The Gophers men’s swimming and diving team will play host to the Big Ten Championships this week. For the Gophers to improve on their fourth-place finish from last year, coach Kelly Kremer said, they will need big contributions from the youngsters on their roster.

“To be successful our freshmen will have to have a major impact,” Kremer said. “That can be a bit scary given the unknowns, but I am excited about the possibilities.”

The Gophers graduated 14 swimmers, including three All-Americans, from last year’s squad. The Gophers have 14 freshmen and eight sophomores on their roster. Conner McHugh, one of the two seniors on the roster, is a upperclassmen expected to contribute.

“Conner has been a real leader and tremendous contributor to our program,” Kremer said. “He’s had an outstanding season, and he is ready to close out his college career at home with both this meet and next month’s NCAA Championships in our pool.”

At last year’s Big Ten meet, McHugh, from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke.

Indiana, which won last year’s Big Ten meet and finished seventh at the NCAA meet, is considered the favorite. The Hoosiers, who have been ranked as high as No. 1, are undefeated in dual meets (including a victory over three-time defending NCAA champion Texas) and have four swimmers that are on the USA National team.

The Big Ten meet runs Wednesday night through Saturday at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.

“We are very excited to host this year’s championship meet,” Kremer said. “It is a great opportunity for our men to be in their home pool surrounded by all of the day-to-day normalcies they are accustomed to.”