As we’re all sitting in anticipation of the beginning of the women’s meet, these last few excruciatingly impatient days will tick by very slowly. But we’re here to fill the void with some predictions for the men’s meet.
Just like with the women’s selections, we’ll take this race-by-race, day-by-day, before culminating in team picks. Same rules apply: Relays we’ll pick 1-5, individuals we’ll go 1-3 with a wildcard. That wildcard is someone who is either seeded low, is not a “name” swimmer, or is otherwise going to be overlooked by the general picksters.
Click here to see how the psych sheets break down, read on to see who our picks are, and scroll to the bottom to leave your thoughts in the comments.
200 free relay
Rationale: Cal won this relay last season, and return all 4 relay members. Nobody else at the top can boast anywhere near that kind of return rate. This is, of course, assuming that Josh Daniels will have his typical split and get back towards that 18.6 range that he was at last season. Texas and Auburn will be a very interesting battle for second. Both relays were hit heavily by graduation, however both relays have brought in some total studs as replacements. Adam Brown should close the gap between him and Jimmy Feigen from this relay from last season, but Texas has the Dax-factor. Dax Hill has shown that he definitely has the potential to replace the 18.7 that the Longhorns lost from Benjamin Vanroekel. Auburn has their own breakout sprinter in Brazilian import Marco Chierighini, and Kohlton Norys is having a breakout year in the freestyle events. You can never count out a Brett Hawke sprint group, but I’ve got the edge going to Texas right now.
Stanford has a very evenly-talented relay, but they lack what each of the three teams ahead of them has: a hammer that can flat-start an 18-point. Arizona has three top-30 sprinters, even before their famous taper. Minnesota has Michael Richards, currently seeded 2nd in the 50, but I fear the drop-off is too great after his leg. They can still expect an A-final though.
1. Conor Dwyer (Florida)
2. Matt McLean (Virginia)
3. Clement Lefert (USC)
Darkhorse: Hassan Abdel Khalik
Rationale: Last season, Dwyer won this race by the slimmest of margins (.01 seconds). This season, I don’t see the 500 free being anywhere near that close. Dwyer is already two seconds faster than he was last season, and I think he’s still got a littlemore drop in him in this 500, especially as his first race of the meet. If there’s one swimmer (and there is only one swimmer) who appears to have a shot at chasing Dwyer down, it’s Virginia’s McLean, who, it has been rumored, was lest rested than his Virginia teammates at ACC’s. He’s already shown even bigger drops than Dwyer this season, so it’ll be tough to squeeze those last two or three seconds out.
Lefert was the bronze medalist last season, and I think he can repeat that position this year. Abdel Khalik is easy to forget about thanks to his 4:55 NCAA Finals swim last year, that he push started due to a broken hand. But you will recall that he was the second-fastest swimmer in prelims. He hasn’t been as fast in-season this year, but he’s still a quality candidate for a third-place finish.
1. Austin Staab (Stanford)
2. Cory Chitwood (Arizona)
3. Bill Cregar (Georgia)
Darkhorse: Sebastien Rousseau (Florida)
Rationale: I wouldn’t have made this pick 3 weeks ago, but Staab’s 1:42.0 from Pac-10’s is too hard to ignore. Chitwood swam very fast mid-season in this IM, and his time has held up enough to give him a 3rd place seed three months later. Cregar is more of a 400 IM’er but, as a senior, I think he can beat out Michigan freshman Kyle Whitaker for third place. We know that Rousseau is going to be amongst the fastest on the butterfly, and is stronger across-the-board than most in the field. He’s also got the pedigree in this event internationally to place among the top 5 college swimmers.
It’s possible that Cal’s Martin Liivamagi will slide out of an A-final in this event, and if he does, this could leave Cal with under 50 points through the first three events. Texas, Stanford, and maybe even Arizona will be well ahead of that total at this point, and this could give those opponents a big psychological advantage.
1. Nathan Adrian (Cal)
2. Jimmy Feigen (Texas)
3. Vlad Morozov (USC)
Darkhorse: Michael Richards (Minnesota)
Rationale: Adrian is the class of the class in this event. He’s looked so strong this season and has steadily put up almost nonchalant 18.9’s. The battle for second is going to be quite interesting. Feigen is the only of the elite sprinters who hasn’t shown all of his cards yet, but that is pretty typical for him entering NCAA’s. Morozov is young, but explosive off of the blocks. I like his chances of upsetting Adrian a little better in the 100 than here. Auburn’s Adam Brown is going to be my odd man out. He was back home in the UK this past weekend sweeping the British National Championships in the 50 and 100 frees and securing his bids for this summer’s World Championships. He looked really strong there, but now he has to shift gears and refocus on short course racing, and hope that he didn’t use his taper up too early. In a race this tight, I think it’s going to cost him.
Michael Richards is an interesting “darkhorse” candidate. He’s not a darkhorse in the sense that he’s not seeded well (his 19.05 is the second-best in the country this year), but he’s still not quite getting a ton of publicity or credit. Richards was the 2006 U.S. Junior National Champion in this 50 free, and this could be the year that everything finally clicks and he reaches his full potential.
400 medley relay
5. Ohio State
Raionale: This is Cal’s race all-the-way.They already set the textile NCAA Record last season, and have a very good chance at eclipsing the textile U.S. Open mark of 3:02.47 set by the famed Texas quartet: Peirsol, Hansen, Crocker, and Walker. Florida is very sneakily an excellent medley with Dwyer on the breaststroke and mid-season addition Marcin Cieslak from Poland on the butterfly leg. Beyond those top two teams, there aren’t any other great medleys in the field. Texas and Auburn are both short a butterflier, but Auburn has the benefit of enough freestyle depth to put Adam Brown on the fly leg, whereas Texas has to chose between freshman Woody Joye and 200 specialist Neil Caskey.
Ohio State struggled at Big Ten’s, but they were clearly looking past that meet for NCAA’s. I think they post a big comeback and take 5th.