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 women’s teams against themselves at the same meet last season. Most of the top women’s teams have been stronger than last year. This has not been the case so far for the men.
This year’s Stanford team is much better than last year’s edition (turns out adding multiple Olympic gold medalists helps). This year’s team from the Ohio State Invite beats last year’s team from the Texas A&M Invite 222-100. This year’s team in the dual vs Washington State also beat last year’s team from the dual vs Utah 129-114.
Defending champions Georgia at this year’s Georgia Invite narrowly beat last year’s counterparts 165-157 on the strength of taking 4 out of 5 relays. This year’s team from the meet vs Florida blew out last year’s team from the Florida meet 156-83. Many of the same swimmers were simply much faster at that meet this year than last (ex. Megan Kingsley 200 fly last year: 2:01.27, this year: 1:54.97; Meaghan Raab 200 breast last year: 2:21.56, this year: 2:14.27). Perhaps their approach to that meet changed this year.
This year’s Cal team from the Oregon State meet was beaten narrowly by last year’s team from the Utah meet 106-102. The Cal women’s mid season taper results last year are scattered across a couple meets (Winter Nationals, Winter Nationals Time Trials) so it’s difficult to directly compare their mid season from to last year. They are ranked 2nd in the current top times scoring of the mid season times.
This year’s Texas team has taken a step forward. At the Texas Invite this year beat their counterparts from last year’s Texas Invite 194-125. At the Indiana/Florida Tri meet they beat last year’s edition 162-96. Most of the difference comes from internal improvement rather than freshmen. Their top swimmers are almost uniformly faster this year than last year.
Virginia lost to last year’s team from their midseason meets 180-136. That margin is deceptive as Leah Smith wasn’t at this year’s Georgia Invite because she was busy winning gold at Short Course Worlds. This year’s team was much stronger than last year at the Penn State/Michigan tri meet defeating last year’s team 186-120.
Texas A&M looks very similar to last year. This year’s team beat last year’s at the mid season invite 166-156. Their performance vs Florida also narrowly beat last year’s performance vs Texas 132-126.