Florida & Oregon Men Enter NCAAs as Co-Favorites in Historically Close Team Race
NEW ORLEANS – Hold on to your seats and tune into ESPN, folks. These NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships are going to be wild.
Florida and defending national champion Oregon will enter the Championships (June 10-13 in Eugene, Oregon) virtually tied atop the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Team Computer Rankings in what is projected to be the closest team race since the inception of the rankings in 2008.
Fans can watch all of the drama unfold on ESPN’s numerous broadcast platforms throughout the Championships, with the winner of this historically suspenseful men’s team race decided in primetime on ESPN on Friday, June 12. Click here for more details.
The Gators – team champions in 2012 and 2013 (the latter in a tie with Texas A&M) – are technically the No. 1 team with a team rankings score of 313.87, but a razor-thin margin of less than one point separates them from Oregon at 313.08. The Ducks moved up two spots from a week ago.
These rankings are based only on entries into the NCAA Championships, taking into consideration their top regular-season performances. The rankings formula (more here) does not equate to the NCAA Championships scoring system.
Not to be lost in the shuffle, no pre-NCAA No. 3 has ever been ranked closer to the top than Texas A&M (292.32), and No. 4 has ever been closer to the top than LSU (264.07). The Aggies will be looking to reclaim the NCAA title it split with Florida in 2013. Both were displaced one spot from a week ago to make room for Oregon.
Arkansas (226.30) rounded out the top five, just barely edging out No. 6 Southern California (223.40). The two swapped spots from a week ago, and will both be contenders to take one of the four team podium spots.
Back to Florida-Oregon: that’s a difference of just one quarter of one percent, surpassing the 0.46 percent margin in 2010 that separated eventual team champion Texas A&M from – you guessed it – No. 2 Florida. That projection would hold to form, as the Aggies edged Florida State and the Gators for the title, 55-54-53.
While Florida has the narrowest of advantages on paper, Oregon has the advantage in knowing it can take down the No. 1 Gators. The Ducks upset the top-ranked Gators just three months ago at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
The Ducks will also have the advantage in numbers, while Florida’s razor-thin edge at No. 1 is accompanied by a razor-thin margin of error. A nation-leading flock of 23 NCAA Championships entries will be competing in Oregon uniforms (likely multiple different Oregon uniforms) throughout the weekend, eight more than Texas A&M’s 15 and a full 10 better than Florida’s 13.
And this isn’t the same Oregon team that won the indoor title almost strictly off the basis of its powerful distance squad, either. Yes, the endurance crew is back in full force with defending 10,000-meter champion/5000-meter runner-up Edward Cheserek, two-time indoor champ Eric Jenkins and company comprising seven distance entries (5000, 10,000, steeplechase) and three more mid-distance entries (800 and 1500).
But the Ducks are also the only men’s squad in the country to qualify entries across the board in the sprints/hurdles, mid-distance, distance, relays, jumps, throws and combined events categories – and they qualified more than two in each, to boot.
Case in point: Oregon will once again be strong in the distances with a nation-leading four entries in the 5000 and three more in the 1500, but they are also one of just two teams with three decathletes (the other being Georgia).
Florida, meanwhile, is similarly well-balanced with entries in all those categories except the combined events. And they need each and every one of them to perform up to and/or exceed their seeding.
Of their 13 total entries, 10 are seeded in the top eight (eight athletes score points in each event at NCAAs) based on regular-season performances – including four top-seeds in defending champions Dedric Dukes (200 meters) and Marquis Dendy (long jump and triple jump). The Gators’ 4×400 relay is also the No. 1 seed.
Florida got nicked up at the NCAA East Preliminaries, however, losing long jumper KeAndre Bates (third nationally indoors), and sprinters Arman Hall (third at NCAA indoors in 2014 and outdoors in 2013), and Antwan Wright (eighth at 100 meters last year), while Oregon qualified every one of their top entries back home to Eugene.
Texas A&M also has 10 entries in scoring position entering the meet, compared to nine for LSU and eight for Oregon.
The Gators are no strangers to close team races. Their 18-point loss to Oregon a year ago snapped a streak of five years in which the team title was decided by two points or fewer – all of which featured Florida in contention.
Florida, however, is in somewhat uncharted territory in that they’ve never entered the NCAA Championships at No. 1 since the current rankings system began in 2008. They won titles in 2012 and 2013 as the No. 6 and No. 4 teams in these final rankings, respectively.
The biggest beneficiaries of the Prelims weekend? No. 16 Ohio State moved up 17 spots from a week ago, while UT-Arlington joined the top-25 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season with a nine-spot improvement to No. 25.
Also making significant moves were No. 8 Virginia up five spots to tie its all-time best rank from earlier this season, and No. 11 Illinois moving up seven to its highest rank in program history. The school posted back-to-back 11th and 12th-place finishes at NCAAs in 2012 and 2011, but had never been ranked higher than No. 14.
See the full rankings below.
Men’s Outdoor Track & Field National Team Computer Rankings (Top 25)
2015 Week #9 — June 1 (pre-finals)
|next ranking: FINAL, NCAA Championships results|
|Rank||Institution||Points||Conference||Head Coach (Yr)||Last Week|
|1||Florida||313.87||SEC||Mike Holloway (13th)||1|
|2||Oregon||313.08||Pac-12||Robert Johnson (3rd)||4|
|3||Texas A&M||293.32||SEC||Pat Henry (11th)||2|
|4||LSU||264.07||SEC||Dennis Shaver (11th)||3|
|5||Arkansas||226.30||SEC||Chris Bucknam (7th)||6|
|6||Southern California||223.40||Pac-12||Caryl Smith Gilbert (2nd)||5|
|7||Georgia||164.99||SEC||Wayne Norton (16th)||7|
|8||Virginia||163.87||ACC||Bryan Fetzer (4th)||13|
|9||Florida State||149.01||ACC||Bob Braman (12th)||10|
|10||Mississippi State||134.42||SEC||Steve Dudley (5th)||8|
|11||Illinois||134.28||Big Ten||Mike Turk (6th)||18|
|12||Texas||129.62||Big 12||Mario Sategna (2nd)||9|
|13||Texas Tech||119.11||Big 12||Wes Kittley (16th)||12|
|14||Baylor||111.71||Big 12||Todd Harbour (10th)||14|
|15||Penn State||111.56||Big Ten||John Gondak (1st)||15|
|16||Ohio State||103.95||Big Ten||Karen Dennis (1st)||33|
|17||Tennessee||97.67||SEC||Beth Alford-Sullivan (1st)||23|
|18||BYU||96.73||Independent (DI)||Ed Eyestone (2nd)||19|
|19||Alabama||94.85||SEC||Dan Waters (4th)||11|
|20||Oklahoma State||92.27||Big 12||Dave Smith (7th)||20|
|21||Clemson||89.65||ACC||Mark Elliott (2nd)||17|
|22||Syracuse||84.11||ACC||Chris Fox (10th)||24|
|23||Kansas State||78.27||Big 12||Cliff Rovelto (23rd)||22|
|24||Stanford||75.29||Pac-12||Chris Miltenberg (3rd)||21|
|25||UT Arlington||70.83||Sun Belt||John Sauerhage (19th)||34|
|dropped out: No. 16 South Carolina, No. 25 Villanova|
|View All Teams Beyond the Top 25|
|Men’s Conference Index Top 10|
|Rank||Conference||Points||Top 25 Teams|
|Men’s Regional Index Leaders (FINAL)|
|South Central||Texas A&M||918.08||1|
|View All Regional Rankings|