2021 M. NCAA Picks: Amid Many 18s, Cal, Florida and Texas Vie for 200 FR-R Gold

2021 NCAA MEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • When: Wednesday, March 24 – Saturday, March 27, 2021
  • Where: Greensboro Aquatic Center / Greensboro, NC (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Prelims 10 AM/ Finals 6 PM (Local Time)
  • Short course yards (SCY) format
  • Defending champion: Cal (1x) – 2019 results
  • Streaming:
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results

200 FREESTYLE RELAY

  • NCAA Record: Auburn (Andkjaer, Louw, Norys, Targett), 2009 – 1:14.08
  • American Record: NC State (Held, Ress, Molacek, Stewart), 2018 – 1:14.50
  • U.S. Open Record: Auburn (Andkjaer, Louw, Norys, Targett), 2009 – 1:14.08
  • Meet Record: Auburn (Andkjaer, Louw, Norys, Targett), 2009 – 1:14.08
  • 2019 Champion: Cal (Sendyk, Hoffer, Jensen, Seliskar) – 1:14.46

In 2019, Cal had 18s across the board to win this in a 1:14.46, with the NC State Wolfpack right behind at 1:14.78. Both teams will need to replace three legs; for Cal, that’d be Pawel Sendyk, Michael Jensen and Andrew Seliskar, and for NC State, it’s Nyls Korstanje, Justin Ress and Jacob Molacek.

Cal’s returner is Ryan Hoffer, and as freshman Bjorn Seeliger replaces Sendyk as an 18-point flat-start sprinter, the Golden Bears have the most dangerous duo in the nation.

At Pac-12s, where Cal won by over 1.5 seconds with a time of 1:15.80, Seeliger and Hoffer split 18.6 and 18.5, respectively, on the middle legs. Nate Biondi was 19.6 leading off and Daniel Carr 18.9 on the end. Hoffer and Seeliger also went 1-2 at Pac-12s in the individual 50, going 18.81 and 18.84, respectively. Biondi was also in that A-final, and has a season and lifetime best of 19.54.

Bryce Mefford is another option for Cal– he split a 19.5 anchoring their 200 free relay in a dual meet with USC, and he was 19.90 in high school.

The defending champions have their work cut out for them, though. The Golden Bears sit third on the psychs, one of four teams under 1:16 this season.

Florida is the top seed at 1:15.21, a good half-second-plus ahead of Cal, with Texas second in at 1:15.76. Florida is led by freshman phenom Adam Chaney, the program’s best sprinter since Caeleb Dressel. Chaney was one of several freshmen to break 19 seconds in the 50 free this conference season, and his 18.76 leads the nation. The Gators won the 2021 SEC crown in the 200 free relay by almost a full second, getting an 18.62 from Will Davis, an 18.81 from Kieran Smith and a 19.01 anchor from Eric Friese. They may well have four men under 19 seconds, though Cal certainly could if they put Hoffer or Seeliger up front and then Biondi or Mefford get a flying start.

Texas is the only team besides Cal with two men ranked top-15 in the individual 50 free, with Daniel Krueger at 19.10 and Drew Kibler at 19.16. They’re seeded second at 1:15.76. Texas has had nine men break 20 seconds this season in the 50 free, so they could be pushing a 1:15-low or better with a number of combinations. That consistency is great, but they need to be able to match what Florida and Cal have on the top-end to have a chance at touching one or both of them out. Alvin Jiang was 18.7 with a flying start at Big 12s, so they need an 18 up top from Krueger or Kibler and then a fourth 19-low (at least) to win this — that seems doable.

In fourth is Louisville at 1:15.99, claiming the 200 free relay crown at ACCs. Tanner Cummings and Mike Eastman split matching 18.89s on the back end of that relay, while Haridi Sameh led off in 19.15 and Nicolas Albiero was 19.06 on the second leg. The Cardinal relays have been very fast this year, both medley and free, and they didn’t even use 50 free ACC A-finalist Mihalis Deliyiannis on the relay. He was 19.62 at the meet, but 19.25 in 2020, so swapping him in could give them at least a few-tenths drop.

The SEC is deep here, with Georgia seeded fifth, Alabama seventh and Texas A&M eighth. The Bulldog men look fantastic this year, and their sprint relays have already broken school records. Javier Acevedo and Dillon Downing will team-up with Camden Murphy and freshman standout Luca Urlando, as Downing has had a great season (19.14 leading off the relay at SECs) and Acevedo and Murphy have split 18s. Urlando was 19.30 on the end at SECs, but if he had gone the 19.08 he anchored with mid-season, they would’ve been 1:15.98 instead of 1:16.20, so there’s room for growth there. Downing has also been 18.90 flat-start, so Georgia could be roughly a half-second better and right in the mix for a top-three touch.

