Oregon Men Narrowly Favored for Third-Straight NCAA DI Indoor Team Title
NOTE: A previous version of this article mistakenly included the rankings table for the week six edition at the bottom of the article. The correct information has been added.
NEW ORLEANS – Will the men of Oregon become just the fourth program in the history of NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field to win at least three national team titles in a row this weekend in Birmingham, Alabama?
If the pre-Championships edition of the National Team Computer Rankings holds true, the answer is yes.
If the other members of the “Three-Consecutive-Titles Club” – particularly Arkansas and Florida – have anything to say about it, they’d prefer a resounding no.
The two-time defending national champion Ducks moved up to No. 1 ahead of the March 11-12 Championships, projected narrowly ahead of last week’s favorite, No. 2 Arkansas, and preseason favorite No. 3 Florida.
Arkansas and Florida lead a group of six SEC teams in the top eight battling for positions on the four-team podium Saturday afternoon, along with No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 8 Georgia. Only No. 7 Texas breaks up that SEC party.
MPSF members Southern California and Washington rounded out the top 10.
No. 23 Georgetown benefitted the most from the announcement of the Championships field, jumping up 16 spots from a week ago. No. 11 Syracuse and No. 22 Arizona both improved three spots.
These pre-Championships rankings were announced by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), and take into account only entries into the NCAA Championships. The rankings formula does not directly equate to the Championships scoring system.
Men’s Team Race Analysis
Oregon will fly to Alabama with 134.58 points in the rankings, slightly ahead of Arkansas’ 126.03. Florida (105.69) will simultaneously be trying to make up ground on the Ducks and Hogs, while fending off Texas A&M (102.59), LSU (98.82), Tennessee (91.32) and Texas (85.73).
While entering as the favorite on paper has its advantages, it’s also a position with which the Ducks are unfamiliar. After all, Florida was favored to win the past two national titles, with the Ducks ranked all the way back at No. 6 entering the 2014 championships and No. 2 a year ago.
Then again, this is a Ducks team that may look unfamiliar to observers of Oregon’s two-year title run. Last year, 12 of Oregon’s 13 entries were in the middle-distance/distance events. This year, the Ducks have at least one entrant in each of the major disciplines (sprints/hurdles, endurance, jumps, throws, combined events), though they still have six of 10 entries hailing from the endurance contests.
Gone from last year’s roster are two-time champion Eric Jenkins and scorers Will Geoghegan, Parker Stinson, Johnny Gregorek, Colby Alexander and Daniel Winn – all distance runners.
One very familiar face who returns: Edward Cheserek, the cornerstone of the Ducks last two national titles. He’s entered as the top seed at both 3000 and 5000 meters, and could prove a significant X-factor should he ultimately run in the Ducks’ 11th-ranked distance medley relay. With him on the anchor, Oregon won the 2015 national title in the event.
Led by Cheserek, Oregon is a group made up equally of favorites and underdogs. Joining Cheserek as top seeds are miler Blake Haney (who benefits from six of the top eight regular-season milers scratching out of the event) and 60-meter hurdler Devon Allen (the NCAA and USATF outdoor 110-meter hurdles champion two years ago before sustaining a football injury). All of them will need to perform up to expectations to threepeat in the team standings.
By the same token, Oregon’s recent national title runs have been characterized by athletes ignoring their seed and scoring big for the Ducks. Such efforts could come from the aforementioned DMR, No. 11 Jake Leingang at 5000 meters, No. 11 Mitch Modin in the heptathlon or No. 12 Nate More in the triple jump.
Arkansas last won the national title in 2013, and enters these championships with the nation’s highest entry total at 12.
Where the distance events are crucial to the Ducks’ success, the Razorbacks will live or die by the sprints and jumps with nine entries in those categories (10 with the 4×400 relay).
Former NCAA long jump champion Jarrion Lawson will be counted on for big points not only in his signature horizontal jump but also at 60 meters, in which he’s seeded seventh.
Lawson is the only returning individual scorer from last year’s third-place team – not to mention that 2013 title squad – with the departures of Omar McLeod, Kemoy Campbell and Andrew Irwin. Similarly, he’s their only top seeded athlete, leaving Arkansas significant growth potential if some of his teammates can outperform their pre-meet seeding.
Alongside Lawson, the Hogs will be looking for significant point production from quarter-miler No. 4 Marqueze Washington, 60 sprinter No. 7 Kenzo Cotton, and No. 4 Clive Pullen in the triple jump.
