2020 Men’s B1G Fan Guide: Wolverine Men Primed to Snap Hoosier Streak

2020 B1G MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • When: Wednesday, February 26th to Saturday, February 29th | Prelims 11am | Finals 6:30pm
  • Where: Indiana University (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Indiana Hoosiers (3x) (results)
  • Live Results (TBA)
  • Streaming: TBA
  • Championship Central: here

After three consecutive titles for the Indiana Hoosiers, the tide may well turn back in rival Michigan’s favor.

Last year saw the Hoosiers comfortably take the win with a 241-point cushion over the Wolverines. Losing 2019 100 fly national champion Vini Lanza, 2019 100 breast national champion Ian Finnerty, and triple NCAA A-finalist Zach Apple, however, brings the Hoosiers down to earth a bit.

Michigan, meanwhile, is trending up. Their seasoned core is a huge asset; the distance and breaststroke/IM groups are quite deep. Felix Auboeck and Ricardo Vargas head the distance squad, with Auboeck back after winning the 500 free, 1650 free, and taking third in the 200 free at this meet last year. Vargas, meanwhile, was runner-up in the 500 and third in the mile, and Patrick Callan and Will Roberts return after taking third and sixth, respectively, in that 500. Charlie Swanson won the 400 IM and was top-five in the 200 IM and 200 breast, Vargas was second and Roberts eighth in that 400 IM final, and Tommy Cope and Jacob Montague were also big contributors in breast/IM. Jeremy Babinet has broken into 51-second territory in the 100 breast this year and ranks second in the conference. And then there’s Miles Smachlo, the defending conference champion in the 100 fly, another major player along with two-time diving runner-up last year, Ross Todd.

A key change to the Wolverine roster is the bolstering of their Gus Borges-led sprint group. The top returner in the conference in the 50 free, Borges has been carrying their sprinters the last couple of seasons. Now, freshmen River Wright and Cam Peel have been 19-high and 44-low this year already in the 50 and 100 free, respectively. Considering Michigan’s sprint entries individually have been low the last few years, and their free relays have consisted of Borges, Smachlo, and a smattering of breaststrokers/IMers (who certainly have pulled their weight), the fresh, pure sprint talent gives Michigan more individual firepower and some much-needed relay stability.

Indiana also has to find other contributions to make up for diver Andrew Capobianco and distance standout Michael Brinegar, as both are taking an Olympic year redshirt. Capobianco cashed out on 82 points and two runner-up finishes on the boards, while Brinegar added 53. For all their losses, though, they return the conference’s best backstroker in Gabriel Fantoni, dynamite sprinters Jack Franzman and Bruno Blaskovic, distance specialist Mikey Calvillo (who actually out-scored fellow freshman Brinegar last year by 24 points), and a host of other important pieces. Indiana had all 26 athletes score last year at this meet, and their lowest contributor still put up 16 points. As a quick comparison from last year, Michigan’s 26 all scored, but their lowest four contributors were all under 12 points each. Additionally, Jacob Steele and Mohamed Samy are leading the conference in the backstrokes this season, while freshman Brendan Burns and sophomore Van Mathias are first and third in conference rankings in the butterfly events.

Ohio State looks like a good shot for third, though they are without would-be sophomore sprinter Ruslan Gaziev, who is out for an Olympic redshirt, and we’re excluding would-be impact sprint freestyler Cameron Craig from this preview, as he has missed several meets due to recent legal turmoil and his return to racing is unknown. The Buckeye big guns to watch for are 2019 200 IM runner-up and 200 free/100 free top-four finisher Andrew Loy, one of the best butterfliers in the conference in Noah Lense, and Paul Delakis, the 200 free runner-up who was also fourth in the 200 breast and 200 IM last year. They have a strong core and are a very deep team that traditionally performs quite well at B1Gs.

Past the big three, there are some interesting movements to track in the middle of the conference. Purdue will rely on a dangerous diving squad (albeit without defending platform champion Brandon Loschiavo) and leadership from Trent Pellini. Iowa has built up an impressive armada of sprint freestylers, as has Penn State, who could have a worthy candidate for the 50 free crown in Gabe Castano. There’s firepower to be expected from breaststroke title favorite Max McHugh of Minnesota, and their distance group will have its first championship meet under the direction of new associate head coach Jeff Kostoff.  Under new head coaching direction, Northwestern and Wisconsin are starting to gain traction, as the Wildcats will feature Italian freshman Federico Burdisso among an impressive first-year cast and the Badgers put forth MJ Mao, a strong backstroke group, and potential IM magic from freshman standout Wes Jekel.

