What Impact Would Scoring 24 Swimmers at NCAAs Have on Results?

We floated an idea to score NCAA championships to 24 places earlier this month. Several depth-based teams, such as Indiana’s women’s squad recently upset Michigan’s team that should fare far better . While the majority (60%) of SwimSwam readers opposed the idea, it did have some significant support.

Right now, college swimming has basically three formats which can favor different types of teams: dual meets, which the CSCAA ranks in their strength rankings; conference championships, some of which are scored to 24 places such as Big 10s; and NCAA nationals, which is scored to 16 places. The idea was that in scoring to 24 places, teams that were capable of winning power championships in the power five conferences would

To give an idea of what differences scoring NCAA championships to 24 place would make, we re-scored last year’s NCAA DI Men’s and Women’s championships. Shown below is the re-scored 2018 NCAAs along with the team’s previous scores and the previous places and the change in place for that team.

2018 Women

Team New Place New Score Old Place Old Score Place Change
Stanford 1 1082 1 593 0
California 2 652.5 2 373 0
Texas A&M 3 652 3 299 0
Michigan 4 581.5 4 267 0
Texas 5 519 6 221.5 1
Tennessee 6 461 7 180.5 1
Louisville 7 451 5 232 -2
Southern Cali 8 371.5 12 127 4
Virginia 9 364.5 9 161 0
Indiana 10 359 8 169 -2
Ohio St 11 327.5 13 123 2
Minnesota 12 333 10 157 -2
Georgia 13 328.5 11 135 -2
Auburn 14 321 16 82.5 2
Kentucky 15 249 14 97 -1
NC State 16 236 18 70 2
Missouri 17 232 15 86 -2
Wisconsin 18 197 17 78 -1
Arizona 19 162 20 46 1
UNC 20 118 25 32 5
UCLA 21 103 26 31 5
Alabama 22 85.5 30 23 8
Virginia Tech 23 76 33 14 10
Florida St 24 68 42 3 18
Penn St 25 54 29 26 4

2018 Men

Team New Place New Score Old Place Old Score Place Change
 California 1 882.5 2 437 1
 Texas 2 876 1 449 -1
 Indiana 3 786 3 422 0
 NC State 4 693 4 385 0
 Florida 5 618 5 347 0
 USC 6 510.5 6 253 0
 Stanford 7 469 7 205 0
 Michigan 8 461.5 8 168.5 0
 Louisville 9 380 9 156 0
 Georgia 10 325.5 10 129 0
 Tennessee 11 307.5 11 123 0
 Auburn 12 266 12 98.5 0
 Alabama 13 228 13 95 0
 Texas A&M 14 219 14 75 0
 Arizona 15 196 16 64 1
 Minnesota 16 189.5 15 67 -1
 Harvard 17 187 18 58 1
 Virginia 18 175 29 19 11
 Arizona St 19 161 20 45 1
 South Carolina 20 159 17 60 -3
 Ohio State 21 148.5 28 25 7
 Notre Dame 22 130 23 29 1
 Missouri 23 118 23 29 0
 Purdue 24 108 19 54 -5
 Florida St 25 104 21 42 -4

As it turns out, the top teams are basically the same. Where more of the differences lie are in the middle-tier teams. There is huge gap between placing top five at NCAAs and placing in the 25-5 range. A team can sneak into the top 10 at NCAAs with 4-5 really fast swimmers and a few relays that can make finals. But any team with a realistic shot at winning nationals will have at least 10-15 swimmers all scoring individually, which is really hard! So those teams benefit relatively little from having an additional eight swimmers score. Florida St. for example, the 42nd place team at Women’s NCAAs in 2018 moved up 19 spots scoring 24 deep since they had quite a few swimmers and divers right on the cusp of scoring. However, the overall change in terms of finishing position for most teams is relatively minor.

Changing the scoring would have made one big difference on the men’s side: it would have given Cal the title over Texas. This is just as easily described as Cal missing an opportunity in a 12-point meet that was historically close.

Also interesting was that scoring 24 vs. 16 places wouldn’t make a big difference in some of the conference championships that were referenced as motivation for the change. If you re-score 2019 Big Ten Women’s championships to 16 places, Indiana is still the victor over Michigan, this time 1220 to 1159.

Changing nationals to score to 24 places might have some benefits, but it doesn’t look like benefiting depth-heavy teams is one of them. Perhaps its best that NCAA swimming keeps its different formats – swimming tends to be a sport where the underdogs don’t often win – so a few different scoring formats give more teams a chance to shine.

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mike in dallas

. . . .And the winner of NCAA D1 men’s 2019 swimming championships
will be (drum roll, please) TEXAS LONGHORNS!
Interesting post, truly, but reality trumps hypothesis.

Coach ID

How many more schools would score 1 point if NCAA’s were scored to 24 places? Getting on the scoreboard is important to AD’s and sport administrators.

Superfan

And do ADs care of dual meet scores when teams exhibition the last 4 events so the loss “doesn’t look so bad”? Who are you kidding?

Dan

If you have access to the meet backup file this can be answered in 5 min (I don’t have a copy of the back up). I would guess Kevin has a backup or this could take hours to do.

Greg

I’ve been through a sport elimination firsthand and had conversations with AD’s why swimming was eliminated and why another sport was not (wrestling). One of the reasons why wrestling was not eliminated was the chance to be nationally ranked (score at the NCAA’s) and the automatic bids to the NCAA’s via the conference championships. At that time there were 84 D1 NCAA wrestling programs, 72 were represented at the NCAA Championships and 68 scored points. Similar to water polo, basketball and wrestling (and other sports), they made the conscious decision to have automatic bids from conferences to ensure participation, regional interest and sport security, but not necessarily establishing a true national championship with the all of the top ranked wrestlers… Read more »

Human Ambition

This is an IF.

The big teams could also change their lineups with new rules. For example – the “Texas score-16” team might not look the same as the “Texas score-24 team”

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