A simple way to get an idea of how strong a team is compared to previous years is to compare their performances at similar times in different seasons. Swimulator has a tool for running hypothetical dual meets. I used it to run hypothetical dual meets of top NCAA men’s teams against themselves at the same meet last season.
The Texas men were stronger against NC State last year (11/14/15) on the second day of back to back meets than they were against NC State this year (11/4/16) with Texas 2015/16 beating Texas 2016/17 146-112. Last year’s Texas team was also stronger at the Texas Invite beating this year’s team 178-144.
The Cal men were much stronger than last year at the UGA Fall invitational. Cal 2016/17 beat Cal 2015/16 201 to 121. While a few top swimmers did more events this year, a big part of the margin came from this year’s team sweeping the relays.
This year’s Florida was narrowly worse than last year’s Florida team at their final fall dual meet with Florida 15/16 beating Florida 16/17 143-115 (Texas A&M this year, South Carolina last year). Last year’s Florida team also wins a comparison of performances at mid season invites winning 184 to 138.
NC State looks much better this year. This year’s team at the Texas dual beat last year’s team from the Texas dual 169-89. This year’s team also beat last year’s team at their respective early November invitationals 197-125 (this year GAC Invite, last year Nike Cup).
Georgia from last year narrowly beat this year’s edition 171-151 with times from the UGA Fall Invite. Last year’s team dominated this year’s team with results from the Georgia Tech meet both seasons with Georgia 2015/16 beating Georgia 2016/17 145-94.
It’s still pretty early. Some of these teams are either still missing key swimmers (ex. Cal, Matt Josa), or haven’t swum their top guys in all their events yet (ex. Texas). Some trends are clear. NC State is better than last year so far. The Texas men have been, so far, a little worse than last year. Whether those trends continue is up for debate. Play around with the tool. Run you own hypotheticals.