2021 M. NCAA Picks: Casas, Katz & Cal In The 200 Back

2021 NCAA MEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • When: Wednesday, March 24 – Saturday, March 27, 2021
  • Where: Greensboro Aquatic Center / Greensboro, NC (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending champion: Cal (1x) – 2019 results
  • Streaming:
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results

Following the dominant four-year reign of Ryan Murphy, which ended in 2017, the men’s backstroke events finally opened up and several contenders were in the running to grab the national titles.

In the 200, then-freshman Austin Katz took full advantage of the opportunity presented in 2018, using a huge back-half to win the NCAA title in a time of 1:37.53 – not far off of Murphy’s winning time in his first year (1:37.35).

While it looked like Katz had a great chance to run the table all four years in the event like Murphy, a few roadblocks got in the way.

First, it was senior teammate John Shebat holding him off by .03 for the title in 2019 — in what was Shebat’s first individual NCAA title in his last race — and then, of course, the 2020 meet was cancelled. Katz’s time at those 2019 NCAAs was 1:36.45, which was faster than Murphy as a sophomore (1:36.77) and remains the fastest best time in the 2021 field.

Prior to last season’s cancellation, Katz appeared to be in the running to reclaim the crown, coming in seeded second to Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas by .15.

This year the gap between the two is more than four seconds.

It’s been a tale of two seasons — Casas has been on fire, including recording a 200 back time of 1:36.54 in November which ranks him fourth all-time behind Murphy, Shebat and Katz. Katz, on the other hand, has raced infrequently and holds a 1:40.83 season-best which only slots him into 15th on the psych sheets.

And while their performances this season don’t indicate they’ll be particularly close in the event at NCAAs, Katz’s resume tells us he’s the only one with a real shot at Casas – who otherwise looks like a solid bet to sweep all of his individuals.

At his previous three Big 12 Championship appearances, Katz has been in the 1:39s. This season it’s 1:40-high. If the trend continues and we see a 2-3 second drop at NCAAs, it’s puts him in the thick of the ‘A’ final battle, but likely won’t be enough to overtake Casas.

Other than those two, the other primary contenders come predominantly from Cal, who had an incredible 1-2-3-4-5-6 sweep in the event at Pac-12s. Winning that race? Freshman Destin Lasco, who may be destined for a similar trajectory to Murphy and Katz (while this statement may be premature, Lasco is already the third-fastest freshman ever behind those two, and has yet to fully taper).

Lasco put up a time of 1:38.13 at Pac-12s, and should have more in the tank given that the entire Cal roster appeared unshaven.

His senior teammates Daniel Carr and Bryce Mefford should also factor into the ‘A’ final, both having recorded top-five finishes in 2019. Mefford was fourth as a freshman in a best of 1:38.48 and then third two seasons ago (1:38.65), while Carr (10th in 2018, fifth in 2019) dropped a personal best of 1:37.87 at the 2020 Pac-12s.

The only other swimmer in the field who’s cracked 1:40 this season is Louisville junior Mitchell Whyte, who won the ACC title in 1:39.98 after placing second to Coleman Stewart as a sophomore (in a best of 1:39.46). As a freshman, Whyte dropped a tenth from conference to nationals, though it’s tough to say that’s any type of trend given last season’s NCAAs didn’t happen.

Others who have been 1:39, just not this season, are Javier AcevedoClark BeachGabriel Fantoni and Jack Dahlgren, with Ian Grum and Samuel Törnqvist right there at 1:40.05 and 1:40.10, respectively. They’ll all figure into what should be a dog fight for a top-eight placing in the prelims.

Acevedo, who took a redshirt year last season, was 1:40.38 at SECs, right around his conference times in both 2018 and 2019 before going 1:39 at NCAAs. The senior also won’t have to juggle the NCAA/Canadian Olympic Trials conundrum that he was expecting to, with the Trials shifting from early April to late May.

The other intriguing name entered in this event is Texas freshman Carson Foster, the back-to-back World Junior silver medalist in the long course version of this event who has shifted more to a freestyle/medley focus in recent years. While Foster seems to have his eye on the 200/400 IM and 200 free for the Olympic Trials, he’s opting to avoid any doubles here (400 IM/200 free would be an all-time killer) and is taking this event on for Day 4 at NCAAs.

The 19-year-old was less than three-tenths off his lifetime best at Big 12s in 1:40.34, and given that he was five seconds off his early season time in the 400 IM, there should be a sizeable drop incoming.