SCHEDULE

Wednesday

200 Medley Relay
800 Free Relay

Thursday

500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
1-Meter Diving
400 medley relay

Friday

200 free relay
400 Individual Medley
100 Butterfly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
3-Meter Diving

Saturday

1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
Platform Diving
400 Freestyle Relay

STARS

Indiana – Brendan Burns (freshman butterflier), Mikey Calvillo (sophomore distance specialist), Bruno Blaskovic (junior sprinter), Gabriel Fantoni (junior backstroker), Jack Franzman (sophomore sprinter), Mohamed Samy (senior backstroker/freestyler) — Brendan Burns is a very important pickup as the Hoosiers just lost 100 fly NCAA champion Vini Lanza, and the freshman will vie for B1G titles in both fly events. Blaskovic and Franzman are crucial sprint pieces with Zach Apple gone, and Fantoni and Samy are top-of-the-conference backstrokers who can also sprint other strokes.

Iowa – Aleksey Tarasenko (RS-sophomore sprinter), Joe Myhre (senior sprinter), Daniel Swanepoel (junior breaststroker), Will Myhre (freshman breaststroker) — Tarasenko and Myhre are at the heart of this sprint group that should produce impressive relays. Swanepoel and Myhre are A-final cusps in the 100 breast at twin 53-lows, while Swanepoel looks squarely projected for the 200 breast championship final.

MichiganRicardo Vargas (junior distance specialist)Miles Smachlo (senior flyer)Tommy Cope (senior breaststroker/IMer), Gus Borges (junior sprinter), Felix Auboeck (senior freestyler), Charlie Swanson (senior IMer)  — Michigan’s star-powered class of 2020 reaches its senior culmination. All those listed in this section have, at worst, a solid shot at an individual B1G title or two, and in several cases, they’ll be fighting with each other for one. Michigan’s weakness is backstroke again this year; sophomore Eric Storms is intriguing, as he went a lifetime best 47.61 in Michigan’s dual meet with Indiana, but didn’t compete in the post-season for the Wolverines last season. Nadav Aaronson, meanwhile, clocked a 46.89 at Michigan’s first-chance meet.

Michigan StatePayton Woods (senior sprinter), Aidan Farley (junior sprinter), Michael Schwers (senior butterflier) — Farley dropped a stand-out 1:36.58 in the 200 free in a dual meet against NU, a lifetime best, and Schwers has hit lifetime bests in both fly events this year (47.49/1:46.47). Woods leads the sprint group and is the sole 19-point sprinter this year.

MinnesotaMax McHugh (sophomore breaststroker), Matt Thomas (senior butterflier/IMer), Gavin Olson (freshman backstroker) — With Finnerty graduated, McHugh is hands-down the conference’s best breaststroker. Thomas sits in striking range of butterfly A-final appearances, and a nice backstroke freshman campaign from Olson puts Minnesota one sprinter short of a dangerous medley relay.

NorthwesternFederico Burdisso (freshman butterflier), Kevin Houseman (freshman breaststroker), Manu Bacarizo (sophomore backstroker), DJ Hwang (junior distance freestyler),  — With a freshman class that is deeper than just Burdisso and Houseman, the Wildcats are looking their best in a long, long time. Not only are their relays starting to fill out, but they have pockets of talent looking squarely in A and B final projections. Burdisso should prove a worthy challenger to Smachlo, Burns, Lense, and Mathias in the fly events.

Ohio StateNoah Lense (senior butterflier), Andrew Loy (senior freestyler/IMer), Paul Delakis (junior freestyler/IMer), Thomas Watkins (freshman backstroker), Joey Canova (junior diver)  — Why do we always settle for OSU as the #3 team and leave it at that? They tied Michigan not that long ago for second, and besides that, this team’s top-end talent is good. I even wrote it in italics for you. Lense (100/200 fly), Delakis (200 free/200 IM), and Loy (200 free/200 IM) could all walk away with at least one B1G individual title. Watkins, a Kiwi, is in his first yards season but could be a sleeper pick for the 200 back title with a slip from one of the IU guys. Finally, Canova is a fantastic diver among a very strong diving group.

Penn StateMichael Daly (sophomore IMer), Gabe Castano (junior sprinter), William Roberson (junior sprinter) — Castano and Roberson sit at #2 and #4 in the conference in the 50 free this year, and Castano has only swum this semester; he’s lethal. Daly has snuck into the conference top eight in the 500 free, 400 IM, and 200 back.

Purdue Ben Bramley (sophomore diver), Greg Duncan (junior diver), Ryan Hrosik (sophomore sprinter) Trent Pellini (junior breaststroker) — While Loschiavo redshirting is tough, Purdue still returns top divers Bramley and Duncan. Duncan is the top returning diver on both boards, while Bramley will duel with Michigan’s Ross Todd for the platform if they repeat form from last year (Todd edged Bramley for second, 442.60 to 442.40). Pellini will look to A-final in the 100/200 breast and 200 IM, and Hrosik right now sits third in the conference in the 50 free.

