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.
Despite losing a lot of star power, NC State cruised to its 6th-straight conference title, powered by sophomore Nyls Korstanje, who won the 50 and 100 freestyles, and senior Coleman Stewart, who took both backstrokes and came within in a tenth of a second of winning the 100 fly. Those two also powered both of the Wolfpack’s winning relays, the 200 medley and the 400 free. Meanwhile, senior James Brady topped off his final ACCs with a win in the 3m diving event.
NC State led essentially wire-to-wire, but it was a much closer battle for 2nd, where Louisville and UVA dueled it out. Ultimately, Louisville’s DQ in the very first event, the 200 medley, proved to make the difference, as the Cavaliers topped the Cardinals by 22.5 points. Louisville took more events, winning the 800 free relay and the 400 medley relay, junior Nick Albiero won both butterfly events, junior Evgenii Somov swept the breaststrokes, and sophomore Colton Paulson took the 200 free. Freshman Abdelrah Sameh of Egypt didn’t win any events, but bolstered the Cardinals’ sprint crew with a 2nd place finish in the 50 free and an A-final appearance in the 100 free.
Virginia’s didn’t win as many events as did Louisville, but their depth came through, as they had multiple events where they had three A-finalists. The Cavaliers’ two victories came from an IM sweep by senior Ted Schubert. Their freestyle-deep freshman class put up 256 points, highlighted by Jack Walker‘s 2nd placed in the 500 free and walk-on August Lamb‘s pair of 19.0 relay splits.
Virginia Tech earned a 4th place finish, powered largely by the butterfly duo of Antani Ivanov and Blake Manoff. Florida State didn’t win as many events as they did in 2018, but they did touch first in the 200 free relay for the second year in a row, ultimately finishing nine points ahead of Notre Dame for 5th. Notre Dame’s distance crew propelled them to a 6th-place finish. Junior Zach Yeadon swept the 500 free and the 1650 free, while freshman Jack Hoagland added three top-3 finishes across the 500 free, 400 IM, and 1650.
Returning Points for 2021
|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.
NC State (642)
Virginia Tech (634)
|Dal Maso, Filip||SO||56|
|Lopez Miro, Cob||FR||3|
Florida State (328.5)
Notre Dame (387.5)
|Van Der Laan, C||SO||40|
Georgia Tech (256)
Boston College (4)
There are plenty of impact recruits coming in, as the ACC nabbed three of the top eleven spots in our annual recruiting class rankings, as well as another three honorable mentions.
NC State leads the way, largely on the strength of one international recruit and one transfer. Denmark’s Alexander Norgaard is a distance ace who’s been 14:47 in the 1500 LCM, indicating that he should immediately challenge for ACC titles as a freshman. Transfers Kacper Stowkowski (44.9/1:41.3 backstroke and 45.7 fly) from Florida and Cameron Karkoska (53.45/1:55.85) will pull in and points and should help solidify NC State’s relays. The Wolfpack also brings back Giovanni Izzo, who scored 55.5 points in 2019 but redshirted last season. Luke Miller, #11 in our final ranking of class of 2020 recruits, arrives in Raleigh with a 1:33.4 200 free that should immediately put him on the Wolfpack’s 800 free relay and is faster than the winning time in the individual’s 200 free last season.
Virginia should continue to turn sprint free from a liability to a strength, as #6 Matt Brownstead set a national high school record in the 50 free, along with a sub-19 split. Will Cole should immediately replace outgoing senior Joe Clark on the backstrokes, and Poland’s Jan Karolczak should help on the free relays, especially the 800. The UVA staff has recruited a ton of sprint talent in the last two classes, and this might be the year where their 200 free relay finishes ahead of their 800 free relay.
Notre Dame brings in a strong IM group, led by honorable mentions Sean Faikish and Tyler Christianson, but they’re also taking a big hit as leading scorer Yeadon appears to be transferring away from the school.
Georgia Tech’s, UNC’s, and Florida State’s recruiting classes made our honorable mention list. Georgia Tech should get some freestyle help from Turkey’s Batur Unlu, who goes 50.6/1:48.7 in the long course freestyles. UNC has a big class (at least 10), but the biggest get may be transfer Anton Down Jenkins, who scored in the 3m diving event at the 2019 NCAAs for South Carolina. Florida State will have a large freshman class, with Bulgarian freestyler Yordan Yanchev, a 1:49.5/3:50.2 long course freestyler, probably the most likely to make an immediate impact.
None of Louisville’s new recruits project to make a huge immediate impact, but the Cardinals should get a boost if Bartosz Piszczorowicz returns. The Polish national, who won the 200 free as a freshman in 2019, sat out the spring semester this year to focus on the run-up to the Olympics.
Duke brings in a pair of freshmen, Zach McIntyre and Luke Johnson, that could help the sprint free relays. Virginia Tech has a small class as far as we know, but Spain’s Carles Coll Marti could earn some points in both freestyle and breaststroke.
NC State won by 160 points last season, and with the strongest incoming class, they have to be considered the early favorites to win their 7th-straight title. Stowkowski and Izzo should blunt the loss of Stewart, at least on relays, and Norgaad could bring a bit point haul in the distance events. Additionally, watch for a big step forward from their rising sophomore class, which didn’t make a huge splash this past season, but is stacked with free and fly talent.
Just like last year, Louisville, UVA, and Virginia Tech should duel it out for the next three places. Of those three, Louisville has the highest “floor,” especially if Piszczorowicz does swim. The Cardinals bring back roughly 60 more returning points than any other team and should be able to absorb the five relay legs they lost. Virginia, meanwhile, may have the highest ceiling of these three teams, as the Cavaliers are filled to the brim with young freestyle talent that has the potential to rack up the points if they’re firing on all cylinders. Virginia Tech returns a whopping 98% of their individual points, and 19/20 relay legs, meaning that they should be able to keep it close.
Notre Dame, Florida State and North Carolina comprise the next tier. Right now, we’ll leave Florida State at #5, where they’ve finished three of the last four years, but Notre Dame brings in a strong class, and UNC seems to be on the rise, meaning this could very well be a three-way battle for 5th.
Georgia Tech finished 14 points behind Pitt last year, but the Yellow Jackets don’t lose a single relay leg. Duke returns only 83 individual points, meaning they’ll likely have to rely on relays to keep them ahead of the diving-only Miami, while Boston College needs to make sure they don’t DQ any relays this year if they’re going to get out of the conference basement.
Way-Too-Early Conference Picks
- NC State
- Virginia Tech
- Florida State
- Notre Dame
- Georgia Tech
- Boston College