10 Teams That Will Top the Scoreboard at Men’s NCAA Championships

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA DI Championship Editorial Coverage is proudly sponsored by Adidas. Visit All-American Swim for more information on our sponsor. For all the latest coverage, check out our event coverage page.

By David Rieder

On paper, Texas looks like the favorite to win the team title at the men’s NCAA championships this week. The psych sheet projections have the Longhorns scoring 408 points, which would put them ahead of NC State (377) and Florida (319). The win would be Texas’ second consecutive victory after winning last year’s title in blowout fashion (528 to 399 over Cal).

Texas looks like the best team in the country once again, perhaps even better than last year’s version. The team lost just two significant contributors from last year’s team – backstroker Kip Darmody and freestyler Clay Youngquist – while a whopping five Longhorn freshmen received NCAA invites.

Those freshmen include Townley Haas, who will be a contender to make the championship finals of the 200, 500 and 1650 free, and John Shebat, who figures to replicate if not improve on Darmody’s backstroke performances from last year. Ryan Harty could finish in the top eight in the 200 back and 200 IM, and Tate Jackson is seeded to score in the 50 free.

Of course, the Longhorns return all of their big stars: butterflyers Jack Conger and Joe Schooling, IMer/breaststroker Will Licon and freestyler Clark Smith, who broke the 1000 free American record in December and almost took down the mark in the 500 as well. They still have important depth pieces like Brett Ringgold, John Murray and Matt Ellis.

Sure, Texas’ projected margin of victory on the psych sheet looks tight or at least much tighter than last year. NC State has been swimming lights-out this past month, and the Wolfpack is coming off a dominant victory at the ACC Championships. But Texas knows it can handle NC State; after all, the Longhorns won a November dual meet in Raleigh that was not as close as the final score of 154-136 would indicate.

And the Longhorns always come to swim at NCAAs. That’s not hyperbole; three of the top five performing teams at NCAAs in terms of improving upon their seeds have been Texas teams, and all of those efforts came in the past five years.

Texas competes in the Big-12 – or in men’s swimming, the Big-Three. The school hosts the conference championship meet every year because neither of the other two teams that have swim teams (TCU and West Virginia) have facilities up to standards for such an event, and the Longhorns annually run away with the victory at that event. That leaves them in perfect position to smash their seed times as many top swimmers have not swum rested all year.

They put that all together at last season’s meet – in Friday’s prelims alone, 13 of their 16 swims were improvements on seed times; for some perspective, very few teams reach 50% in that category. That session included an historic performance in the 100 fly, where Texas put six swimmers in the eight-man championship final.

It’s hard to imagine any team challenging Texas at this meet, but watch out for the California Golden Bears and their meet-high 17 invited swimmers to make a move up the standings from their projected fifth-place finish. Cal finished third at the Pac-12 championships behind Stanford and USC, but remember that individual title favorites Ryan Murphy and Josh Prenot skipped the meet to swim at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Orlando for some long course preparation.

But Pac-12s is just a conference meet, and this is NCAAs, a meet the Bears always show up for. In Dave Durden’s eight seasons at the helm, Cal has finished in the top two six times – the past six years! That streak includes national titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The Bears will debut Andrew Seliskar at the NCAA level and return Jacob Pebley, Justin Lynch and the much-improved Long Gutierrez.

NC State gets its strength from its sprint depth, and the Wolfpack will be enter as the top seed in four of the five relay events. Simonas Bilis admitted to not tapering fully for ACCs, and he and teammate Ryan Held will be top-three threats in both the 50 and 100 free.

The big contenders for top-five finishes include Florida – having Caeleb Dressel helps – and Michigan, led by Atlanta-native sprinter Paul Powers and IMer/flyer Dylan Bosch. Auburn will be in the mix, as will Georgia and possibly Indiana, both of whose women impressed mightily at last week’s women’s championships.

In the March issue of Swimming World Magazine, I picked Texas to win the national championship, and nothing that has happened in the past two months has changed my mind. Eddie Reese will win his record-breaking 12th career NCAA title and his second-straight which, interestingly enough, he has not done since 2000-2002. The likes of Brendan Hansen and Ian Crocker were on those squads.

Predictions for Top Ten Teams at Men’s NCAA Championships

1. Texas
2. California
3. NC State
4. Florida
5. Michigan
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Indiana
9. Alabama
10. Louisville

1 comment

  1. Cara Jones

    Can you please email this article to me @cjones@collegeaccess.us
    The link did not have that option. Thank you do much.