WisconsinMichael Milinovich (senior butterflier/IMer), MJ Mao (junior everything), Cam Tysoe (senior backstroker), Tazman Abramowicz (sophomore diver) — Milinovich returns after nearly triple A-finaling last year in the IM’s and the 200 fly. Mao is a dangerous breaststroker, and Tysoe a 200 back title threat, while the transfer Abramowicz will shake things up in diving.

SHOWDOWNS

200 IM

Returning from last year’s championship final are five of the eight finalists. OSU’s Andrew Loy is the heir apparent, the fastest returner from B1Gs at 1:41.36, followed by his teammate Paul Delakis (1:42.67) and Michigan’s Charlie Swanson (1:43.33), Tommy Cope (1:43.37), and Jacob Montague (1:44.06). At NCAAs, Van Mathias (1:43.70) and Mohamed Samy (1:43.89) of Indiana improved upon their B1G performances.

This season, though, Loy has only been 1:48.85, a bit back from his 1:45.86 going into this meet last year. Meanwhile, it’s Cope at 1:43.26 to lead the B1G this season, with Samy (1:44.00) and Purdue’s Trent Pellini (1:44.79) in tow. That comes to eight individuals under 1:45 either this season or last.

Based on last year’s results, things look squarely in Ohio State’s favor, with potential for a 1-2 sweep. But the Buckeyes don’t look quite as sharp going into this meet (which could truly mean nothing, of course, but it’s a slight cause for concern). It’ll be a clash between the juggernauts of the conference, though Pellini could wind up splashing in to give the Boilermakers a name in the game here.

200 FLY

Freshmen Brendan Burns (Indiana) and Federico Burdisso (Northwestern) are both new to the conference. Burns, who leads the conference, leads the B1G by over a second with his mid-season performance of 1:41.45, his lifetime best. Burdisso, in his first yards season, has been 1:44.14 in a dual meet to still rank fourth in the conference against suited swims. It’s unclear where Burdisso’s ceiling is, but his meters prowess suggests something lofty.

While Burdisso seems capable of a 1:39 or better, it’s clear that Burns is having a very strong first season, too.

Noah Lense of OSU and Miles Smachlo of Michigan return at 1:40.36 and 1:41.84, meanwhile, and Lense’s 1:40.36 certainly counts for something; nobody else in the conference right now has been faster, and he’s been under 1:41 on multiple occasions.

200 FREE

OSU’s Loy and Delakis should be major factors in this race, too, clashing again with Samy along with Michigan’s Patrick Callan and Felix Auboeck.

At NCAAs last season, Delakis was 1:32.01, with Samy at 1:32.29 and Loy at 1:32.55. Delakis is the top returner from the B1G championship final at 1:33.15, followed by Auboeck (1:33.34), Loy (1:33.66), and Callan (1:33.77).

This year, though, it’s Callan breaking through with a 1:32.91 from mid-season, the only sub-1:33 out of the B1G this year so far. Samy has been 1:33.65, but other than that, everyone else is 1:34 plus. Interestingly enough, while it was suited, Burdisso dropped a 1:34.15 in a January dual meet against Cincinnati.

In any case, whether these guys venture down to 1:32 or stay closer to 1:33, this one should be a brutal battle.

400 MEDLEY RELAY

Michigan has put together the fastest 400 medley relay this year at 3:07.61, but don’t be fooled; Indiana’s A relay got DQ’d mid-season, and their B was still able to put together a 3:08.68.

Indiana must replace Finnerty on breast, Lanza on fly, and Apple on free, with Gabriel Fantoni (or potentially Samy or Steele) around for the back leg. While this seems like an impossible order, let’s not forget IU went 2:59 last year at NCAAs, about five seconds quicker than Michigan ever went last season.

Zane Backes and Brendan Burns seem like logical replacements on breast and fly, respectively. Backes, with a 51.3 lifetime best, looks primed for a 50-point breast leg. Burns has been 46.10 in high school, but he’s almost matched that so far this season and he also leads the conference with his 46.12 from mid-season. Bruno Blaskovic went 45.33 in the 100 fly last year, with 45-highs coming from Fantoni and Van Mathias. Finally, out of Blaskovic, Samy, or Jack Franzman, there’s a 41 to be expected on the end of this relay; there are a ton of options.

The answer to if Michigan can keep pace here may well lie in their backstroke leg. Alex King was 46.38 last year, a respectable time that simply won’t hold up against a potential 44 high and likely 45 low out of Fantoni/Samy/Steele. Eric Storms, at 47.61 in a dual meet for a lifetime best, is quite intriguing. A 45 out of him or King would be the minimum needed to stay close, and then there’s Aaronson who comes into the conversation after his first-chance meet time.

