The 2020 NCAA Championships were canceled in the coronavirus pandemic – but the virus can’t stop our pre-season coverage for the 2021 campaign. We’re running through a comprehensive preview of each of the Power-5 conferences in Division I, compiling returning conference points and tracking transfers and incoming recruits.
Defending national champs, the Cal men took their third-straight Pac-12 title in a landslide, besting the field by almost 300 points. The Bears won 10 of 13 individual swimming events and four of five relays, only losing the 400 medley relay via DQ.
Cal got three individual wins from junior Ryan Hoffer (50 free, 100 free, 100 fly), two from junior Daniel Carr (200 IM, 200 back) and two from sophomore Reece Whitley (100 breast, 200 breast). Junior Trenton Julian won the 200 free, sophomore Hugo Gonzalez the 400 IM, and the only senior to win an event for Cal was Zheng Quah in the 200 fly.
It was a brutal meet for relay DQs. In fact, of the six programs competing, only Utah escaped the meet without disqualifying a relay. Arizona and Stanford both DQ’d 200 medley relays, and the Wildcats ultimately beat out the Cardinal by just 4.5 points for second place. Zona junior Brooks Fail won the 1650 free, while Stanford senior Grant Shoults took the 500 free. Stanford were the beneficiaries of the Cal DQ in the 400 medley, getting that relay win by six tenths of a second over Utah.
Arizona State was just 6.5 back of Stanford, with senior Zachary Poti winning the 100 back.
Utah had eleven double-digit scorers, surging past USC (just six double-digit scorers) for fifth.
Returning Points for 2021
Cal should return as the heavy favorites in the conference again. They return a lower percentage of individual points than almost anyone else in the conference (68%), but still return 112.5 more than any other program. The big rub for Cal is going to be relays, where they return only about half of their relay legs from last year. Losing standout sprinters Pawel Sendyk and Michael Jensen will clear out the relay depth a bit.
Stanford has a 53.5-point edge over Arizona in returning individual points, but Arizona does bring back more relay legs. Things look a lot closer between those two until you factor in Shoults, who took a medical redshirt as a junior and will return as a redshirt senior in 2020-2021. Behind those two lurks Arizona State, which outscored both Arizona and Stanford in relays last year and returns 18 of 20 legs.
Utah has a conference-high 83% of points returning, but they’re still solidly behind the Stanford/Arizona/ASU tier in total returning points. In the toughest shape is USC, dead last in the conference last year and with 61.5 fewer returning points than any other program. The bright side for the Trojans is that they return a conference-best 19 of 20 relay legs, though they had the lowest relay scoring totals of any team last year.
|Team||Returning Individual Points||% Returning Individual Points||Returning Relay Legs|
Scorers By Team
Teams are listed in their 2020 conference finish order. Athletes are listed with their year as of the current 2019-2020 season, not their year for the 2020-2021 season.
|Marcos Rico Peng||FR||7|
Stanford has the best recruiting class in the conference, and arguably the best in the country. Russian flyer Andrei Minakov is a World Champs silver medalist and should be a massive addition, with times of 50.8 in long course fly and 22.7/48.5 in long course free. This class is going to effectively reload every single event discipline for Stanford, depending on how fast these incoming freshmen can get up to speed:
- Fly: Minakov (50.5 long course), Ethan Hu (45.6/1:43.6), Preston Forst (47.4/1:43.5)
- Free: Luke Maurer (1:34.4/43.9/20.2)
- Breast: Ethan Dang (52.7/1:55.2)
- IM: Rick Mihm (1:43.9), Jonathan Affeld (1:45.3/3:49.0)
- Back: Aaron Sequeira (46.7/1:44.1)
The Cardinal have plenty of relay legs to fill, but this is a pretty well-rounded class, and a bunch of these guys will probably be early contributors on free relays, even if that’s not their primary stroke. Mihm is 20.5/43.8/1:36.7, Hu is 20.0/44.8, Sequeira 19.9/44.6, Affeld 1:36.0/44.0, Forst 20.6/44.8 and Dang 20.3.
