2022 Men’s NCAA Championships: Day 4 Finals Preview

2022 NCAA DIVISION I MEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

We’re about 90 minutes away from the start of the final session of the 2022 Men’s NCAA Division I Swimming & Diving Championships, and what a night it promises to be.

The Cal Bears got the job done in this morning’s prelims, and they’re projected to be ahead by about 60 points tonight, but that doesn’t count the mile, diving, or the 400 free relay.

So, Texas isn’t completely out of it yet, but they need to swim lights out and would probably take advantage of a fairly unlikely Cal miscue to have a real chance.

1650 Free: Finke Versus 14:12

Swimmers will usually tell you that it’s about winning, not time, at this meet, and that’s true, to an extent. But since Florida senior Bobby Finke shattered the U.S Open Record in the 1650 at the 2020 SEC Championships with a 14:12.08, he’s clocked a 14:12.18 and a 14:12.52, and you have to think he really wants finish the race tonight and see 14:11 or better on the scoreboard.

No one else in the field has been faster than 14:24, so this feels like it’s Finke’s race to lose.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be any drama, though. Texas has two men, David Johnston and Luke Hobson, who will be swimming with Finke in the final heat, and the Longhorns will need both swimmers to come up big to have any chance of overtaking Cal today.

200 Back – Record Watch & Bear Dominance

We’ve already seen Ryan Murphy’s 50 and 100 yard backstroke records go down this week. Could the 200 go tonight?

As a freshman last year, Cal’s Destin Lasco took 2nd to Shaine Casas in this event, with both men joining Murphy in the 1:35 club. Casas was 0.02s shy of Murphy’s mark of 1:35.73, while Lasco wasn’t far behind at 1:35.99.

Lasco has set new personal bests in the 200 IM and the 100 back this week, and he looks to have a great shot at nearing or surpassing Murphy’s mark. He had the fastest prelims time this morning with a 1:37.80, touching just ahead of Texas’ Carson Foster (1:38.00).

The Bears should pile up the points in this event, as Daniel Carr and Bryce Mefford join Lasco in the A-final, and Colby Mefford will swim the B-final.

100 Free – Anyone’s Game?

Cal’s Bjorn Seeliger has absolutely been on fire this week, and after a 18.27 leading off the Bears’ 200 free relay and a 40.75 in this morning’s prelims, he’s now faster than anyone not named Caeleb Dressel in both events.

But it was LSU’s Brooks Curry who got his hand on the wall first in the individual 50 free, beating Seeliger 18.56 to 18.59. Meanwhile, two men  tied for 3rd in that final at 18.60, Tennessee freshman Jordan Crooks and Matt Brownstead of UVA.

Each of the top four men from that thrilling 50 free will appear in the A-final of the 100 free tonight, along with 100 fly champion Andrei Minakov of Stanford, 200 free champion Drew Kibler of Texas, his teammate Daniel Krueger, who tied Kibler for 2nd last year in this event, and Brownstead’s teammate Matt King.

Seeliger was the only man under 41 this morning, with the rest of the top eight finishing between 41.16 and 41.52, but this should be an exhilarating race from start to finish.

200 Breast – Senior Legacy on the Line

With Max McHugh, Reece Whitley, and Daniel Roy, this is arguably one the best crops of senior breaststrokers of all-time, and all three will be racing in the final tonight.

But it was a freshman, Penn’s Matt Fallon, who led prelims with his time of 1:49.03, making him the fastest freshman ever in the event.

McHugh was only 0.01s faster than Fallon’s time from this morning when he won this event last year, and Whitley has actually been faster than both, owning a lifetime best of 1:48.53, which makes him the 2nd-fastest performer of all-time, behind only Will Licon.

200 Fly – Record…or Just Get It Done?

Louisville fifth year Nick Albiero is the defending champion, and he also posted the fastest prelims time this morning with a 1:39.22.

But Luca Urlando and Cal’s Trenton Julian were also under 1:40 this morning, going 1:39.79 and 1:39.87, and you have to wonder what Urlando can do here, given his pedigree in this event and his 100 back record yesterday.

It feels like there is a decent chance we could see Jack Conger’s all-time mark of 1:37.35 go down tonight. Or, given that this is the last individual event after a long four days of racing, this could develop into a fairly tactical as the top few guys battle just to get their hands on the wall first.

Also keep an eye on the B-final, where NC State’s Aiden Hayes will be swimming for his second 17-18 NAG record of the week. He already owns the mark with a 1:40.39 at ACCs, and he went 1:40.66 this morning, just missing making the top eight.

400 Free Relay – Will The Overall Runner-Up Win Again?

Last year, Cal won this relay as the Texas won the overall team title. In 2019, Texas memorably put together something of an ad hoc relay that came up big even as Cal ended the Longhorns four-peat as national champions.

There’s definitely potential for that trend to continue. Cal looks likely to finish in the top of the standings, while Texas had three of the top nine times in the individual 100 free this morning with Kibler, Krueger, and Cameron Auchinachie. Caspar Corbeau, who made the 200 breast final, joined those the other three on the 200 free relay, and he seems likely to do so again.

But Cal’s relays have been strong the last two days too, and they could trot out a lineup of Seeliger, Lasco, and some combination of several other swimmers and conceivably win as well.

Of course, you can’t count out Florida, who won the 200 free and 200 medley relays, UVA, who joined Texas with two men in the 100 free A-final, and Arizona State or NC State, who have the #2 and #3 times in the nation so far this season.

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Back2Back
4 months ago

RELAY! RELAY!! RELAY!!!

About Robert Gibbs