We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs for the 2018-2018 season – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24. Can’t get enough college swimming news? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for more in-depth college swimming coverage, including a bird’s-eye view of the flood of coaching changes and our ever-popular rankings of the top 50 individual swimmers in college swimming.
#3 Indiana Hoosiers
Key Losses: Blake Pieroni (43 NCAA Points, 4 NCAA Relays), Michael Hixon (36 NCAA Points), Levi Brock (15 NCAA Points)
Key Additions: Zach Apple (Auburn Transfer – sprint free), Michael Brinegar (IN – Distance), Jack Franzman (IN – sprint free), Zane Backes (CA – breast), Andrew Couchon (IN – breast/sprint free), Brandon Hamblin (VA – sprint free/fly), Van Mathias (OR – Fly/IM)
As the NCAA finish order is determined by points, we base our grading scale on projected NCAA points. Versatility and high ceilings are nice, but they don’t win you NCAA titles unless they bring points with them. Bear in mind that all of these grades are projections more than 6 months out – and as none of us has a working crystal ball, these projections are very subjective and very likely to change over the course of the season. Disagreeing with specific grades is completely acceptable; furiously lashing out at a writer, commenter or specific athlete is not.
- A = projected to score significant (10+) NCAA points per event
- B = projected to score some (3-10) NCAA points per event
- C = projected on the bubble to score likely only a few (1-2) or no NCAA points per event
- D = projected to score no NCAA points
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200 plus the 200, 400 and 800 free relays), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.
2017-2018 LOOK BACK
The Indiana Hoosiers outperformed expectations at the NCAAs, led by Blake Pieroni in his last collegiate season. The Hoosiers actually held the lead in team scoring over Texas and Cal going into the final day of competition, finishing comfortably in 3rd, and only 27 points behind Texas.
Blake Pieroni had an incredible senior season, making the A final in the 50, 100, and 200 free. IU’s highest point-scorer, however, was Ian Finnerty, who scored 51 individual points to Pieroni’s 43.
Overall, The Hoosiers were fueled by incredible breakthrough performances at the NCAAs, including Pieroni becoming the first man ever to break 1:30 in the 200 free, and Finnerty becoming the first ever to break :50 in the 100 breast. IU was also able to rely on their solid diving backbone, which scored 98 points, led by senior Michael Hixon.
The Hoosiers also finished in the top 9 in every relay, winning the 400 medley relay, and coming in 2nd in the 800 free relay.
SPRINT FREE: A
The loss of Blake Pieroni, no doubt, is a painful one. He brought a sub-19 50 free, 41.1 100 free, and sub-1:30 200 free to the table. That’s a tough hole to fill, but have no fear, Zach Apple is here to save the day. Apple’s times from last year were just slightly slower than Pieroni’s, clocking in at 18.97 in the 50, 41.36 in the 100, and 1:31.18 in the 200 free. Apple comes in as the 3rd fastest (tied with Ryan Hoffer) returning 50 freestyler from last years NCAAs, the 2nd fastest 100 freestyler, and the 2nd fastest 200 freestyler. When all is said and done this year, Apple could actually outscore Pieroni’s 43 individual points this year.
Mohamed Samy was also an A finalist in the 200 free, giving the Hoosiers another sprint free boost.
The Hoosiers took heavy losses to their free relays, obviously losing Pieroni, their fastest leg on all 3 relays, but also losing senior Ali Khalafalla. Khalafalla put up a solid 19.40 lead-off on the 9th place finishing 200 free relay, and a 42.29 anchor split on the 6th place finishing 400 free relay.
Apple will be able to replace Pieroni well enough, and the Hoosiers are bringing in Indiana sprint star Jack Franzman, who brings times of 19.74, 43.44, and 1:37.58 to the team. While individual scoring may be a bit of a reach for Franzman’s freshman campaign, he could certainly play a vital role in the relays, which IU is going to need if they want to match or better last year’s finish. The Hoosiers are also bringing in Brandon Hamblin, who comes in with personal bests of 20.18 and 44.62, which could also make him a very useful player on the free relays. The Hoosiers also have sophomore Bruno Blaskovic, who threw down a sub-19 50 split last year.
DISTANCE FREE: A-
The Hoosiers were somewhat strapped for top-tier distance freestylers last season, but that is no longer the case. Michael Brinegar joins the team, and is bringing with him a mile time that would have been 4th at last year’s NCAAs, and is 3rd among those who will be competing in the NCAA this season. Brinegar, who is a pure distance swimmer, will need to bring down his 500 time from 4:19 if he wants to make an impact there as well. IU will also have to figure out what his best 3rd event will be, which will all but certainly be a choice between the 200 free, where he is 1:38.9, and the 400 IM, where he is 3:55.0.
