2021 M. NCAA Picks: Casas One Step Ahead of Revamped 100 Back Field

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

The men’s 100 back is one of many NCAA events that has gotten significantly faster in recent years, something that was best demonstrated during the 2019-2020 season

2019-20 saw nine men go under the 45-second barrier, all coming before the NCAA Championships were canceled. In 2019, it took an elite time of 45.09 to make the ‘A’ final at NCAAs, and 2020 had the potential to be the first requiring a 44.

Looking at recent history, the shift in speed has been relatively short. Leading into the 2016 NCAA Championships, only one swimmer — Ryan Murphy, who would go on to win Olympic gold later that summer — had been under 45. Then, in 2019 there were seven, and then nine last year.

Amidst the difficulties that have come along with an unprecedented season during a global pandemic, we’ve still seen six guys dip below 45 seconds this year, and with several others in the field who have done so in the past, this could be the fastest lineup of all-time.

This comes despite the fact that the majority of the top names over the last two years have graduated — including the top-three ranked swimmers last season.

In their wake is a bit of a revamped group, with half of the six sub-45 swimmers underclassmen, but the undisputed favorite coming in is Texas A&M junior Shaine Casas.

Casas didn’t race the event at NCAAs as a freshman, and wasn’t even entered in the 100 back at last season’s championships prior to the cancellation despite being ranked fourth in the country with a time of 44.48.

This season he’s been faster than that on three occasions — despite not racing it individually at SECs — highlighted by a breakthrough 43.87 swim in November at the Art Adamson Invite. That performance made him the third-fastest performer in history (he’s now fourth), and was also the first time someone in college went sub-44 at a non-NCAA Championship meet.

Seeded almost a full second clear of the field, Casas appears in complete control here, and has a great shot to sweep all three of his individual events, sitting more than two seconds faster than his closest competitor in the 200 IM and over a second and a half in the 200 back.

The real race will be for second place.

The five others who have broken 45 seconds this season all did so in conference competition, including ACC champion Kacper Stokowski (44.82) and SEC winner Javier Acevedo (44.96). Louisville’s Nicolas Albiero, the top returner from the 2019 NCAAs having placed sixth, was a close second to Stokowski in 44.85, while Ohio State’s Hunter Armstrong (44.92) and Florida’s Adam Chaney (44.99) both went under 45 for the first time leading off their school’s respective 400 medley relays.

Seniors Acevedo (44.74) and Albiero (44.75) have both been faster than their 2020-21 season-bests, while Louisville junior Mitchell Whyte (44.64) and Cal senior Daniel Carr (44.86) also boast elite PBs.

Keep in mind that Acevedo, a Canadian, was not one of 6 swimmers who was pre-selected for his country’s Olympic Team. That means he has an Olympic Trials meet to look forward to, though with that meet being pushed to late May (24-28), that takes some pressure off as compared to the usual early-April timeline.

With the margins so thin between the top 8-10 seeds outside of Casas, we have to take into consideration that Albiero and Whyte, along with Texas’ Alvin Jiang (ranked seventh at 45.09) will also race the 100 fly prior to the 100 back on Day 3. Is it fair to conclude that this will impair their performance in the 100 back? No. But, it’s worth taking into account. Jiang was notably 44.95 last season.

For Stokowski, he won the ‘B’ final at the 2019 NCAAs as a freshman with Florida (going 44.90), and then announced that he would transfer to NC State after taking an Olympic redshirt. With the Gators, he dropped four-tenths from SECs to NCAAs, so after hitting a best of 44.82 at ACCs, he projects to potentially dip into the 44-mids.

While it’s easy to zero in on the top-seeded names, there are a few 45-lows who clearly didn’t taper for their respective conference championship meet.

Seniors Jiang and Chris Staka (45.12) are part of a Longhorn team that has no reason to rest for Big 12s, and several members of Cal’s Pac-12 winning squad were visibly unshaven, including freshman 100 back champion Destin Lasco.

