Returning Conference Points: Florida Primes For 9th-Straight SEC Men’s Title

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.

2020 Lookback

Despite an exodus of transferring talent, the Florida men extended their SEC win streak to 8 consecutive seasons on the backs of some huge freestyle performances. Kieran Smith (500 free) and Bobby Finke (1650 free) broke American and NCAA records, while Khader Baqlah (200 free) capped off a distance free sweep between the trio of Gators.

Florida also dominated the 800 free relay and saw Smith win the 400 IM.

It was a showdown for second, with Texas A&M besting Georgia by 22 and Alabama by 40. The Aggies got two Shaine Casas event wins (200 IM, 200 back) and also took the 200 medley relay and 200 breaststroke (Benjamin Walker). Georgia won the 200 fly with Camden Murphy while Alabama won three of five relays (400 medlye, 400 free, 200 free) and got two wins from senior Zane Waddell (50 free, 100 back).

But event wins were spread around the conference and not only hogged by the top four teams. Fifth-place Mizzou won the 100 fly with Danny Kovac, 9th-place LSU had breakout freshman star Brooks Curry win the 100 free and last-place team South Carolina won the 100 breast with senior Itay Goldfaden.

Returning Points for 2021

While Florida had the top-scoring senior class in the conference, they also had the top sophomore class, which actually outscored their seniors as the top-scoring class of any team in the SEC.

Returning points would put Florida and Georgia in a rough stalemate, with Texas A&M lurking. But the key factor yet to be decided are returning redshirts. Florida lost sophomore freestyler Trey Freeman midway through the year, when he had knee surgery and took a redshirt season. But Georgia had top backstroker Javier Acevedo sit out to train for Canadian Olympic Trials. It’s not clear yet whether either of these two will return next year, or sit out once again to prep for the postponed Olympic Games.

Georgia graduates just a single relay leg – but on the flip side, Georgia’s relays last year weren’t very good. (Outside of a 3rd-place 800 free relay that loses its best leg, UGA was no higher than 7th in any other relay, with dead-last finishes in the 200 free relay and 400 free relay). Florida should be in good shape, with all but four relay legs returning and Freeman potentially upgrading a few legs.

Texas A&M returns the conference’s #1 individual scorer in Shaine Casas, plus 75% of their individual points, but they’ll have to refill about half their relay legs.

Further back, Auburn could be a program to watch, with a conference-high 84% of individual points returning. On the flip side, Kentucky graduates an incredible 19 of 20 relay legs and will have to retool in a big way.

Team Returning Individual Points % Returning Individual Points Returning Relay Legs
Florida 589.5 65% 16/20
Georgia 579 79% 19/20
Texas A&M 522 75% 11/20
Alabama 465.5 71% 14/20
Auburn 424 84% 13/20
Tennessee 397.5 64% 10/20
Missouri 396.5 64% 12/20
Kentucky 305 62% 1/20
LSU 239 81% 10/20
South Carolina 135 50% 14/20

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.

Florida (589.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Smith, Kieran S SO 91
Finke, Bobby C SO 86
Beach, Clark G JR 65
Hillis, Dillon SO 60.5
Cancel, Miguel SO 56
Davis, Will SO 46
Friese, Eric E FR 42
Vargas, Kevin L FR 31
Gravley, Brenna FR 30
Quinn, Gerry JR 25
Davis, Isaac I SO 24
Beach, Ethan S JR 23
Lydon, Nicholas SO 10

Georgia (579)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Reed, Greg C JR 64
Grum, Ian P FR 63
Homans, Harry A FR 62
Abruzzo, Andrew SO 59
Murphy, Camden JR 59
Norgan, Grant C JR 54
Dalmolin, Jack JR 45
Apel, Aaron J JR 44
Downing, Dillon FR 35
Hils, Zach C FR 29
Allen, Zach T JR 28
Harrington, Cal SO 19
Walsh, Keegan J SO 12
Getty, Josh D JR 6

Texas A&M (522)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Casas, Shaine M SO 92
Theall, Mark J JR 77.5
Mathews, Kurtis JR 75
Puente Bustaman FR 66
Bratanov, Kaloy SO 56
Povzner, Victor FR 54
Smith, Hudson L JR 24
Gomez, Alberto SO 17
Bobo, Clayton C SO 15
Stuart, Luke D SO 14.5
Schnippenkoette SO 13
Brown, Jace C FR 12
Schababerle, Ja SO 6