Stanford is also going to get top-tier miler True Sweetser back from an Olympic redshirt. He scored 24 points at 2019 Pac-12s.
Cal‘s class is only a tier below Stanford’s. 45.9/1:40.7 backstroker Destin Lasco is an elite recruit entering a discipline of strength for the Golden Bears. Swedish sprinter Bjorn Seeliger (22.2/49.5 long course) should help fill some free relay legs vacated by Sendyk and Jensen. Forrest Frazier is a big-time breaststroker (52.5/1:55.3), and Dare Rose an elite long course swimmer (53.9/1:58.9 fly; 1:49.2/3:51 free) with a high ceiling in yards.
We had Stanford at #2 nationally for incoming classes and Cal #4. USC sits at #10 – they also get a big-league breaststroker. Ben Dillard (52.7/1:54.7) should add to a strong incoming Pac-12 breaststroke group, and we’ll hope for four years of Dang-Frazier-Dillard battles. Senior Mario Koenigsperger (52.1/1:53.7) also returns from a redshirt season for USC. The Trojans have a few more standout freshmen: butterflyer Danny Syrkin (46.6/1:45.6), backstroker Holden Raffin (1:43.3/48.0) and breaststroker Scott Sobolewski (53.6/1:59.3).
From there, it’s a bit of a drop back to Arizona and Arizona State in freshmen, though ASU gets two big redshirt returners that shift the rankings quite a bit.
Arizona gets a big-time transfer in 1:41.8-backstroker Ogi Maric. The former UNLV swimmer is 1:34.2/43.6 in freestyle. Other than that, the class is pretty developmental, but sprint-based. The wild card is Australian IMer David Schlicht, who sat out last season to prep for the Olympics after scoring 50 Pac-12 points as a freshman in 2019. Arizona has not yet confirmed whether Schlicht will return this year or not.
Arizona State‘s class adds Will Rose (20.1/44.4) to a burgeoning sprint group. The other key recruit is distance man Lleyton Plattel, a 15:03 miler. What pushes the ASU incoming group closer to the USC level are two Olympic gap year returnees. Jarod Arroyo (1:48.2/3:49.7 IM, 1:47.8 fly) comes in after a deferred freshman year, and junior Grant House will return from an Olympic redshirt season. He scored 39 points individually at 2019 Pac-12s.
Utah‘s class is huge (11 new swimmers) and led by Bosnian freestyler Marko Kovacic. He’s a 50.5/1:50.6 long course freestyler who should have some early impact on relays. The rest of the class is pretty distance-based, with 15:28 miler Dylan Becker probably the other big pickup.
Cal’s rising senior class is just too good to pick against. They lose 8 solid conference scorers to graduation, but their top three scorers from last year were all juniors and return big individual points. (Hoffer scored 60, Carr 57 and Julian 54). Cal also has a great recruiting class, and could see more individual points from Gonzalez, who took a DQ in the 200 IM last year.
Though freshmen scoring is typically somewhat muted, Stanford’s incoming class are difference-makers, and the return of Sweetser should put them solidly second. There’s not a great argument for them to beat Cal though, at least not yet. The 100+ point margin in returning individual points is brutal, plus both teams return the same number of relay legs. Freshmen typically don’t account for as big a percentage of points as you’d expect, so Stanford might need two years with this elite class on board before they can challenge for a return to the top of the Pac-12.
We’ll take ASU to pass up Arizona in the hunt for third. That’s mostly due to the impact House will have on ASU relays that already scored 134 points last year. Arizona has their own sprint ringer in Maric, though, and the battle for Grand Canyon State supremacy should be close.
USC’s recruiting class is good enough to project them rising past Utah this year, although there’s a lot in flux with a head coaching change. Utah had zero scoring juniors last year, so they should be primed for a pretty good two-year run.
Way-Too-Early Conference Picks
- Arizona State