Home Swimming Pool 2021 ACC Men’s Fan Guide: As ACC Gets Deeper, NC State Still...

2021 ACC Men’s Fan Guide: As ACC Gets Deeper, NC State Still Favorites

20
0

2021 ACC Men’s Swimming Championships

  • When: Wednesday, February 24th to Saturday, February 27th Prelims 10:00 am | Finals 6:00 pm (1650 prelims Saturday at 4:00 pm)
  • Where: Greensboro Aquatic Center, Greensboro, North Carolina (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: North Carolina State University (NC State) (29x, 6th-straight) (results)
  • Streaming: ACC Network
  • Championship Central: Here
  • Detailed Timeline: Here
  • Psych Sheets: Here
  • Live Results

The swimming portion of the 2021 ACC Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships gets underway Wednesday in Greensboro. The men’s diving already competed alongside the women’s championships last week, as is normal for the ACC. The meet should look fairly normal, with the biggest change being the absence of spectators, allowing teams to use the bleachers to remain distanced during the sessions.

Last year, NC State cruised to its 6th-straight title. While the team didn’t have quite the top-end star power it did a few years ago, Coleman Stewart flirted with the US Open record in the 100 back, the distance group shone once again, and the Wolfpack ended with a 169-point victory. With losing Stewart and some other key seniors, NC State looked like it might be vulnerable this year, but the second-semester arrival/return of some top international swimmers, namely transfer Kacper Stokowski, should help keep NC State on top.

UVA returns the core of a team that finished 2nd last year, and also brought in a strong freshman class that includes sprint star Matt Brownstead, who’s already taken down the school records in the 50 free and the 100 free back. If UVA is going to challenge NC State, one area they need to improve is “missed swims.” Last year, they had 14 splashes where swimmers failed to score. This is even more crucial this year, where the Cavaliers will begin next week in the hole — they only had one diver compete last week, and he scored 0 points, whereas UVA divers scored 116 points last year.

Last year, Louisville narrowly finished 3rd, thanks in part to a DQ in the 200 medley in the Cardinals’ very first swim of the meet. While they lost sprint star Andrej Barna to graduation, Louisville retains a strong core led by senior Nick Albiero, who may be the ACC swimmer with the best shot of winning an individual event at this year’s NCAA championships. The Cardinals are loaded in the medley relays, and the emergence of freshman Dalton Lowe should allow Albiero to forgo the 200 medley relay and instead swim on all three free relays.

Virginia Tech finished 4th last year, about 180 points behind UVA and Louisville, but the Hokies have brought in a couple reinforcements this year, and they looked very sharp a few weeks ago in what was essentially a suited intrasqaud competition. We’ll discuss this more in the “Selections” section, but the Hokies look poised to make a serious run at their best finish since they won in 2014, the last year before the start of NC State’s current streak.

Florida State and Notre Dame have also finished in the top half of the conference over the last four years, and last year they finished 5th and 6th, respectively, separated by only 9 points. Florida State has frequently put together one of the top sprint freestyle squads in the conference, while Notre Dame has relied more upon their distance prowess as of late. The Fighting Irish distance group will lose a big of its luster after Zach Yeadon transferred to Cal, but sophomore Jack Hoagland had a downright meteoric rise last year, and he should vie for conference titles.

UNC jumped from 10th to 7th last year under new head coach Mark Gangloff, and the Tar Heels had been looking sharp so far this season, even swimming the 2nd-fastest 200 medley relay in the conference so far this season. However, Tyler Hill, who was projected to score 77 points and was a key relay piece, disappeared from their roster and is not entered in the meet. On the other hand, the UNC divers came through last week with a whopping 214 points, giving their swimmers a nice cushion and a good chance to improve on last year’s finish.