Alabama (465.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Maas, Derek E FR 72
Sesvold, Tyler JR 67.5
Perera, Nichola SO 61
Menke, Matthew FR 50
Hernandez-Tome, SO 46
Berneburg, Jona SO 34
Li, Kevin SO 31
Ratliff, Ryan A SO 27
Stogner, Colton SO 20
Jaynes, Hunter SO 19
Auerbach, Cam R FR 13
DiSette, Sam H JR 9
Auerbach, Cade JR 8
Robinson, Alex JR 6
Perner, Nico F JR 2

Auburn (424)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Pruitt, Conner SO 77
Andrews, Logan JR 61
Donald, Skip K FR 50
Ginieczki, Chri JR 48
Sztolcman, Chri SO 45
Makhija, Aryan SO 39
Smith, Lleyton FR 35
Yish, Matthew C SO 22
Eberly, Nik E FR 18
Davis, Brogan C SO 13
Rowe, Spencer H JR 7
Wheeler, Grady FR 7
Edwards, Davis FR 2

Tennessee (397.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Mota, Kayky M JR 62.5
Hallam, William JR 58
Wade, Matt T SO 54
Richardson, Kee JR 43
Houlie, Michael SO 36
Sanders, Ethan SO 32
Champlin, Brett FR 25
Dillard, Jarel SO 24
Walsh, Josh M JR 23
Bailey, Seth S SO 18
Briggs, Nolan C SO 12
Blevins-Boor, B SO 5
Giraudeau, Joel FR 4
Hoff, Oskar FR 1

Missouri (396.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Kovac, Danny D SO 76
Garcia Varela, FR 59
Grimes, Carter JR 51
Dahlgren, Jack SO 49.5
Khamis, Ike SO 34
Patton, Ben H FR 29
Lopez, Carlo FR 29
Goodwin, Will A FR 25
Connealy, Matth JR 23
Dubois, Jack R SO 18
Florea, Dane C SO 3
Gutierrez, Jose FR 0

Kentucky (305)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Zhang, Mingli SO 86
Lane, Chase G JR 76
Orcutt, Daniel JR 33
Wilby, Mason J SO 27
Clark, Jakob D FR 22
Siefert, Hank A JR 21
Lake, Caiden FR 13
Barker, Kyle W SO 11
Smith, Nick T JR 9
Blake, Daniel J SO 4
Gordon, John Mi FR 3

LSU (239)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Curry, Brooks V FR 84
Vazquez Bas, Ma FR 66
Hurbis, Dakota JR 39
Pfyffer, Luca T JR 32
Karkoska, Camer JR 15
Velasquez, Migu SO 2
Boylan, David D FR 1

South Carolina (135)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Burras, Lewis E SO 53
Costin, Phil SO 22
Claus, Alex M SO 20
Ross, AJ J JR 16
Shperkin, Mark FR 9
Kramer, Coleman SO 6
Yip, Jordan FR 4
Gropper, Guy FR 3
Fenwick, Ben C SO 1
Summers, Grant JR 1

New Additions

We ranked Georgia as the top recruiting class in the SEC. They brought in two blue-chippers in #2 overall recruit Luca Urlando (45.6/1:40.9 fly) and #3 Jake Magahey (14:51/4:12.7/1:33.3 free). The Bulldogs could potentially have the top two butterflyers in the conference with Urlando and Murphy, and both elite freshmen should be upgrades to any and all of the sprint free relays, though that’s not either swimmer’s specialty.

But it’s a pretty deep set of recruiting classes beyond Georgia. We had Alabama in the top 10 recruiting classes nationally, led by 19.7/43.2 sprinter Matt King and long course 52.3 flyer Bernardo Bondra. Meanwhile Florida has a star sprinter of its own in 19.6/43.0 Adam Chaney, and the Gators bring in a really, really deep class of 14.

Texas A&M graduated its top sprinter (Adam Koster) and 9 of 20 relay legs. They were proactive in recruiting, though, hauling in no less than five 20-point/44-point sprinters, including David Oderinde (20.1/44.2) and Elijah Sohn (20.9/44.7/1:37.0). 1:46.8 IMer Vincent Ribeiro might be the biggest get.

Auburn’s class is deep, too, with 1:35.8 freestyler Michael Bonson and 1:49.6 long course freestyler Mikkel Gadgaard out of Denmark. We also ranked Tennessee’s class (a 47.3/1:43.4 backstroker in Harrison Lierz and their own 1:35.7 freestyle type in Will Jackson), and the Auburn/Tennessee/A&M classes are all very much in the same tier at this point.

