After answering the 5 big questions we had about last week’s big D1 conference championship meets, it’s time to look forward to this week’s meet and see what else we want to know.
If we’re being totally honest, this week’s meets don’t have the same nationally-appealing storylines as last week’s did. But, there’s still enough there to be worth a deeper dig on a few ideas.
1) Will Big Ten Men’s Taper Patterns Follow the Women’s?
In what was supposed to be a close Big Ten women’s meet last week, the Indiana won with relative ease over rivals Michigan, while the Ohio State women put up an unexpected battle before ultimately finishing 3rd.
That should be the same top 3 teams as we have in the men’s meet, with the order to be determined. The Indiana men actually enter their conference meet with more work to do in terms of qualifiers than the Indiana women did, so there’s every reason to believe that they’re going to put a similar amount of preparation into the meet. If they outperform seed like their women did, this meet won’t be close (when Indiana’s diving crew is factored in). The Michigan men and Ohio State men are in about the same position as their women’s teams are.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the barn-burner that Swimulator is projecting, but right now, the Hoosiers feel like they’re almost unstoppable. Bucking the recent history of the Big Ten, the sprint freestyles will be the highlight races of the meet.
2) What Impact Will Mark Bernardino Have on NC State’s D-Crew?
Mark Bernardino coached a number of athletes to a lot of success while the head coach at Virginia. But if there’s one thing that stood out, it was his success with the men’s middle-distance and distance freestyle groups. We got a taste of what that looks like at the women’s meet last week, where the Wolfpack went 1-2-3-4 in the mile.
The men’s group already was very successful last season – Gary Taylor, before leaving to become the head coach at Auburn, led the team to NCAA titles in the 800 free relay and 1650 free last season – so the pressure is on to continue that success.
3) Can Arizona State Recapture Their Magic from Last Season?
The Arizona State women shocked the conference last season and vaulted to 3rd place at the conference championship meet after more than a decade of hovering in the bottom half of the conference. That was the team’s 2nd-best finish ever in the league, and best since they were runners-up in 1994.
Transfers notwithstanding, the Sun Devils only graduated 78 individual points from seniors last year, returning 668 individual points. But USC, who they pushed past for 3rd lasts year, is returning 668.5 points and now has a bona fied national star in Louise Hansson. Based on season-best times, Arizona State would only finish 6th in the conference this season (in swimming-only competition), 300 points behind the next-closest team (Arizona). They were in a similar position last year, though, and we saw how that turned out.
4) Can Dean Farris Stop…Himself?
Dean Farris last year went wild at the Ivy League Championships, swimming best times in the 200 free (1:31.12) and 200 back (1:38.99). He was a full second slower in the 200 free and almost a second-and-a-half slower in the 200 back at NCAAs. All memes aside, if the legend of Dean is going to come true, this is the year. The Harvard men have a lot on the line with just a 68-point projected swimming margin over Princeton (who they beat by 300+ last year), but if Farris and the rest of the Harvard men can put that aside and focus on NCAAs, it could mean a top 15 finish there.
5) How High Can Akron Fly?
The Akron women have turned heads this year, especially in their butterfly group, and even broke conference records last week at the Ohio State “First Chance” style meet. Head coach Brian Peresie says that his team is sticking with its plan this season, which means that they could still have more to show this week. They’re the 5-time conference champions, so that’s nothing new, but the rest of the country is starting to notice.