2021 Men’s NCAAs Day 1: Let’s Overreact to One Race


  • 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

Night one of the 2021 Men’s Division I NCAA Championships is over and done with, and just like we did way back in 2019, we’re going to do what sports fans often do best: overreact to a very small sample size. So, based on exactly one swim (timed finals of the 800 free relay), let’s take a look at which teams look like they’re “on” this week and which may be “off.”


While things looked a bit rough for Cal about halfway through the race, they managed to hold to take 2nd with a 6:08.68, over three seconds faster than they were at Pac-12s. Trenton Julian led off in 1:31.41 after splitting 1:31.51 on a flying start at Pac-12s. Daniel Carr knocked a second off of his 1:34.22 split from Pac-12s, and Destin Lasco split 1:32.12 after leading off in 1:33.28 at Pac 12s. Additionally, Bryce Mefford went 1:32.03 after going 1:32.57 at this meet in 2019. If California continues to fire on all cylinders, they could very well end up running away with this meet like they did in 2019.

The Texas A&M Aggies knocked nearly a second off of their time from SECs to take 3rd. Shaine Casas went from 1:31.28 leading off at SECs to 1:30.59 tonight, indicating that he’s in strong form despite having been putting up fast times all season long, and if tonight is any indication, he’s looking good to nab the three individual titles we predicted. Mark Theall was nearly a second faster (1:32.52 to 1:31.46), while Koko Bratanov essentially matched his split (1:33.30 to 1:33.31), and Clayton Bobo gained about a second (1:34.53 to 1:35.43). All in all we’d say that’s an auspicious beginning for the Aggies, who we picked to finish 8th.

Georgia swam nearly two seconds faster than they did at SECs, with freshman Luca Urlando providing the key difference. He anchored in 1:32.17 tonight after leading off in 1:34.56 last month. SEC rivals got splits from Kieran Smith and Trey Freeman that were pretty similar to what they did at SECs, while Alfonso Mestre and Bobby Finke helped Florida to a roughly 1.3s improvement over seed.

While leadoff Nick Albiero matched his time to the one hundredth, the other three Louisville legs combined to drop nearly three seconds from their time at ACCs. Colton Paulson and Michael Eastman were about a second faster than they were last month, while Kyle Worrell, a relay-only swimmer making his NCAA debut, anchored in 1:34.93, nearly a second faster than the 1:35.72 that Louisville got from Hayden Curley last month. That seems to bode well for the Cardinals, who could end finishing in the top 5 in the remaining four relays.

It was a bit surprising to see UVA sprint star Matt Brownstead leading off the Cavaliers’ relay. But the freshman crushed his previous personal best of 1:36.15 by nearly exactly three seconds, going 1:33.16. Granted, he hasn’t swum that event much this year, and isn’t entered in it, but it’s worth noting that that time would put him 16th on the psych sheet, whereas he seeded 39th in the 100 fly.


As we said last week: we are likely attributing way too much to tonight by generalizing a single performance to an entire meet’s outlook. Nonetheless, here are a few swimmers who arguably underperformed either based on last year’s swim or expectations we’ve built over this season.

It’s hard to say that Texas looked bad when they won this race with one of the fastest times in history. Carson Foster and Jake Sannem had solid splits, but as a team they were right on their time from December. Drew Kibler led off in 1:30.65, just a hair off of his 1:30.57 season-best. After Kieran Smith went 1:29 again leading off for Floria, it doesn’t seem immediately apparent that Kibler will challenge Smith in either the 500 or the 200 free over the next two days. (Although, again, that’s the kind of “questionable” that just about every other swimmers would be quite pleased with).

Austin Katz split 1:33.02 after going 1:31.45 on this relay in 2019. That’s definitely not a bad time, and in fact was 1.5s than his split from Big 12s, but that may indicate he’s more of a middle-of-the-pack A-finalist in his signature event, the 200 back, rather than vying with Casas for the title.

Katz was the 2018 NCAA Champion as a freshman and placed 2nd at the last NCAA Championship meet in 2019, but enters as just the 15th seed in that event this season. Texas doesn’t need a win per se in that 200 back from Katz, but an A-final finish in an event where Cal has the #2, #3, and #4 seeds would be a big help to the Longhorn cause.

While USC got a great 1:31.82 leadoff from Alexei Sancov, the other three legs were each about a second slower than they were at Pac-12s. It was a similar story for both Michigan and Ohio State, where in each case the leadoff leg (Patrick Callan for Michigan, Paul Delakis for Ohio State), were almost right on their times from Big Tens, but the other three legs combined to be about two seconds slower. Virginia Tech had the opposite problem: while three legs were pretty solid, leadoff Blake Manoff‘s 1:34.28 was nearly two seconds off his season-best time, and he’s slated for the 100 fly/200 free double on Friday.

