Cal Men's Swimming races for a 7th NCAA team title this week (Wed. - Sat.)
Cal is projected to edge rival Texas, who does NOT have a big diving advantage this year
If you have paid any attention to NCAA Men’s Swimming recently, you would know that the NCAA National Championships for Swimming AND Diving has been a two-school race between Cal and Texas for the past decade-plus. In fact, 10 of the last 11 NCAA team title has gone to one of these two schools. The 6-4 advantage to the Texas Longhorns has a lot to do with their much better diving program, even though diving is only 3 of the 21 events.
The 2022 NCAA Championships from Atlanta, Georgia (McCauley Aquatic Center on the campus of Georgia Tech) should again be a close contest between Cal and Texas.
While Cal has no diving program this school year (maybe Cal AD Jim Knowlton is too busy to make an MBB coaching change because he is busy searching for new Cal Diving and Cal Men’s Soccer head coaches?), Texas should only have a very small diving advantage. As I wrote back in January, Texas’ top scorer from their win in 2021, USA Olympic diver Jordan Windle, who scored a team-high 52 points, is out due to ongoing disciplinary investigations. While the Longhorns qualified four divers, it would appear that they might only bring two divers to compete since they hit a roster limit (they, in fact, had to scratch a swimmer to add two divers). UT’s press release mentioned that Sophomore Noah Duperre will compete in all three diving events (1-meter, 3-meter, Platform), while junior Andrew Harness, qualified on the Platform and the 1-meter. Scoring how the divers are seeded, Texas may only score a total of 18 points from the three diving events.
Texas also added to their training group, last year’s NCAA Swimmer of the Meet, in Shaine Casas from Texas A&M. Casas won three events: 100y Back, 200y Back, and 200y IM. Since switching his training base, Casas has decided to turn pro and race Cal alum Ryan Murphy in the TYR Pro Swim Series this spring.
On the sideline, Texas swimming head coach Eddie Reese briefly retired before reversing his decision to come back for another season. Reese is a legend for winning 15 NCAA titles. Texas swimmers credit their great performances last year to trying to send Reese out on a high. We might hear a similar schtick in interviews this year.
Despite not having these big-time point scorers, Texas does have the No.1 ranked recruiting class in the country. They have a strong group of swimmers that will challenge Cal in the pool.
SwimSwam scored the psych sheet for us. Cal has a 358.5 to 351 advantage over Texas. Florida is 3rd at 310.5. They also offer the following analysis.
Alright. So, Cal is leading the scored psych sheet over Texas by a slim margin. Texas has a diving advantage over Cal, although with the absence of Jordan Windle, one of the top divers in the NCAA, that advantage is less significant than in previous years.
Another interesting aspect of the projected scoring is just how few relay points Cal is seeded to score. It’s not terribly surprising, since Cal’s relays outside of the 200 free and 400 free at Pac-12 didn’t perform as fast as we thought they could have. The reason it’s notable that Cal is seeded so lowly in relays is because it leaves room for Cal to potentially improve versus their projected scoring.
Yes, Cal has a lot more room to earn points, particularly in the relays.
For Wednesday’s meet-opening relays, Cal is only seeded 12th in 200y Medley Relay and 8th in 800y Free Relay.
When Cal won their 5th straight Pac-12 title two weeks ago, they also did not gain a serious amount of points until the final day.
It should be pointed out that Cal is infamous for improving between the Pac-12 and the NCAA Championships.
SwimSwam got the breakdown of just how great Cal is in improving on the psych sheet. For the last three championships (there wasn’t one in 2020), Cal has improved by 124.83 in points. Texas is next best with an improvement of 69.83. Stanford is 3rd with an improvement of 42.83.
Cal, generally, improves the most from seed at the NCAA Championships of any team in the country. This year, they enter the meet with the most seeded swimming points of any team in the country, and have a few spots where it seems clear they’re going to improve (12th seed in the 200 medley relay, for example). Texas has plenty of room to move up as well, but this year, they’ll have to dig out of that hole with only one diver who earned an invite via the primary channel: Andrew Harness, who scored 7 diving points at NCAAs last year. That puts the two teams, by seed and including diving, at about dead-even (Cal has a 7.5 point swimming advantage on paper this year). The last time where Texas improved its swimming points by more than Cal at NCAAs was 2017 (190 vs. 38). Texas will probably bring another diver via the institutionally-funded route, Noah Duperre, who scored 23 points at last year’s NCAAs, though he’ll need to be better at NCAAs than at Zones to markedly shift Texas’ outcome.
