By Phillip Whitten
ATLANTA, March 24. WHAT a difference a day makes!
After last night’s finals, the Auburn juggernaut had opened up a 42-point lead over second place Arizona and appeared to be unstoppable. Some coaches on deck were predicting the Tigers would win the men’s Div. I NCAA crown by a record margin.
Then, in this morning’s prelims, Arizona soared, with Stanford not far behind, while Auburn had only a so-so session. The result is that, with a performance tonight that equals this morning’s prelims, the Arizona Wildcats could actually take the lead. In fact, our projections show the second day of competition ending with Arizona likely to hold a small margin over Auburn — I'm thinking three to six points. Stanford is a much more iffy proposition, but if things fall the Cardinal's way, they can pull within striking distance – perhaps 20 or so points behind Auburn. On the other hand, they're just as likely to end Day Two 40 or 50 points back.
One thing is certain: Never underestimate Auburn coach David Marsh – who is not only a superb coach, but also a master motivator. Few can match his ability to squeeze every last ounce of effort and capability out of his athletes. The Tigers want to take home their fourth consecutive crown and they will be very hard to dislodge.
On top of that, Day 3 looks to be Auburn’s best day.
For tonight, here’s how things shape up.
200 medley relay
Northwestern qualified first with Arizona a close second. Stanford is fifth, Auburn sixth.
Stanford has one swimmer in the A final and one in the B. Auburn has one in the A, while Arizona did not have anyone entered in this event.
Arizona should gain on the leader here with two swimmers—including top qualifier Albert Subirats — in the A final to Auburn’s one in the A and one in the B and Stanford’s two in the B.
Give Stanford and Arizona a slight edge here. Both teams have two up (A final), while Auburn has one up and two down (B final). Arizona’s Simon Burnett is a slight favorite to win this one.
Both Arizona and Stanford can make major moves in this event, as Auburn failed to qualify anyone. Arizona boasts the top qualifier, Dave Rollins, and one swimmer in the B final. Stanford has two swimmers in the A final.
This can be another big point-getter for the Wildcats, who have two swimmers in the A final. Auburn has one up and one down, while Stanford has one up.
800 free relay
Arizona is seeded first, Stanford fourth, Auburn ninth.
This should be an exciting evening. Hang on for a wild ride…..!