The 2015 NCAA Championships have only just wrapped up, but for true swimming nerds, it’s never too early to start looking to next year. Since we here at SwimSwam fit squarely into that category, we’ve started running some numbers on the 2016 NCAA season.
As with the women’s teams earlier today, below is a chart with the top 15 men’s teams from this season’s NCAAs, along with how many of their points will be vacated by departing swimmers.
We call them “departing swimmer” because the women’s numbers were affected greatly by some non-graduation losses, like Missy Franklin turning pro or several swimmers taking Olympic redshirt years.
We haven’t heard anything official about those type of departures on the men’s side, though in an Olympic year, you can bet there will be at least a handful of swimmers sitting the year out or training through the conference and NCAA championships.
That makes it a little hard to predict the men’s meet, but no prediction done nearly 12 full months out of a meet can really be all that accurate in the minor details anyways.
We’re lucky, then, that right now, things look pretty clear at the top. Texas was unstoppable this season, and got the bulk of their points from the freshman and sophomore classes. They return 160 more points than any other team, and have to be the early favorites. Butterflyers Joseph Schooling and Jack Conger return from a Texas lineup that put 6 guys in the top 8 of the 100 fly in 2015, and 5 of those swimmers are back next year.
Helping matters is that all of the teams chasing the Longhorns lost pretty comparable amounts. Cal (79 points), Michigan (64), USC (65) and Florida (66) are all in just about the same boat from graduations, and will need some major improvements and some good breaks to track down Texas. More on that later on.
One team to watch is NC State, which only graduated 6 of its nearly 200 points. Keep in mind that the Wolfpack forfeited 40 more points when they DQ’d their winning 200 free relay. If they can finally beat the relay exchange bug, NC State could be making top-5-or-better waves.
Then again, it feels like we’ve been saying this same thing about NC State forever, and that’s because they disqualified that same relay in 2014 as well. At some point, you start to wonder if it’s a philsophical issue. Some coaches train swimmers to be on the safer side with relay exchanges, and others coach their athletes to push the takeoffs a bit more. Both are viable strategies: you can lose major points leaving too much time on the blocks in between swimmers, but as NC State knows all too well, pushing exchanges is playing with fire. Next year will be a real “prove-it” year for the Wolfpack, with a ton of individual points returning and really only David Williams’ relay legs to replace.
Without further ado, here is our returning points chart, followed by some very early predictions for the 2016 season:
(“Points Lost” refers to individual points, including diving. The totals include 2015 relay points.)
|Rank||Team||2015 Points||Points Lost||Percent Lost||Returning Points|
As we said above, Texas looks like the prohibitive favorites. They’ve got a great young core and some big-time swimmers coming in, including rangy freestyler Townley Haas, who we ranked #2 in the nation last summer in our pre-season recruit rankings. Add onto that #9 Ryan Harty and sprinter/backstroker John Shebat and Texas should be able to easily weather whatever graduations they have.
That’s not to say things can’t change in a hurry, though. Based on returning points after 2014, we ranked Cal as the preseason favorites heading into this past season, and it only took Texas a few weeks to replace them in our Power Rankings.
The big difference-maker for Cal would have to be their freshman class, which is loaded as always. Andrew Seliskar is the consensus #1 recruit in the nation, and has the potential to be a Ryan Murphy-type impact swimmer as a rookie, or perhaps even better. Cal also got #3 Michael Thomas, who should thrive in the Golden Bears’ loaded backstroking group.
The Bears also have a group of rising sophomores with some major potential that wasn’t seen in 2015. We ranked them as the best recruiting class in the nation in 2014, but did note throughout the season that it was a class based on depth and high ceilings, and less on immediate-impact swimmers. How that class develops in year 2 is probably the make-or-break element to Cal’s 2015-2016 season.
Michigan still sits third in returning points and has stud sprinter Paul Powers still around, plus breakout distance man PJ Ransford. Those two rising sophomores make a formidable freestyling duo, and Michigan always seems to develop their talent well.
But don’t sleep on USC. If there’s a team primed to jump from the 3-5 range into the true top-tier, it’s the Trojans. After an explosive 2015, USC brings in 3 of the top 10 prospects in the nation, including breaststroker Carsten Vissering – breaststroke was one of Southern Cal’s biggest liabilities this season.
The Trojans have rising junior Reed Malone coming into his own, plus young backstroker Ralf Tribuntsov. And helping matters, USC could improve their NCAA stock next year by taking some of the focus off of Pac-12s. The Trojans went big at conference, and earned their first conference title in decades as a result. With that plaque now in the trophy case, perhaps the Trojans will instead delay that explosive effort to NCAAs in 2016.
A couple of teams have big holes to dig out of. The most obvious is Stanford, which got most of its 209 points from outgoing senior David Nolan. They lose almost half their team points. The bright side is that the Cardinal has a great incoming recruiting class, led by big-time freestyler Cole Cogswell and Upper St. Clair’s Ryan Dudzinski, who follows in Nolan’s footsteps as a Pennsylvania freestyler heading to Stanford..
2016 looks a little less rosy for Missouri and Arizona. Mizzou will have their work cut out for them after graduating stud breaststroker Sam Tierney and butterflyer Mack Darragh. But 2015’s 11th-place finish was clearly a high-water mark for the Tigers, and the program is clearly heading in the right direction, even if 2016 winds up being a slight step backwards.
Arizona lost nearly half of its points, most of them coming from the duo of breaststroker Kevin Cordes and Brad Tandy. In his second full season, head coach ‘Rocket’ Rick DeMont will have his work cut out for him to keep ‘Zona in the hunt for a top 10 slot.