Braden Keith, Karl Ortegon, and Robert Gibbs 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 the weirdest of weird years – but one constant remains: our attempt to rank out the NCAA based on whatever data points we do have.
There’s been very little change at the top in this round of ranks. But as the Big Ten has started competing more regularly, the Swimulator projections have started to fill in a bit more. Next up: conference meet season, where we should get a much clearer picture of how many of these teams look head-to-head.
Without further ado, here are our women’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: Duke, Penn State, UCLA, Pitt
#25: Florida State Seminoles (+)
The relays have looked awfully good, headed by a 200 free relay ranked 7th in the nation right now. Norwegian freshman Jenny Halden looks like a potential fly/back scorer individually.
#24: Auburn Tigers (+)
Coach Gary Taylor is getting his distance program up and running, with Emily Hetzer and Averee Preble both in range of NCAA scoring. Four of five relays are currently ranked inside the top 16 nationally with the 200 medley knocking on the door of the top 8.
#23: USC Trojans (-15)
The Pac-12 is tricky to project right now – there just aren’t a lot of data points with competition very limited. USC is a much better team than this on paper, but we haven’t seen it in the water yet. Kaitlyn Dobler leads a good freshman class, and should be an individual breaststroke scorer.
#22: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+)
Coleen Gillilan is swimming great, with three events ranked inside of NCAA scoring range. Four relays sit in the top 16 nationally, led by an 11th-ranked 400 medley.
#21: Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
Freshman Phoebe Bacon has been great in limited competition opportunities. The rest of the rookie group probably needs a little more time to develop, but Bacon by herself has enough scoring ability to crack the top 25 at NCAAs.
#20: Arkansas Razorbacks (+)
The combination of British newcomer Emily Barclay and breakout junior Kobie Melton has the relays flying high. Melton has hit personal-bests in the 50 free and 100 free in this pandemic-adjusted season.
#19: Virginia Tech H2Okies (-)
#18: UNC Tar Heels (+)
Most of UNC’s Swimulator points are projected in the relays right now, including an 8th-place seed in the 400 medley and 7th-place seed in the 400 free. The big question is whether they can hold those spots or whether they’ll slide back a bit as we get more teams back in action. If the Tar Heels can hold those 72 relay points, they’ll almost-certainly finish higher than 18th at NCAAs.
#17: Texas A&M Aggies (-)
Another standout freshman buoying this team: Chloe Stepanek, who is the nation’s #2 swimmer in the 100 free right now and has a shot at multiple A Finals, per the Swimulator ranks.
#16: Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
Limited competition is keeping us from getting a really clear look at another Big Ten team. IU’s breaststroke group (Emily Weiss, Noelle Peplowski & more) is outstanding, but want of a backstroker is going to hurt the medley relays.
#15: Louisville Cardinals (-5)
The Swimulator has Louisville 14th, but they’ve also got a lot of swimmers just outside of scoring range right now. The ceiling is pretty high for Louisville, but they’ll have to take a step forward come conference meet season.
#14: Ohio State Buckeyes (-3)
Ohio State very clearly outperformed expectations last year, and so they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt in a year with very sporadic Big Ten competition. Zero Swimulator points is a concern, but we’d expect that to change dramatically in the next month.
#13: Florida Gators (+1)
Sitting 8th in the Swimulator right now, Florida has sophomore Talia Bates swimming very well – she’s seeded inside the top 6 in the 100 and 200 frees.
#12: Northwestern Wildcats (+1)
#11: Missouri Tigers (+7)
Mizzou has the sprint speed so far this season – their 200 free relay is sitting 3rd nationally and the 200 medley relay 4th. Meanwhile Sarah Thompson and Megan Keil are the 1st- and 2nd-ranked swimmers in the NCAA in the 50 free in our current Swimulator.
#10: Kentucky Wildcats (+2)
Riley Gaines is swimming great in the 100/200 frees, and both medley relays look like A final contenders even after graduating some key contributors.
#9: Alabama Crimson Tide (-2)
Kensey McMahon is second in the Swimulator in the mile, and ‘Bama has plenty of sprint prowess to build out the relays. If a couple of freshman really pop this post-season, we could see a top-6 finish.
#8: Texas Longhorns (+1)
The Longhorns are crushing the regular season, sitting 2nd in Swimulator points. They’ve also got a slew of top-5-ranked swimmers in the Swimulator, including #2 Kelly Pash (200 free & 200 fly), #2 Evie Pfeifer (500 free), #1 Olivia Bray (200 fly, #2 in 100 fly) and #1 Anna Elendt (100 breast & 200 breast). 8th is clearly too low if this team swims to their potential at NCAAs, but that’s long been the last big hurdle for the Texas women’s program.
#7: Georgia Bulldogs (-1)
The Bulldogs have a great lineup at the top, including 35+ Swimulator scorers Zoie Hartman, Courtney Harnish and Danielle Dellatorre. But without Gabi Fa’amausili, the depth was a little shaky in a loss to Tennessee, and Georgia will have to beef up its NCAA-scoring depth to push the top 6.
#6: Stanford Cardinal (-2)
It’s really hard to tell what kind of roster Stanford is working with – we’ve seen very little competition, and the only Stanford-related headlines have been star freshmen deferring. This team is always really deep even beyond its typical star power, but it’s hard to rank them higher than sixth until we see some more results.
#5: Michigan Wolverines (-2)
Keeping Maggie MacNeil in the fold is a major factor. This Michigan roster has a ton of talent from top to bottom – but like most of the Big Ten, we don’t have a ton of 2020-2021 results to weigh. Keep an eye on freshman Kathryn Ackerman, who is 4th in the Swimulator 400 IM right now. Missing two weeks of pool time that will end two weeks out of Big Tens is less-than-ideal.
#4: Tennessee Volunteers (+12)
Tennessee looked great in the dual meet win over Georgia. Transfers Kristen Stege and Cassidy Bayer help build one of the nation’s best supporting casts – the Vols have 9 swimmers projected to score individually in the current Swimulator ranks.
#3: NC State Wolfpack (+2)
The Wolfpack remain very strong – and keeping star breaststroker Sophie Hansson active was a major factor in a year where international students have had to make some tough calls on NCAA competition. NC State is third in the current Swimulator projections with three 40+-point scorers.
#2: California Golden Bears (-)
9th in the current Swimulator while dealing with the Pac-12’s very sparse fall competition schedule. The strength of Cal’s roster is probably being obscured by a lack of meets. Freshman Isabelle Stadden has already been sub-1:50 in the 200 back and Emily Gantriis looks like an impact addition.
#1: Virginia Cavaliers (-)
The ‘Hoos continue to roll, having wrapped up their dual meet season with an undefeated season. Sure, dual meets don’t really matter, so you want a NCAAs-focused fun fact? Virginia has four women whose best times would’ve made the 200 breast A-final at 2019 NCAAs. That includes Kate Douglass, who may not even swim that event, as she has the fastest time in the nation in the 100 free.