Men’s college swimming is still lagging a little behind women’s in terms of overall depth and quality, at least subjectively. When going through and making the men’s power rankings, I found it harder to justify who should be moved up to #2 than who should be moved down to #6. There are a few great recruiting classes coming in, though, so expect that to pick up steam over the next few years.
As it was, there was a lot of challenge in these rankings; it was by far more difficult than the women. Trying to name enough individual scorers on any of the top 7 teams to get to the 500 or so points thtat it usually takes to be the national runners-up was nearly impossible, however that was the basis upon which we arrived at Michigan as our #2. Between Jaeger and the rest of their distance group, Kyle Whitaker, the Ortiz brothers, John Wojciechowski, Zach Turk, Sean Fletcher, Michael Wynalda, and Richard Funk, the Wolverines should have a ton of different guys in the points column. The question is: how high will they get, and how high will their relays get? They won a bunch of B-finals last season; they just need everyone to start clicking up into that A-final to make a scoring dent.
Diving will also play a big factor this year closer to the bottom of the 25, so consider that before making any rash judgements about who should and who shouldn’t be in the 12-20 range. There’s lots of spots for new divers to emerge.
Remember that our power rankings are keeping an eye toward end-of-season, NCAA Championship results, though it reacts to that which we see in-season.
As always, sounds off in the comments if you’ve got a different set of picks!
1. Cal Golden Bears, Key Swimmer: Marcin Tarczynski (Last Season #1)
The top two teams from last year’s NCAA Championships had a pretty solid gap between themselves and the rest of the country; however both were decimated by graduations. Cal lost over 100 individual points, and runners-up Texas lost almost 200 – and those are just individual points. The reason why Cal should absorb those points and come through ok is that most of those graduated (Martin Liivmagi, Nolan Koon, Mathias Gydesen) were either not on relays, or should be equally replaceable with those on Cal’s current roster. Trevor Hoythas been swimming very well early this year in the breaststrokes. Marcin Tarczynski needs to find a way to make a relay impact for Cal this year. Though they’re the favorites, this title is certainly no definite; that’s because of how many mysteries there are within this team. Tom Shields is taking the fall semester off, and a number of his teammates are battling injuries and other issues. They should repeat if everyone comes back as good as they were last year, and though the Cal camp is confident that everyone will be ready in March, the rest of us will have to wait and see.
2. Michigan Wolverines, Key Swimmer: Bruno Ortiz (Last Season: #5)
Michigan didn’t lose nearly as much this season as the rest of the teams in the top 5 did, and more importantly they added a bigger immediate-impact swimmer than any of the above in Division III transfer/record holder Zach Turk. Even with the graduation of Dan Madwed, that should have a huge impact on Michigan’s shorter relays, where they were no higher than 6th last season. Bruno Ortiz had a phenomenal freshman year last season, and his older brother Miguel (now a senior) made massive improvements when hewas a sophomore at Michigan. If Bruno can do that too, he has superstar potential. Michigan has been very fast early this season, but that’s not unexpected from Mike Bottom’s program. After a bit of a “refocus” in the form of suspending most of his team for a week, the Wolverines are on the right track and have the right pieces to succeed.
3. Texas Longhorns, Key Swimmer: Imri Ganiel (Last Season: #2)
The Texas men took a huge hit in graduations. Their free relays stayed largely intact, with the exception of NCAA Champion Jimmy Feigen. Their medleys, however, were ripped apart without obvious pieces to fill them in, as Cole Cragin the backstroker is the only returning member of either medley from last year’s NCAA Championships. We’re really high on Tripp Cooper’s potential on the butterfly leg (he’s been a 48.3 already this year), and either Clay Youngquist or Dax Hill can handle the freestyle anchor spot (though nobody’s going to totally replace what Feigen gave them). The breaststroke leg is where the pressure is on. With Nick D’Innocenzo no longer on the team, the Longhorns will look to freshman breaststroker Imri Ganiel, a 2012 Olympian for Israel. Ganiel is a 1:00.96 long course, which puts him in striking distance of a sub-53 swim by the end of the season. No 400 medley in the country made the A-final last year without a 52-second split from their 100 breaststroker, and Texas will have to rely on their youth to get the job done here.