Mizzou adds at least one standout (46.6 flyer Daniel Wilson), and we were somewhat intrigued by the classes from Kentucky and LSU, the Wildcats getting a pretty good international sprinter (22.9 long course Max Berg of France) and the Tigers a solid Swedish IMer (long course 4:28.5 Emil Hassling).

2021 Outlook

The strength of Florida’s current sophomores (next year’s juniors) is hard to bet against, especially if Freeman returns. Either way, the relays should probably take a step forward with the addition of Chaney and only two high-impact legs (Khader Baqlah’s 100/200 frees) lost to graduation. Florida was already two points away from being the top relay-scoring team at men’s SECs last year.

There’s no doubt Georgia should move up from just 218 relay points last year – that’s almost 70 points behind the top-scoring teams and only ahead of the two programs that took DQs last year. Their recruiting class is a little smaller, but more top-heavy than the rest of the conference – in our minds, that probably translates better to NCAA production next year, but might not yield as many SEC points as some of the bigger freshman crews, even with how extraordinary Urlando and Magahey are.

That’s why we’ll take Florida to make it 9-in-a-row on the men’s side. A&M could very well go all-in at SECs, pushing for a conference title that would be a big selling point for that fast-rising program. They’re very much in the hunt, especially if both Freeman and Acevedo sit out the Olympic year or A&M’s freshman sprinters blow up like Casas did as a rookie.

Alabama and Auburn should be close. It was a rough showing for Auburn’s men last year, fading to 8th but losing one place solely on a relay DQ. They’re a lot higher in returning points this year, losing just two scorers to graduation and a single point to transfer. But we’ve still got Alabama a tick higher based on their immediate-impact recruiting class.

Some key races to watch in the off-season: the medley relays, where almost every team is in full rebuild. Collectively, the conference returns just 16 of 40 legs in the 200 medley relay. Outside of Georgia (which returns all four legs on both medleys), we’ll see almost-entirely new relays from Texas A&M, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, and South Carolina, all of which return one or zero legs in the 200 medley.

Way-Too-Early Conference Picks

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Alabama
  5. Auburn
  6. Missouri
  7. Tennessee
  8. LSU
  9. Kentucky
  10. South Carolina

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4 months ago

Florida also returning Michael Taylor I would presume.

Waiting and watching
Reply to  DRUKSTOP
4 months ago

Anyone know about his progress at all?

Foreign Embassy
Reply to  DRUKSTOP
4 months ago

Was just thinking about him. Any updates? Has he been swimming? Would love to see him come back

4 months ago

Last year’s freshmen in the conference were very impressive and will be fun to watch going forward. Of course Brooks Curry was phenomenal, going from 44 mid to 41.8 in the 100 free. But there’s a few others who are returning that caught my eye. I think the ones to watch are Brooks Curry, Derek Maas, Matt Menke, Bustaman Puente, Ian Grum, Harry Homans, Dillon Downing, Eric Friese, and Lleyton Smith. Maas (Alabama) dropped from 54.2/1:56.4 to 51.8/1:53.1 in the breaststroke and Menke (Alabama) from 48.3/1:45.2 back to 46.2/1:41.5. Puente (A&M) was very strong at 52.2/1:52.3 in the breaststrokes. Ian Grum (UGA) moved from 3:49 to 3:43 in the 4IM and from 47.9/1:42.1 in the backstrokers to 46.5/1:40.8. Harry Homans… Read more »

Reply to  JCO
4 months ago

Brett Champlin, Tennessee – 1:58 to 1:54.0 200 BR
Cam Auerbach, Alabama – 45+ to 43.4 100 FR, 1:39 to 1:34.3 200 FR
Kevin Vargas, Florida – 3:53 to 3:44 400 IM

Reply to  HAW YEE
4 months ago

Vargas was part of a program in CA that was more LC focused. But he has developed well there especially in his 2IM

Quarantined Swimming
Reply to  HAW YEE
4 months ago

Vargas was 3:47.5 at 2018 junior nationals.

Reply to  JCO
4 months ago

Brennan Gravley (Florida) went from 15:06 to 14:47 in the mile.

4 months ago

Bringing in Luca is a big win for the Georgia 800 free relay, definitely can replace that graduated leg

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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