Lasco swept the backstrokes in Houston — going 45.21 in the 100 — to defeat veteran teammates Daniel Carr (45.35) and Bryce Mefford (45.38). It’s easy to forget Carr coming in based on his 14th-place ranking, but he was an ‘A’ finalist at the 2019 NCAAs after ripping a 44.86 in the prelims.

With so many names to factor in, we also can’t forget about Alabama sophomore Matthew Menke, who took over a second off his best time at SECs to get down to 45.18, and Georgia Tech junior Kyle Barone, who’s been consistent with swims of 45.30 and 45.43 during mid-season and conference meets.

We also cannot sleep on Texas senior Austin Katz, who has been 44.9 three times and placed fourth in the event as a freshman, and fellow fourth-year Gabriel Fantoni, who has bene sub-45 each of the last two seasons.

Austin Katz (Photo: Tim Binning)

Katz missed a second swim in 2019, placing 17th, and has only been 46.39 this season, with the 200 being his bread and butter. But he’ll be in the hunt if he’s on top form.

Fantoni enters the meet with plenty of momentum after winning a fourth consecutive Big Ten title in the event, and will be hungry for his first career NCAA ‘A’ final after placing 17th as a freshman and then 10th in 2019, swimming a time in the final that would’ve easily made the championship heat.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Shaine Casas Texas A&M 43.87 43.87
2 Kacper Stokowski NC State 44.82 44.82
3 Nicolas Albiero Louisville 44.85 44.75
4 Mitchell Whyte Louisville 45.13 44.64
5 Javier Acevedo Georgia 44.96 44.74
6 Alvin Jiang Texas 45.09 44.95
7 Daniel Carr Cal 45.35 44.86
8 Destin Lasco Cal 45.21 45.21

Darkhorse: Brendan Burns, Indiana – Burns didn’t race this event at Big Tens, opting to take on the 100 fly/100 back double here over doing both 200s. He’s lurking back near the bottom of the psych sheet with a time of 47.17, but was actually right on his best time in 45.80 at a December time trial. Given his standout Big Ten performance, including breaking 1:40 in the 200 back, he could surprise.

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bobthebuilderrocks
30 days ago

Chris Staka for the win

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
30 days ago

“Somewhere over the rainbow”😀😀

Bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  Texas A&M Swim Fan
30 days ago

Sorry but I’m not going to pay much attention to comments written by someone who started using the username “Texas A&M Swim Fan” only once A&M started rising in prominence before Casas and after the school name started appearing in SwimSwam articles more often as a result. Where were you before Casas started putting A&M in the spotlight? Better luck next time!

Admin
Reply to  Bobthebuilderrocks
30 days ago

The first appearance of “A&M Swim Fan” in the comments was in the summer of 2017, as Shaine Casas was preparing to begin his senior season of high school.

It’s up to the commenter if they’d like to divulge more specifics about a connection to the university or swim program :-).

Bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  Braden Keith
30 days ago

Ah okay Braden, thanks for that. I was simply going off of when I noticed the user starting to comment more and more often.

And yeah, I’m not about to disclose what I am aware of regarding a certain program either.

All will be shown once NCAA’s come around. 😎

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Bobthebuilderrocks
30 days ago

Well… you noticed “wrong” but then what’s new🙃. I support Texas A&M swimming which anyone should figure out but maybe you🙃. And I have my opinions just like you so… tough!!

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Braden Keith
30 days ago

Thanks for setting the record straight. Think I “touched a nerve” there but not asking Bobthebuilderrocks to “friend up” anyway!!

Swimmer
30 days ago

All fun and games until Dean the GOAT Farris pulls up

oracle
30 days ago

“The real race will be for second place.”
So Casas better brings his A-game to make it to the second place, as the winner is not on this list.

Swimmer
Reply to  oracle
30 days ago

Who’s the winner then

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Swimmer
30 days ago

You’ve noted that you have not received an answer to your question (doubt you will but I’m waiting in “anticipation” as well)!!!

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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