4. Stanford Cardinal, Key Swimmer: David Nolan (Last Season: #4)
At their invite last weekend, the Stanford men had some swimmers who swam very well, and some swimmers who didn’t. That’s not a surprise with a new coaching staff; there are bound to be some ups-and-downs along the way. We don’t know for sure if this was planned or not (coaches rested different swimmers differently), but hope they can right the ship by year’s end. David Nolan probably fell somewhere in between – not a terrible meet, but nothing special either. He’s so valuable to Stanford this year not because of his backstrokes for which he’s so well known – Stanford has a glut of those – but because of his breaststroke: probably the last stroke that comes to mind for anybody who thinks of Nolan. The Cardinal are badly in need of a solution to their lack of a sprint breaststroker, and it seems as though Nolan is the man designated to fill that hole on their relays. At the Arena Invitational, he split 24.92 and 54.69 on the 200 and 400 medley relays. If he has a good taper and can get to a 53-low or a 52-high, then the Cardinal will be in good shape.
5. USC Trojans, Key Swimmer: Dimitri Colupaev (Last Season: #7)
Like Cal, USC is missing much of their roster early this year, as Dimitri Colupaev and Vlad Morozov are off racing at the European Championships this weekend. Morozov, for one, has looked spectacular early in Chartres, France, where he was 2nd in 20.89 in the 50. That’s in a 25 meter pool, and if you figure a 10% conversion rate for course conversion, we’re looking at an 18 in the 50 yard free. A Dave Salo swimmer shouldn’t have any problem getting a good 2nd taper in this season in March, and so if Morozov and Colupaev both make it back, the Trojans will be good. Their challenge is that they lack the pure numbers of individual scorers as those teams above; their butterfliers (Maclin Davis and Chase Bloch) need to be big for them, and with the late addition of Olympic finalist Yakov Toumarkin for January, senior Alex Lendrum will be afforded more focus on his individual events – where he could score big points. This ranking could change drastically after Arizona, who is as fast as anyone at their mid-season rest meet, swims at Nationals next weekend.
6. Auburn Tigers, Key Swimmer: Arthur Mendes (Last Season: #6)
This discussion on Auburn is a whole new ballgame after the addition of Arthur Mendes to their roster, who will join the team from Brazil in January. He fills what was to be the lone remaining hole on this Auburn roster, as they now will realistically have a swimmer with top-8 potential in every race. Mendes’ addition lets Brett Hawke move Marcelo Chierighini, one of the top 4 sprinters in the country, to anchor instead of forcing him onto the butterfly leg. Zane Grothe, their distance swimmer, got even better over the summer, Kyle Owens has been sharp early this season on the backstrokes, and Stuart Ferguson usually shows up at big meets. This might be the best Auburn team we’ve seen since the Tyler McGill and Adam Brown were both still around.
7. Arizona Wildcats, Key Swimmer: Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or (Last Season: #3)
This is yet another top-4 team from last year hit hard by over 100 points in individual graduations, plus quite a few key relay spots. They, like Michigan, will get a big boost from a veteran addition: Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, who sat out last season to prepare for the Olympics, where he was successful in qualifying to represent Israel. Shapira Bar-Or gives them another important piece on their free relays, as well as another individual scorer, which like Cal is where their graduations will hit them hardest (he’s got NCAA podium potential in the 200 free).
8. Florida Gators, Key Swimmer: Brad DeBorde (Last Season: #8)
The Florida men last year had a single point between themselves and Louisville at the NCAA Championships to land on an impressive 8th-place finish even with many of their high-potential freshmen not swimming great at NCAA’s. This team really has two keys: one is the return of All-American Sebastien Rousseau after a one-year Olympic hiatus; they already had a great butterflier in Cieslak, but now they have a lot more relay options. The other is Bradley DeBorde. He was a revelation at last year’s SEC Championships, and fell off just a slight bit at NCAA’s. This year, he’ll know what to expect from himself at the end of the year, so he (along with the rest of the Gators) will look to flip that around. He gives this team the elite sprinter they need to contend with the best in the country.
