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.
It’s a particularly tricky year to put together our NCAA Power Rankings.
The coronavirus pandemic has already caused at least one ranked team (Arizona State) to bow out of the season. The Pac-12 and Big Ten have barely competed, and it’s unclear what the end of the college swimming season will look like.
Still, we’re doing our best to combine all possible data points – and to verify which difference-making swimmers are in and out – to come up with a comprehensive power ranking. With all the uncertainty, we’d expect a much wider range of opinions than a typical season, so make sure to leave your own rankings and opinions in the comment section, keeping in mind that we’re all tracking swimming in a pretty unprecedented year.
Without further ado, here are our men’s NCAA power rankings, along with the team’s standing in our final 2019-2020 power ranks:
Honorable mention: Arizona, Penn State, Miami (FL), Pitt, Florida State
#20 (tie): LSU Tigers + (Final 2020 Power Rank: N/A)
A powerhouse sprinter like Brooks Curry can get you to the 20-30 range all by himself, just based on individual scoring and relay-carrying leadoff legs. But LSU probably has to develop a little more depth over the season to stick in the top 20. A couple freshmen are already looking intriguing, though. Mitchell Mason dropped from 54.5 to 53.6 with a career-best 100 breast at the Art Adamson Invite.
#20 (tie): Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets + (Final 2020 Power Rank: N/A)
Caio Pumputis should be a multi-event A finalist at NCAAs between the breaststrokes and IMs. And GT has enough depth behind him to stick in the top 20, including freshman Batur Unlu, who has already been 1:33.81 in the 200 free.
#19: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -4 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 15th)
Notre Dame loses their highest-profile swimmer in distance man Zach Yeadon. But they still return last year’s freshman sensation Jack Hoagland, who was in line to score nearly 30 points at NCAAs based on psych sheets. They’ll hope to get the same kind of freshman breakout from intriguing IM recruits Sean Faikish and Tyler Christianson.
#18: Virginia Tech + (Final 2020 Power Rank: N/A)
Most of the teams in the 15-20 range typically wind up having one big point-scorer with shaky depth. VT is pretty much the exact inverse, returning three projected 2020 scorers (Sam Tornqvist, Blake Manoff, Antani Ivanov), but with none of them seeded to score more than 15. They should get Arizona State transfer Khalil Fonder and could have a pretty deep group of NCAA qualifiers.
#17: Minnesota Golden Gophers + (Final 2020 Power Rank: N/A)
We don’t have a lot of race results from the Golden Gophers yet this year, but we know how good Max McHugh is. He’s another guy that seemed on track for a huge NCAA explosion before last year’s cancellation.
#16: Tennessee Volunteers +2 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 18th)
Tennessee graduated its only NCAA psych sheet scorer from last year in Taylor Abbott. But Miami transfer Kayky Mota has already been 45.5/1:42.5 in the butterfly races and looks like a good bet to jump into scoring range this year.
#15: Missouri Tigers +1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 16th)
Ben Patton dropped from 55.4 out of high school to 52.3 as a freshman for Mizzou last year, a bit of an underrated rookie explosion lost in the shuffle of SECs followed by pandemic cancellations. He put himself firmly back in the spotlight with a lifetime-best 51.8 at Mizzou’s invite last month. Danny Kovac is also swimming very well in the butterfly races, and this team could put together some great medley relays.
#14: USC Trojans + (Final 2020 Power Rank: N/A)
USC got really, really thin by the end of last season. They should be in much better shape this season with a strong freshman class in the mix, including Junior College standout Billy Cruz and big-time breaststroker Ben Dillard. How quickly can this team adapt to new head coach Jeremy Kipp in a pandemic-altered fall season?
#13: Virginia Cavaliers +4 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 17th)
Freshman Matt Brownstead has been very good so far, leading the nation with a 42.03 100 freestyle. And the Cavaliers already had a 400 free relay go 2:49.84 with straight 42-second splits from Brownstead, Sam Schilling, August Lamb and Jack Wright. Last year, UVA’s season-best was just 2:50.83.
#12: Alabama Crimson Tide -1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 11th)
Freshman Matt King has been outstanding, going 19.2 and 42.1 already in sprint freestyle and splitting 18.8. Zane Waddell graduates away about two-thirds of Alabama’s psych sheet points from last year, but the sprint relays should be in good shape even without him.
#11: Stanford Cardinal +8 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 19th)
Russian butterfly prodigy Andrei Minakov hasn’t joined the program yet, and his status for 2020-2021 is still up in the air. Without him, the recruiting class goes from “unbelievably good” to “just really good.” Which is still… really good. The Cardinal should have Grant Shoults and True Sweetser back in the distance group, and they’ll hope for a healthy Jack LeVant. Meanwhile junior Daniel Roy has already been 1:51.6 in the 200 breast, and freshman Ethan Hu went 45.4 in a 100 fly in his first few months competing at the college level.
