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.
1. Chad La Tourette (Stanford)
2. Martin Grodzki (Georgia)
3. Jackson Wilcox (Texas)
Wildcard: Jo Kinderwater
Rationale: This has the potential to be a legendary distance battle. La Tourette and Grodzki went 1-2 last year, but they have already blown past those times this season. In fact, 5 of the top 6 in the country return. There’s going to be a great battle for 3rd between the two Longhorns: Wilcox and McBroom. I think that the older Wilcox, who fought off a tough McBroom challenge at Big 12’s, will have a slight mental edge in these circumstances and takes 3rd. Jo Kinderwater was put away soundly in this race at ACC’s by Virginia’s Matt McLean (another swimmer that will be in the fast-heat pack with Wilcox and McBroom). But he still swam very close to his 2010 NCAA times in both this race and the 500 free. That shows how much deeper and stronger the mile field is this season. Still, despite being seeded 9th in this event, he’s one of the best young distance swimmers in the country. His whole 2010 season has seemed a bit off of what he’s capable of, so we should see him fighting for a big bounceback this season. In a timed final event, however, Kinderwater will have the disadvantage of not being in the top-flight. This is more significant in the mile than probably any other race.
Stanford could get a win from La Tourette, and this is the event where they really made a strong move on Cal at Pac-10’s. However, David Mosko’s absence due to an injury is defiantly going to be felt in this face since he was a top 8 contender.
1. Cory Chitwood (Arizona)
2. Austin Surhoff (Texas)
3. Eric Ress (Indiana)
Wildcard: Bryan Collins (Texas)
Rationale: Chitwood won this race last year despite his battles with the illness. It was on the last day of the meet, and he did seem to get stronger as the meet went on.. And it was by a relatively wide margin too: 6-tenths over all-world 200 backstroker Tyler Clary. I don’t see any way that he loses this race at full-strength. After Chitwood , it’s a tough pick, but not because there’s so many obvious choices for top 3, but moreso because there isn’t much history to go off of amongst the top seeds. This is not to say that the swimmers aren’t good, because they are, in fact, quite outstanding; they just don’t have the history.
Surhoff swam extremely well in this race last year in prelims, but slipped a little in finals back to 6th after a very long meet for a freshman. This year, as a sophomore, he’ll be better equipped to handle his grueling event schedule, and should place much better in the final here. Ress, as the defending French National Champion in this event, is the best in the field long course in this 200 back. At Big Ten’s, however, he didn’t prove that, which was likely the result of having broken his hand the day before. As we mentioned in the 100 back, it’s probably just enough to knock him down a placing, but not enough to keep him out of the top 3; especially in this 200: his best race. Florida’s Marco Loughran will also be in the battle for a top 3, and Stanford’s Matt Thompson is bursting with talent in this event that he’s ready to display.
This is a race on day 3 where, if the meet is close (when factoring in the platform diving yet to come), someone could make a big move on Cal. Stanford has two top-6 potential guys, and Texas could get three in the A-final between Surhoff, Cole Cragin, Bryan Collins, and freshman Patrick Murphy.
1. Nathan Adrian (Cal)
2. Vlad Morozov (USC)
3. Jimmy Feigen (Texas)
Wildcard: Conor Dwyer (Florida)
Bonus Wildcard: Michael Richards (Minnesota)
Rationale: Nathan Adrian will be chasing Cesar Cielo’s record in this event. David Rieder and I were discussing this race the other day, and crunching some numbers, and we both agreed that he would be down to within hundreths of Cielo’s U.S. Open (and NCAA) record of 40.92, and it will come down to every tiny little detail for him getting it.
But what about the freshman Morozov? He pushed Adrian harder than we expected at Pac-10’s, and most indicators point to USC and Cal being at similar levels of rest at that meet. He’s got a killer start, and there’s still a slight window open for an upset here. I think his chances are better here than in the 50, though on either account I think they’re slim. It was hard to put Feigen 3rd here. As both a freshman and a sophomore, he was second in this race, but I think that Morozov is improving at an unbelievable rate for such a young age, while Feigen has yet to truly break out to that World-Class level in this event. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think Feigen will beat Morozov next year, however.
Conor Dwyer is an easy Wildcard pick. We really don’t have a clue what he’s capable of in this 100 free. The best we can do is extrapolate from three times: 1) his 18.9 50 free relay split from SEC’s; 2) his 1:31.7 200 free flat-start from SEC’s; and 3) his 42.17 relay-split from last season. Put it all together and…well I’ll let you make your own decisions, but I see a 41-high in his future. Since that was so obvious, I’ll give you Michael Richards as a bonus wildcard. Anyone who goes a 19.0 in the 50 free should be able to go at least a 42.0 in the 100, especially given that he had very little push in this race at Big Ten’s
I think that Auburn’s Adam Brown probably places 4th in this 100, matching his finish from last season. Virginia’s Scot Robison, who showed his biggest improvement over the summer in this race, could also take that 4th position.
