Just hours away from the Women’s Division I NCAA Championships starting up, we’re taking a look at the results of our annual Pick ‘Em contest 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.
Here are a few big takeaways from the results as of now:
The Sure Things
Here are 5 races with the highest percentage of voters agreeing on the winner:
- 100 fly – Kelsi Worrell, 95.4%
- 200 breast – Lilly King, 91%
- 400 IM – Ella Eastin, 90.3%
- 400 free relay – Stanford, 88.5%
- 1650 free – Leah Smith, 87.7%
The reigning American record-holder, Kelsi Worrell is very heavily favored by SwimSwam readers, pulling in over 95% of the winner votes. That seems fair for a fast-rising swimmer who broke an almost-sacred American record last year. On the other hand, three other swimmers have already been under 51 this year – Cal’s Farida Osman, UNC’s Hellen Moffitt and Texas A&M’s Sarah Gibson. It would take a huge race for any of them to challenge Worrell, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
Lilly King and Ella Eastin are both expected by voters to earn NCAA Championships as freshmen. That’s a high bar to set for an NCAA rookie, but both seem up the challenge. Eastin became the first woman under four minutes since spring of 2014 in the 400 IM while winning the Pac-12 title, and King moved to within a few tenths of an American record at Big Tens.
Eastin’s race seems more wide open after 3 of the top 4 finishers from last year graduated and the lone returner (Georgia’s Hali Flickinger) moved to the 200 free instead. King has to deal with 2015 NCAA champ Sarah Haase of Stanford.
Voters are generally very bullish on Stanford as a whole, picking them to win 3 of 5 relays. That includes the prediction of a repeat title in the 400 free relay by a wide 88.5% margin.
Both of Leah Smith‘s races are also a bit more open with Cal’s Cierra Runge taking a redshirt season. But Georgia’s Brittany MacLean could throw a wrench into things if she regains the form that won her both NCAA titles in 2014.
The Question Marks
Here are the 5 races with the least consensus on predicted winners:
- 100 back – Courtney Bartholomew, 51.7%
- 200 free – Lia Neal, 62%
- 800 free relay – Georgia, 65.2%
- 200 free relay – California, 66.4%
- 200 IM – Ella Eastin, 69.6%
The 100 back is the most spread-out in terms of winner picks by a wide margin. Interestingly enough, defending champ Rachel Bootsma, who has won the event 2 of the past 3 years, is not the top selection. That honor instead goes to Virginia’s Courtney Bartholomew, who was been in the hunt in both backstrokes for some time now, but hasn’t yet ascended to the top of the podium.
Bartholomew leads with 51.7% of the votes, followed by Bootsma with 25.4% and top-seeded Amy Bilquist of Cal sitting third with 17.9%. In some ways, this might be an instance of psych sheet seeding swaying voters a little bit more than past production – though it could also have something to do with Bootsma’s inconsistent sophomore year that saw her miss the A final entirely in this event.
The 200 free is split along similar lines. The veteran favorite (Lia Neal) holds 61% of the vote, another big name (Leah Smith) is at 24.1%, and the highly-seeded freshman (Mallory Comerford of Louisville) is a ways back with 7.5%.
As a whole, the relays were less consistent in voting than the individual events. Georgia earned almost two thirds of the votes in the 800 free relay, but still outpace the next-highest-voted team (USC) by more than 40%. Cal holds two thirds of the votes in the 200 free relay, tripling the next-best team, Tennesssee (20.4%).
SwimSwam Writers, Commenters Mostly Of One Mind
At this point, the Pick ‘Em tallies match our event-by-event picks almost entirely. (You can find a listing and linking of our event-by-event previews and predictions here). There were only 3 events in which the picks diverged, starting with that 100 backstroke.
We selected Bootsma to repeat in the 100 back, with the fan pick Bartholomew second. We also picked California to repeat in the 800 free relay, while the polls went with Georgia. Our 400 free relay pick is forthcoming, but it is not the Stanford team heavily favored by readers after an American record last spring.
Team Points: Stanford, Cal Lead The Way
Here are the number of 1st place votes split between the top four teams:
- Stanford – 136
- California – 79
- Georgia – 11
- Virginia – 5
In the team points battle, most voters were on very similar pages – with fans voting for the top 10 teams in overall points, only 17 teams have earned votes so far. Of the serious NCAA title contenders, Stanford is far and away the favorite, earning 136 votes to Cal’s 79.
Only 7 teams appear to have earned first-place votes at this point. The top four are listed above, and Texas A&M (1), Louisville (2) and Tennessee (1) have earned what we can affectionately call “homer votes.”
The most popular finish order up top appears to be Stanford-Cal-Georgia-Virginia for the top four. Stanford leads in first-place votes, Cal in second-place picks, Georgia in third-place selections and Virginia in fourth-place picks.
The teams with top-10 votes so far:
- Texas A&M
- NC State
- Ohio State