#10: Ohio State Buckeyes -1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 9th)
Ohio State returns superstar Paul DeLakis, one of three projected underclassmen swimming scorers from last year, and they should add WVU transfer Hunter Armstrong to the relays. They also have diver Lyle Yost – we never got to see exactly how Yost stacked up in the NCAA field in his rookie season. But he was the Big Ten champ on platform, finished top 3 on all three boards, and also performed great at Ohio State’s mid-season invite. So there’s good reason to believe he’s a 40+ point dive scorer in his sophomore season.
#9: NC State -5 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 4th)
The Wolfpack lose graduated backstroker Coleman Stewart, and also saw top sprinter Nyls Korstanje bow out for the season amid the pandemic. But NC State should bring back most of its other top international students. And their recruiting class includes standout 200 freestyler Luke Miller to go with young distance powerhouse Ross Dant.
#8: Michigan Wolverines -2 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 6th)
Michigan lost a huge senior class last year, with five projected senior scorers including Felix Auboeck. But they also bring in a pretty outstanding group of freshmen, including top-10 recruits Wyatt Davis and Jake Mitchell. The Wolverines also appear to have retained most of their international students.
#7: Louisville Cardinals +1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 8th)
Nicolas Albiero and Mitchell Whyte are a pretty devastating fly/back combination, and fill out the medley relays nicely. The Cardinals might need some depth to step up (particularly in the sprints) if they want to hold this spot, but they’ve got enough talent to merit the rank at this early stage.
#6: Texas A&M Aggies +1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 7th)
Shaine Casas is unbelievable. In fact, we still might not know how good he truly is because we never got to see his NCAA explosion last winter. Senior breaststroker Tanner Olson appears to be swimming extremely well, and the Aggies brought in a massive group of freshmen who should only get better as the year goes on.
#5: Georgia Bulldogs +8 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 13th)
Georgia has the biggest jump of any top-10 team in our ranks. They’ve already broken three relay school records, thanks in large part to the return of Canadian Javier Acevedo, who sat out last year on an Olympic redshirt. He split 18.8 and 41.8 on record-setting free relays and looks like the dominant backstroker this team needs to go with its deep fly group. Freshman Luca Urlando already looks like he’ll live up to the massive hype.
#4: Florida Gators -1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 3rd)
Florida still returns their incredible junior class, including American record-setters Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke. They should also get rangy freestyler Trey Freeman back from a late injury-redshirt last season. If blue-chip sprint recruit Adam Chaney can adapt quickly, this team could be extremely dangerous.
#3: Indiana Hoosiers +2 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 5th)
IU has a young group really starting to come into its own, even if we don’t have much in the way of results from this season to take into account. Distance man Michael Brinegar has indeed returned from a redshirt season, and their prize recruit, Israel’s Tomer Frankel, has already competed for a team, which is big in a year where most international students are still a major question mark amid the pandemic.
#2: Texas Longhorns -1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 1st)
Texas returns 11 projected NCAA-scoring swimmers from last year. And their legendary depth means that even the four projected scorers who graduated are likely to be replaced by in-house candidates who already would have earned NCAA berths last year if they weren’t cut off by roster limits. The big issue for Texas last year was that they couldn’t bring all their NCAA qualifiers, but the qualifiers they did bring were often only seeded to score in one or two events. They’ll need to find a few more three-event powerhouses to contend with a very versatile Cal roster.
Drew Kibler is a clear leader there, with the nation’s best 200 and 500 free times. They’ve got a loaded free group with Daniel Krueger manning the sprints, and Alvin Jiang is swimming great in the 100 fly and 100 back.
Distance man David Johnston has been sensational for Texas in the little we’ve seen him so far this year. They bring in the nation’s best freshman group, including Olympic hopeful IMer Carson Foster. But that class took a hit with star Canadian diver Laurent Gosselin-Paradis not joining the team this year.
#1: Cal Golden Bears +1 (Final 2020 Power Rank: 2nd)
The bright side for Cal: they return 8 individuals seeded to score on last year’s NCAA psych sheets, with just one projected senior scorer. And that doesn’t include two-year scorer Bryce Mefford, who was one of multiple key Golden Bears expected to move way up from seed.
Adding elite distance transfer Zach Yeadon probably keeps them ahead of Texas in the short-term. The big question mark is star IMer Hugo Gonzalez, who still appears on the roster, but has been competing in Spain so far this fall.
In the meantime, Reece Whitley is going off, with a 1:48.5 in the 200 breast already. And freshman Destin Lasco is looking like an immediate-impact swimmer, nailing lifetime-bests of 45.2 and 1:39.6 in the backstrokes this fall.