My top 3:
Georgia: After finishing a close second to California last season, Georgia returns most of its stat power and depth from its tremendous performance in College Station last year. At the moment, Georgia swimmers are favored (or co-favored) in four out of five freestyle events in the forms of Anne-Marie Botek (50), Allison Schmitt (200 and 500), and Wendy Trott (1,650). Behind the starpower lies incredible depth, with the versatile Morgan Scroggy and mid-distance freestyler Chelsea Nauta, among others, looking to rack up some key points in the Bulldogs' quest to reclaim the top spot.
Stanford: Fourth last year, the Cardinal is led by a pair of senior Olympians who look to end their NCAA careers on top. First, there is Julia Smit, the defending NCAA Champion in both IMs and second in the 100 free in College Station, who recently set short course meters world records in both IMs at the Duel in the Pool. Next is Elaine Breeden, a two-time NCAA champ in the 200 fly, who could sweep both butterflies in 2010. Like Georgia, Stanford also has some superb depth, with US World Championship team member Kate Dwelley, as well as Sam Woodward (fly/free) and Kelsey Ditto (free).
Texas: Texas has for several years had one of the top recruiting classes in the country, and that is starting to pay off with some serious depth. They have one superstar, Kathleen Hersey, a US Olympian who was top three in all three of her events last year. Hersey is one of the favorites for the 200 fly this year, and should score key points in her other events, which may include the 100 fly, 200 IM, and/or 400 IM. The depth fills in behind Hersey; breaststrokers Spindrift Beck and Laura Sogar, freestyler Karlee Bispo, and versatile swimmers Katie Riefenstahl and Leah Gingrich will attempt to lead the Longhorns to a national title
Challenging for the Top Five:
Arizona: Arizona has lost much of the depth from its NCAA title in 2008 and its third-place finish last year, although the team may have enough firepower to finish top five. US World Championship team member Alyssa Anderson will be a force in the mid-distance freestyles, as will Annie Chandler in the breaststrokes and seniors Justine Schluntz and Ana Agy.
Auburn: Auburn doesn't have much any superstars in the line-up but it has a bunch of strong swimmers, such as Melissa Marik, Caitlin Geary, Maggie Bird, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, and Ava Ohlgren, who make an outside shot at top five.
California: Cal has lost the major key to its NCAA title last year, who was Dana Vollmer. They are still a very powerful team, led by Sara Isokovic, the Olympic silver medalist in the 200 free; multi-time US National team member in IMs and breaststrokes Caitlin Leverenz; and defending 100 fly champion Amanda Sims. They also have great sprinting depth, with Liv Jensen and Hannah Wilson, and they should finish in the top five once again.
Florida: Florida has strong swimmers that could rack up some major points at NCAAs. Senior Gemma Spofforth looks to make it four-in-a-row in the 200 back and claim her third title in the 100 back, the event in which she is world champion. Finshing second to her in the 200 back last year was teammate Teresa Crippen, who will look to repeat that in 2010. Another British Olympian, Jemma Lowe, will be a factor in both fly races, and Stephanie Napier is a strong sprint freestyler.
Southern California: The Trojans have had a strong season thus far and have a strong chance to move up from their ninth-place finish in College Station last year, even with the departure of world record-holder Rebecca Soni. Their top swimmer is sophomore Katinka Hosszu, the world champion in the 400 IM and bronze medalist from Rome in two more events, who will be a big player in the IM and butterfly races. They also have U.S. World Championship team member Haley Anderson, who should finish in the top three in the 1,650; backstroker Presley Bard, an Olympic trials finalist; and butterflyers Lyndsay DePaul and Tanya Krisman.
Texas A&M: Another strong Lone Star team is Texas A&M. The Aggies have three seniors who could make some noise at NCAAs, two of whom are coming off redshirt years. Alia Atkinson finished second to Rebecca Soni in the 200 breast last year, and she will be one of the favorites in that event in 2010. Julia Wilkinson will be a strong player in the 200 IM, either the 200 free or 100 back, and the 100 free, where she will be one of the title-favorites. Kristen Heiss could push for big points in both backstroke events, particularly the 200.
A week after the women's college season wraps up, the men take to the pool in Columbus, Ohio, March 25-27, on the campus of Ohio State. This year, the NCAA has more fast, experienced swimmers than ever before, from various countries around the world. College swimming is so deep right now that I could be completely wrong in my analysis, but here goes anyway!