There’s also a plethora of guys into the 1:40s this season that will keep everyone honest in the heats, including Alabama’s James Marcum, Cal’s sophomore duo of Colby Mefford and Sebastian Somerset, Virginia’s Justin Grender and Michigan’s Wyatt Davis.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Shaine Casas Texas A&M 1:36.54 1:36.54
2 Destin Lasco Cal 1:38.13 1:38.13
3 Daniel Carr Cal 1:38.81 1:37.87
4 Carson Foster Texas 1:40.34 1:40.07
5 Austin Katz Texas 1:40.83 1:36.45
6 Bryce Mefford Cal 1:39.85 1:38.48
7 Mitchell Whyte Louisville 1:39.98 1:39.46
8 Javier Acevedo Georgia 1:40.38 1:39.06

Darkhorse: Peter Larson, Texas – The sophomore set his first best time in the event in more than two years at Big 12s, clocking 1:41.14 despite racing the meet as exhibition. Larson actually reset PBs in the 50, 200 and 500 free at the meet as well, earning a spot on Texas’ national roster. Can he carry the momentum forward at his first NCAAs?

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Coach Macgyver
4 months ago

Going with Casas to win ncaa. Katz to win if it wasn’t an Olympic year.

Tulsi Gabbard 2024
4 months ago

man, they are reallyyyyy discrediting austin katz with that 5th place prediction. always remember, the eddie reese taper is legendary. covid or not. don’t be surprised if Shaine Casas gets upset here.

Swimfan
Reply to  Tulsi Gabbard 2024
4 months ago

I agree. My vote goes to Katz.

Lane Down Under
Reply to  Tulsi Gabbard 2024
4 months ago

Such disrespect for Katz. Literally has the fastest time in the field and you have him at 5th… my vote for Katz

Camelboar
Reply to  Tulsi Gabbard 2024
4 months ago

Yes, totally. His best is a 1:36 and he did a 1:40 in Feb before Big 12.

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Camelboar
4 months ago

You do realize that’s a 4 second difference in the times you posted? We’ll see if an “Eddie Reese taper” is gonna make up that 4 second gap in there. I’m “all in” for A&M (of course) along with Casas winning this one and the other two events he will swim.

Swimmer
Reply to  Tulsi Gabbard 2024
4 months ago

I think 5th is a little too low, but I also don’t think he’s going to win it either. If I’ve learned anything it’s to bet on the hot swimmer and Casas has been on fire.

Admin
Reply to  Swimmer
4 months ago

All I’m gonna say is that James is in 2nd place in the women’s pick ’em contest so far. So…in Sutherland we trust.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

I’m not far behind him 😉

Justin Pollard
Reply to  Tulsi Gabbard 2024
4 months ago

The Eddie Reese taper is legendary, but the Dave Durden taper … man … there are no words.

ArtVanDeLegh10
4 months ago

Katz didn’t swim most of the year in meets, and I’m pretty sure he was looking a little soft. He may go 1:36 and be in the hunt for winning but I’m not expecting it.

Swimfan
Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
4 months ago

Certainly a different year for him. But watching his back half along with Shebat in 2019 was pretty spectacular. We all know he has it in him to drop jaws… and HE knows he has it in him. Let’s go KATZ!!!!!!

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Swimfan
4 months ago

That was 2019 (most of us ain’t livin in 2019 no more except you & a few more of the “t-sip dreamers” that have posted here ). Casas will post his fastest time ever in this one (he & the rest of his team have been training like “fiends” in College Station) & take the title back to Aggieland (flagship campus in College Station)👍👍. Gonna be giggin em forever👍👍👍

Penguin
4 months ago

Haven’t done my Men’s pick ’em yet. But I like the bold call of Lasco for 2nd. Dude has potential. Katz is 3rd at least.

Horninco
4 months ago

Cant go against Casas with the way he’s swimming, even as a texas homer
1- Casas
2- katz
3-Lasco
4- Foster
5-Carr
6-Acevedo
7-Larson
8- Mefford
9-Whyte
10-Acevedo
11-Beach
12-Fantoni
13-C Mefford
14-Davis
15-Somerset
16-grum

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Horninco
4 months ago

You are living in the world of reality. Your fellow t-sips & t-sip fans are just hoping, praying, wishing, etc. Not sayin the guy’s not good but ya gotta come back from “somewhere over the rainbow” to actually Kansas at some point!

Waader
4 months ago

I feel like yall overrated Daniel Carr. Although this event will be a battle ground in the war between Texas and Cal, I personally think Texas will take it away points wise.

Lasco sure has a shot for runner up, but to me it’s a slight upset if he beats both Katz and Foster. I think both Foster and Katz will beat Carr.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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