NCAA D1 Women Performance at Nationals vs Seed Time

by Andrew Mering 5

March 02nd, 2017 College, News

Now that the NCAA has released the official psych sheet, it’s time to start speculating about how times will change at the actual meet in a few weeks. A team having a good meet or bad meet can drastically alter the team race (for example Georgia’s great performance last year). While no team is likely to catch Stanford, who is ranked 151 points ahead of second place California on the pre-selection psych sheet (more detail on that here), there are as many as 6 teams that can plausibly get 3rd.

Typical Performance vs Seed At Nationals

I pulled data from the past 7 seasons (2009/10 through 2015/16) for D1 women’s times entering nationals and at nationals and calculated the time change (calculated by:(Nationals time-Pre Nationals time)/Pre Nationals time, so a negative percentage means a swimmer got faster). Over that time period, the swimmers added an average of .45% to their seed times at nationals with a standard deviation of 1% on 4601 data points. Here’s the distribution:

For individual teams, dropping time in the average over the entire time period was extremely rare. Out of 112 teams that sent an individual to nationals the last 7 years, only four teams, with 20 swims combined over 7 years, dropped time on average at nationals (George Mason, Boston, UMBC, Fordam). A few of the big school’s average time changes were extremely close to zero. Since 2010, Stanford added an average of .01% on 189 swims, California added .02% on 251 swims, and Arizona added .04% on 176 swims. Every other team with 20 or more swims was over .1% (the full table is below).

Even though no team with a decent sample size drops time in the average over the whole data set, many teams have in specific years. In the last 7 years there have been 92 times where a team had 20 or more individual entries at NCAA’s. 21 of those 92 dropped time on average from their seed times (the full table is below). The best performance was Arizona in 2010 who dropped an average of .59% on 43 swims. Georgia’s memorable performance last year ranked 14th with an average drop of .12%. On average Georgia were actually better vs seed time the year before when the dropped .31%.

It’s easy to get excited looking at the solid time drops Georgia had the last two seasons and predict a solid performance this year. However, before I would trust any prediction of above average results, I would need a reason why the last two years were different than the two before them. While Georgia dropped averages of .12% and .31% the last 2 years, in 2014 they added .25% and in 2013 they added .35%. If their training or taper was somehow different the last 2 years in a way that was repeated this year, a prediction of a repeat performance becomes credible. Otherwise the last two years looks like a run of good fortune and I’d bet on a number closer to their long term average of adding .1%.

Was something different at Georgia the last 2 years? I have no idea. My point isn’t anything about Georgia specifically. My point is about how to properly interpret this data. Don’t cherry pick the data unless you can give a reason the data points you highlight were produced under different circumstances. Otherwise, the most reliable number is the 7 year average.

Individual Performance

Not every qualifier for nationals is equal. Some swimmers have to fully taper at their conference meet to qualify, and some can secure a spot with a mid season rest or a partial rest at a conference meet. Swimmers who can get away with not fully resting for their conference meets tend to be highly ranked. Swimmers with top 5 times entering nationals add an average of .06% (sd .9%) to their times and swimmers ranked 6-10 add .24% (sd 1%) vs .45% for the rest of the field. After the top 10 this advantage rapidly disappears. Swimmers ranked 11-20 add .41%, much closer to the average for the whole field.

While higher ranked swimmers did perform better, they weren’t immune to bad performances. 51% of top 5 swimmers added time vs 66% for the entire field. 10% of top 5 swimmers added 1% or more to their seed times vs 28% for the whole field

How Much Small Differences Matter

A few tenths of a percent one direction or another may not sound like a whole lot, but the margins in a meet as competitive as NCAA’s are pretty slim. The average distance between consecutive places in the top 16 on this year’s psych sheet is .2%. The difference for a team with 12 entries ranked in the top 16 between adding .2% on average and dropping .2% on average is at least 25 points. On the psych sheet (without diving) there are 5 teams with 11 to 13 entries in the top 16 ranked with 38 points of 3rd place.

I included tables below with the team by team 7 year averages, the single year performances for large teams, and a list of the top individual performances vs seed at nationals over the last 7 years (there were 16 drops of more than 2.5%).