Seed Time v Actual Time

Below, we’ve done the math on how 800 free relay teams performed based on their seed time. The teams are in order of their finish.

Team Seed Time Actual Time Difference
Texas 6:07.34 6:07.25 -0.09
Cal 6:11.98 6:08.68 -3.30
Texas A&M 6:11.63 6:10.79 -0.84
Florida 6:12.24 6:10.91 -1.33
NC State 6:12.68 6:12.06 -0.62
Georgia 6:14.00 6:12.34 -1.66
Stanford 6:12.83 6:13.02 +0.19
Louisville 6:16.61 6:13.72 -2.89
Indiana 6:16.12 6:14.68 -1.44
Virginia Tech 6:14.04 6:15.19 +1.15
Michigan 6:13.00 6:15.54 +2.54
Arizona 6:16.30 6:16.34 +0.04
Virginia 6:17.89 6:16.44 -1.45
Ohio State 6:14.51 6:16.63 +2.12
Missouri 6:17.02 6:17.97 +0.95
Notre Dame 6:19.07 6:18.04 -1.03
Wisconsin 6:20.24 6:19.34 -0.90
USC 6:17.04 6:19.91 +2.87
Georgia Tech 6:18.85 6:20.42 +1.57
U.S. Navy 6:18.54 6:20.96 +2.11
UNC 6:20.96 6:23.37 +2.41
Tennessee 6:19.61 6:23.69 +3.08

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5 months ago

SwimSwam is very nice – They did not say who is looking bad!!! Thank you. Come on boy VOLS you can swim better.

5 months ago

I notice Michigan replaced their star sprinter, Borges, with Danny Berlitz, who is more an IM’er. Me thinks they are going to emphasize the shorter relays. I would love to know who else replaced a faster swimmer with a slower one for this relay. It probably cost Michigan a second. But may be strategic in the long run.

Reply to  Oldmanswimmer
5 months ago

seems like teams are using same strategy in women and men meets

5 months ago

Get ready for Urlando to be the super star swiss army knife we all know he can be. He is gonna give Georgia a big relay boost and expect his individuals to all be solid reliable A final swims.

5 months ago

Oh we’re over-reacting now? Fire Durden, he just will never win a title at Cal. If you’re OK with mediocrity keep him around but if you want to vie for the title he has shown he just can’t win

Reply to  Harambe
5 months ago


Reply to  Harambe
5 months ago

Durden can’t hear you over his four championship rings

Reply to  PVSFree
5 months ago

I’m just saying, his swimmers combined for a grand total of 0 points at the 2020 NCAA swimming championship /S

Right Dude Here
Reply to  Harambe
5 months ago

Forgot the /s there

5 months ago

Hmmm… Impact on the rest of the meet looking at the 800FR??? Some swimmers faster/some slower. Some relays faster/some slower. No ‘strokes’ signals other than freestyle. No diving yet. No COVID positive tests (whew)… I think CAL should be ecstatic for the 2 team points gained to close the race with Texas with only one event down. That’s about all I saw from this one race.

Since the soothsayers are already out, let me go on the record here to say Katz may just surprise all the pseudo-shocked commentors when the ‘backwards‘ strokes come later…depends on how the taper hits him as the meet goes on. He was only .03sec from a 1:32 BTW!

So glad to see… Read more »

Reply to  Back2Back
5 months ago

Back2back—if you want to continue to look through your rose colored glasses about Austin Katz’s relay performance tonight, then you have been drinking too much Tom Herman Kool-aid. He looked bad. His stroke looked bad. He finished poorly. Anyone with swimming knowledge and history of his swimming knows it WAS a bad swim. From every angle. Now, good news for him is he doesn’t have to swim anymore freestyle in competition this week. And I will say that if anyone can turn it around in a hurry and maximize tomorrow’s day off for his advantage it is Mr Katz. Dude is a racer pure and simple and hope he is not injured and can compete at his best this week… Read more »

Dont @ me
Reply to  Buckeyeboy
5 months ago

Don’t be trashing swimmers in the name of Ohio unless they are from the state up North

Reply to  Dont @ me
5 months ago

Both of his parents are Michigan alumna I believe.

5 months ago

I think texas swimming fast at mid season and then not having quite the drop everyone expects here isn’t surprising. They will have to rely on depth and key swims from younger guys to pull this off.

And diving

Agree, it won’t be about winning for texas, but making sure you are in the A final if seeded there, and then trying to beat whateve Cal swimmer is next to you

Easier said than done

Reply to  Horninco
5 months ago

Over/under on diving comments the next few days? Ill say 153 comments 398 follow up posts arguing about it

5 months ago

This meet is won in prelims. Tomorrow morning will tell us much more than tonight did. Cal on paper should open up a lead on Texas.

5 months ago

I still think Texas is going to win.