We’re just hours away from the 2016 Men’s NCAA Championships, and with our Pick ‘Em Contest almost set to close entries, it’s time to check the voting results to see who you, the SwimSwam readers, are favoring.
The Pick ‘Em Contest (which you can enter here) asks readers to predict the top 4 finishers in each event, along with the top 10 teams in overall points.
Compared to our women’s Pick ‘Em contest stats, the men’s meet has tended more toward the extremes. While we got about twice as many entries into the men’s meet contest than the women’s, voters are also overwhelmingly hitched to a few favorites – 6 different events saw 96% or more of the votes fall to one candidate. Meanwhile, the most up-in-the-air event vote-wise shows only 27% of votes going to the highest vote-getter. Compare that to 51% for the least predictable event on the women’s side.
Here are a few big takeaways from the results as of now:
The Sure Things
Here are the 5 races with the highest percentage of voters agreeing on the winner:
- 50 free – Caeleb Dressel, 99.6%
- 100 back – Ryan Murphy, 99.3%
- 1650 free – Clark Smith, 97.4%
- 500 free – Clark Smith, 97.3%
- 100 free – Caeleb Dressel, 96.9%
Pick ‘Em Contest entrants were extremely confident in a trio of swimmers, with Florida’s Caeleb Dressel, Cal’s Ryan Murphy and Texas’s Clark Smith all earning 96% of the winner picks or more in each of their best two races. (The 6th swim on that list would have been Murphy’s 200 back, which stands at 96.5%).
The jump from those six races is steep, with the next-best event (the 200 free relay) counting only 89% of votes on a single winner (NC State).
All in all, those picks all make tremendous sense. It would take extremely poor showings for Dressel or Murphy to lose events in which they hold American and/or NCAA records. Smith’s mile has much less of a track record behind it, but also benefits from the defending champ – Georgia’s Matias Koski – dropping that race in favor of the 100 free.
Still, those are some shockingly consistent picks compared to the women’s meet, where the highest event (Kelsi Worrell‘s 100 fly) gained 95% of the votes and only three races cracked 90%.
The Question Marks
Here are the 5 races with the least consensus on predicted winners:
- 200 free – Anders Nielsen (27%), Simonas Bilis (26.8%), Blake Pieroni (19.7%)
- 400 IM – Will Licon (40.7%), Josh Prenot (20.6%), Jay Litherland (16.8%), Andrew Seliskar (15.3%), Gunnar Bentz (6.6%)
- 200 medley relay – NC State (48.7%), Florida (19.9%), Texas (16.2%), Cal (9.9%)
- 800 free relay – NC State (51.4%), Texas (37.8%), Florida (9%)
- 200 fly – Jack Conger (56.4%), Joseph Schooling (40.3%), Dylan Bosch (2.4%)
As with our women’s votes, the 200 free is a mess in terms of voter consensus. Michigan’s Anders Nielsen and NC State’s Simonas Bilis are polling almost dead even at this point. The slighted man is probably Indiana’s Blake Pieroni, who is the second-fastest returner from last year, the top seed coming into the meet and one of the faster-rising little-known threats in American swimming.
The 400 IM and 200 fly are less of a statement on the lack of a “big name” winner candidate and more a testament to just how many major players are involved in both races.
In the IM, Texas’s Will Licon was the breakout star of last year’s NCAA meet, but still faces Cal’s Josh Prenot, who was rumored to be sick at this meet last year and hasn’t really shown what he can do in a short course pool yet this year while crushing swims in long course. Siphoning votes in that race are a trio of young talents with serious star potential.
The 200 fly is a given to make this list, pitting the American record holder (Texas’s Jack Conger) against the defending NCAA champ (his teammate Joseph Schooling) against the 2014 NCAA champ and NCAA record-holder (Michigan’s Dylan Bosch). Conger and Schooling are racking up votes in that race, while Bosch has accumulated just 2.4% of the winners picks.
Things will kick off with a bang tonight, as the 800 free relay is among the less predictable races according to Pick ‘Em votes. NC State and Texas are both polling well, and appear to be the favorites through all five relays in voting.
Writers, Voters Align On 17 of 18 – Voters Bullish On NC State Relays
As with the women’s picks, contest voters generally agreed with the winner we predicted in our event-by-event meet previews. (You can find a full listing of those picks here).
In fact, the only event where voters disagree with our picks was the 800 free relay, which we mocked to Texas, but voters gave to NC State by about 14% of the votes.
That does show the big respect given by voters to the NC State Wolfpack. Pick ‘Em Contest stats have the majority picking the Wolfpack to win 4 of 5 relays, losing only the 400 medley relay to Texas. That’s a big display of faith but also a bit of a voting risk – picking NC State seems like the highest-percentage option in search of the 7 points given for correctly predicting a winner, but also risks a big fat 0 in the score column in the case of any unprecedented (well, maybe not exactly) DQs.
It’s no surprise that Texas is heavily favored to win, earning 511 of 542 votes for 1st place as a team. The only other programs to earn 1st-place votes were NC State (24), California (4) and Florida (3).
Despite NC State leading Cal by a wide margin in #1 votes, Cal is actually favored to take second by Pick ‘Em voters. Cal has 239 second-place votes, compared to 178 for NC State.
Based on the distribution of the votes, Pick ‘Em entrants seem to expect the top 5 to look like this:
- NC State
With voters selecting teams down to 10th place, only 15 different programs earned votes. The list is below:
- NC State