Special Thanks to Price Fishback, who provided the data for this report.
With the Women’s NCAA Championship beginning tomorrow morning, we’re racing against the clock to make our final predictions. Earlier this week, we scored the psych sheet. What’s missing is context- what does that psych sheet scoring actually predict?
We got an e-mail from super swim nerd (and University of Arizona Economics professor) Price Fishback, showing how teams performed against their psych sheet scoring in the last five years. Here is the raw data in case you’re interested:
|TEAM||Diff 2015||diff 2014||Diff 2013||Diff 2012||Diff 2011||Diff 2010|
|Florida Gulf Coast||19.5||13|
|North Carolina State||16||12||2||12|
|San Diego State||-37||-26||3||5|
Looking over the list, a couple themes emerge:
1. Virginia has a history of underperforming
The Cavaliers come into the meet seeded to score the third most points. If they did so, it would be the highest NCAA finish for any UVA squad, topping last year’s 5th place.
However, UVA has also lost 65 and 73 points versus seed the last two years. If they drop a similar margin this year, they could easily find themselves finishing even lower in 6th place.
One reason for the dramatic drops could be the price of Virginia’s massive NCAA improvement over the last couple years. They were just 18th in in 2013, then jumped to 11th in 2014 and 5th last year. This suggests that they had a lot of swimmers qualifying in scoring positions at the NCAAs for the first time. Perhaps this year, with more experience on their side, they won’t have a similar slide.
2. Cal does not
It’s interesting to see how the narrative of a meet differs from what actually happened. While 2014 can be seen as a year in which Georgia “knocked off” Cal, both teams performed well in regards to their seed at the meet.
However, Cal actually performed much better in 2014 versus seed than they did in 2015. The Bears were just 8 points better than seed in 2015, after 72 (!) points in 2014. In the past five years, Cal has never not improved against seed at the NCAA championships.
The primary reason for this is that Teri McKeever has consistently recruited a roster packed with swimmers that should qualify. Therefore, they don’t need to be at their absolute peak to qualify, and can focus solely on peaking at the meet.
3. Stanford could be the team of destiny
Stanford’s results at the NCAA championships have often grabbed headlines over the last few years, but never resulted in a championship. The Cardinal have lacked the whole team depth to overcome Cal and Georgia.
While Greg Meehan has downplayed expectations in the lead-up, the data suggests that Stanford has a strong chance to win this year. Their relays are as strong as ever, and they qualified three divers for the meet. Those divers could prove crucial in providing the individual depth for Stanford to take the title.
Meehan’s teams have performed really well versus seed at the last two championships. They are also the one team that could likely overcome Cal even if the Bears hold on to their seeds as they did a year ago.
A Stanford win would also keep up a 25 year streak of a Pac-12 or SEC team winning the NCAA Championship. The Mark Schubert coached Texas squad from 1991 was the last women’s team to top the podium outside of those two conferences. Texas, with seven titles, remains the only team from outside those two conference to have ever won a women’s NCAA championship.