Leading Storylines For This Week’s Power 5 Conference Championships (Psych Sheets)

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Alabama's Liam Bell will lead his team into a fast SEC men's meet at Missouri. Photo Courtesy: Robert Sutton / Alabama Athletics

Leading Storylines For This Week’s Power 5 Conference Championships (Psych Sheets)

In a school year that has been hectic all around and anything but normal, this weekend the NCAA Division I landscape will have a bit of normalcy back to it as all five of the Power Five conferences will be back in action this week. The University of Kentucky and University of Virginia already took care of business in their respective conferences last week on the women’s side, and this week the men will get their turn in those respective conferences, while the women in the Big Ten and the Pac-12, who have only been competing for a limited period, will play their hands at their meets this weekend. The men and women from the Big 12 conference will also have their meet this weekend in Austin, Texas.

With five meets going on this coming weekend, we have highlighted the major storylines that you will need to follow at each meet.

SEC Men

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Photo Courtesy: Tony Walsh / Georgia Athletics

Meet Info:

  • Who: Psych Sheet
  • Who is ranked: #3 Texas A&M, #4 Georgia, #6 Florida, #9 Missouri, #11 Tennessee, #16 Alabama, #23 Auburn
  • When: February 23 – 26
  • Where: Columbia, Missouri
  • How to Watch
  • Finals will begin at 6:00 p.m. (Central) each night except Wednesday (5:00)
  • Prelims will begin at 10 a.m. (Central)

Is this Georgia’s year? The Bulldogs haven’t won an SEC men’s title since Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office (1955) and haven’t won a relay at the meet since 1961. Is this the year Georgia can finally get it done and take down Florida? The Bulldogs are ranked fourth in the latest dual meet poll and will be in a battle with Florida, Texas A&M and Missouri the whole weekend for the team title in what is one of the sneaky fast pools in the United States. Last week at the SEC women’s meet, Kentucky won its first team title and Alabama won its first relay at the meet in over 30 years, so 2021 seems to be the year that streaks get broken.

Big Ten Women

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Northwestern’s Hannah Brunzell. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Meet Info:

  • Who: Psych Sheet to Come
  • Who is ranked: #7 Northwestern, #9 Michigan, #17 Wisconsin, #21 Indiana, #22 Minnesota, #23 Ohio State
  • When: February 23 – 27
  • Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • How to Watch
  • Finals will begin at 6:30 p.m. (Central) each night except Tuesday (5:00)
  • Prelims will begin at 11 a.m. (Central)

Is Northwestern for real? The Big Ten has only been competing for a few weeks, starting competitions in January due to the pandemic. Under strict COVID protocols, it’s been a challenging season for all involved, and with the championships this weekend in Minnesota, we really do not know what to expect since all the teams have dealt with different circumstances. Some teams haven’t suited up at all, some suited up for every meet, and some had to have meets canceled due to contact tracing.

Last season, Ohio State won its first conference title in over 30 years, and Wisconsin and Northwestern put up monster relay performances to show they are on the upswing. Some of that momentum may have been disrupted by the pandemic, but Northwestern has been on fire this season under first year head coach Katie Robinson, even without superstar Calypso Sheridan, where they rank seventh nationally. Maybe a Big Ten title is far reaching for the Wildcats, but they have shown they mean business this season, so how will they stack up against the top tier of Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana? In fact, in the last CSCAA poll, Northwestern and Michigan were the only Big Ten schools ranked in the top 15, with Wisconsin at #17, ahead of Indiana (21), Minnesota (22) and Ohio State (23).

ACC Men’s Meet

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Meet Info:

  • Who: Psych Sheet
  • Who is ranked: #5 NC State, #7 Louisville, #10 Virginia, #13 Virginia Tech, #15 Florida State, #17 Notre Dame, #18 North Carolina, #22 Georgia Tech, #25 Pittsburgh
  • When: February 24 – 27
  • Where: Greensboro, North Carolina
  • How to Watch
  • Live Results
  • Finals will begin at 6 p.m. each night except Wednesday (5:15)
  • Prelims will begin at 10 a.m.

Can anyone challenge NC State? #5 NC State has won every ACC men’s title since 2015, but may get some pressure this year from #7 Louisville. The Wolfpack have a big future ahead of them in their recruiting game and have seamlessly transitioned between coaching staffs the last few years to consistently be a top five program nationally. It will take a lot to take down the Wolfpack, but maybe the Cardinals have what it takes?

The Cardinals have been fire on the medley relays the last few years as they don’t seem to have a weakness across the four strokes. Virginia has been on the rise and have a strong men’s team in place to potentially make a run in the next few years, and in-state Virginia Tech has also been building a strong program the last few years. Georgia Tech also had a sneaky good invite in the fall and have some pretty fast relays that not many people are talking about. It’s going to take a lot to beat NC State in a championship meet, and it may not happen this year, but the ACC is deeper than ever on the men’s side.

Big 12 Men & Women

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Texas freshman Anna Elendt. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Meet Info:

  • Who: Psych Sheet to Come
  • Who is ranked: #1 Texas (men), #8 Texas (women)
  • When: February 24 – 27
  • Where: Austin, Texas
  • How to Watch
  • Finals will begin at 6:00 p.m. each night except Wednesday (4:00)
  • Prelims will begin at 9 a.m. for women and 11 a.m. for men

Just how good are the Texas women? The Longhorns have been known to have a historically good men’s team, but the women haven’t been in the top four nationally in some time. Thanks to a strong freshmen class, Texas was ranked #1 at one point this season. They have since dropped to eighth in the rankings but we really don’t know how good this Texas team is. They haven’t had many meets outside of their home pool and although they will host Big 12’s this weekend in Austin, it will be an opportunity to see what they are made of after already knowing what Virginia, NC State and Kentucky did last week.

Pac-12 Women

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Meet Info:

  • Who: Psych Sheet
  • Who is ranked: #1 California, #10 Stanford, #19 UCLA
  • When: February 24 – 27
  • Where: Houston, Texas
  • How to Watch
  • Finals will begin at 6:00 p.m. (Central) each night
  • Prelims will begin at 10 a.m. (Central)

What does Cal’s championship lineup look like? The Golden Bears are currently ranked #1 in the country and haven’t won a national title since 2015. Racing opportunities have been limited for the Golden Bears this season as they have not left the state of California to compete since last year. After watching Virginia do what they did last week, what does Cal have in response? We haven’t seen them swim a three and a half day championship meet in suits yet so there is a bit of an unknown. And oh by the way, the three-time defending national champs Stanford will also be at the meet. Although the Cardinal have been decimated by COVID, with a lot of the best swimmers electing to stay home, this is still a Stanford team led by Olympic coach Greg Meehan. Counting them out in any situation would be a mistake, and we will get to see those teams do battle in Houston this weekend.

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