|Crossing the finish line at Lake Natoma (Photo: B. Kitch)|
The 2016 NCAA Rowing Championships kick off tomorrow just outside Sacramento, California, and suffice it to say, we're amped about it.
The level of competition in NCAA Rowing has never been higher, but that's not to say there was more parity than in past years through this season—in fact, coming into the championships, it's likely to be the big three (California, Ohio State, and Brown) that are the favorites to take the title once again this year. Let's take a closer look, eh?
Varsity Eights: Predicted Final
2. Ohio State
The California Golden Bears have had another outstanding season, which they capped off with a victory at the Pac-12 Championships roughly a week and a half ago. They entered the 2015 NCAA Championships with an undefeated season on the line in the varsity eight, only to see their title hopes go up in smoke after a very tight race with Ohio State—in dramatic fashion, the Buckeyes claimed not only the varsity eight title, but also the team title, in a fantastic finish, just edging the Bears into second place.
This year, the Buckeyes have the top-end speed to get it done again, but Cal will no doubt be hungry to right past wrongs. Stanford has also been outstanding in the varsity eight this season (handing Cal their only loss of the year at the Big Row), and we're expecting the Ivies to be well represented in the final as well.
Second Varsity Eights: Predicted Final
2. Ohio State
This is where the depth and competitiveness of both Brown and Ohio State may be enough to put their team over the top—Ohio State has a chance to win both eights, which would be an exclamation point on top of a record-setting fourth straight NCAA title, if it works out that way. Cal and Virginia, however, will also have strong crews entered here—given the strength of these top programs, it'll likely be anybody's guess as to who'll take home the team title once it's time for the varsity eight.
Wisconsin has been solid this year, but we also wouldn't be surprised if Yale or Princeton found their way into this final—both crews have the depth to do it.
Varsity Four: Predicted Final
5. Ohio State
As usual, with the team title as the official national championship, the varsity four will play a huge roll in setting up the rest of each squad for success. Cal is typically strong (having just gone 7:04 at the Pac-12 Championships), but Washington's depth will be on display here (Huskies were undefeated until Pac-12s). Also, Brown and Ohio State will be looking to get their teams into a competition position in the big boats—everyone's going to be selling the farm to try to land on the podium in this one.
Looking at our predictions, and going by the NCAA Rowing points system, if we get all of the above exactly right, here's how it would break down:
1. California: 128 points
2. Ohio State: 123 points
3. Brown: 115 points
Quick picks for Division II and III
Barry is our favorite to take the title in Division II, and Division III will likely be a battle between Williams and Bates—two perennial contenders on the national stage. While Williams started the year very well at the Head Of The Charles, taking the Collegiate Eight crown, it was Bates who edged both Wesleyan and Williams at the recent New England Rowing Championships. Since then, however, Williams has moved into the top poll position—look out for some tight racing among the top three crews this year.
We're looking forward to a full weekend full of intense, high-level rowing—and we bet you are, too. And, even if we're pretty close with our predictions above, we won't stoop to calling ourselves 'Rowstradamus,' or anything.
Ok, we will.