From swimming only, if you factor in the 7.5 point edge from the psych sheet and the 55 point edge from improvement, Cal has a 62.5 point edge from swimming. Even if Texas got a bit more from diving (say 30 rather than 20 points), Cal should be considered the favorite to win the program’s 7th NCAA team title this week, the 5th one under head coach Dave Durden. A win this week will also be Cal Athletics’ 99th team national championship in school history.
Cal fans might have to be patient though, the Golden Bears’ best events are not until Saturday. Just like the Pac-12, Saturday morning’s prelim session will be when the Cal Bears can effectively win this NCAA title.
SwimSwam did a visualization of the projected standings (scoring the psych sheet). The link to that is below.
Last year, Cal won two relays (200y Free and 400y Free) and had three individual wins. All three individual wins, 50y Free, 100y Free, 100y Fly, were achieved by Ryan Hoffer. While many of his fellow seniors did come back for a 5th year, Hoffer opted to turn pro and race in the International Swimming League (ISL) last year after getting his Cal degree. Can’t fault him for that decision at all.
All of Cal’s 5th-year returnees have been slower this year. Some of this is to be expected since last year was an Olympic year. The other theory, which Cal has the track record to back this up as the recent history of significantly beating the psych sheet indicated, is that these guys know what to do and are only concerned with the nationals. I would not be surprised if Trenton Julian, Daniel Carr, Sean Grieshop, and Bryce Mefford all post significantly faster times than they did at the Pac-12.
Now let’s look at each event one by one, with a special focus on Cal and Texas swimmers. The numbers in the parenthesis are the psych sheet seed for the relay/swimmer. Remember that only the top-16 will score points at the NCAA. Relays count for double points. I have also looked at the results from the 2021 NCAA Championships and the recent Pac-12 Championships to make some comments for each event.
200y Medley Relay
Texas (4), Cal (12)
Cal with a lineup of Daniel Carr, Reece Whitley, Ryan Hoffer, Bjorn Seeliger finished 3rd last year. Ryan Hoffer has since graduated. Both Carr and Seeliger were in Cal’s Pac-12 3rd place relay for this event with Liam Bell and Dare Rose. The Bears should be faster than the 1:23:26 posted at Pac-12 but how much faster could they be?
Just like the women’s meet last week, NCAA has gone completely to a time-trial situation for the relays. Cal will race in the slower penultimate heat than Texas.
Texas won the Big 12 title with a 1:22.24, but defending champs Louisville is considered the favorites to repeat.
800y Free Relay
Texas (5), Cal (8)
At least the two teams will be in the same pool for this one. Texas has won the last two NCAA titles in this event, but Arizona State got the top time this year, set at the Pac-12 when Cal placed 3rd.
At the Pac-12, Durden used a lineup of Robin Hanson, Gabriel Jett, Trenton Julian, and Destin Lasco. Hanson and Jett are both just freshmen.
Cal - Gabriel Jett (22), Sean Grieshop (29), Tyler Kopp (50)
Texas - Luke Hobson (2), Coby Carrozza (15), David Johnston (24), Alex Zettle (26), Peter Larson (34)
The top guys for both teams, Jett and Hobson, are both freshmen. Grieshop finished 7th, 5th, 2nd in this event at the past three NCAA’s; he only finished 6th at the Pac-12 this year.
Cal - Destin Lasco (7), Jason Louser (10), Hugo Gonzalez (12), Trenton Julian (22), Reece Whitley (57), Bryce Mefford (61), Daniel Carr (67)
Texas - Carson Foster (5), Caspar Corbeau (9), Jake Foster (16), Tim Connery (25), Braden Vines (30)
There are some interesting names in the early prelim heats for Cal in this one. Bryce Mefford, the lone 2021 Tokyo US “Calympian” on the team has taken it easy after returning to the team this spring. He could easily perform like he had in his Cal career in this meet and get in the scoring position.