Pitt and Georgia Tech placed 8th and 9th last year. Pitt lost a a big chunk of its IM corps, while Georgia Tech returns most of its top swimmers, and currently leads the conference with a 1:23.89 200 medley relay from the UGA Invite. Duke finished 10th last year, and now has lost its top two scorers, diver Nathaniel Hernandez and sprinter Miles Williams, to graduation. The diving-only Miami program finished ahead of Boston College last year, and with Miami scoring 207 points in diving last week, Boston College is going to be hard-pressed to avoid finishing last place, even if they don’t DQ a relay.

SCHEDULE

Wednesday

200 Medley Relay
800 Free Relay

Thursday

500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
200 Freestyle Relay

Friday

100 Butterfly
400 Individual Medley
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
400 Medley Relay

Saturday

1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
400 Freestyle Relay

STARS

Boston College – Samuel Roche (junior backstroker), Kyle Floyd (freshman flyer)  – Roche was the Eagles’ only individual finalist last year, placing 21st in the 100 back. Floyd is seeded 25th in the 200 fly, and has been on a strong improvement curve over the last few years.

Duke – Cole Reznick (junior IMer/breaststroker) – Reznick is the Blue Devils’ top-scoring returning swimmer, having scored 22 point last year in the 200 IM and breaststrokes, and he’s seeded top 8 in the 200 IM this year.

Florida State – Izaak Bastian (junior breaststroker), Jacob Ksiazek (junior sprint freestyler), Max McCusker (junior sprint freestyler/flyer), Peter Varjasi (sophomore sprint freestyler) –  The Seminoles continue to reload year after year despite a lack of really big names. Varjasi scored 75 point last year, including top 3 finishes in both sprint freestyles. Bastian took 3rd in the 100 breast, while Ksiazek and McCusker hep round out the core of some strong sprint freestyle relays. 

Georgia Tech – Kyle Barone (junior flyer/backstroker), Christian Ferraro (senior flyer), Caio Pumputis (senior breaststroker/IMer)  Pumputis seemed a bit off last year, perhaps saving his full taper for NCAAs, but if he’s on, he’s a threat to win the 200 IM and both breaststrokes. Barone and Ferraro have five top-8 seeds between the two of them, and along with Pumputis, help make the Yellow Jackets one of the most dangerous medley relay groups in the conference.

Louisville – Nick Albiero (senior flyer), Haridi Sameh (sophomore sprint freestyler) Colton Paulson (junior freestyler), Evgenii Somov (senior breaststroker) Mitchell Whyte  (junior backstroker) – Albiero and Somov each scored 90+ points last year, with Albiero sweeping the butterfly events and Somov the breaststrokes. Whyte picked up a pair of 2nd place finishes in the backstrokes, and could be considered the favorite to win both now that Stewart is done. Paulson won Louisville’s 2nd-straight title in the 200 free, while Sameh made an immediate impact as a freshman with A-finals in the 50 and 100 free.

North Carolina – Valdas Abalikšta (senior breaststroker), Dimitrious Dimitriou (senior d-freestyler), Will Messenger  (senior IMer) Abalikšta is the Tar Heels’ top returning scorer after making the A-final in both breaststroke events, and he is seeded to do so again this year. Dimitriou is on a nice trajectory, scoring 39 points last year after scoring 0 the year before, and he sits at #6 on the psych sheet in the 500 free. Messenger scored 37 points last year, including a 3rd-place finish in the 50 free, and the Tar Heels will be relying on him even more after losing Hill.

NC State – Ross Dant (sophomore d-freestyler), Erge Gezmis (senior IMer), Giovanni Izzo (junior sprint free)  Eric Knowles (senior distance/IMer), Kacper Stokowski (sophomore backstroker) – Like every year, there are plenty of other Wolfpack swimmers who’d be “stars” on most other teams, we’ll focus on their top three returning scorers from last year, plus another two who will should make an impact. Dant and Knowles lead a deep Wolfpack distance group, with both making three A-finals last year and Dant placing 3rd in the 1650. Gezmis made three A-finals last year, scoring a total of 72 points across the 200s of IM, free, and fly. Izzo returns from a redshirt year after scoring 55.5 points in 2019, and he’ll add some stability to the freestyle relays. Stokowski arrives after competing for Florida two years, then taking a gap year, and he should be a three event A-finalist, including the 100 back, where he has a lifetime best of 44.90.

