2021 M. NCAA Picks: Hoffer and Krueger Lead Younger Field in the 100 Free

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

Before we look at this year’s field, let’s do a quick review what happened to this event between 2016 and 2019. At the 2016 NCAA Championships, a 42.36 in prelims got you to the A-final, and a 42.67 made the B-final. Fast forward just a couple years, and it’d take a 41.82/42.25 (2018) and a  41.76/42.18 (2019). Not only that, but that 42.67 scoring time from 2016 wouldn’t have even qualified you for NCAAs in 2019 or 2020. That was partially due to an incredibly stacked couple of classes, including Caeleb Dressel, the only man to break 40.0 in this event and Ryan Held, who now holds the long course 100 free U.S. Open Record, in the class of 2018, but also guys like Bowe Becker, Zach Apple, and Robert Howard, among others, in the class of 2019.

In between graduations, redshirts, and the weirdness of this year, the cut time regressed to a 42.88, but the top-end speed is still there, as there are seven men seeded under 42.0 heading into next week.

Texas junior Daniel Krueger sits at the top of the psych sheet with a 41.33 from this year’s Big 12 Championships, just a bit off of his lifetime best of 41.26 from last year’s Big 12 Champs. As a freshman in 2019, he punched his NCAA ticket with a 42.31 at Big 12s, with put him 19th on the psych sheet. He then backed up what was already a strong long course pedigree by breaking out in yards with a 41.49 in prelims, then took 4th in finals with a 41.56, making him the highest-ranked returner from 2019.

The only other returner from the 2019 A-final is Cal senior Ryan Hoffer, who sits 2nd on this year’s psych sheet with a 41.57 from the Pac-12 Championships. That’s the 3rd-fastest time of his career, with his lifetime best of 41.23 coming over five years ago when he was just 17. While surely Hoffer will be mostly focused on the team battle against Texas, you’d have to imagine that at least in the back of his mind he’d love to finally improve that time. This will be the last individual race of his college career, unless he chooses to use that extra year of eligibility that the NCAA is giving all athletes, so it would not be a surprise to see Hoffer finally  blast past the 41.0 mark here.

While last year’s cancellation of NCAAs limits our evidence, it seems like both Krueger and Hoffer stand a good chance to improve their times from their conference meets, and both men could go under 41.0, so the race for first seems likely to come down to those two men. Behind those two standouts, though, things get murky quickly.

We saw an absolute explosion of freshman speed this year in the sprint freestyles, and six of the top ten seeds are underclassmen, part of a trend we’ve seen with this event getting younger. In 2018, none of the top 13 swimmers were underclassmen, in 2019, there was only one underclassmen in the top 10 seed, and last year, there were four in the top 10.

This year, the underclassmen ranks are led by Alabama freshman Matt King, who’s seeded 3rd with a 41.66. At this time last year, King’s lifetime best was a 43.22, and he’s now beaten that mark on five occasions this season, culminating in a 41.66 victory at last month’s SEC championships.

Matthew Brownstead with UVA wins first in 100 Yard Freestyle during the 2021 ACC Men’s Swimming Championship in Greensboro, N.C. Friday, Feb. 27, 2021 (Photo by Jaylynn Nash, the ACC)

Back in December, King squared off against fellow freshman Matt Brownstead of UVA at the UT Double Dual meet. Brownstead has been on a similar trajectory, cracking 43.0 for the first time at that meet, and then winning the ACC title in this event with a 41.87, good for 5th on the psych sheet.

In between the two freshmen Matts, LSU sophomore Brooks Curry is #5 on the psych sheet with a 41.80. Curry had a big breakout performance as a freshman at last year’s SEC Championships, and he took 2nd to King in this event this year, shaving 0.01s off his lifetime best with that swim.

The next two men are a pair of juniors who known primarily for their 200/500 prowess, but both hit lifetime bests in this event this year as well. Longhorn Drew Kibler made the B-final of this event as a freshman in 2019, making him the third and final returning scorer from 2019. Kibler generated headlines with a 4:08 in the 500 free back in October, but he got under 42 for the first time at the Texas of Fame Invite in December, clocking a 41.92 that puts him 6th on the psych sheet.