Women’s Teams With at Least 20 Swims Average Percentage Time Changes at Nationals

Team Year Time Change Number of Swims Standard Deviation
1 Arizona 2010 -0.59% 43 1.41%
2 California 2011 -0.54% 32 0.99%
3 Stanford 2012 -0.45% 24 1.10%
4 Texas A&M 2012 -0.41% 24 0.85%
5 Stanford 2014 -0.41% 26 0.74%
6 Florida 2012 -0.38% 20 1.24%
7 Georgia 2015 -0.31% 41 0.58%
8 Arizona 2011 -0.30% 27 1.01%
9 Auburn 2012 -0.29% 23 0.75%
10 California 2012 -0.25% 32 0.92%
11 Florida 2010 -0.25% 25 1.05%
12 Indiana 2016 -0.15% 20 1.02%
13 California 2015 -0.13% 43 0.93%
14 Georgia 2016 -0.12% 31 0.88%
15 Georgia 2011 -0.10% 35 1.02%
16 Southern Cali 2012 -0.10% 33 1.08%
17 UNC 2013 -0.09% 22 1.18%
18 Stanford 2015 -0.09% 31 0.96%
19 Arizona 2013 -0.06% 26 0.90%
20 California 2014 -0.02% 45 0.74%
21 Auburn 2010 -0.01% 21 1.06%
22 Michigan 2016 0.00% 25 0.77%
23 Stanford 2016 0.02% 25 0.88%
24 Texas A&M 2014 0.06% 43 0.92%
25 Southern Cali 2010 0.09% 28 0.75%
26 Texas A&M 2016 0.10% 35 0.95%
27 Virginia 2011 0.12% 25 1.13%
28 Texas 2015 0.15% 21 1.21%
29 Georgia 2012 0.16% 44 1.07%
30 Southern Cali 2011 0.17% 36 0.78%
31 Virginia 2012 0.21% 24 0.97%
32 Stanford 2010 0.24% 32 0.91%
33 Indiana 2010 0.25% 23 1.42%
34 Georgia 2014 0.25% 44 0.72%
35 Southern Cali 2013 0.28% 33 0.81%
36 Stanford 2013 0.29% 25 0.83%
37 Minnesota 2011 0.30% 21 0.84%
38 Florida 2011 0.31% 38 1.03%
39 California 2013 0.31% 35 1.11%
40 Georgia 2010 0.31% 45 0.85%
41 Texas A&M 2011 0.32% 34 0.84%
42 California 2010 0.33% 31 1.06%
43 Indiana 2015 0.33% 27 1.00%
44 Penn St 2013 0.33% 23 0.99%
45 Minnesota 2012 0.34% 21 1.02%
46 Georgia 2013 0.35% 45 0.98%
47 Texas 2012 0.35% 34 1.13%
48 Virginia 2010 0.38% 39 0.63%
49 Louisville 2016 0.40% 21 1.02%
50 Indiana 2014 0.40% 20 0.97%
51 Texas A&M 2015 0.40% 44 0.89%
52 Tennessee 2015 0.40% 21 0.80%
53 Virginia 2015 0.41% 31 1.11%
54 Arizona 2012 0.42% 26 1.01%
55 Texas A&M 2010 0.42% 33 1.01%
56 Virginia 2016 0.43% 34 0.89%
57 Stanford 2011 0.44% 26 1.09%
58 Wisconsin 2012 0.45% 22 0.80%
59 Indiana 2013 0.45% 22 1.01%
60 Indiana 2011 0.48% 29 0.94%
61 California 2016 0.49% 33 0.71%
62 UNC 2015 0.50% 23 1.12%
63 Tennessee 2014 0.51% 20 1.24%
64 Penn St 2014 0.52% 22 0.83%
65 Southern Cali 2016 0.52% 34 1.06%
66 Texas 2011 0.55% 29 0.94%
67 Virginia 2014 0.60% 35 0.71%
68 Texas A&M 2013 0.60% 36 0.89%
69 Texas 2013 0.64% 26 1.16%
70 Texas 2010 0.67% 27 0.66%
71 Tennessee 2013 0.68% 24 0.89%
72 Arizona 2016 0.68% 20 1.05%
73 Florida 2013 0.71% 33 1.10%
74 Indiana 2012 0.71% 23 0.84%
75 Virginia 2013 0.72% 30 1.21%
76 Auburn 2011 0.72% 28 0.95%
77 Tennessee 2016 0.73% 35 0.95%
78 NC State 2016 0.74% 21 0.85%
79 Florida 2015 0.76% 23 1.37%
80 Florida 2016 0.78% 23 0.86%
81 Florida 2014 0.80% 36 0.95%
82 UNC 2016 0.80% 22 0.82%
83 UNC 2014 0.80% 24 1.00%
84 Texas 2016 0.83% 24 0.99%
85 UNC 2011 0.84% 22 0.91%
86 Southern Cali 2014 0.86% 32 0.90%
87 Auburn 2016 0.88% 26 0.96%
88 Texas 2014 0.96% 22 0.89%
89 Auburn 2013 0.98% 22 1.25%
90 Tennessee 2010 0.99% 24 0.90%
91 Tennessee 2011 1.00% 23 0.90%
92 Minnesota 2013 1.13% 25 0.79%