Between Tommy CopeWill Chan, and Jeremy Babinet, there’s a 51-mid to 51-low split to be had here. That may not do much to make up ground on Backes, though. Miles Smachlo can be depended on for another 44-second split, where Michigan will have to reel the Hoosiers back in, and then it’ll be up to Gus Borges to do everything he can on the end.

Anything’s possible at the end of a race, especially between two longtime rivals, but Indiana looks to have the edge here.

SELECTIONS

It’s important to check out the B1G scoring breakdown from last year, which details where the outgoing points went. We can see a bit more into the overall team race and its mechanics. IU’s seniors put up a whopping 385 points last year, with senior classes from OSU, Minnesota, and Purdue contributing over 200 points, each. This tells us that IU has the most to fall this time around; the most to make up.

And, past that, we see that Michigan returns 46 more points than IU before considering any missing roster members. The Hoosiers lose out on their two big redshirt guys, which makes that 46-point cushion get closer to 200, a solid prediction for a Michigan win.

Big picture, Michigan and IU are the only teams returning over 800 points, and both are over 1000. While the Swimulator predicts Iowa in third, OSU returns 701 points (of course, we have to factor out Gaziev), and the Hawkeyes only return 229, the third-lowest returning score in the conference. Further, Ohio State has a stronger diving group than Iowa (and most of the conference) that the Swimulator doesn’t take into account.

Past the top three, though, it does get incredibly dicey. In terms of returning points, you have Wisconsin (333.5), Purdue (325), Minnesota (271.5), Penn State (261.5), and Iowa (229) all bunched up. Plus, you have Northwestern on the rise with Burdisso, likely a triple A-finalist and a title threat in both butterflies, and a strong first-year class overall, though they only return 104.5 points.

Purdue has the diving base to distance themselves from this middle tier, and diving transfer Tazman Abramowicz will complement Wisconsin’s only scoring diver last year, Kevin Pomeroy. Abramowicz comes in with big potential after winning Western Athletic Conference titles in the 3-meter and platform and taking second in the 1-meter last year as a UNLV freshman.

Iowa does look on track to do better than last year, and Northwestern’s Burdisso and Bobar have yet to really come down and race, as they are mid-season additions; both should rack up a good amount of points, especially Burdisso, who should be huge. Penn State and Minnesota will duke things out, with the potential to make things with Iowa and NU interesting. If any of these four teams have one of their stars falter, they could plummet into ninth.

Michigan State has a couple of bright spots on their roster, but don’t have the outlook to get out of tenth.

SWIMULATOR PICKS

NOTE – this does not include diving, and Swimulator works as an approximation and projection based on 2019-20 season bests. Not every team tapers the same way, injuries/illnesses come up, and projections are merely projections. 

Michigan 1338.5
Indiana 1267.5
Iowa 741
Ohio State 729.5
Wisconsin 624
Purdue 623.5
Northwestern 551
Penn St 495.5
Minnesota 458
Michigan St 317.5

SWIMSWAM PICKS

  1. Michigan
  2. Indiana
  3. Ohio State
  4. Purdue
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Iowa
  7. Northwestern
  8. Minnesota
  9. Penn State
  10. Michigan St

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SwimFan49
8 months ago

And, unlike the women’s team, the Minnesota men can’t even blame Olympic red shirts for their fall.

NEWTOSWIMSWAM
Reply to  SwimFan49
8 months ago

They finally picked up some in-state talents Stowe (2020), Morris & Brown (2021) and Garner from Florida. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop.

SwimFan49
Reply to  NEWTOSWIMSWAM
8 months ago

Agreed. And actually they picked up 2 or 3 really strong distance kids in the high school class of ’20. Hopefully for them it’s only a short dip.

Snarky
Reply to  SwimFan49
7 months ago

I think the MN might surprise expectations.

Coach Chackett
8 months ago

Michigan Seniors were picked by some as the best recruiting class, back four years ago. Wyatt Davis and Jake Mitchell in next year to replace Felix Aubock, Jermey Babinet, Tommy Cope, Alex Martin, Jacob Montague, Miles Smachlo, Charlie Swanson.

2021: who will step up for Michigan and Indiana.

#MFan
Reply to  Coach Chackett
8 months ago

Bence Szabados should also help in Fly. He won’t be Miles Smachlo fast as a freshman… who is Michigan’s fastest sprint flyer in program history… but he will help.

Wanna Sprite?
8 months ago

Burdisso has a chance at winning both fly events and we could possibly see some big drops

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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