Coming off a Big Ten title, the IU men’s swimming and diving team looks to add to their trophy collection this week at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis.
The seven session championship begins Wednesday, March 21 and will conclude in the afternoon of Saturday, March 24.
IU swimming coach Ray Looze knows it won’t be easy, especially since IU is one of the only teams to have shaved this early. Other top teams, including Florida, USC, Stanford and Texas have yet to shave because they opted to save themselves for the NCAA championships. Unfortunately, IU doesn’t have this luxury.
“The Big Ten Championship is prized by places like Indiana and Michigan,” Looze said. “Teams like USC and Stanford did what they needed to qualify for the meet but they’re saving their bullets.”
Other schools don’t value their conference championships as much as teams from the Big Ten; they tend to shave closer to NCAA’s so they’re fresh and primed to win national championships.
Looze added that another area of concern for the Hoosiers is their amount of depth. IU is only bringing eight swimmers while other schools have twice as many.
“The wear and tear on our athletes is higher, we can’t make any mistakes,” Looze said. “Basically we have a good starting lineup but we don’t have any reserves.”
While the swimmers will bring eight men, the divers will only bring three, led by senior Michael Hixon. Hixon has meant so much to IU over his last four years and IU diving coach Drew Johansen is going to miss him after this year.
“He’s a leader in the pool,” Johansen said. “He trains as hard as anybody and brings up the quality of everybody’s training.”
The performance and leadership of Hixon has rubbed off on younger teammates, especially freshman Andrew Capobianco. Johansen said Capobianco committed to IU to learn from upperclassmen, such as Hixon and junior James Connor.
After this season, Johansen looks for Capobianco and Connor to carry the load, but they have one last challenge to complete as a team — an NCAA Championship.
In order for IU to bring that championship to Bloomington, Looze believes they need to have their most complete meet of the season.
The NCAA Championships pit the fastest swimmers in the nation up against each other and all the talent in one pool can’t distract the Hoosiers.
Looze borrowed a mantra from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, something that’s helped them win Super Bowls for years, “We need to do our job,” Looze said.
The Patriot Way has been implemented by New England since Belichick began his coaching career, it’s led them to five Super Bowl titles. Looze hopes his team can follow suit and bring an NCAA Championship back to IU, as they remain one of the favorites.
While the Hoosiers have completed an undefeated season, 9-0, and sit inside the top-3 rankings, Looze believes the meet will test the durability of his squad.
“It’s kind of like the NCAA basketball tournament, any team can win one game, but can you win six in a row,” Looze said. “We have to win seven sessions in a row (to remain undefeated).”
In Looze’s 25 years of coaching, he has never seen a team go undefeated through the regular and post season, something that can change any year.
The final chance to bring more hardware back to Bloomington begins Wednesday, March 21, hardware that IU hasn’t touched since 1973.
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