All Women’s Teams Average Percentage Time Changes at Nationals 2010-2016

Time Change Number of Swims Standard Deviation
George Mason -0.55% 9 0.89%
Boston U -0.27% 1
UMBC (W) -0.06% 6 0.48%
Fordham -0.02% 4 1.51%
Stanford 0.01% 189 0.97%
Denver 0.02% 19 1.08%
California 0.02% 251 0.97%
Arizona 0.04% 176 1.19%
WKU 0.05% 9 0.73%
Georgia 0.10% 285 0.91%
Towson 0.10% 30 0.77%
Akron 0.14% 3 0.33%
Richmond 0.14% 4 1.08%
Notre Dame 0.19% 42 0.92%
Texas A&M 0.24% 249 0.94%
Missouri 0.24% 64 0.92%
Louisville 0.27% 75 1.03%
Southern Cali 0.28% 212 0.98%
Colorado St. 0.33% 2 0.33%
Wisconsin 0.33% 76 1.02%
Buffalo 0.34% 10 0.82%
Rutgers 0.34% 6 0.85%
Indiana 0.37% 164 1.05%
Iowa 0.37% 12 1.12%
TCU 0.38% 2 0.10%
Michigan 0.41% 91 0.94%
Kentucky 0.41% 47 0.92%
Maryland 0.41% 28 0.75%
Auburn 0.42% 151 1.10%
Virginia 0.42% 218 0.95%
UCLA 0.43% 111 0.97%
Kansas 0.43% 12 1.36%
Florida 0.43% 198 1.15%
Pittsburgh 0.45% 10 1.08%
Penn St 0.48% 110 1.00%
SMU 0.48% 44 1.18%
Old Dominion (W) 0.50% 3 0.92%
Ohio St 0.51% 78 0.92%
William & Mary 0.52% 2 0.42%
Utah 0.52% 20 0.59%
South Carolina 0.53% 19 0.54%
Liberty 0.55% 7 1.20%
Air Force (W) 0.55% 6 0.83%
UNC 0.57% 143 1.02%
Columbia 0.57% 8 1.39%
Florida Gulf 0.58% 22 1.36%
Texas 0.58% 183 1.03%
Minnesota 0.60% 136 0.98%
Hawaii (W) 0.62% 6 0.59%
UNLV (W) 0.63% 11 0.84%
UCSB 0.63% 7 0.68%
Yale 0.64% 20 0.97%
Cal Poly 0.65% 2 1.51%
Wyoming (W) 0.66% 14 0.94%
Princeton 0.66% 19 1.27%
Tennessee 0.68% 166 0.98%
UMBC (M) 0.71% 2 0.20%
North Texas 0.71% 2 0.18%
Northwestern 0.72% 13 0.84%
NC State 0.72% 39 0.78%
U.S. Navy 0.73% 7 0.77%
Villanova 0.75% 10 0.82%
Harvard 0.75% 18 1.02%
Wagner 0.79% 1
Wis.- Milwaukee 0.80% 11 1.38%
Arkansas 0.82% 52 1.02%
Bucknell 0.82% 2 0.77%
Toledo 0.84% 10 0.80%
Alabama 0.85% 48 0.90%
LSU 0.86% 73 0.85%
Virginia Tech 0.87% 53 1.15%
Arizona St 0.87% 60 0.88%
UCSB (M) 0.91% 2 0.15%
Davidson 0.91% 4 0.82%
New Hampshire 0.93% 11 0.80%
Duke 0.94% 24 0.74%
Purdue 0.95% 60 0.94%
Oregon St 0.96% 18 0.94%
Brigham Young 1.01% 11 0.99%
San Diego St 1.01% 30 1.05%
Florida St 1.02% 48 1.29%
Cincinnati 1.02% 8 0.86%
Bowling Green 1.02% 4 0.81%
Tulane 1.05% 1
Miami (FL) 1.05% 11 0.78%
Miami (Ohio) 1.09% 5 1.59%
Rice 1.10% 9 0.88%
Florida Intl 1.10% 16 0.88%
UNC Wilmington 1.14% 5 0.55%
Clemson 1.14% 1
Nevada 1.17% 15 1.03%
UC Davis 1.19% 10 0.93%
Eastern Mich 1.22% 6 0.82%
Drexel 1.24% 2 0.85%
San Jose St 1.29% 3 0.25%
Boise St 1.29% 33 0.98%
Ohio 1.29% 7 0.61%
West Virginia 1.40% 25 1.19%
James Madison 1.48% 2 0.37%
Iowa State 1.57% 5 0.68%
Washington St. 1.83% 3 0.97%
New Mexico St 1.92% 3 0.72%
Fresno State 2.02% 1
Fla Atlantic (W) 2.03% 4 1.16%
Ball State 2.05% 2 0.12%
Penn 2.09% 5 1.21%
Nebraska 2.17% 5 1.22%
Pacific 2.47% 1
Idaho 2.48% 2 0.66%
Denver (W) 2.72% 2 1.68%
SIUC (M) 2.78% 2 0.16%
East Carolina 2.81% 2 1.12%

