Hot-or-Not: Who’s Dropping Time at the 2020 SEC Championships?

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 5

February 20th, 2020 College, SEC


Data Analytics Compiled by Barry Revzin

After day 1 of the 2020 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships, we now have enough data to look at which teams are hitting their tapers and which teams aren’t at this week’s meet.

This data is based on drops from season-best times, not lifetime bests. That means the tale we’re telling with this data isn’t which teams have planned out their seasons perfectly, but rather which teams are going after these SEC Championship meets, doing so successfully, and most importantly how that’s going to impact the team battle.

In the charts below, negative (lower) boxes are bigger drops, while higher positive (higher) boxes are smaller drops (more on the chart methodology at the end).

The most interesting reveal here is that Missouri is showing the least-improvement from in-season times through the first day of individual events. One of the biggest stories of the 2020 collegiate season is Missouri’s plan to wear full technical racing suits for all of their dual meets (which head coach Andy Grevers talks about here). While the practice of wearing suits like this for in-season meets is becoming more conventional, it’s still fairly novel for a collegiate team to suit-up for every meet in a season.

The noise in the data here is, of course, that historically Missouri has not often been particularly fast at conference championship meets – by design. Their last head coach, Greg Rhodenbaugh, came from the Frank Busch school of tapering. Busch’s teams would go full-out for their mid-season meets, try to hit as many cut times as was possible, and then train full through conference meets, even moreso than most teams. We saw this with other teams coached by Frank Busch proteges as well.

Given that almost every team wears technical suits for their mid-season meets (where most swimmers’ seed times coming into SECs are from), we’d guess that this is where we’re seeing the biggest impact on the ‘no drops,’ though without being able to parse one from the other, there will be ongoing skepticism about what wearing suits all season looks like when it comes to taper time. After the NCAA Championships, a reanalysis could give us more insights. For now, though, Missouri is the only team where the median swimmer on the team is adding time, not dropping it.

As for the team battle, the top 2 men’s contending teams, Texas A&M and Florida, are both dropping times from seed. The A&M men, who were our pre-meet choices to win, are consistently dropping time, the Florida men are consistently dropping more. The problem for the Gators is that, based on pre-meet projections, Florida had a ton of ground to make up on both Georgia (who have slid) and A&M (who have done a good job of holding their ground). The A&M men are also putting up big diving points, earning 2 A-finalists in each event so far, where Florida hasn’t done much.

But with 3 days of racing left, there is only 1 diving event, men’s platform, remaining. If day 2’s swimming time drop patterns continue, then the Florida men will win this meet. That would be an 8th-straight title for the Gators.

The South Carolina men, albeit in 9th place out of 10 teams, are showing huge drops. They were 9th at last year’s championships as well, but are within striking distance of Missouri – which would be big for the program, the above notwithstanding.

On the women’s side, the 4-time defending champion Texas A&M are having a big meet again, showing huge drops, though they don’t appear to have the firepower this season to win a 5th-straight title.

The team battle so far has Tennessee in poll position through 2 days, with Florida and Auburn nipping at their heels. None of those 3 teams are putting in huge drops to pull away from their opponents, however, so there’s plenty of opportunity remaining in the women’s meet. Tennessee were our pre-meet picks on the women’s side, and Swimulator projected them on top via only swimming points as well.


  1. Texas A&M University              438   2. University of Florida             395
  3. University of Alabama             361   4. Kentucky, University of           340
  5. Georgia, University of          339.5   6. Tennessee, University of, Knox  328.5
  7. Auburn University                 301   8. Missouri                          276
  9. South Carolina, University of,    238  10. Louisiana State University        223


  1. Tennessee, University of, Knox    385   2. University of Florida           356.5
  3. Auburn University                 352   4. Kentucky, University of           321
  5. Georgia, University of            310   6. Texas A&M University              300
  7. University of Alabama           243.5   8. Missouri                          212
  9. University of Arkansas            200  10. South Carolina, University of,    168
 11. Louisiana State University        160  12. Vanderbilt University              90

Chart Explanation: The charts represent improvement percentages versus seed (season best) times. The colored box is the middle 50% of swimmers, so those ranging from 25th% to 75th% (the inter-quartile range) on each team, with the black lines extending from the box (the “whiskers”) being essentially all-but-outliers. Bigger boxes and longer lines indicate more variation in a team’s improvement versus seed. The red line in the middle of the box is the improvement of each team’s median swimmer. Teams are ranked from left to right based on the improvement of their median swimmer.

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4 years ago

VERY enlightening article – who does your data analytics? Awesome work. Thank you!

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Great job!

Swim nerd
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Thanks for this. Interesting.

I still disagree somewhat with the “work through conference” discussion (not saying you are wrong, just see it as more complicated than that). Teams are made up of individual swimmers that have different goals for the conference meet. The top of your roster may be working through conference with a goal of tapering for NCAAs. The middle and bottom of the roster is more likely focused on the conference meet as their end-of-season meet and hopefully will see bigger time drops. I guess theoretically how hard you rest the entire team for mid-season will play into overall team performance…

Reply to  Swim nerd
4 years ago

Good point about the variations in taper-timing within teams. Would this mean that the weaker teams (few swimmers going to NCAA’s and swimmers still trying to get NCAA cuts) should see the biggest drops here?

I don’t necessarily see a big taper for the mid-season meet as a detriment to end of season meet performance, quite possibly the opposite. It can provide a change from how their bodies have been stressed in all the early season work and allow them to be ready to start a new “heavy” training cycle (ie winter break training camp).

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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