Carson Foster earned the Big-12 Swimmer of the Meet at the conference championships. He should be getting into the A-Finals for 400y IM, 200y IM, and along with a lot of Cal Bears in 200y Back.
Both schools could have 3-5 point scorers in this event.
Cal - Bjorn Seeliger (3), Jack Alexy (34), Robin Hanson (50), Liam Bell (56), Dylan Hawk (61)
Texas - Cameron Auchinachie (5), Danny Krueger (20), Drew Kibler (25), Anthony Grimm (51), Alvin Jiang (54), Zac Van Zandt (57)
Cal’s 2021 Tokyo Swedish “Calympian” Seeliger won this event at the Pac-12 with freshman teammate Alexy taking 6th. Given how good Cal should be in the 200y Free Relay, one should not be surprised if Cal got multiple scorers here.
Auchinachie is a grad transfer from Denver that’s new to the Texas team. The fastest event this week is always hard to predict, but SwimSwam thinks Drew Kibler could be a potential A-Finalist here (over Auchinachie).
Noah Duperre and Andrew Harness (Texas)
Duperre was 2nd and Harness was 10th in this event at the NCAA last year.
200y Free Relay
Cal (3), Texas (7)
Golden Bears are the defending champs but the lineup last year included Hoffer and Nate Biondi (son of Matt). Jack Alexy and Marco Rico Peng joined Seeliger and Carr to take the Pac-12 this year. The Bears just held off ASU in that meet.
Texas took 6th last year but half of that relay is gone.
Cal - Hugo Gonzalez (3), Jason Louser (4), Sean Grieshop (17), Tyler Kopp (28)
Texas - Carson Foster (2), Jake Foster (6), Braden Vines (22), David Johnston (29)
This might be a race between Cal’s Gonzalez and Louser against Texas’ Foster brothers in half of the A-Final field. Last year, half of the A-Final was all Texas Longhorns (the same four guys here) with the lone Cal Bear being Sean Grieshop who took 3rd.
ASU’s Leon Marchand beat Gonzalez and Louser for the Pac-12 title. Grieshop was 6th in that race.
Cal - Dare Rose (23)
Texas - Zac Van Zandt (24), Alvin Jiang (30)
Texas’s Jiang finished 4th last year, when Cal’s Ryan Hoffer touched the wall first. Both schools may not score many points here. Dare Rose was only 5th at the Pac-12.
Cal - Gabriel Jett (14), Trenton Julian (15), Robin Hanson (19), Dylan Hawk (37), Colby Mefford (56)
Texas - Drew Kibler (7), Peter Larson (21), Coby Carrozza (29), Luke Hobson (32), Tim Connery (44), Drew Krueger (49)
The wealth of potential point scorers here for Texas explains why they may repeat in 800y Free Relay. Cal does have three solid potential top-16 finishers though. Trenton Julian took 3rd last year, just one spot behind Texas’ Kibler.
Julian also took 3rd at the Pac-12 this year with Jett 6th. I am expecting a major time drop from Trenton Julian here.
Cal - Reece Whitley (5), Liam Bell (24)
Texas - Caspar Corbeau (3)
Last year, Whitley took 3rd with Minnesota’s Max McHugh (top seed on the psych sheet) pulling off the breaststroke double. Texas’ Corbeau was 6th. Whitley was able to win this event at the Pac-12 and will be looking for that elusive first individual Pac-12 title here (even if he is stronger in 200y Breast).
Cal - Bjorn Seeliger (5), Destin Lasco (10), Daniel Carr (12), Bryce Mefford (28), Sebastian Somerset (30), Colby Mefford (46)
Texas - Cameron Auchinachie (7), Alvin Jiang (9), Anthony Grimm (21), Chris O’Connor (42)
Seeliger was the surprise Pac-12 winner in this event, but Lasco probably is the better bet to win this event (he is SwimSwam’s choice). Lasco took 3rd last year, but as I had mentioned above, last year’s winner Shaine Casas has turned pro.