1. Scott Spann (Texas)
2. Carlos Almeida (Louisville)
3. Nick D’Innocenzo (Texas)
Wildcards: Rob Holderness (Florida State), Martti Aljand (Cal), Adam Klein (Auburn)
Rationale: Scott Spann is one of the most quietly impressive, and interesting, college breaststrokers we may have seen in forever. He never does anything in season, and then busts out spectacular swims at NCAA’s. In this event, he was a 2008 Olympic finalist at only 20 years old. But still, he doesn’t have a single individual NCAA Championship under his belt…and that includes relays. That’s simply hard to fathom. It’s time to change that, though. I think Spann gets number 1 right here, on the final day of his college swimming career, and I think that it will be met with thunderous applause from all in attendance at the Minnesota Aquatics Center.
If I didn’t like Almeida so much to pick him second, he would’ve been my wildcard pick. He is a part of the Louisville breaststroking program that, despite toiling in the under-represented Big East, is one of the 3 best in the country. D’Innocenzo has recovered from some health issues last season (of the coughing variety, not the torn variety), and enters this meet with the top seed. I don’t think he can hold onto that position, but he’s definitely good enough for a top-5 finish, and I think he’ll hold off Cal’s Martti Aljand and his teammate Eric Friedland for 3rd.
Besides swimmers I’ve already mentioned, there’s a ton of great wildcard picks. Adam Klein from Auburn, who’s a USA National Teamer, had a terrible swim at SEC’s, but is clearly top-8 in talent after being 3rd last year. His teammate Stuart Ferguson is also a great potential pick here. Ohio State’s Elliott Keefer will be in there, and Ohio State’s Rob Holderness didn’t appear rested for ACC’s, though I expected him to be. And the real head scratcher is Damir Dugonjic from Cal. I understand that the 100 and 200 are different races. But when have we ever before seen a swimmer who might be discussed amongst the best college 100 breaststrokers (or any strokers) ever but couldn’t even make a B-final in the 200? That’s totally perplexing to me.
1. Tom Shields (Cal)
2. Mark Dylla (Georgia)
3. Daniel Madwed (Michigan)
Wildcard: Daniel Lester (Wisconsin)
Rationale: Patrick Ewing, Ted Williams, Dan Marino, Mark Dylla. It’s really heartbreaking, but it looks like Dylla could be added to the list of some of the greatest athletes who have never won championships. As a freshman and a sophomore, he was the runner-up in this event. Last season, he was the first to the finish, but was DQ’ed on a brutal one-handed-touch call on the race’s very first turn. This season, Cal’s Tom Shields, who benefited from Dylla’s DQ last year with a 2nd-place finish, looks to have stepped up his game in a big way in this event. At Pac-10’s, Shields set the NCAA record and moved into 2nd on the all-time list behind only two swims from Michael Phelps. I think that Dylla also moves under the old NCAA mark in this event, and that it becomes the fastest 200 fly race in history (Stanford’s Bobby Bollier and Madwed could both also be 1:40’s).
As an indication of how competitive this field is 1-8, consider this: Out of last season’s A-final, only champion Shaune Fraser graduated. (Mosko was also an A-finalist, and is out with an injury). And that doesn’t include the emergence of Ohio State’s Quincy Lee, a surprise entry from Arizona’s Shapira Bar-Or, and two great freshman: Michigan’s Kyle Whitaker and Florida’s Marcin Cieslak, the latter of whom was ranked 17th in the world in this event last year.
400 free relay
Rationale: I’m picking the top 3 to go exactly as it went last year. Cal won this relay last season by over a second, and return the same 4 swimmers. They also have something to their credit that no other team in the field does: the potential to post four sub-42 splits.Texas…ahem…”experimented” with Jimmy Feigen on the 800 free relay instead of this one at Big 12’s…which resulted in their only loss of the meet. Needless to say, I don’t think that will be happening again at NCAA’s.
This Texas relay is very sneaky good. Everyone knows about Feigen and Hill, but people forget about Scott Jostes. He has flown under the radar as one of Texas’ most important relay pieces over the last two seasons, and is actually a part of three of the Longhorns’ American Record relays. He split a 42.3 last season. Stanford’s sprinters were on fire at Pac-10’s, and they are the only team (including Cal) who enters this meet with 4 swimmers who have flat-started under 43.
And then there’s Auburn…the Tigers were the top seed after prelims in this race, but false started on their leadoff, and thus didn’t even get to swim the final. They aren’t quite as deep in this relay (splitting hairs) as they are in the 200, but the midseason addition of Marco Chierighini really shored them up here. It’s going to be a great battle with them, Texas, and Stanford for those 2-4 spots. We still haven’t seen the best of USC, but I think that this is their best relay. They’re a team to watch as event champions next season, as all 4 members return.