My Top Three:
Arizona: In 2008, Arizona took their first-ever NCAA title in men's swimming, but they trailed in 2009, ending up the sixth best team in the country. Now, Arizona swimming is back at the best it has been and once again a legitimate contender for the top spot. They have IMer Jack Brown, fourth and third at Nationals this summer in the 200 and 400 IM, respectively, who is back to his top form and should place top three in both medleys in Columbus; Brown could also make noise in the 200 breast. Next is Clark Burckle, a senior transfer from Florida, also a top-level breaststroke and IM swimmer. Cory Chitwood, second in the 200 back in 2008, returns from a redshirt year as the current top-ranked swimmer in the nation in that event, and he could also make some noise in the 100. Breaststroker Marcus Titus finished third in the 100 breast at Nationals this summer. South African Jean Basson, the defending NCAA champion in the 500 free, will be a big player in the 200, 400, and 1,650 free. Arizona has some solid swimmers to fill out their 400 and 800 free relays, such as Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or and Joel Greenshields.
California: The Golden Bears finished fourth last year, but they are certainly capable of moving up several spots, especially with the continued improvement of their star: Nathan Adrian. Adrian is the big favorite to defend his titles in the 50 and 100 free, and he also has the potential to score big points in either the 200 free or 100 fly. Cal has another defending NCAA champ, Damir Dugonjic, who became the only man under 51 in the 100 breast with his victory last year. The Bears also have a solid contingent of 200 breaststrokers, led by Sean Mahoney, who took second in the event last year and has a strong chance to move up a spot in 2010. Freshman Tom Shields has already proven that he will be a force in the 200 free and 100/200 butterfly, as has South African Graeme Moore in the sprint free and fly races. Guy Barnea will be a key player as the backstroker in the medley relays, which Cal has strong chances to win.
Texas: Long considered the favorite to win their tenth NCAA crown in 2010, the Longhorns might have the perfect combination of depth and superstars to get the job done. They have two of the best collegiate swimmers in the country in David Walters and Ricky Berens, both Olympians and World Championship team members. Walters, the 2008 NCAA Champion in the 200 free, could take back that title, place in very close to the top in the 100 free, and make the 50 free final. Berens, a very versatile swimmer, will swim the 200 IM, either the 200 free or 100 fly, and most likely the 200 fly. Berens has the capability to and needs to place in the top three or four in all of his events. (In 2009, Texas' final undoing was Berens' failure to make top 16 in the 200 fly.) Sophomore Jimmy Feigen took second in both the 50 and 100 last year and could retain or better those placings. US National 1,500 champion Jackson Wilcox returns, and he will be a major force in the distance races. Backstrokers Hill Taylor and Cole Craigin, and breaststroker Scott Spann could rack up key points, while swimmers such as Ben Van Roekel, Peter Jameson, Scott Jostes, and Dax Hill will make Texas tough to beat in all of the relays.
Challenging for Top Five:
Auburn: The Tigers have lost some of the firepower that led them to the top last year (mainly Matt Targett), but they have Tyler McGill, the favorite to win the 100 fly, and a deep group of sprinters led by Briton Adam Brown. They also have loaded corps in breaststroke (Stuart Ferguson, Adam Klein, Michael Silva) and backstroke (Max Murphy, Kohlton Norys, Jared White, Pascal Wollach) that should put them top five at least.
Florida: Foreign swimmers lead Florida's push for a top five placing in Columbus. The Fraser brothers, Shaune and Brett (Cayman Islands), both scored at NCAA's last year, with Shaune taking titles in the 200 free and 200 fly. Marco Loughran (Great Britain) and Omar Pinzon (Colombia) are both excellent backstrokers, and Pinzon could be a factor in IMs as well. Finally, South African Sebastian Rousseau could be a factor in the 200 free and 200 fly.
Michigan: The Wolverines are led by World Championship team members Tyler Clary and Dan Madwed in 2010. Clary, the defending champion in the 200 back and 400 IM, will look to defend those titles and also challenge in the 200 IM, while Madwed should score in the butterflies and mid-distance freestyles. As is tradition for Michigan, a strong group of distance swimmers could put some points on the board, while Chris Brady will be a factor in the sprint freestyle and butterfly, as will Alon Mandel in backstroke and longer butterfly races.
Stanford: Formally one of the favorites for the National title, Stanford's chances for the top were effectively dashed when Austin Staab announced he was leaving the school and team at the beginning of January. Still, a top five finish would not be at all surprising, with star swimmers Chad LaTourette (distance) and Eugene Godsoe (backstroke) leading the way. Both have chances at individual titles in their respective events. The Cardinal has huge depth as well, with swimmers such as Alex Coville, David Mosko, Bobby Bollier, Curtis Lovelace, and Trevor Scheid.
Originally posted in two parts at SwimmingWorld.TV. All parts were written before any conference meets took place.