A special thanks once again to University of Arizona Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics and swimming superfan Price Fishback for providing the historical data used below.
Just as we did last week, we received the from Price Fishback a thorough accounting of how NCAA teams have fared versus their psych sheet score. Fishback’s data has an extra year for the men, going all the way back to 2009.
First, lets look at the numbers, then follow with some analyis:
|Final Score Minus Pysch Sheet Score, 2009 through 2015|
|North Carolina State||-91.5||-146.5||-21||.|
NC State Needs to Reverse a Disturbing Trend to Contend
The North Carolina State Wolfpack have been one of the most exciting teams in the NCAA for the last several years. Their improvement year over year has rocketed them to the top of the ACC and now they are projected to contend at the NCAA level.
However, their last two NCAA meets have been atrocious in relation to their seeds. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that each of those years they disqualified a relay, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. Their 200 freestyle relay in 2015 would have scored 40 points had it been legal, but they were still 91.5 points in the hole after a disastrous 146.5 point slide in 2014.
There are some indications that NC State will be able to stop the bleeding in 2016. It would be highly anomalous for them to disqualify their 200 freestyle relay for a third straight year, and it’s possible that they could win without pushing their relay takeovers to the limit.
NC State also looked more conservative in season this year. It was clear that at least several of their top swimmers were not tapered for the ACC Championships last month. In so doing, they are following the playbook of the team (Texas) that has been their opposite in regards to performance versus psych
Texas and Cal Perform Consistently Great
Two teams stand out on this list for scoring far higher than the psych sheet predicts. It’s no surprise these are two teams that have been in title contention in all of these years.
Of the two, Texas is the top of the top. While Cal has a 2009 blemish on their record, Texas has been positive every year recorded. Not only that, but they have put up the highest net positive result of any team, men or women, in the NCAA. The Longhorns scored 253.5 points above psych sheet in 2014. They have the second highest total, 246 from 2012, as well.
What’s interesting is that both those years were not title years for Texas. Cal won in each of those years. However, based on this year’s psych sheet, it will take a huge surge from Cal and a significantly worse than average Texas for Cal to get back on top.
With Cal already sending some of their best swimmers to a long course Grand Prix instead of their conference meet, it doesn’t seem likely that the Bears will pull out all the stops to win this competition.
One factor to keep in mind with the Texas swings is diving, which is not represented in psych sheet scoring. Texas is consistently great in diving and this accounts for a significant portion of the increase in points. NC State can’t count on the same.
Auburn Hasn’t Had a Good NCAA Meet Since 2009
After a disappointing 2015 meet (9th place), Auburn is well situated on the psych sheet, projected to finish 4th. The Tigers ripped off five consecutive titles from 2003-2007, and one would guess they performed well ahead of seed in each of those years. 2009 was their last national title, and they did so on the back of netting 94 points.
Every year since then, Auburn has performed worse than the psych sheet. They haven’t been able to replicate the formula that they had in the middle of the last decade. What will be interesting is whether 2016 signals a “righting of the ship” in Auburn after years of backsliding. The Tigers already had a better 2016 SEC Championship, but do they have more in the tank for this meet?