Alabama, a team that always has a deep sprint group, has developed another of the 18-point freshmen this year in Matt King. King was 18.96 individually at SECs, placing second in the 50 free and winning the 100 free, and on the relay (1:16.32), he was 18.98 as the rest of the quartet followed with 19-lows. A&M was 1:16.37 at SECs, as Shaine Casas led off in 19.09 and Coco Bratanov swam third at 18.94. Tanner Olson split an 18.9 mid-season but was 19.0 at SECs, so the Aggies also have room to improve.

The Big Ten and ACC each have a couple more teams in the mix (the ACC has Louisville up top, though). For the Big Ten, six-seed Indiana leads, with Purdue at 10th, OSU at 12th and Michigan 13th. Jack Franzman was 18.5 on the second leg to propel IU to the conference title, ahead of Purdue (1:16.50), OSU (1:16.57) and Michigan (1:16.60) all bunched up. Sem Andreis for OSU and Gus Borges for Michigan were 18-mids with flying starts, while Purdue was more consistent across the board with an 18.9 split and several 19-lows.

NC State is the top ACC team behind Louisville (1:16.33) at eighth, while Virginia Tech sits 11th at 1:16.56. The Wolfpack had Kacper Stokowski anchor in 18.8 along with three 19-lows, while VT got a 19.15 lead-off from star freshman Youssef Ramadan, who is having a massive debut. Don’t count out Florida State, either, who staged an upset win at 2019 ACCs and have hit a 1:16.82 this year.

The final team under 1:17 that we haven’t yet mentioned is Virginia. As their women come off of a historic NCAA title, the ‘Hoo’s are led by yet another breakout freshman star: Matt Brownstead. The rookie won both the 50 and 100 free ACC crowns, and his 18.88 in the 50 sits fourth in the nation. UVA was fourth in this relay at ACCs, getting an 18.9 anchor from August Lamb.

This relay is hard to predict (we say that all the time, don’t we?), in that someone having a good or bad leg can cause a swing of only a tenth or two, but that tenth or two can take them several placements up or down. This feels like it’ll come down to Cal/Texas/Florida, with Louisville, Georgia and NC State having room to drop time and challenge for a top-three spot.

TOP 8 PICKS

Place Team Season Best
1 Cal 1:15.80
2 Florida 1:15.21
3 Texas 1:15.76
4 Louisville 1:15.99
5 NC State 1:16.33
6 Georgia 1:16.20
7 Indiana 1:16.24
8 Alabama 1:16.32

Darkhorse: Penn State (1:17.07 – 16th seed) – Penn State is on the brink of a 1:16, and they have three very strong legs between seniors Will Roberson and Gabe Castano and freshman Jake Houck. The freshman Houck has eviscerated his old best, going from a high school time of 20.7 to his current best of 19.29, while Roberson went 19.17 to take third at Big Tens. Castano hasn’t looked his best this season, but he was 19.06 at Big Tens in 2020, so he might have more to drop. Their question will be the fourth leg, as Zane Sutton was 19.77 anchoring at Big Tens. He might not need to be that much faster though, if Castano can match his best and Roberson and Houck meet or surpass their bests.

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Reid
22 days ago

According to the Cal press release Biondi is traveling with the team, meaning he has to compete, meaning he is the fourth guy on this relay. Little surprising, would’ve thought they’d go with Mefford or Lasco.

Calswimfan
Reply to  Reid
22 days ago

He can also just swim the prelims and someone could replace him in finals correct?

Bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  Calswimfan
22 days ago

No prelims/finals relays.

Horninco
Reply to  Reid
22 days ago

Kid is coming for one relay…. for the sake of the argument, if he gets the flu does the relay have to forfeit? He’s not in any individuals but he has to swim… not sure on the rules

Texas will get 18.8 from Krueger leading off, 18.5 from Jiang, 18.8 flying from Kibler and 19.0 from Sannem. 1:15.1

I’m assuming texas doesn’t use Staka or Corbeau who can maybe be a tick faster but have to 2IM later. Maybe I’m wrong

Cal gets 18.8 from the Swede leading off, Biondi 19.1, Carr 18.7 and Hoffer 18.2. 1:14.8

I think Florida goes about their seed. If they were fully tapered (minus smith?) for SEC’s they will be hard… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Horninco
ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  Horninco
22 days ago

Hasn’t Kibler been 18.5? Why would he go slower at NCAAs?

Jay Ryan
Reply to  Reid
22 days ago

BTW Nate Biondi’s best time flat start is 19.47 (from Pac12 time trial last year) not 19.54. Go Bears. Go Nate!

Psuswimfan
22 days ago

Castano had his second shoulder surgery in the fall so he is the X factor for Penn State. He’s obviously not 100 percent as seen at big tens, but I think he could go sub 19 flying

Working swim mom
Reply to  Psuswimfan
22 days ago

I think it was knee surgery, not shoulder. I agree if he’s even just a little stronger than he was at B1Gs they have a good shot of improving.

Fairisfair
22 days ago

Just looking through the top 50 free times, it looks like Ohio State also has two in the top 15, along with TX & Cal, based on a couple ties.

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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