I made a bit of an error earlier in the week by saying that LSU was guaranteed to keep the #1 ranking after this weekend. I overlooked the fact that Oklahoma has a road meet this Sunday in addition to the home meet on Friday, which means they have an opportunity, with two big scores, to move up ahead of the Tigers. It’s still very likely that LSU retains #1, but depending on what the Sooners score in the first meet of the weekend, they could pass after the second meet (we’re talking at least two consecutive high 197s/198s and a lowish score from LSU to do it, but it is theoretically possible).
LSU, Oklahoma, and Florida are all in action on Friday in meets they’ll be expected to win comfortably, but there’s still plenty to play for. Oklahoma does have that glimmer of a chance to move up in the rankings and also could use a big performance to reinvigorate. They’ve been scoring well every single week with no real dud meets, but aside from Metroplex, it has been since January that they’ve hit a big, big score. I want to see the return of those 9.9s on bars and beam. By contrast, LSU has had four straight weeks of scoring 197.6+, and with more big scores over the next few weeks, does have a chance to eclipse Florida’s 2013 RQS of 197.840, the highest RQS recorded since 2004. Finishing the regular season at #1 would be a big deal for LSU. Newsflash: the final session of SECs is going to be good. If only it were broadcast live or something. What a concept.
Those three teams may be engaged in an epic top-of-the-rankings tussle, but we also have another in teresting threesome happening on Friday night (I said it). Utah and UCLA will both visit Michigan in that rarest of tri-meets where all three teams are ranked in the top 10. It should be close and wonderful and upsetting. A convincing argument can be made for any of the three winning, and in not a surprise even a little, the event to watch will be beam. All three of these teams are capable of throwing away a meet there, and it could very well be that the team that’s least terrifying on beam wins.
In particular, UCLA must get a big beam score in order to win. The Bruins have the highest peak on beam (BB season highs: UCLA 49.525, Utah 49.275, Michigan 49.250) along with the best beamers among the three teams in Peszek and Francis, and they will need to gain an advantage there because they will likely give back ground elsewhere, notably on vault where Utah has been stellar this year and Michigan has a tremendously powerful and clean lineup. Overall, this will be an exceptional vault showcase with Delaney, Dabritz, Wilson, Sheppard, Sampson, Beilstein, Peszek, Courtney. It could be a 9.950 parade. Perhaps the first 10.000 earned at a Michigan meet since The Miss Botterman? Very perhaps. For Michigan, I want to see a big, hit bars rotation. Multiple 9.9s are well within their capability, but we haven’t seen that nearly often enough this season. All these random 9.750s. Utah needs to do well enough on beam that vault and floor are allowed to speak for themselves.
Later on Friday, Alabama hosts Stanford with the Tide still basking in the glow of a massive home win over Florida, which was done without Sarah DeMeo. The lack of DeMeo does notably decrease their scoring potential, so getting her back will be essential to their assault on the top-ranked teams. While it was a great result against Florida, I would like to see a little bit more consistency from them, and I’m going to continue watching those bars handstands and then complaining about the scores for those routines. For Stanford, a high road score is essential for them to position themselves adequately for a less stressful regionals experience, especially because this is their final meet before Pac-12s. I’m also interested to see if some of those freshmen with big floor potential finally get into that lineup because there’s not a lot of time left to integrate them, and they are necessary.
Don’t forget that we’re also getting into Senior Night time of year, so if you’re the type of person who enjoys watching crying and the ceremonial presentation of flowers, be sure to catch those meet broadcasts, with Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia to name a few all having their senior meets this weekend. Yes, Mackenzie Caquatto is a senior in college. The end.
Top 25 Schedule
Friday – 3/7/14
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – West Virginia @  Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT –  Utah,  UCLA @  Michigan
7:00 ET/4:00 PT –  California, Centenary @ Kentucky
8:00 ET/5:00 PT –  NC State @  LSU
8:00 ET/5:00 PT –  Arizona State @  Oklahoma
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Missouri @  Auburn
8:30 ET/5:30 PT –  Stanford @  Alabama
Saturday – 3/8/14
1:00 ET/10:00 PT –  Central Michigan, Yale, S. Connecticut, Towson @ Rutgers
4:00 ET/1:00 PT –  Denver @  Georgia
4:00 ET/1:00 PT –  Penn State, George Washington, Bridgeport @ New Hampshire
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Ball State @  Ohio State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Lindenwood @  Illinois
7:00 ET/4:00 PT –  Arkansas @  Nebraska
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Seattle Pacific @  Boise State
Sunday – 3/9/14
3:00 ET/12:00 PT –  Oklahoma,  Minnesota, Michigan State @ Texas Woman’s
3:00 ET/12:00 PT –  Oregon State @  Arizona