2024 NCAA Men’s Championship: Day 1 Overreaction – More of an Appraisal/It Hasn’t Sunk in Yet

by Mark Wild 16

March 27th, 2024 ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, College, News, Opinion, Pac-12, SEC


This article is written from the author’s opinionated perspective and may not reflect the views of other contributors or SwimSwam itself.

JEEZ! Can’t you make it easier on us writers? Why did we need to have a new NCAA, Meet, and US Open record by one team and an American record by another team in one heat? We saw the fastest 50-back split and fastest 50-breast splits ever, and neither of their teams won the event. (Major Foreshadowing Ahead) And that was just the first event.

The 800 Free Relay was exhilarating and gave me heart palpitations. We saw an NCAA Record by Luke Hobson leading off the relay for Texas, hitting the wall in 1:29.13 to only eight minutes later be surpassed by Leon Marchand in 1:28.97. And YET, neither of these teams won the event as Cal, like Florida in the Medley, stormed back to take a chunk out of the NCAA record.

Comment Section: Insert whatever celebratory/panicking/yelling gif here

Let us all collectively take a breath and do some yoga (maybe), and then we can break it down.

“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records” -William Arthur Ward

Florida made a statement. Freestyle U can sprint. In Stroke. The Gator men sliced nearly half a second off ASU’s NCAA record as the quartet of Adam Chaney (20.29), Julian Smith (22.55), Josh Liendo (18.97), and Macguire McDuff (18.34) combined to touch the wall in 1:20.15, a new NCAA, Meet and US Open record. It’s not that ASU swam poorly, as they tied their own record, but Josh Liendo (who didn’t swim this at SECs) was nearly a full second faster than Scotty Buffs 19.75 and Liendo’s 19.57 from last year.

  • What does this mean? Well, from my perspective, Liendo has to jump up towards the top of the list in not only the 100 free (he is the defending champion) but also greatly improves his chances in the 50 free and 100 fly. His likely opponents in the freestyle events, Jordan Crooks, Jack Alexy, and Guilherme Santos, all had acceptable performances in their 50s. Crooks was 19.70 on the fly but has been as fast as 18.90, Alexy was just 18.40, and Santos was 18.36

NC State has a way of just showing up in the relays. The quartet of Aiden Hayes, Sam HooverLuke Miller, and Quintin McCarty nabbed 3rd in the 200 medley in a new American record of 1:20.98, besting Florida’s 1:21.66 from SECs. NC State had beaten it themselves 30 minutes prior to Florida’s swim, posting a 1:21.86. What is remarkable is that this group is entirely different from their NCAA winning team of 2023, and still, with that sudden loss of talent, have been time and time again able to rebuild and drop time.

Don’t worry—I haven’t forgotten about the 800 Free Relay; I’m still processing it.

“And the way to it is long and steep and rough at first” – Hesiod

There are plenty of quotes about things being bad before they get better, and for some of these swimmers, things turned around quickly, like 45 minutes or so, but many will have to wait a few more hours to get a chance of redemption.

Last year, Marchand was 22.27 on the breaststroke leg of the relay. Tonight, he was just a paltry 22.59, leading some people (I see you, comment section) to pronounce ASU dead or tapered too early. Marchand, who is entered in the three slowest events (by time) outside of the mile, the 500 free, 400 IM, and 200 Breast, probably hasn’t focused much on the 50 breast, an event in which every detail ( the hunching of the shoulders, the turnover rate, the ratio of time spent under the water vs. on top, etc.) is so important that one wrong step can throw everything out of wack. This is not to say that he is excused, however, as it’s not as if he has suddenly stopped swimming any breaststroke.

Jack Alexy anchored the Cal relay, which had the fastest 50-breast ever (22.25 by Liam Bell), to a 4th-place finish in 18.40. One year ago, he anchored in 18.11 and posted an 18.12 in the 200-free relay, and with the summer he had, he was expected to perform much faster.

Jordan Crooks was .80 off his best-ever relay split, which doesn’t seem like a lot to the untrained eye but is massive when the margins are in the hundredths. As a team, Tennessee dropped one place in the seedings and added .09 from their seed and .42 from last year,

Woof. Despite the highs from the relay win in the 200 Med, Florida struggled in the 800 Free Relay, adding over 1.5 seconds to their seed, with the Gators double dipping using McDuff and Smith on the opening legs. Georgia, too, added close to 1.5 seconds, with both teams dropping out of their top 3 seeds to finish in 4th and 5th. If there is any consolation, neither team would have jumped into the top three if they swam their entry times.

Louisville was hurt greatly by their DQ in the relay. The team’s cumulative time of 1:22.54  would have earned them 8th place in the 200 Medley but instead earned them nothing.

  • What does this mean? It’s Day 1, so it means nothing but also everything. Cooldowns and team meetings are happening and those set the stage for tomorrow morning. How can swimmers and teams rebound from adversity? Can they be like a goldfish and forget or will the troubles of one bad swim follow them around?
  • In the points realm, ASU not defending its seed, in either event, isn’t a death knell, but it certainly doesn’t mean we should crown them as champions quite yet.

“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain

Leon Marchand and Jack Alexy are goldfish. Both rebounded after the disappointing swims in the 50 to post superb 200 times.

