2023 NCAA WOMEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- March 15-18, 2023
- Allan Jones Aquatic Center–Knoxville, Tennessee
- SCY (25 yards)
- Meet Central
- Psych Sheets
- Live Results
- Pick ’em Contest
On the surface, it might seem like Virginia is going to run away with their third-straight women’s NCAA championship title—the common consensus amongst the swimming community is that they are the heavy favorite to win NCAAs next week. However, when you look beyond the surface, the reality is that the #2-ranked Texas might be a bigger challenge than you think.
Spoiler alert: In our final women’s NCAA power rankings that will be published soon, Virginia was not unanimously picked as #1.
Surely enough, when you score out the psych sheets, UVA is projected to beat Texas 464.5 to 387.75, outscoring the Longhorns 270.5-245.75 in individual points and 194-142 on relays. However, it’s important to note that psych sheet scoring does not account for diving, which is one of Texas’s biggest strengths. And when you factor in diving, that’s where things get really interesting.
If you add on Texas’s 90 returning diving points from last season, the tide actually turns in favor of the Longhorns, as then they’d be projected to outscore Virginia 477.75 to 464.5.
Now, it’s not all that simple. There are so many things you have to factor when projecting a team battle, such as which swimmers are overseeded, which swimmers are underseeded, and the performances of other teams. And that’s exactly what I’m going to break down in this article.
The Very Obvious Things
Pointing out that swimmers will “for sure” get faster at NCAAs feels a little mindless, but there’s at least two Virginia swimmers who I’m certain will improve from their seed times: Alex Walsh and Ella Nelson.
Walsh is only projected to score 32 individual points, largely because she didn’t swim the 200 fly at ACCs or midseasons. She is seeded 30th with a time of 1:55.63 from a dual meet despite being the defending champion. She didn’t race the 400 IM at a big meet either this year and is seeded 4th despite being the favorite to win, so I’d expect her to move up in that event too.
I don’t really see a scenario where Walsh gets beaten in the 400 IM (her best time is over 2 seconds clear of Nelson, the top seed), so we’ll up her projected point total in the event from 15 to 20. In a worst-case-scenario 200 fly, I could see her finishing 4th to the Texas trio (though her best time of 1:50.79 is faster than any of them) and earn 15 points in that event. So in other words, I believe Walsh will score 52 individual points at minimum, and that’s assuming she gets beaten by all the Texas swimmers in the 200 fly.
For Nelson, the event where she’s underseeded is in the 200 breast. She clocked a 2:04.79 in the ACC finals but then got DQed, which meant she had to enter as the 9th seed with her prelims time of 2:06.39. Her ACCs finals time would have moved her up to the 3rd seed, and up her projected point total from 43 to 50. However, if we assume that she’ll take 2nd to Walsh in the 400 IM, that would bring her projected point total down to 47.
The hypothetical 20-point gain from Walsh and the 4-point gain from Nelson would bring UVA’s projected score up to 488.5, which would beat out Texas’s 477.5. That being said, there’s also a plethora of other UVA swimmers have personal bests that are way faster than their seed times (exhibit A: Reilly Tiltmann, who is seeded 18th in the 200 free but nearly A-finaled last year), I’m just not certain enough about them to precisely project their point totals.
But the other thing that needs to be considered is that we really don’t know what Texas is capable of. Unlike Virginia, they don’t have a competitive conference meet, and most of their season-bests were set at the NC-State-Texas dual meet or the Jill Sterkel Classic in February. When they go all-out at NCAAs, they could have a few swims that surprise us.
Also: relays. Virginia’s probably maxed out at 194 points assuming that they win 4/5, but Texas’s 142 projected points show room for improvements.
That being said, it’s important to note that Virginia and Texas both improved large amounts from their seed times last year, with Virginia bettering their projected score by 72.5 points and Texas bettering theirs by 83.5.
What Each Team Needs To Do To Win
Virginia: Don’t get me wrong, I still think Virginia is the favorite to win because they have more depth (in most events, they outnumber Texas in scoring potential), which also means more room for error. If they do what they did last year and maximize their potential, I can see a path where they run away with this title. But when I’m talking about potential, I’m not talking about their big stars like Kate Douglass, Alex Walsh, Gretchen Walsh and Ella Nelson, who are not going to finish outside the top 5 in anything they race. Even if they perform to the best of their ability, Texas’s stars + divers can easily outscore them. I’m more talking about the potential of swimmers like Maxine Parker, Emma Weber, Lexi Cuomo, Carly Novelline, Maddie Donohoe, and Aimee Canny (to an extent) who are on the periphery of a few ‘B’ finals or a low ‘A’ final swim.
In events like the 200 breast, 200 IM, 100 back, and 100 free where Virginia has way more swimmers entered than Texas, this entire team will have to fire on all cylinders to get all of their potential scorers into actual scoring position. Their win is not going to be from the effort of a few stars, it’s going to be a full-on 17-person effort.