Notre Dame – Josh Bottelberghe (junior breaststroker) –  Jack Hoagland (sophomore distance free) Sadler McKeen (senior freestyler/backstroker) – Hoagland was one of the biggest stories of last year’s freshman class, as he felt like he was throwing down lifetime bests with every swim in-season, and then kept improving at ACCs, scoring 83 points with a trio of top three finishes.  McKeen is a returning A-finalist in the 200 and 500 freestyles, while Bottelberghe took 5th in both breaststrokes last year.

Pitt – Cooper Van Der Laan (junior breastroker), Blaise Vera (senior sprinter)   Vera has been one of the fastest sprinters in the conference over the last few years, and has the fastest lifetime best in the 50 free and 2nd-fastest best in the 100 free, of anyone swimming at the meet. Van Der Laan is seeded 2nd in the 100 breast, where he finished 6th last year, and will be looking to make the A-final in the 200 breast, after finishing 11th last year.

Virginia – Keefer Barnum (senior breaststroker), Matt Brownstead (freshman sprint freestyler), Sam Schilling (senior freestyler/IMer/breastroker) Casey Storch (junior IMer), Jack Walker (sophomore freestyler)  Storch returns the highest number of individual points for the Cavaliers after making three A-finals last year. Walker (500 free), Schilling (200 free), and Barnum (200 free) all took 2nd in an event last year. Brownstead has the fastest time in the ACC in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and is arguably the favorite to win both.

Virginia TechCarles Coll Marti (freshman freestyler/breastroker), Antani Ivanov (junior flyer), Blake Manoff (junior freestyler/flyer), Youssef Ramadan (freshman freestyler/flyer),  Lane Stone (senior freestyler), Samuel Törnqvist (senior IMer/backstroker)  Ivanov was a three-event A-finalist last year, including a 3rd-place finish in the 200 fly. Manoff took 2nd in the 200 fly and 4th in the 100 fly, while Tornqvist earned 3rd in the 200 back. Coll and Ramadan look like they’re about to make an immediate impact for the Hokies, with Ramdan topping the psych sheet in the 100 fly.

Showdowns

500 Free

The overwhelming majority of the field returns, as only two seniors scored last year, with the highest between the two taking 16th. However, the defending champion, Zach Yeadon, won’t be around to defend his title after he transferred. UVA’s Jack Walker and Notre Dame’s Jack Hoagland finished 2nd and 3rd last year with times of 4:11.93 and 4:12.15, their lifetime bests,  and NC State’s Eric Knowles won in 2019 with a 4:12.13, his lifetime best. The chances are that the winner will be one of those three men, but Virginia Tech’s Lane Stone and NC State’s Ross Dant have both been under 4:14, and should be in the hunt as well.

200 Free

On one hand, this is arguably the weakest event in the conference, in that the winning time from last year wouldn’t have even scored at the 2019 NCAAs. On the other hand, the fact that there’s no one star to dominate this is what makes it such an intriguing match up. Louisville’s Colton Paulson won last year with a time of 1:33.76, but eight other active ACC swimmers have lifetime bests better than that time.

Nick Albiero leads that group with a 1:32.46, but won’t swim it, as he’ll do the 100 fly and 200 back double again. Florida State’s Peter Varjasi lead off FSU’s 800 free relay last year with a 1:32.76, but then missed the A-final of the individual event. Georgia Tech’s Baturalp Unlu tops the psych sheet with a 1:33:31, but UVA’s Sam Schilling, Notre Dame’s Sadler McKeen, Virginia Tech’s Lane Stone and Blake Manoff (although he’s entered in the 100 fly and 100 back), and NC State’s Hunter Tapp and Luke Miller are all either seeded high or have been faster than last year’s winning time. And while we’re at it, it wouldn’t be shocking to see UVA sophomores Jack Walker and Jack Wright pop off here finally; Walker’s lifetime best of 1:33.73 comes from 2016, when he was still a sophomore in high school.

