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
- Championship Central
- Psych Sheets
- Live Results
- NCAA Record: 17.63, Caeleb Dressel (Florida) – 2018
- American Record: 17.63, Caeleb Dressel (Florida) – 2018
- U.S. Open Record: 17.63, Caeleb Dressel (Florida) – 2018
- Meet Record: 17.63, Caeleb Dressel (Florida) – 2018
- 2019 Champion: Ryan Hoffer (Cal), 18.63
There are two intriguing storylines coming into the 50 freestyle at the 2021 Men’s NCAAs.
One is that Ryan Hoffer, the defending champion from 2019 and the #1 ranked swimmer in the nation last season prior to the NCAA cancellation, is on the cusp of entering rarefied air if he can repeat in the event.
The other is the influx of underclassmen we saw break 19 seconds during conference season — including four freshman — and what they can do with that momentum in the biggest meet of their young careers.
Hoffer’s Quest To Repeat
Recent history shows just how difficult it is to repeat in the men’s 50 free if your name isn’t Caeleb Dressel.
Dressel won four straight from 2015 to 2018, but other than that, only sub-21 LCM 50 freestylers Fred Bousquet (2003-05) and Cesar Cielo (2007-08) have won the event consecutively dating back to 1991. Nathan Adrian, the greatest American sprinter of the last decade, is the only other swimmer to win multiple titles during that span, claiming the 50 in 2009 and 2011.
So, can Hoffer get the job done? By the numbers, he’s facing the most elite field in history, with seven men going 18-point prior to NCAAs. But given his propensity to drop from Pac-12s to NCAAs in each of his first two years, coupled with the fact that his 18.81 last month was the fastest he’s ever been at a conference meet, he’s going to be tough to beat.
Two seasons ago he won the event in 18.63 (after going what remains his best time of 18.58 in the heats) — after going 19.12 at Pac-12s. This season’s 18.81 tells us he’s got a great shot to overtake Cielo (18.47) for #2 all-time in the event.
History tells us it’s a rare feat for a freshman to go under 19 seconds. I guess this year’s class didn’t get the memo.
Last month we saw Florida’s Adam Chaney (18.76), Cal’s Bjorn Seeliger (18.84), Virginia’s Matt Brownstead (18.88) and Alabama’s Matt King (18.96) dip under the barrier in their first year, with sophomores Dillon Downing (Georgia, 18.90) and Brooks Curry (LSU, 18.97) doing so as well.
It’s unprecedented both to see this many freshman go sub-19 and this many swimmers to do so prior to NCAAs.
|Season||Sub-19s Prior to NCAAs|
Prior to the conference championship explosion, none of the six underclassmen had broken 19.2, with Chaney’s drop (19.51 to 18.76) the most drastic. The question then becomes who can recreate this swim at NCAAs — and can anyone go better?
The one that jumps out is Seeliger, who only has a handful of SCY 50s under his belt having come over from Sweden at the beginning of the season. We know Cal wasn’t fully rested for Pac-12s, and the same can’t be said for some of the other teams. For example, Kieran Smith openly said Florida was rested and shaved as they gunned for the SEC title.
Seeliger’s also already 21 years old, perhaps giving him an even greater edge over the others. At least this season, his ceiling seems a bit higher than the rest of the first and second years. His 18.38 relay split reinforces that.
Another thing we can look to is consistency — Chaney went 18 three times at SECs, Seeliger and King did so twice, and the rest only did so once. That lets us know that they didn’t have to have the perfect swim to get there, they were able to recreate it, and thus have a better chance of doing so again this week.
Pittsburgh’s Blaise Vera has consistently been in the mix in this event, placing 25th in 2019 and ranking ninth in the country last season (19.10) before hitting a lifetime best 19.03 at ACCs.
Perhaps flying under the radar a little bit is Texas’ Daniel Krueger, seeded 10th at 19.10. His best event is clearly in the 100, where he’s now been sub-42 eight times (including twice this season), but the junior seems too good not to be the 18s sooner or later.
Other factors include juniors Sem Andreis of OSU and Jack Franzman of Indiana, who both hit respective bests of 19.05 and 19.14 in early March. Sophomores Haridi Sameh (Louisville) and Joseph Armstrong (OSU), along with stud freshman Youssef Ramadan (Virginia Tech) are three others to keep an eye on after going 19.1s during conference season.
Seeded down in 21st is Michigan’s Luiz Gustavo Borges, son of 1995 champion Gustavo Borges, who placed 15th in 2019 and then was ranked eighth last season in 19.09. He’s someone who likely has more in the tank than his 19.31 seed suggests.
TOP 8 PICKS
|Place||Swimmer||Team||Season Best||Lifetime Best|
Darkhorse: Gabe Castano, Penn State – Penn State impressively has three men seeded inside the top 25 in this event. Sitting at 25th is senior Gabe Castano, who narrowly missed a second swim at NCAAs in 2019 (17th) before dropping a personal best time of 19.06 at last season’s Big Tens – ranking him fifth in the country – only to have the national meet cancelled. The #2 ranked returner from last season behind Hoffer, he’ll have a great chance at the ‘A’ final if he can lean on his experience and be right on his PB when it matters most.