After stomping Bakersfield, No. 2 Cal men’s swim battles USC

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The latest poll revealed two Pac-12 dynamos in the top five, both of whom will hope to remain perfect Friday. No. 2 Cal will visit No. 3 USC when they face off at USC’s McDonald’s Swim Complex. McDonald’s Swim Complex is entering its final days and will soon make way for the Trojans’ new Uytengsu Aquatics Center, which is scheduled for a grand opening Feb. 21. Cal coach David Durden acknowledged the fervor that a new facility can bring to a squad.

“They’re going to be excited to show that off,” Durden said. “They’re going to want to get some fans in the stands, and I’m sure that’s going to contribute to this Friday’s meet.”

The Bears visit the Trojans a day after defeating CSU Bakersfield Thursday afternoon, taking 11 of the 14 events. Cal beat the Runners 140-108 and looks to continue its winning streak against one of the most talented collegiate teams in the nation. The Bears, winners of 13 straight dual meets, defeated the Trojans 175.5-120.5 last season at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal has now won its past three dual meets by a combined 211 points. The Trojans will look to present some legitimate dual-meet competition as the two squads prepare for the Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Championships in less than a month.

The Bears understand the new challenges USC would bring, especially with the strength of its freshman class. The Trojans, however, are without Vladimir Morozov, one of the best swimmers in USC’s storied history. Morozov won both the 50 and 100 free at the 2013 NCAAs and turned pro after the season. USC is now led by senior All-American Dimitri Colupaev and junior All-American Cristian Quintero. The Trojans own the best 800 free relay time in the nation and are 3-0 overall on the season.

“Undoubtedly, they have one of the most talented teams in the country, year in and year out,” Durden said. “Their recruiting class last year was rated No. 1 in the country. Their freshman class as a whole is better than anyone else’s. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The Bears will counter USC’s All-Americans with swimmers Jeremy Bagshaw, who owns the best time in the 1000 free, Tyler Messerschmidt, who has top six times in both the 50 and 100 free, and sophomore Josh Prenot, the 2013 Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year. Cal will also have star freshman Ryan Murphy, who is No. 2 in the 100 back, trailing only his teammate Jacob Pebley.

USC placed fourth at the 2013 NCAA Championships, its best finish in more than a decade. The Trojans also placed third at the 2013 Pac-12s, trailing only Cal and Stanford, and have eight returning All-Americans from last season’s team.

“This is going to be a very difficult and a very tough matchup. For dual meets, it’s all about matchups, and USC matches up really, really well with us.” Durden said. “They certainly have the top-end talent to compete with our guys.”

Michelle Lee covers men’s swim. Contact her at [email protected].