Top Individual Time Drops from Seed at Nationals Since 2010

Name Team Year Time Change Event Nationals Time Psych Time
1 Crippen, Teresa Florida 12 -3.57% 200 Backstroke 1:52.92 1:57.10
2 Hosszu, Katinka Southern Cali 12 -3.55% 100 Freestyle 48.06 49.83
3 Grevers, Annie Arizona 10 -3.44% 100 Breaststroke 58.06 1:00.13
4 Grevers, Annie Arizona 10 -3.35% 200 Breaststroke 2:07.68 2:12.10
5 Crippen, Teresa Florida 12 -3.32% 400 IM 4:04.83 4:13.24
6 Roth, Deb California 11 -3.18% 100 Backstroke 51.51 53.2
7 Schluntz, Justine Arizona 10 -3.07% 100 Backstroke 52.13 53.78
8 Miller, Paige Texas A&M 14 -3.03% 200 Backstroke 1:52.84 1:56.37
9 Crippen, Teresa Florida 10 -2.99% 200 Backstroke 1:50.99 1:54.41
10 Zubkova, Kate Indiana 10 -2.94% 100 Backstroke 51.15 52.7
11 Worrell, Kelsi Louisville 15 -2.78% 200 Butterfly 1:51.11 1:54.29
12 Shaw, Elizabeth Virginia 11 -2.77% 400 IM 4:10.66 4:17.80
13 Smit, Julia Stanford 10 -2.73% 100 Backstroke 52.73 54.21
14 Denninghoff, Sarah Texas 13 -2.69% 100 Freestyle 48.17 49.5
15 Gibson, Sarah Texas A&M 16 -2.65% 200 Freestyle 1:43.41 1:46.23
16 DiRado, Maya Stanford 12 -2.51% 200 Freestyle 1:44.27 1:46.95

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Joe Carrol

Super interesting article. It will be very interesting to see a similar analysis of this years meet, especially with some of the truly outstanding seed times coming in. The stat I find most interesting is that 51% of top 5 swimmers add time. Thanks for putting this article out now. If my child adds this year at least I can offer some solace.

Mon

What happened to Alabama’s Bridget Blood?

Joy

Love the stats! Thank you for putting this together!

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