9. Indiana Hoosiers, Key Swimmer: Eric Ress (Last Season #10)
This Indiana team got a whole lot better now that backstroker Eric Ress is back and focused on the NCAA season after several years of back-and-forth between his international duties for France. He was nearly the 2011 NCAA Champion in the 100 and 200 back even after having his taper interrupted by a broken hand at that year’s Big Ten Championship meet. He’s good for at least another 40 individual points to add to a team that was 10th at NCAA’s last year but didn’t graduate anybody. Ress’ value becomes even huger as his underrated freestyles will make a big impact on Indiana’s free relays, in addition to his backstroke on the medleys. The only reason this team isn’t sitting at #8 in these rankings is because I expect Florida to hit a better taper at NCAA’s. Look out for the Hoosiers.
10. Louisville Cardinals, Key Swimmer: Caryle Blondell (Last Season: #9)
The Cardinal lost key pieces from their First Team All-American medley relays last season; specifically the backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly legs all graduated. That included NCAA Champion Carlos Almeida. Their breaststrokers, however, have reloaded with the top two in the 100 in the country as of now (Kameron Chastain and Addison Bray), and their freestylers are flipping the script and making those relays among the best in the nation (they are the best so far in both the 200 and the 400). Joao de Lucca is an NCAA contender in both the 100 and the 200, but sophomore Caryle Blondell’s emergence as a second weapon, having easily been a best time of 43.16 this year. They still need to find one more who can split a 43 on a relay, then they’ll have the group to go two 42’s and two 43’s on their 400 free relay. There’s only a few other schools in the country who can claim that, which shows why this Cardinal team belongs in the top 10.
11. Ohio State Buckeyes, Key Swimmer: Tim Phillips (Last Season: #12)
Ohio State did lose some big pieces to graduation last season, including their top backstroker Andrew Elliott. They did, however, bring back from an Olympic redshirt National Teamer Tim Phillips, who in yards is one of the best freestylers and butterfliers in the country. With Jason Schnur, one of the most underrated sprinters in the country, being a senior, and breaststroker Keanu Stevenson now having a full (phenomenal) freshman season under his belt, the Buckeyes will be a team that has a very tight nucleus, but a very good nucleus.
12. Georgia Bulldogs, Key Swimmer: Matthew Ellis (Last Season: #11)
There’s a lot of excitement about the Georgia freshman class, and rightfully so. It reached far-and-wide to bring in swimmers to fill many holes across the Georgia lineup and might compete for top-7 finishes in a few years. We have to remember, though, that they’re still just freshmen, and in men’s college swimming, freshmen can only do so much. Georgia struggled in their sprints last year, having to force pieces into different relays at NCAA’s. Matt Ellis will go a long way toward clearing that up, as he is a relay dynamo even in his first year. A few tough early dual meets where they squeaked out a win against Georgia Tech then were beaten by Florida in Athens hopefully will be a good learning opportunity for this young squad.
13. Tennessee Volunteers, Key Swimmer: Ryan Harrison (Last Season: #22)
The rankings got really challenging again at this point. Once you get past the top 12 in any given year, there starts to be some lineup holes, but this year they were especially glaring. Of those teams, Tennessee looks the most complete as they prepare to bounce back under new leadership from a disastrous 2011-2012 season. Ryan Harrison will be back, and remember that in 2010-2011, before a suspension last season, he was an NCAA title contender in the 200 free. He’ll be back in the spring semester, and the Volunteers also will add a 1:03/2:18 long course breaststroker from England named Ross Diblin. Keep in mind that they had a 200 medley last year that was seeded fast enough to A-final, but got DQ’ed. This might be a bit optimistic and require some updating after we see more mid-season rest meets roll through, but for now I like the Volunteers to make a huge leap in the standings.