The Hoosiers are also bringing in another freshman distance star: Mikey Calvillo. Calvillo, like Brinegar, is a pure distance swimmer. He comes into the NCAA with a 15:05 personal best in the mile, which has a lot of potential. While that time is off the sub-14:50 that it will almost certainly take to score at NCAAs, it’s not out of the question that he could provide a few extra distance points to the team.
The Hoosiers are still in need of scoring potential in the 400 IM, where last year’s team leader, Spencer Lehman, could answer the call. Lehman posted a 3:47.12 in the 400 IM last year, which is well off from B finals at the NCAAs, but not so far off that it definitely couldn’t happen.
Indiana’s real IM power comes in the 200, where Vini Lanza and Ian Finnerty run the show. Last year, Lanza came in 6th in an A final which contained 3 seniors. Finnerty also made the A final, finishing in 8th. There’s currently no reason to believe they both can’t make the A final again this year, so that points to this being another strong spot in the IU roster.
Vini Lanza is back and poised to score a lot of points in the fly events as well. Lanza is the fastest returning 100 flyer from last year’s NCAAs, and the 2nd fastest 200 flyer, behind only NC State’s Andreas Vazaios. Given that, at this point in the season there’s nothing to suggest we shouldn’t expect top 3 finishes from Lanza in both fly events, again giving the Hoosiers a reliable top-end flyer. Lanza will also be tapped to swim fly on the medley relays. IU’s 400 medley won at the NCAAs last year, and loses only Pieroni, who will be replaced by Apple, suggesting the Hoosiers are the favorites in that. The 200 medley came in 4th and returns all 4, suggesting they should at least remain in the top 4.
Backstroke is likely the weakest point in the Indiana roster, and yet they have a 45.1/1:40.8 leading the way in Gabriel Fantoni. Fantoni, whose best times would have scored at last year’s NCAAs, swam just off his times in prelims, narrowly missing both B finals. A 45.1 100 back certainly has the ability to make the A final, and a 1:40 200 back is close to B final territory, so as long as Fantoni can perform at his best at the NCAAs, the Hoosiers should be able to score fairly solidly here too.
Mohamed Samy was a B finalist in both backstrokes last year, signalling that he could score a handful of points or maybe more this year as well.
Indiana head coach Ray Looze’s bread and Butter: breaststroke. IU returns the reigning champion in the 100 and 200 breast in Ian Finnerty. Finnerty is the clear favorite going into this season, suggesting that for now we can say 40 points to IU for the breaststroke events. Finnerty will also play a huge role on Indiana’s powerhouse medley relays, both of which could be in the title hunt.
That’s just the beginning for the Hoosiers , however, as they are bringing in 2 freshman breaststroke stars as well. Zane Backes brings a 53.0 100 and 1:55.0 200 to the table. His time in the 100 was less than half a second outside the top 16 at last year’s NCAAs, and his 200 time is less than a second from the top 16. That being said, it’s possible Backes can completely make up for the loss of Levi Brock, who scored 15 points in the breast events last year. Andrew Couchon is the other incoming breaststroker, coming in with a personal best 54.4 100 breast.
Before we get into our outlook, it’s important to note that Indiana is a team that will again benefit from its diving group — despite the loss of Michael Hixon, who scored 36 points for IU last year, they return Andrew Capobianco (33 points), and James Connor (29 points).
In terms of NCAA scoring ability, there is no doubt Indiana has one of the most well-rounded teams in the NCAA. With no real weak points, and a big diving advantage, this team will be one that’s hard to beat. The loss of Blake Pieroni will be made up for by Zach Apple, which is a monstrous boost to the team, because of the points he will score both individually and on relays.
Speaking of relays, the Hoosiers have an excellent shot at being top 8 in all 5, and grabbing a couple of titles as well. Namely the medley relays are where their real power comes from, but they also came in 2nd in the 800 free relay last year, and Zach Apple isn’t that far off Pieroni’s 200 speed.
Vini Lanza and Ian Finnerty will surely be looking to go out with a bang in their senior campaigns, and could possibly sweep the breaststroke and butterfly respectively. Michael Brinegar is set to bring in distance free points, which was one of the few holes the Hoosiers had in their roster last year.
All things considered, this IU team is stacked, and is a top 3 favorite with the potential to really explode and possibly rank even higher.