I was one of four who filled out a ballot for the first edition of men’s power rankings that were recently released. This was the first time I’ve done a power rankings ballot, and my #20 pick of Miami (FL) struck some readers as out of the box. That’s not an unreasonable reaction considering Miami doesn’t even have a men’s swim team, only a diving team made up of 3 divers. So I’ll explain why I believe putting Miami at #20 is not only incredibly plausible, but may actually be somewhat conservative.
For the sake of providing context, it’s important to note that Miami dropped its men’s swimming program after the 2000-2001 season. In the 15 seasons since, Miami has only had a diving team and they have placed in the top 20 at NCAAs 7 times, the highest of which was at the 2002 championships where they placed 13th and scored 106 points. That shows what a team can do at NCAAs based solely on diving. You can view the complete NCAA Men’s Championships history here.
With that in mind, first I’ll explain my ranking methodology:
The first thing I did to start my ballot was to take all teams that scored at NCAAs last year and subtract out the individual points they lost to graduation or transfers. Next, I looked at the incoming class and estimated how many potential points they could add individually, and how they would effect relays. After that I listed out the top 25 teams from my new point totals. When I did that, believe it or not, Miami was #17 on my list. I finalized my top #20 by looking over the list to see if I had any gut reactions to it, and moved teams accordingly. That step actually briefly moved Miami out of my top 20, until I thought about it more and put them at #20, removing Virginia Tech.
So here’s why Miami is a strong top 20 contender:
They finished 21st at NCAAs last year with 51 points. They had 2 divers compete, Briadam Herrera and David Dinsmore, both of whom scored and return to the team this year. Herrera is a senior this year and has scored at NCAAs in all 3 of his previous seasons, improving every year. He placed 2nd in 3 meter and 5th in 1 meter diving last year, so there is still a little room for improvement from him. Dinsmore is a sophomore this year, and won platform diving last year as a freshman. Their return alone puts them in right about the same place as last year (around 21st). The factor that I believe puts them in the top 20 is the addition of 2016 10 meter AT&T National Champion, 2-time Jr. National Platform Champion, 4-time National Team member, and 2-time Jr. World Championship Team member, Zach Cooper. I think it would be unrealistic to suggest Cooper won’t score in at least one diving event at NCAAs this season, which will only boost Miami upwards from the position it ended in last season.
One more thing I’ll add is that I believe the fact that Miami only has 3 people on its team is an overall advantage to them. That means those 3 divers get all of their coach’s attention, which in my opinion makes them more likely to improve than at other schools with a larger diving roster. Purdue runs their diving program similarly, keeping a low number of very high level divers, and their diving program is one of the best in the world.
Even given all of that though, I put Miami at #20 when I could have realistically put them as high as #17, in my opinion. Historically, it takes roughly 70-85 points to get 17th at NCAAs, which would be an increase of about 20-30 points for Miami, which I believe is what they are looking at, assuming they don’t have any injuries or anything along those lines. However, the reason I still kept them at #20 is that predicting diving placement can still be pretty volatile, even at the highest levels, and one mistake in prelims can stop even the best diver from qualifying for finals. That’s why I kept it on the low end, even though I personally believe we’ll see Miami crack the top 20 by a couple places next March.
Update: Originally post said Miami dropped its men’s swim team before the 2000-2001 season, the 2000-2001 season was actually the last season the swim team was active.