NCAA Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships: Scoring Cheat Sheet

Barry Revin contributed to this story.

At last week’s Women’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, we didn’t see many best times, and very few swimmers beat seed times.

In this year of unknowns and uncertainty, we can’t say for sure if the men will react to the double-taper-after-training-interruptions the same way as the women will. But this year’s team scoring battles weren’t necessarily as much about whether swimmers could beat their seed, but how close they could get to their seed. That’s a whole different mentality, a different approach, and a different prelims-finals effort calculation.

In many regards, we’ve seen that it’s possible with all of that to move up. Even for some of the teams that faced the tightest restrictions and lockdowns still excelled – with Exhibits A and B being Maggie MacNeil and Olivia Carter from Michigan, who missed 2 weeks of training just before Big Tens and still managed to win NCAA titles.

But we also know that everyone is different, and not every coach will be adept at guiding their athletes through these challenges, and not every athlete will be as equipped with the mental and emotional skills and tools to perform as well as those two did.

That’s the variability that makes this meet fun.

In that vein, below are two versions of the 2021 Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships “scorecards,” or “cheatsheets” if you will.

They show, based only on swimming scoring, how many points each team is expected to score. Diving will impact this. So will tapers (or lack thereof).

Consider this scoring to be a baseline more than it will be predictive. If your team moves up, you know they’re doing well. If your time moves down, they’ll have to find a way to rally (see: the NC State women).

Data and charts below.

Key Inflection Points

  • In the event-by-event, you’ll see a moment where Cal will go from trailing Texas to leading, a lead that, based on swimming, they wouldn’t give up. In real life, we know that Texas has lots of diving points due, and Cal doesn’t have very many. Cal needs this inflection to happen about as pictured to have a chance. That event is specifically the 200 back, where Cal has 3 of the top 4 seeds. That makes Texas’ Austin Katz, seeded just 15th but on paper a national title contender, a crucial swim there for the Longhorns.
  • In the anticipated battle for 3rd place between Florida and Georgia, after the Bulldog duo of Camden Murphy and Luca Urlando, Florida will begin to pull away with swims by Kieran Smith and others. Georgia needs to not let Florida get too far gone in the middle of day 3, giving themselves a chance to catch up on toward the end of day 4.

Scoring By Day

Scoring By Event

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1 year ago

Yo that first chart you are showing cumulative of running totals, so you get to 947 for Cal instead of 448. Second chart is really nice though.

Eddie Rowe
1 year ago

That bar chart should really be subtracted first. Makes it look like Cal is going to score nearly 1000 points for the meet…

1 year ago

In Scoggins we trust

1 year ago

The majority of swimmers don’t beat their seed times at NCAAs or US Nationals, so the women’s meet was not an exception to the rule in that regard. It would be interesting to do an in-depth comparison of 2021 to other years when the dust settles to see if there is a statistically significant difference. Also, Maggie and Olivia didn’t just manage to win titles, they dominated both ends of the spectrum. Maggie smashed a record and pushed fly into new territory, and Olivia crushed the 200 fly, so the unplanned rest may have been beneficial. When we saw lots of best times after the shutdown last year when swimmers emerged from extended breaks in training it surprised a lot… Read more »

William Wallace
1 year ago

Florida kinda in that muh

NC Fan
1 year ago

Headline says ‘Women’s’

1 year ago

Neither Cal or Texas can afford a single relay DQ. Good week to practice relay exchanges.

Right Dude Here
Reply to  StuartC
1 year ago

But the total number of relay exchanges has been halved.

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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