14. Florida State Seminoles, Key Swimmer: Mark Weber (Last Season: #16)
The Florida State Seminoles are a team built around their sprints. They scored most of their individual points last year from distance senior Mateo de Angulo, but make no mistake: this is a sprint team. They return all four swimmers from a team that was 7th at NCAA’s last year in the 400 and 9th in the 200 free relay. They’ve looked very good early this year, especially senior Mark Weber who has posted 4 of the 6 fastest 50 freestyle swims in the ACC this year (including a 20.03 at the All-Florida season-opening invite). Some of their younger guys are coming along very well too, including sophomore butterflier Connor Knight. They’ll need individual scoring from somewhere, and if they can stave off their taper a little bit for NCAA’s, their sprinters could give them that. Not a roster deep enough for ACC titles, but a good lineup for NCAAs.
15. Texas A&M Aggies, Key Swimmer: John Dalton (Last Season: #13)
A&M lost a lot after last season, especially big diving points from Grant Nel. Their younger aerial acrobats are performing very strong, though, so that shouldn’t be a huge concern, but their swimmers are still a bit of a mystery after the Phill Hansel Invitational. Temper this with the fact that they’re one of the few teams left that don’t rest for their mid-season meet, but even comparing swims from this year to last year they didn’t impress a ton overall. John Dalton was maybe the exception, with a great prelims swim in the 100 free before the Aggies skipped the last finals session and went home early. Kyle Troskot, their other senior, wasn’t bad either, and some of their international freshmen are showing some good progress. The Aggies need them to “pop” this year if they want to place higher than last season, especially given the sizable absence of a breaststroker (John Wagner has been a 57.95 as their best so far). Dalton has big possibilities in the 100 and 200 freestyles though, so look for him to give the Aggies an individual presence at NCAA’s.
16. Penn State Nittany Lions, Key Swimmer: Sean Grier (Last Season: #17)
This is going to throw some people for a loop, to have Penn State above most of the ACC teams below. This is a rising power in the Big Ten, though. Their 400 medley relay last year was 5th in prelims before slipping back in finals. They’ve got at less one 46-second backstroker (Nathaniel Savoy), at least one 45-second butterflier (Sean Grier), and at least one 42-second freestyler on a relay start (Shane Austin). Add to that freshman Shane Ryan, who is 6’6 and the best recruit out of Pennsylvania since David Nolan, and there’s plenty to be excited about. Breaststroke is the big weakness – their best so far this year is junior James Wilson in a 58.20. He was a 54 last year though, so if he can do that again or maybe improve on it a little bit this team will earn big relay points.
17. Duke Blue Devils, Key Diver: Nick McCrory (Last Season: #29)
The Duke Blue Devils lost every single one of their NCAA qualifiers from last season. So how do they still get ranked in the top 20? Easy: Nick McCrory. The Olympic diving star redshirted last year to train for London, but is supposed to be back this season. We haven’t seen him show up in any of Duke’s results yet this season, but after the long grind of the Olympic season (and make no mistake – when you’re diving platform it takes a big physical toll on your body) he could just be recovering. If he’s back, with big diving graduations last season, the only man who can keep him from a clean sweep of diving might be Stanford’s Kristian Ipsen. This ranking changes big-time without McCrory, though Ben Hwang this year will seek to carry his early sprint success to NCAA qualification.
18. Virginia Cavaliers, Key Swimmer: Tom Barrett (Last Season: #15)
The Cavaliers graduated all of their individual scorerss from NCAA’s last year: David Karasek, diver Briggy Imbriglia, and Peter Geissenger. There are some returning swimmers who still have a lot of potential to show up this year, like Brady Fox and especially Parker Camp, but senior Tom Barrett needs to fill the vacant freestyle anchor role. Breaststroker and Swiss Olympian Yannick Kaser could be a wildcard for the Cavaliers, and they’re excited about his potential in Charlottesville.