Texas’s slow and well-noted decline from the top may have got a stay of execution. Despite falling out of the top 8 in the 200 Medley, Texas jumped up eight spots in the 800 free relay to claim bronze in 6:05.33. While a far cry from their former NCAA record of 6:03.42 from last year. Hobson’s 1:29.13 should give the Longhorns the boost and confidence they need to move the team rankings.

Jack Alexy turned a disappointing 50 free into a speedy 1:30.50 200 free split. As someone known for their speed and with a personal best of 1:32.74 from a duel meet this past January, Alexy’s split stands out a little. Not only does it lead one to wonder how much he can improve upon his #27 seed in the individual event, but it also leads one to wonder just what’s in that Cal pool water as his split was just the 3rd fastest on the team.

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson.

Yes, a 1:30.50 ranked 3rd on the team, showing not only the depth of the Cal team but also the team mentality. Gabriel Jett led off in 1:30.32, a great improvement upon his seed of 1:31.78. Destin Lasco nearly replicated his 1:29.53 from last year, swimming a 1:29.60 tonight, and Robin Hanson brought it home in 1:31.84. While none of them were as fast as Marchand’s 1:28.97 or Hobson’s 1:29.13, Jett, Lasco, and Alexy were all the next fastest swimmers, save for Chris Guiliano’s 1:30.36 which bumps Alexy down one spot in the combined flat and rolling starts list.

  • What does this mean? Teamwork Baby! You can’t win a National Championship alone. As great as Gretchen Walsh and Alex Walsh are they couldn’t win without each other and the likes of Jasmine Nocentini, Ella Nelson, Maxine Parker, and on and on.
  • Despite the accolades awarded to Marchand and the relatively poor splits from his teammates (Hubert Kos’s 1:32.29 squared off against Lasco’s 1:29.60), he will still need to depend on them in the next coming days if ASU hopes to be crowned National Champions. ASU holds the top two seeds in the 500 Free and 200 IM and will need to be on point, or else they may find themselves slipping versus their projected points.
  • Also, I know this is supposed to be an overreaction, but that yoga really helped calm me down or maybe that 6:02.26 just hasn’t sunk in yet. But this visual below shows, not only the massive leads that ASU and Texas were given by their dominant lead-offs but also the teamwork put in by Cal to just dominate their closest competition over the last three legs.  Lasco’s 1:29.60 may get the buzz and attention as he jumped them well past ASU, but Jett’s lead-off is a new personal, Alexy’s split was a massive improvement, and Hanson wasn’t on the 2023 NCAA roster, making his inclusion all the more note-worthy.


“Ah-Ah-Ah” – Count Von Count

Much like my nephews learning to count via Sesame Street, the numbers don’t reflect what we all thought might happen.

Cal and Florida stand at the top with 70 points, but both had ups and downs. Cal dropped a spot in the 200 Med but jumped to the top in the 800, while the Gators jumped up in Medley but dropped in the 800. ASU sits just two points back with 68, meaning that 9th-16th place tomorrow will all the more important.

Indiana is sitting in 4th place with 52 points despite having the 6th-ranked 200 Medley Relay and 8th-ranked 800 Free Relay, but are just barely holding off NC State and Texas who are tied for 5th at 50 points. Don’t be too alarmed at Tennessee’s 10th place (28 points), as they didn’t field an 800 Free Relay. The most unexpected ranking would be Louisville’s 12th place (24 points), but that can be accounted for by the DQ, but it is costly as their projected 8th-place finish in the 200 Medley would have netted them 22 points and easily placed them within the top 8.

TLDR (I learned this acronym this season)

  • Fastest split in 50 back and 50 breast, yet neither team won the 200 Medley Relay
  • Fastest two 200 frees ever and new American and NCAA record holders, yet neither team won the 800 Free Relay
  • ASU not invincible; tomorrow morning will be a litmus test
  • Texas not dead
  • Cal is making people pay for sleeping on them
  • I’m too calm to overreact haha.

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1 month ago

TLDR – I’m so glad you learned this ACRONYM this year but so angry you never told us what it stands for.

Reply to  mds
1 month ago

Too Long Didn’t Read

1 month ago

Fun read, I like the style!

Mark Tame
1 month ago

Thank you for this article. I find it difficult to digest swim news without a steady stream of platitudes.

1 month ago

I can’t say I’d like to see every SS article done in this style, but I enjoyed this more colloquial approach. Having the more high minded quotes was a nice contrast (love the Phil Jackson quote). The info graphic was a little disorienting (at first I thought it was glitching) with the back ground moving, but after watching it a few times it made sense and I liked it. Great stuff!

1 month ago

Thank you!
No, after last night, Texas is ain’t dead!!

1 month ago

I don’t know that struggle is the word I’d use for UF. Liendo swam on the 800 free relay at SECs but was used here instead for a new NCAA record in the 200 medley relay. They tied to the hundredth the school record they broke at SECs and the best they were going to finish here was 4th unless they broke the new school record set at SECs by over a second.

1 month ago

This article was beautiful enough to make a grown man cry…and its only day one…sensational…please do all the overreactions from now on we are here for it

Last edited 1 month ago by Iceman
1 month ago

Great article Mark! Beautifully written. I like your hot takes and the use of quotes by Hesiod and Twain. It’s gonna be a great meet. Keep the reporting coming!

Konner Scott
Reply to  Flatlander
1 month ago

Agreed. Mark, I don’t know where you came from, but you’re a huge asset to this website. Been loving your articles.