By The Class: Top 5 DI Male Juniors To Watch

By The Class: Top 5 DI Male Juniors To Watch
Photo: © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the next installment of our newest series, By The Class. In this series, we will analyze the top five Division I swimmers -- both male and female -- to watch out for in the upcoming 2017-2018 NCAA season.

While there are certain sure bets, things don't always shake out in March as we expect them to in September.


Scouting The Field


2017-18 Top 5 Juniors -- Men


1.) Townley Haas (Texas) 

Townley Haas Lifetime Best 2017 NCAA Finish
500 Freestyle 4:08.92 2nd
200 Freestyle 1:30.46 1st
100 Freestyle 41.96 9th
1650 Freestyle 14:34.36 Did Not Swim
As the fastest short course yards 200 freestyler in history, ​Townley Haas is coming off another successful summer, including winning a silver medal in the 200m free at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest. The Texas Longhorn is the undisputed favorite to claim his third consecutive 200 free NCAA title and potentially ​*gasp* ​break the 1:30 barrier. While he is the favorite, this certainly will not be a runaway with the likes of ​Blake Pieroni​ and ​Dylan Carter ​on his heels -- both with 1:30-high flat starts to their names. Harvard sophomore ​Dean Farris​ is a wild card as well. In the 500, Haas is the fastest-returning NCAA scorer with ​Texas teammate ​Clark Smith ​exhausting his eligibility. However, just like in the 200, Haas is not a lock to win with ​Michigan's ​Felix Auböck​ swimming fast lately as well. While it seems like Haas has convinced UT coach ​Eddie Reese​ to stay in the 100 -- especially after some good relay performances in Budapest -- Haas' best in the mile is relatively faster than his 100 and points could prove very precious at NCAAs. Don't expect him to make the jump back up, but it is not necessarily out of the question either.

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2.) Andrew Seliskar (Cal-Berkeley)

Andrew Seliskar Lifetime Best 2017 NCAA Finish
200 IM 1:41.24 6th
400 IM 3:36.18 2nd
200 Butterfly 1:39.95 6th
Coming into his freshman year at Cal, ​Andrew Seliskar​ was the undisputed No. 1 recruit with elite times in almost ​every single event​ -- 50/100/200/500 freestyle, 100/200 backstroke, 100/200 breaststroke, and 100/200 butterfly. The problem (if you can call it that) for Bears coach ​Dave Durden​ and company was determining how to best utilize Seliskar in a system that limits the number of events someone can swim with a condensed NCAA meet format. Thus far, Seliskar has gone the route of 200/400 IM and 200 butterfly -- a tactic that has worked well during his first two seasons at Berkeley, scoring top eight at NCAAs in all three events both years. Seliskar has also been a threat in the 800 freestyle relay for the Bears and has a legitimate case for medley relays as well.

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3.) Zach Apple (Auburn)

Zach Apple Lifetime Best 2017 NCAA Finish
50 Freestyle 18.93 T-4th
200 Freestyle 1:33.36 12th
100 Freestyle 42.41 14th
Auburn's ​Zach Apple​ did not have a flashy showing at NCAAs last season; however, the junior sprinter had a breakout performance this summer at the 2017 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, earning a spot on the World Championship team in the 100m freestyle. With that sort of confidence and momentum on his side, Apple is certainly one to watch for this coming NCAA season. The sprint freestyle events are ​absolutely loaded with returners, as only one swimmer -- ​Michael Chadwick​ -- who scored in the top eight of the 50/100 freestyles has exhausted his eligibility. Apple has a tough road ahead of him, but at the end of the day, his value is tremendous ​for AU coach ​Brett Hawke​ and the Tigers due to his ability to plug into any relay -- including the 800 freestyle relay.

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4.) Abrahm DeVine (Stanford)
 
Abrahm DeVine Lifetime Best 2017 NCAA Finish
200 IM 1:42.25 11th
400 IM 3:37.73 5th
200 Backstroke 1:40.54 16th
Like Apple, ​Stanford's ​Abrahm DeVine​ is another swimmer who has had quiet success at NCAAs but broke onto the scene in a big way. DeVine had the swim of his life in Indianapolis at the 2017 U.S. Nationals in the 200 IM, where he finished second behind ​Chase Kalisz​ to punch his ticket to Budapest. DeVine is a three-way threat in both IMs and the 200 back. With top dogs ​Kalisz, ​Will Licon​, and ​Ryan Murphy​ now out of those events, DeVine has a strong opportunity to move up and score major points for the Cardinal. Look for him to make the championship final in all three of his individual races and potentially make a push for an NCAA title in one of the IMs as well.

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5.) John Shebat (Texas)

John Shebat Lifetime Best 2017 NCAA Finish
200 IM 1:42.99 Did Not Swim
100 Backstroke 44.35 2nd
200 Backstroke 1:37.24 2nd
Texas' ​John Shebat​ turned heads last season at NCAAs​ -- finishing runner-up to the undefeated ​Ryan Murphy​ in both backstrokes. With Murphy out of the picture, Shebat is the undisputed favorite to pick up a pair of NCAA titles for the Longhorns. His backstroke times put him in some seriously rarified air -- the 44.35 in the 100 makes him the third-fastest performer of all time behind Murphy (43.49) and ​Nick Thoman​ (44.07), and the 1:37.24 in the 200 also makes him the third-fastest performer of all time behind Murphy (1:35.73) and ​Ryan Lochte ​(1:36.81). The most impressive thing about Shebat's 100 is that he was extremely consistent every time he swam it at NCAAs -- 44.82 in prelims of the 400 medley relay, 44.58 in finals of the 400 medley relay, 44.63 in prelims of the individual, and 44.35 in finals of the individual. In the 200, Shebat actually led Murphy 1:11.62 to 1:12.01 at the 150 turn, but nothing was going to prevent Murphy from a four-peat. The biggest question mark is whether or not Shebat will swim the 200 IM on day one in the same session as the 400 medley relay. That will depend heavily on the team race situation for Texas.​


BONUS.) Justin Ress (NC State)

Justin Ress Lifetime Best Swag Rating
100m Freestyle 49.15 10
100m Backstroke 53.27 10
50m Backstroke 24.41 10
Super chill dude who popped off this summer at Worlds. Got some serious potential in the sprint back/free events this season and will continue to provide some big time depth to the NC State sprint roster.

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