Pac-12 Preview: Another Year Of Bay Area Dominance

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Based upon the preseason rankings, the Pac-12 Conference is the top destination for fast swimming this year. Both teams sitting atop the men's and women's rankings are from the "Conference of Champions" to start the year.

More specifically, both squads are from the Bay Area: California's men to the north and the Stanford women to the south: In what is one of collegiate swimming's hotbeds, it's pretty certain that one national championship will head to the Bay.

QUICK LOOK: Women's Side

Top-ranked Stanford is the reigning NCAA champion and enters as the heavy favorites to repeat. Sophomore Katie Ledecky and junior Simone Manuel are Olympic gold medalists and world champions. It's safe to say they're on their way to more national titles.

Cardinal coach Greg Meehan is returning from a national championship, but he's preparing just as he would any other season.

"This is a new season with a new team and new goals," Meehan said. "We're not concerned about rankings or outside expectations. We just want to continue to get better as individuals and as a team."

Continuing to improve won't be difficult for the Cardinal women. The freshman class, headlined by Brooke Forde, adds to the team's depth. It's crazy to think that the nation's best freshman is considered a depth option, but that's what happens when arguably the best swimmer on the planet is a teammate.

I'm excited for the 2017-18 team to create their own story.

Women's Conference Champion: Stanford

Ledecky will win whatever she swims. Manuel is expected to do the same, unless she is matched with Ledecky. (Last year, they doubled up in the 200 freestyle.) However Meehan shapes his lineup, he will have two of the best five women in the country.

Coming off a national title victory, he was encouraged by the team's success over the summer.

"I'm happy with how hard everyone has worked and competed since the end of the school year, and I'm excited for the 2017-18 team to create their own story," Meehan said.

The Cardinal's story will be one filled with success. They aren't the only Pac-12 team poised for a successful year, though.

It's blatant disrespect not to mention ​Teri McKeever's​ Cal squad. The Golden Bears, led by ​Kathleen Baker ​and ​Abbey Weitzeil​, are a formidable team that will give the Cardinal more than they care to handle come championship season. Put this in perspective: not only did Stanford and Cal go 1-2 at Pac-12s last season, but they also went 1-2 at NCAAs. That is how dominant these two programs are on the national scene.

Led by Swedish sophomore ​Louise Hansson​, USC will look to make some noise as well -- especially after a ​major​ recruiting addition in ​58/2:09 breaststroker ​Maggie Aroesty​.

Swimmers to Watch
Katie Ledecky ​(Stanford); Simone Manuel (Stanford); Kathleen Baker (Cal); Ella Eastin ​(Stanford); ​Abbey Weitzel​ (Cal); ​Louise Hansson​ (USC); ​Silja Kansakoski​ (ASU).

QUICK LOOK: Men's Side

The men's side will also be competitive between Cal, Stanford, and USC, but the Bears will have the edge.

Even in Ryan Murphy's absence, Cal is the team to beat.

"Ryan has obviously been a huge part of our success over the last four years, not just in terms of times but also with his leadership and work as a teammate," Bears coach Dave Durden said. "That said, I like the group we return as well as the group of new swimmers that we're bringing in."

Cal's freshman class ranks among the best ever. Within the top 15, five are headed to Berkeley. Sprinter Ryan Hoffer leads the way with his best 50 freestyle of 18.71. Durden has high hopes, but knows it isn't going to be easy at first.

"Our freshman class certainly has the talent to make an impact on our team, but that process is just getting started," Durden said. "They're going to be challenged not only in the pool but also in the classroom, and we put a high priority on finding success in both areas."

Men's Conference Champion: California

At a general glance -- Cal's Hoffer has the sprints. USC's ​Dylan Carter​ will flirt with Hoffer in the 100 and likely take the 200. The Stanford trio of Grant Shoults, Liam Egan, and True Sweetser have the distance. ​Andrew Seliskar​ of Cal is the lead man in the IMs and 200s of stroke, followed closely by Stanford's ​Abrahm DeVine. The 100 breast will be a battle between Cal's Connor Hoppe and USC's Carsten Vissering​, and the sprint fly/back​ will be led by USC senior ​Ralf Tribuntsov​. 

All three schools have legitimate chances at multiple individual champions. Even Arizona State will have a shot in the 200 freestyle if sophomore Cameron Craig can repeat his magic from last year's conference championship.

Swimmers to Watch
Ryan Hoffer ​(California); ​Dylan Carter​ (USC); ​Andrew Seliskar​ (Cal); ​Grant Shoults (Stanford); ​Abrahm DeVine (Stanford); Carsten Vissering (USC); Cameron Craig ​(ASU); ​True Sweetser​ (Stanford).


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