Ideally, Cal gets at least three guys into the A-Final and maybe four in scoring positions.
Jiang finished 4th behind Lasco last year but has been slower this year.
Noah Duperre (Texas)
Duperre was 11th in this event last year.
400y Medley Relay
Texas (6), Cal (10)
The two squads will again be racing in different heats here.
Cal’s Pac-12 lineup that took 3rd consisted of Destin Lasco, Reece Whitley, Dare Rose, and Bjorn Seeliger.
Last year, Texas won this event over Cal (with 100y Fly winner Hoffer in place of Rose for the Fly leg), but both schools will have to replace at least one swimmer to graduation.
Cal - Sean Grieshop (33), Tyler Kopp (35)
Texas - David Johnston (2), Luke Hobson (7), Alex Zettle (12)
Sean Grieshop finished 4th in this event back in 2019. He is certainly capable of getting into the top-8 in his final collegiate race. Grieshop only took 5th at the Pac-12 where he posted a mediocre time.
If things are close, this might be Texas’ last best chance to score a bunch of points over Cal in an event.
Cal - Destin Lasco (1), Daniel Carr (2), Byrce Mefford (6), Colby Mefford (21), Sebastian Somerset (23)
Texas - Carson Foster (5), Chris O’Connor (18), Peter Larson (37)
Cal should again live up to that “Backstroke U” reputation. Anything short of at least 3 A-Finalists here would be considered disappointing.
All 5 Cal swimmers made the A-Final at the Pac-12 two weeks ago with Lasco edging Carr for the Pac-12 title.
Cal - Bjorn Seeliger (5), Jack Alexy (10), Dylan Hawk (23), Robin Hanson (38)
Texas - Danny Krueger (3), Cameron Auchinachie (13), Drew Kibler (34), Tim Connery (40), Zac Van Zandt (44)
Swedish “Calympian” Robin Hanson raced at the Tokyo Olympics in both 100m Free and 200m Free. He could get into the top-16 and score points here. Otherwise, things look fairly even between the two schools in this event.
The other Swedish “Calympian” Seeliger won this event at the Pac-12. Alexy took 3rd and Hanson took 8th.
Cal - Reece Whitley (3), Hugo Gonzalez (5), Jason Louser (24), Liam Bell (43)
Texas - Caspar Corbeau (7), Jake Foster (27), Braden Vines (35)
Hugo Gonzalez and Reece Whitley finished 2nd and 3rda at the Pac-12 behind ASU’s French Olympian Leon Marchand, the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet. Marchand’s top time is actually between Whitley and Gonzalez’s times.
I would love to see Reece Whitley, now a senior, winning an NCAA title in his possible final collegiate race. Minnesota Max McHugh won this race over Whitley and Gonzalez last year with Texas’s Corbeau 4th; McHugh is the top seed this year.
Cal - Trenton Julian (3), Dare Rose (13), Gabriel Jett (16)
Texas - Coby Carrozza (31)
Just like the Pac-12, Cal could clinch the team title at this event.
Louisville’s Nicolas Albiero is more than a second better than everyone else on the psych sheet. Albiero edged Cal’s Julian in this event last year.
Noah Duperre and Andrew Harness (Texas)
Harness was 10th in this event at the NCAA last year.
400y Free Relay
Cal (1), Texas (5)
Cal has the top time in the country, but just slightly (by 0.01 second) over ASU. This was that exciting final race of the Pac-12 Championships two weeks ago.
Texas took 4th last year but half of that lineup has graduated.
The Cal lineup consists of Dylan Hawk, Jack Alexy, Hugo Gonzalez, and Bjorn Seeliger. Cal won this event last year with a lineup that included Spanish “Calympian” Gonzalez and Swedish “Calympian” Seeliger with Hoffer and Destin Lasco. A Cal win in this event will be a great exclamation point on this meet, especially if things go the way they should/could for the Golden Bears.
WatchESPN will have live streams of all of the sessions this week from Wednesday to Saturday. The prelim sessions are scheduled to start at 7 pm PT and the finals are scheduled to start at 3 pm PT.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!