity between the 1st-6th teams and 7-10th teams is wild, you’ve almost got two different meets going on. Also, I keep thinking my eyes are playing tricks on me when I see Auburn 2nd to last, it’s going to be interesting to watch them rebuild.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She is now coaching for Loggerhead Aquatics in her hometown …

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