Right behind Smith is Florida’s Kieran Smith, who finished 15th in the 200 back as a freshman, but is switching to this event this year. At SECs last month, Smith took 3rd behind King and Curry with a 42.11 before dropping a lifetime best of 41.94 leading off Florida’s 400 free relay on the final race of the meet.

Louisville wins the 2021 ACC Men’s Swimming Championship in Greensboro, N.C. Friday, Feb. 27, 2021 (Photo by Jaylynn Nash, the ACC)

Egyptian national Haridi Sameh initially projected to be more of a 50 free and fly guy for the Louisville Cardinals, but he’s had tremendous success in the 100 free as well. As a sophomore this year he’s lowered his personal best from 42.89 to 42.03. That 42.03 came leading off Louisville’s 400 free relay after going 42.07 individually to take 2nd behind Brownstead.

It’s a similar story for Michigan sophomore River Wright set his lifetime best leading off the 400 free relay, hitting a 42.06 after going 42.50 individually. Sameh and Wright sit 8th and 9th on the psych sheet.

Florida freshman Adam Chaney actually has the fastest 50 free time in the nation in the season, but unlike King and Brownstead, he hasn’t cracked 42.0 yet, instead going 42.20. Taken alone, we’d say that indicates that Chaney is more of a pure sprinter, but he’s been sub-45 in the 100 back, and split 47.94 (LCM) anchoring the USA’s medley relay at the 2019 World Junior Championships, indicating that it should be a matter of when, not if, he gets under 42.

There are a ton of names bunch up in the 42.2 range on the psych sheet along with Chaney, led by Pitt senior Blaise Vera has been 42.21 this year, but has a lifetime best of 42.04 from the 2019 ACC Championships. Ohio State’s Semuede Andreis (42.23), Purdue’s Nikola Acin (42.27), and Virginia Tech’s Youssef Ramadan (42.27) round out the 42.2 group, with all three having hit lifetime bests at their respective conference championships.

Unlike some other events, there aren’t any guys seeded lower who have been notably faster, meaning that it seems likely that the A-final should mostly come from the top 10 or 12 seeds, although Michigan senior Gus Borges does have a lifetime best of 42.21 from the 2019 NCAA Championships, and he’s seeded 19th with a 42.50 this year.

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Daniel Krueger Texas 41.33 41.26
2 Ryan Hoffer Cal 41.57 41.23
3 Brooks Curry LSU 41.80 41.80
4 Drew Kibler Texas 41.92 41.92
5 Kieran Smith Florida 41.94 41.94
6 Matt Brownstead Virginia 41.87 41.87
7 Matt King Alabama 41.66 41.66
8 Blaise Vera Pitt 42.21 42.04

Dark Horse – Bjorn Seeliger – Cal (43.03)

The native of Sweden had a strong showing in his first Pac-12 Championships, including the 3rd-fastest time in the nation in the 50 free (18.84). He anchored Cal’s medley relay in 41.21 and split 41.43 on the 400 free relay, but went 43.02 and 43.10 in prelims and finals of the individual 100 free. He’s only 40th on the psych sheet, but those relay splits indicate he should be good for at least a 42 mid-to-low, and flirting with the 42.0 mark should put him in contention for an A-final spot.

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Horninco
24 days ago

I do wonder if quite a few of these freshmen are going to take a slight step back next week, only to the fact that many of them were probably fully or close to fully tapered for their conference meets

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  Horninco
24 days ago

Most will take a step back, not just the freshman. It’s so difficult to qualify for NCAAS that most have to go all out for their conference meet just to qualify. As a result, most have to do a double taper and swim slower during the second taper. It’s very rare that someone swims faster after double tapering.

Only the top swimmers can focus solely on NCAAs and still qualify for the meet.

25Backstroke
24 days ago

Wasn’t Ryan Hoffer’s best time from high school?

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  25Backstroke
24 days ago

Yes

toastedcoconut
24 days ago

Isn’t Bjorn from Sweden, not Switzerland?