Texas: Now, Virginia might have more depth than Texas, but when you look at swimmers ranked top 20 in their events, things get a little more even. In fact, I actually think that with Kelly Pash, Erica Sullivan, Olivia Bray, Emma Sticklen, Lydia Jacoby, and Anna Elendt, Texas more multi A-final star threats than Virginia does. And they need to do everything they can to mitigate Virginia’s depth. And what does that mean? They need to get three swimmers in the 500 free ‘A” final (this is plausible considering that they have three sub-4:40). If Pash and Sticklen make the 200 IM ‘A’ final, they can at least get close to Virginia’s point total in the event despite being severely outnumbered. Jacoby and Elendt finishing top 3 in both breaststrokes would be great.
If Texas is doing everything they can with the swimmers they have (and that means NO room for people adding sigificant amounts from conferences) and move up with their relays (the 400 free relay has a LOT of potential to be better), diving points will be enough to mitigate the sprinting and relay advantage that Virginia has over them. It’s going to take perfection for Texas to pull of the upset, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. They’ve got less swimmers, but there’s a way they can make the most out of them.
Down below, we have a flourish (without diving) made to show Virginia and Texas’s projected point progressions throughout NCAAs, as well as the projected # of individual points for each swimmer. In addition, we also have attached an NCAAs psych sheet with only UVA and Texas swimmers, so you can see where certain swimmers are seeded and get an idea of who’s underseeded and who’s overseeded.
NOTE: Seed #s past 39 might be slightly inaccurate.Untitled spreadsheet - Sheet3 (1)
Credits to Braden Keith for making the flourish, and to Andrew Mering for making the psych sheet.
Projected Individual Points By Swimmer:
|Douglass,||Kate||Virginia, University of||60|
|Walsh,||Gretchen||Virginia, University of||57|
|Pash,||Kelly||Texas, University of||46|
|Bray,||Olivia||Texas, University of||43|
|Nelson,||Ella||Virginia, University of||43|
|Sticklen,||Emma||Texas, University of||42|
|Sullivan,||Erica||Texas, University of||36|
|Jacoby,||Lydia||Texas, University of||33|
|Walsh,||Alex||Virginia, University of||32|
|Elendt,||Anna||Texas, University of||29|
|Tiltmann,||Reilly||Virginia, University of||25|
|Canny,||Aimee||Virginia, University of||17|
|Luther,||Dakota||Texas, University of||16|
|Weber,||Emma||Virginia, University of||9|
|Harter,||Abby||Virginia, University of||9|
|Cuomo,||Lexi||Virginia, University of||7.5|
|Donohoe,||Madelyn||Virginia, University of||5|
|Parker,||Maxine||Virginia, University of||4|
|Keating,||Anna||Virginia, University of||2|
|Cooper,||Grace||Texas, University of||0.75|
|Novelline,||Carly||Virginia, University of||0|
|Bathurst,||Ella||Virginia, University of||0|
|Dimartile,||Meghan||Texas, University of||0|
|Yegher,||Jaycee||Virginia, University of||0|
|Hanley,||Channing||Texas, University of||0|
|Hosch,||Lindsey||Texas, University of||0|
|Longi,||Ava||Texas, University of||0|
|Baron,||Sam||Virginia, University of||0|
|Leibel,||Kyla||Texas, University of||0|
|Semenuk,||Bridget||Texas, University of||0|
|Pfeifer,||Abby||Texas, University of||0|
|Knapp,||Sophia||Virginia, University of||0|
Texas, University of
Regardless of how many of our projections come to fruition, the point is simple: Virginia is probably still the favorite to win but they aren’t heavy favorites, and Texas is going to make this meet closer than it appears.
I don’t like to make it overly complicated. Generalities overwhelm specifics. In the last season together Virginia will exceed and is not going to lose.
I found it hard to believe the University of Virginia can’t scrounge up 500 points even without Emma Weyant and Alexis Wenger.
The weakness for UVA right now is distance free, and that’s a huge strength for Texas. Sullivan, McMurray, Peifer, and Bray all have the chance to make it into the A final in the 500, and Sullivan very much so could win the distance races. UVA has Donohoe, who is a hopeful for the B final and that’s about it. Tuggle isn’t there (who isn’t exactly as good in yards than meters). The Longhorns also have an elite level 2Fly group, and to be honest everyone is sleeping on the World Champ Luther, who could easily win this race. Why else would she go an extra year? Walsh could be left off the podium in the 200 fly, and in… Read more »
i assume you mean it’ll be closer than before
yes, thank you!
Leibel, McMurray, Pfieffer, Cooper with excellent chances of moving up from seed. Leibel in particular had a 1:43 relay split last year with an insane first half split. I think she has a low A final upside, and also the ability to sneak into B final for the 100 free. Dakota has ability to get into B final for 100 fly.
it’s gonna be an exciting week!
For both Virginia and Texas It will only take one relay DQ to determine a different outcome. Playing it conservative on exchanges and getting a 2nd (6 point loss) is better than a straight DQ (40 point loss).
its a battle of the top 4 texas swimmers vs. the UVA second tier swimmers. Tiltmann, Canny WEber Harter Parker
Everything else looks fairly predictable.
what about the scenario where Walsh gets tied up in the restroom by some Longhorns and doesn’t make it to the blocks for the 2fly.
Nothing. Gretchen was the Walsh decoy, but it’s too late when they realize this.
Kate will swim for her, and break the AR at 1:48.8
That could legitimately happen