No. 3 Florida, whose streak of three titles in a row was interrupted by Arkansas in ’13, has a slimmer margin for error with just seven Championships entries.
With the 20 guaranteed points from last year’s Bowerman winner Marquis Dendy no longer on the table, the Gators will be relying heavily on its stable of sprinters and jumpers.
Arman Hall is having a renaissance year, and will look to cap off his indoor season with a strong showing both at 200 meters and 400 meters – events in which he’s ranked No. 4 and No. 6 nationally. If 400-meter teammate No. 8 Najee Glass can regain the form he demonstrated in last year’s third-place finish, Florida is looking at serious points not only at 400 meters, but also in the 4×400 relay.
Andres Arroyo is a contender at 800 meters after giving collegiate leader Donavan Brazier all he could handle at the SEC Championships, and a replication of KeAndre Bates’ third-place long jump effort from a year ago could go a long way for the Gators.
Texas A&M will go for its first national team indoor title with Brazier and No. 5 Hector Hernandez leading the charge at 800 meters, and a trio of top-11 pole vaulters in Audie Wyatt, Jacob Wooten and Chase Wolfle.
LSU will battle Florida for points in the sprints with the quarter-mile duo of No. 2 Michael Cherry and No. 7 Fitzroy Dunkley – who form the foundation of the No. 4 4×400 relay – as well as the top-ranked hurdler in Jordan Moore and the No. 2 man at 200 meters in Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake.
Tennessee will depend on short sprints contender Christian Coleman, top-ranked pole vaulter Jacob Blankenship, and No. 2 weight thrower Cameron Brown, while hoping for breakthrough performances in both the 400 (by No. 11 Nathan Strother) and the 4×400 relay.
Texas will look to get its share of 400-meter points with top-ranked Zack Bilderback, No. 8 Aldrich Bailey, Jr., and No. 15 Byron Robinson, while co-collegiate shot put record-holder Ryan Crouser looks to regain his national crown in his signature event.
Men’s Indoor Track & Field National Team Computer Rankings (Top 25)
2016 Week #7 — March 7 (pre-championship)
|next ranking: FINAL, NCAA Championships, March 11-12, Birmingham, Ala.|
|Rank||Institution||Points||Conference||Head Coach (Yr)||Last Week|
|1||Oregon||134.58||MPSF||Robert Johnson (4th)||2|
|2||Arkansas||126.03||SEC||Chris Bucknam (8th)||1|
|3||Florida||105.69||SEC||Mike Holloway (14th)||4|
|4||Texas A&M||102.59||SEC||Pat Henry (12th)||3|
|5||LSU||98.82||SEC||Dennis Shaver (12th)||5|
|6||Tennessee||91.32||SEC||Beth Alford-Sullivan (2nd)||6|
|7||Texas||85.73||Big 12||Mario Sategna (3rd)||7|
|8||Georgia||66.95||SEC||Petros Kyprianou (1st)||9|
|9||Southern California||59.70||MPSF||Caryl Smith Gilbert (3rd)||10|
|10||Washington||56.52||MPSF||Greg Metcalf (14th)||8|
|11||Syracuse||52.87||ACC||Chris Fox (11th)||14|
|12||Texas Tech||51.52||Big 12||Wes Kittley (17th)||11|
|13||Purdue||50.94||Big Ten||Rolando Greene (4th)||13|
|14||Virginia Tech||50.80||ACC||Dave Cianelli (15th)||12|
|15||Penn State||43.38||Big Ten||John Gondak (2nd)||17|
|16||Oklahoma State||42.78||Big 12||Dave Smith (8th)||16|
|17||NC State||42.66||ACC||Rollie Geiger (32nd)||18|
|18||UCLA||39.98||MPSF||Mike Maynard (7th)||19|
|19||Air Force||39.34||Mountain West||Ralph Lindeman (27th)||20|
|20||Southern Illinois||39.22||Missouri Valley||Kathleen Raske (1st)||22|
|21||Southeastern Louisiana||39.04||Southland||Sean Brady (14th)||21|
|22||Arizona||38.43||MPSF||Fred Harvey (14th)||25|
|23||Georgetown||38.30||Big East||Michael Smith (1st)||39|
|24||Stanford||37.63||MPSF||Chris Miltenberg (4th)||15|
|25||Kennesaw State||36.95||Atlantic Sun||Andy Eggerth (6th)||26|
|Dropped out: No. 23 TCU, No. 24 Minnesota|
|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)|
|View All Regional Rankings|