Braden Keith, Robert Gibbs, and Karl Ortegon contributed to this report.
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 our comments section.
It’s our last round of power rankings before conference meet season – and we’ve got a theme of this month’s ranks: One big question for each team heading into conference championships.
Of course, there’s one big question that every team has in common with the specter of the coronavirus pandemic still looming large. In lieu of asking that same question 25 times below, we’ll lead with it up top:
One big question for every team: Less than a year removed from a canceled NCAA Championships, will teams approach conference meets differently?
Some teams may opt to really gear up for conference meets rather than risking two consecutive years of saving a taper only to lose the payoff meet. Other might be forced into a more full conference meet taper, with limited regular-season competitions to lock in early NCAA invite times. Plenty of teams will feel the relay heat, needing even their stars at full strength to make sure all five relays are NCAA-eligible.
Others might go old-school, seeing a year of missed training and less time to build that all-important aerobic base that swim coaches are so in love with. That might lead to more training-through for conference meets – at least for teams and individuals who can still make the NCAA meet.
Without further ado, here are our men’s NCAA power rankings, with changes from our previous ranks noted in red or green. Unranked teams joining the top 25 are listed with just a plus sign.
Honorable mention: Wisconsin, UNC, Pitt, Miami (OH)
#25: Northwestern Wildcats (+)
#24: Florida State Seminoles (-1)
They’ve been missing parts of their roster for lots of meets this season. We’ll have to see if the band is all back together by ACCs.
#23: Miami Hurricanes (-2)
Honestly, the biggest question for Miami isn’t about Miami. With only divers Miami’s points are a little capped. But will Texas/Cal eat up enough combined points to thin out scoring opportunities for depth teams and allow Miami to sneak into the top 20?
#22: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-)
Coming off his banner freshman season, can Jack Hoagland break Zach Yeadon’s school record in the 500 free (4:10.39)? He’s already been faster than he was in-season last year.
#21: Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)
Will we see Max McHugh become just the second swimmer in history under 50 and 1:50 in the breaststrokes? A better question: how fast will he have to split to get the medley relays into scoring range, and can he have a Lilly King-like impact in elevating those relay teams?
#20: LSU Tigers (-1)
Will Brooks Curry have another SEC explosion in the 100/200 frees? He was 43.1/1:36.0 going into SECs last year. He’s been 42.0/1:33.7 already this season.
#19: Arizona Wildcats (+6)
Does Ogi Maric trend more toward backstroke or freestyle? Backstroke might be his best bet individually. But Arizona will need him in freestyle form to help buoy the relays.
#18: Tennessee Volunteers (-1)
Freshman Harrison Lierz is an outstanding 200 backstroker – but can he quickly develop enough speed to be the missing link on the Volunteer medley relays?
#17: Virginia Tech H2Okies (+1)
Can a deep butterfly group produce enough NCAA-scoring worthy times to bump them up in our next round? They currently have five men under 47 in the 100 fly, which is quite solid, but no one is quite yet under the 45.64 it took to score at 2019 NCAAs. They’ve got a few guys close, led by freshman Youssef Ramadan’s 45.68. Pair Ramadan with possible 200 fly scorer Antani Ivanov and Blake Manoff in the 200 fly, and the Hokies could produce quite a few more point in the butterfly events alone than they scored at 2019 NCAAs.
#16: Alabama Crimson Tide (-2)
How do you quantify the impact of internal turmoil and coaching transitions? Alabama’s sprinters have swum pretty well this year, but also transitioned from Coley Stickels to Ozzie Quevedo, with another shift to Margo Geer coming after the season. Sometimes we see a boost in confidence under a new regime – but transition can also be difficult in the short term. SECs will tell us a lot about where ‘Bama is at.
#15: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+1)
How many points can a strong Georgia Tech roster score in the relays? It’s probably not realistic to stick with their swimulator projection of 120 – that’s the 4th-most of any team in the NCAA. But they’ve got a really balanced roster with a top backstroker (Kyle Barone), breaststroker (Caio Pumputis) and butterfly (Christian Ferraro), and that should keep the medleys in the mix.
#14: USC Trojans (+1)
What kind of impact will the Trojans get from Junior College standout Billy Cruz? He’s a 19-low sprinter, but he’s been no faster than 20.5/44.3 in the early stages of USC’s season.
#13: Missouri Tigers (-)
Can Mizzou hold up its incredible relay ranks of 4th (400 medley relay), 5th (400 free relay), 6th (200 medley relay) and 8th (200 free relay), or will they fall back to the pack some during conference season? Also, just how good is versatile sophomore Ben Patton going to be, and what events will he swim?
#12: Virginia Cavaliers (-)
Who will swim on the free relays? There’s a few locks, like Matt Brownstead and August Lamb on the 200/400 free relays, but there’s a lot of question marks after that. The Cavaliers have about eight other guys who have split 19-mid on the 200 free relay, and it seems like they should be able to get another two out of that group to approach 19-low splits and put this team in contention for a NCAA A-final.
#11: Ohio State Buckeyes (-2)
#10: Stanford Cardinal (-)
Did the freshman class, which Stanford is heavily reliant on this season, have enough time to prepare for big-time college meets with only one official competition between November 21 and the Pac-12 Championships?
#9: Michigan Wolverines (+1)
How will the two week ‘pause’ to training three weeks out of the Big Ten Championships impact the Wolverines?
#8: Indiana Hoosiers (-3)
How badly will IU miss Bruno Blaskovic? Losing your kingpin sprinter can dismantle relays. Jack Franzman has become a pretty good sprinter, but he’ll really have to step up to cover for Blaskovic.
#7: Louisville Cardinals (+1)
Can a few more guys step up with NCAA scoring times? Nicolas Albiero, Evgenii Somov, and Mitchell Whyte could all make two A-finals in March. If a few next-tier guys could throw down even NCAA B-final times, it could give the Cardinals a strong argument to be bumped up another spot or two.
#6: NC State Wolfpack (+1)
NC State has crazy upward energy right now, but are missing a few foreign swimmers who stayed home to train amid the pandemic. Can that upward energy smooth over the rough spots left by the absences of guys like Nyls Korstanje? The last two recruiting classes have been very good, but they’ll need to step up early.
#5: Texas A&M Aggies (+1)
#4: Florida Gators (-)
Two years ago, the Florida men’s team was home to the best 100 freestyler in NCAA history. This year, so far, they’ve had to use 200/500 guy Trey Freeman as their 400 medley relay anchor. Is freshman Adam Chaney ready to step up and take that spot?
#3: Georgia Bulldogs (-)
Which Georgia butterflier, among a pair having spectacular years, will come out on top: the freshman Luca Urlando or the senior Camden Murphy? More specifically: who gets the spot as part of the best sprint relay lineup Georgia has had in a while, if not ever?
#2: Cal Golden Bears (-)
Will it be Destin Lasco or Daniel Carr on the backstroke legs of the medleys? And will Hugo Gonzalez finally get his NCAA redemption three years after his disappointing freshman performance?
#1: Texas Longhorns (-)
The obvious question is who earns an NCAA spot via conference performances, and who gets left at home. But we’ll go with a less-common question: does Drew Kibler swim the 500 free or the 50 free? And if he swims the 500, does that rule out a 200 free relay leg? (That combination has been extremely rare throughout NCAA history, but Texas might need Kibler pretty badly in both races)