Wednesday, February 24, 2010

meet preview: ACC men's swimming championships

Oops. I didn't post anything last night, again. This was supposed to happen last night, but as usual on Tuesday nights, trivia night got in the way, plus the basketball tilt against Miami stayed interesting for about three-quarters of the game. But I blame trivia night.

Anyway, I'm sort of assuming you read last week's preview of the women's championships, in which some of the terminology is explained in case you didn't know, introductions are offered to this whole swimming idea, that sort of thing. Or that you already know some stuff about swimming. So we'll jump right into the pysch sheet, which as with last week I scored out. (Keeping in mind the caveats about the unreliability of the psych sheet as a predictive mechanism.) According to said psych sheet, we come out ahead, but......

Virginia - 664
FSU - 657
UNC - 575
Md. - 322
GT - 279
VT - 215
Clem. - 206
NCSt. - 164
Duke - 131
BC - 90

.....not by much, as you see. That is as close to a dead heat as you'll see, and UNC is in striking distance of a win as well if a few things go their way. Like winning a relay in which they were seeded second, as happened just an hour ago.

This kind of seeding makes for a really exciting meet. How do you go about winning when everything is so close? If you're following the meet, what should you watch for besides just the places of the good guy swimmers?

- Win the relays. You get 40 points for doing so and 34 for coming in second. The difference between first and second is the same as the difference between second and fifth. Relays are double the point value of the individual events. One of the absolute most important things you can do in a close meet is win a relay you were seeded second in. It's a 12-point swing.

- Do not, under any circumstances, finish ninth in a prelim event, especially if you're seeded higher. No matter what happens short of a DQ, the A heat will score the big points (anywhere from 20 to 11) and the B heat will score the small ones. Even if you, Mr. B-heat swimmer, swim a faster finals time than someone in the A heat, you can't score more points than they do. If you're seeded ninth, get eighth. If you're seeded eighth, for God's sake hang on to it. Nothing drives coaches to the funny farm more efficiently than a pile of ninth-places in prelims.

- Look for help. As long as you're not directly competing against their swimmers for place, the non-contenders are your friends. Example: in the 200 fly, Maryland has the top two seeds, UNC the next three, and FSU the one after that. Our best swimmer in that event is seeded eighth. Yes, he will be looking to swim his ass off not to fall to ninth, but the other dynamic is, do we mind terribly if Maryland takes 1-2 in that event? Not at all - they're no threat to actually win the meet, and a Maryland 1-2 keeps points out of our competitors' hands.

Another example, from the FSU perspective. They'll win the 200 back; their swimmer Andy Hodgson has a five-second seeding advantage over everyone. After that, it's the margin of less than eight-tenths of a second that separates 2nd through 7th, a hodgepodge in which we have two swimmers. FSU has one too, but will it bother them much if the Clemson and Maryland swimmers place highly? Nope, not with the 20 points for first already locked up. A top swimmer on a noncontender having an out-of-his-mind day can really shuffle the standings at the top.

Like I said last week, this is where the swim coaches make the big bucks. You can peruse, if you like, the results of the dual meet against Florida State; I guarantee you this is how Mark Bernardino has been spending his time lately. We won (and we beat UNC as well), but is that a harbinger? Not always. Dual meets are different. You swim multiple relay teams, for example. We took 1-2-3 in the 500 free back then, and FSU's Ian Rowe swam a 4:34; he's now seeded #1 in the event with a time that's ten seconds better. It's encouraging to have beaten them in the dual meet, but too many dynamics in play to let it be something to dwell on.

We definitely have the talent to take home the championship. Last year we had nearly a 200-point cushion - this year, that's not there. Bernardino figures it might very well come down to the very last relay. Personal experience tells me it's very, very hard to find an event in the whole wide world of sports more exciting than winning the final relay to bring home a championship. So buckle up, and hey - take some time and follow it live. ACC championships are worth it.


TheUVAFool said...

This was a fantastic post -- really enjoyed reading it.

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