19. Virginia Tech Hokies, Key Swimmer: Zach McGinnis (Last Season: #18)
This team, if it continues to recruit and develop the way it has been, could be on the verge of breaking through and becoming the top team in the ACC. Despite a serious health scare, Zach McGinnis leads the country in the 100 back (47.0) after the Hokies’ mid-season rest meet. He’s also been a 43 in the 100 free, and his freshman teammate Joe Bonk is adapting well to college. They also return two All-American divers in Logan Shinholser and Ryan Hawkins, and maybe a third in Kyle Butts. That never hurts either, especially when scoring is as tightly-packed as it is in the 13-20 range at NCAA’s.
20. Missouri Tigers, Key Swimmer: Eegan Groome (Last Season: #19)
The Tigers were 19th in the country last season, and didn’t graduate either of their NCAA qualifiers Eegan Groome (a sophomore distance swimmer) or David Bonucci (a junior diver). It’s hard to expect them to score much fewer than the 46 points they got at NCAA’s last year on that basis alone.
21. North Carolina Tar Heels, Key Swimmer: Kyle Ficker (Last Season: #14)
Losing senior Steven Cebertowicz hurts UNC a lot, and they took another blow when sophomore butterflier Dominik Glavich was lost for the season. That leaves a lot of pressure on junior Kyle Ficker, who is a great 50 freestyler that is still working on developing his 100, and Thomas Luchsinger, who is an individual All-American.
22. LSU Tigers, Key Swimmer: Craig Hamilton (Last Season: #31)
Just like their fellow Tigers up at #20 in Missouri, LSU is good mainly because of distance swimming and diving. Craig Hamilton looked spectacular, even compared to his own in-season times, at the Phill Hansel Invitational a week ago, and could be top-8 at NCAA’s in the mile. The Tigers’ divers aren’t quite as good as Missouri’s, but a nationwide shortage of those in this year’s college ranks means they should be scoring quite a few points at NCAA’s. This team could even sneak a medley relay into NCAA’s with breaststroker Andrei Tuomola swimming well (both in Houston and at the European Championships).
23. Minnesota Golden Gophers, Key Swimmer: Kyler van Swol (Last Season: #24)
Minnesota is slowly, but surely, rebuilding upon its foundations: sprinters and divers. They graduated their top sprinter Zach Bolin after last season, but returned everyone else from their 12th-place 200 free relay. That includes Derek Toomey, who will have to step-up for this squad to score in those relays again. Kyler van Swol was very fast at the Minnesota Grand Prix, and is a good individual scoring bet for the Gophers in at least the 200 fly.
24. Princeton Tigers, Key Swimmer: Daniel Hasler/Byron Sanborn (Last Season: #23)
The Princeton Tigers, it would seem, after a great NCAA Championship meet last year will not be just a flash-in-the-pan. They graduated breaststroker John Christensen, but return a young lineup that has now tasted NCAA success and will want to be back for more. Whoever emerges from the breaststroke battle between Daniel Hasley and freshman Byron Sanborn (Sanborn has been a little better this year so far) will decide if these 200 medleys can make it back to NCAA’s. There’s a lot of excitement in the Ivies about freshman En-Wei Hu-Van Wright, who has already been a best time in his 100 free this year as the conference’s only swimmer under 45 seconds. Long term he’s probably a backstroker, but it looks like his best bet this year is to push Harrison Wagner in the sprint freestyle.
25. Noth Carolina State Wolf Pack, Key Swimmer: Jonathan Boffa (Last Season: Unranked)
Last year, NC State made their biggest impact at the ACC Championships, where they turned a lot of heads by crushing the school record books. That resulted in only a single NCAA qualifier, however, which is a number they’re looking to improve upon this year. That one piece is in the right spot, though, as Jonathan Boffa was 19th at NCAA’s in the 100 free, and is also very good in the 50 and 200. Their 400 medley relay was the 15th-fastest in the country last season with three sophomores and a junior; with the new qualification rules they should be into the scoring, and then some.