400 Free Relay

UVA has the fastest time in the conference with a 2:49.84. That was a new school record, and would’ve been good enough for runner-up at last year’s race. NC State won in 2019, and while they’ve lost three of the four legs from last year, the Wolfpack seems to specialize into turning unlikely candidates into sub-42 relay split guys. Louisville, meanwhile brings back three of the four legs from last year’s runner-up, and they’ve got a handful of guys who should be able to slide right into the slot vacated by Andrej Barna. Buoyed by Carles Coll Marti and Youssef Ramadan, Virginia Tech has already been a second faster than they were at ACCs last year. And while Florida State has only the 7th-fastest time in the conference this year, they, too, return three of four legs from last year’s 3rd-place.

Selections

Men’s diving competed last week, and when you add those results into our Swimulator projections (using season top times), this is what you get:

Team Swimulator Projected Points Diving Points Total Projected Points
NC State 1078 62 1140
VT 877 142 1019
UVA 1008 0 1008
UNC 746 214 960
Louisville 800.5 120 920.5
GT 628 85 712
FSU 592 110 702
ND 564.5 34 598.5
Duke 286.5 76 362.5
Pitt 276.5 40 316.5
Miami 0 207 207
BC 67 0 67

There’s a few things to note here. NC State’s Nyls Korstanje and UNC’s Tyler Hill are both included in those Swimulator projections with 70+ points each. Additionally, Boston College hasn’t swum the 400 medley relay, the 400 free relay, or the 800 free relay, Pitt and Louisville haven’t swum the 400 medley relay or the 800 free relay, and Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Duke, all haven’t swum the 800 free relay

What does all that mean? Given that NC State generally outperforms seeding, and that late-season additions Gezmis, Rafal Kusto, and Stokowski don’t show up in the Swimulator projections at all, it seems that NC State is in the driver’s seat.

It gets much murkier after that, with arguments to be made for Louisville, Virginia, and Virginia Tech finishing 2nd-4th in any order. All three schools have a track record of outscoring their psych sheet projections by a good margin, and a glance through the psych sheet shows that each school clearly has room to move up. So, for the moment, we’re going to default to the order that the schools would’ve finished in last year had Louisville not DQ’d that medley relay, but again, it looks like all three teams could finish within a few points of each other, setting up what should be a really fun team battle that could come down to the final relay.

UNC’s diving points actually put them ahead of Louisville, but again, the loss of Hill is going to hurt a lot, and  even a 5th-place finish for the Tar Heels has to be considered a success given the team’s trajectory over the last few years.

Florida State is normally projected higher at this point, and then fades a bit at ACCs. It’s not clear if that means the Seminoles are using a different approach this year, or if it’s not realistic to expect them to repeat the 5th-place finishes they’ve had the last two years.

It feels like Notre Dame hasn’t quite been able to get the whole team firing on all cylinders the last couple of years. They’ve got a bunch of top 20 or HM recruit the last two years, and it feels like they should be able to take a step forward, but they’ll probably need some things to break right to finish ahead of FSU or UNC, and honestly, possibly even to finish ahead of Georgia Tech.

Pitt and Duke appear to be pretty close to a wash right now, but we’ll give Pitt the edge since they have a heavyweight in Vera. Boston College can’t muster enough relay-only points to topple Miami’s 189 diving points, so Miami should finish 11th unless the Eagles are able to score exponentially more than the 4 individual points they did last year.

Our picks:

  1. NC State
  2. Louisville
  3. Virginia
  4. Virginia Tech
  5. North Carolina
  6. Florida State
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Georgia Tech
  9. Pitt
  10. Duke
  11. Miami
  12. Boston College