It’s been a few years since LSU was a legitimate upset threat in the SEC, and while the Tigers can’t claim to challenge Florida or Alabama this season, I would not be remotely surprised to see them finish third at SECs. They were close to that accomplishment last year, and they will be oodles better this season, bolstering their strengths and doing at least a little patching up on their weaknesses. From being a complete afterthought in 2011, this is a team on the rise once again.
Like Michigan, LSU is in the enviable position of not losing much. They will miss Ashley Lee’s vault and floor, but the new gymnasts will more than make up for it in terms of scoring potential.
Britney Ranzy is finally eligible to start competing again, and while it’s always a bit of a question mark as to what’s happening with her, we know she can hit vault and floor for 9.9s when in form. Canadian world team member in 2010 Jessica Savona missed significant time in 2011-2012 with injury, but she too is a standout on the power events who should be a late-lineup contributor. These two will support Courville and Hall to pack some serious tumbling talent into those lineups.
The perennial concern for LSU is how they will manage bars and beam, which are not nearly up to the level of vault and floor, but Randi Wyrick has the potential to be an important addition who can compete right away on those events (and on all the events, but UB and BB will be her most important routines for the team).
Talent-wise, LSU is way better on vault than they have shown in the past year or so. This group should not be settling for low 49s. The increased depth on this event in 2013 should ensure that some of those random 9.700-9.750s that showed up too often last season won’t make the lineup.
Courville and Ranzy should camp out in the 5th and 6th positions and bring in frequent 9.9s. Savona showed a DTY as an elite, and while she shouldn’t do anything more than a full in NCAA, she has enough lift to make it a strong one. The early part of the lineup carries more uncertainty, but I do think that Hall, Jordan, and potentially Mathis should retain positions in the lineup if they can show that 9.875s are common (all of them have the ability). If necessary, Dickson, Morrison, and Lau are also sitting on potential 9.8s that give the team enough wiggle room to expect to go over 49.300 week in week out even if a few struggle with consistent landings.
To be a legitimate threat, though, LSU must improve on bars. In 2012, this rotation had two routines and then four other people thrown in to make up the numbers. Courville and Morrison are very good, but they are usually 9.875 good, not 9.950 good. They are not strong enough on their own to help the team withstand a parade of 9.7s leading up to their routines. Jordan, Hall, and Lau are probably the best of the rest, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with any of the lineup positions after the best two.
Wyrick has a strong line and toe point which make her bars routine, even though it’s not perfect, prime for development into a 9.9 routine. They’ll certainly need it because the rest of the new gymnasts aren’t bars girls, and without at least three strong routines, this lineup will frequently languish under 49.
Too many mistakes was the theme for LSU on beam in 2012. In most meets, the team was fighting against a fall or a 9.600 from the first half of the lineup without the strength to withstand it. Jordan and Courville are probably the best of the group, but there is no one exceptionally impressive who will always bring in those 9.9s. This will be a lineup that, on a good, consistent day, will be able to run the table with 9.850s to get an adequately positive score but will still be a nail-biter the whole way.
Wyrick’s line, flexibility, and dance elements should, with a little bit of refinement, make her not only a high scorer but a stylistic standout from most of the rest of the lineup. Otherwise I expect the core group of Jordan, Courville, Dickson, Hall, and Lau/Garcia/Prunty to remain the same.
Like vault, floor was so close to being great last season. It was a lineup of four strong routines that would be punched in the gut by having to count some 9.650s from the first two spots. I expect Hall, Courville, Jordan, and maybe Dickson/Mathis to return to the lineup and excel, and fortunately for LSU, Ranzy and Savona should be plugged into those remaining two spots to prevent LSU having to be okay with any low scores.
With this lineup, expect the Tigers to score consistently .200–.250 higher on floor than they did last season. When the 3rd or 4th up one year suddenly becomes the leadoff the next year, the chances for score escalation are huge. Now, we just need to get Lloimincia Hall to tone it down about 27% percent and return to the believably energetic category so that her routine can make floor finals.
LSU’s path to 197 this season will be about staying even on bars, getting a few 9.850s to go slightly + on beam, and then throwing together some 49.4s on vault and floor. The Tigers can absolutely improve on bars and beam from where they were last year, but this is still not a four-event team, which is still a concern and will keep them from challenging nationally. Nonetheless, this is easily the most potential we’ve seen from an LSU team since the Ashleigh Clare-Kearney/Susan Jackson show.
Last year, this team was overmatched by the 197s from so many other teams at Nationals, and while I would not predict a Super Six showing this year, I don’t think the team will be overmatched at Nationals.