The Nationals Outlook

And just like that, the regionals are over. We leave 24 more teams in the dust and turn our attention to the big 12 that have managed to advance to compete for the national championship. Today, the rotation order and individual competitor placement was released.

Afternoon Session (starting event): Georgia (vault), Illinois (bye), Michigan (bars), Oklahoma (beam), LSU (bye), Stanford (floor)

Evening Session (starting event): Florida (vault), Alabama (bye), Utah (bars), UCLA (beam), Penn State (bye), Nebraska (floor)

Off the top, it doesn’t look like a particularly bad rotation order for anyone. Beam and floor tend to be the most significant starting/ending events, but in the first session, I like Stanford starting on floor and ending on beam, and I always like Oklahoma starting on beam. They’ll embrace that position. Is ending on beam trouble for LSU? We’ll find out. Georgia got a gift in that rotation order after the regionals near-nightmare. They’re like the France of this competition. (World Cup qualifications reference? Anyone?) In the second session, I think Nebraska and Penn State probably would have preferred not to start on floor and end on beam, since beam can be a worry for both. That’s a harder rotation for Nebraska, but they got through the same rotation well at regionals, even though beam was just endured.

We have nice battles for the final qualifying spots in each semifinal. If we call Oklahoma and LSU the favorites in the first, then Stanford, Georgia, and Michigan will clashing for the final spot, and the same is the case in the second with Utah, UCLA, and Nebraska if we think of Florida and Alabama as the favorites. If things go as they’ve gone this season, the second semifinal could end up being a more straightforward affair for Florida, Alabama, and Utah, but I’m not quite ready to bet on that yet. P.S. you guys, is Stanford going to make Super Six?

Of those respective challenging trios, Georgia and UCLA will be ending the meets on the floor while the others will be on byes. Teams always like to finish competing, and score building will be a topic of discussion there. In the unnecessary fact department, Utah has started on bars and finished on vault twice so far this year and twice scored a 197.300.

I’ll be doing the whole breakdown in the coming weeks, but I appreciate that this year we have two semifinals with relatively equivalent levels of competitiveness. Last year, one was essentially a slam dunk while the other was a game of thrones. 

In case you were curious, if NQS were still in effect this season, the semifinals would be as follows:
Afternoon: LSU, Florida, Utah, Nebraska, Georgia, Penn State
Evening: Oklahoma, Alabama, Stanford, Michigan, UCLA, Illinois

Better or worse? Not really sure. Maybe more fun, though. Because all the top teams qualified this year, predetermining the semifinals has worked out just fine, but I still don’t like it. Just wait for the year when we have true upsets and completely unbalanced semifinals.

Our individual AA qualifiers are
Moriah Martin (Denver), Lindsay Mable (Minnesota), Chelsea Tang (Oregon State), Madeline Gardiner (Oregon State), Kalliah McCartney (Sac State), Alicia Asturias (Cal), Alexis Gunzelman (Rutgers), Caitlin Brown (Iowa State), Katherine Grable (Arkansas), Marie Case (Kent State), Hope Sloanhoffer (West Virginia), and Amanda Wellick (Arkansas)

The event qualifiers are
Dallas Crawford – bars (Cal), Audrey Harrison – beam (Kentucky), Kaytianna McMillian – beam (Oregon State), Hanna Nordquist – beam (Minnesota), Emily Heinz – beam (Central Michigan), Kelsey Morris – bars (Boise State), Halle Moraw – beam (Central Michigan), Taylor Noonan – beam (Central Michigan), Ciera Perkins – floor (Boise State)

The major AAers in that crop are Grable and Mable (rhyming!) Both have been placed with teams that knocked them out of regionals (Utah and Illinois, respectively). Mable has the added possible – though often overstated – struggle of going in the first semifinal, but Grable has been placed in the second. The scoring advantage of being in the second session over the first is a question mark for me. We’ve seen plenty of people win the AA from the first session, but we’ve also seen plenty of two-session NCAA meets where the scores do rise noticeably (like Pac 12s this year). Grable will have the challenge of competing without her team, but she can build on Utah’s scores and has enough name recognition that the judges won’t overlook her. It’s harder than it would have been with her team, but she’s not out of the AA title race.

And if you think that’s too many individual beam workers, blame Georgia and Florida not getting any 9.9s on beam. Which brings me to a point: some of these teams performed distinctly barfily at regionals and should be thanking their lucky stars that they got through. UCLA needed the wobbly beam rotation of Arkansas to forgive them for counting a fall, Florida ended up being a Kytra beam routine away from a shocking upset of all upsets (huge hit for her, especially after bars), and Georgia basically has the seeding system to thank for its second chance after mistakes in two rotations. We’ve seen many teams perform better than Georgia did on Saturday and miss out on Nationals (and they’re called Oregon State).

Interesting note: If Georgia had been the #1 team in the country, they wouldn’t be going to Nationals right now because their 196.375 would not have advanced from that regional, being below OSU and PSU’s scores. They were the beneficiaries of the seeding system that rewards being in the middle of the top 10 more than being a top team. As it stood, the Gym Dogs didn’t even really come that close to being knocked out. This is good because Nationals will be a better competition with them in it, but it’s definitely a strange way to put together a system and robbed us of some more competitive action on regionals day.

In conclusion, get excited for semifinals because they will be close. I could make an argument for the large majority of these teams going through.

10 thoughts on “The Nationals Outlook”

  1. psssst mable is from minnesota! and i agree about georgia. i'm so glad they got through since i really like that team this year but regionals was an unmitigated disaster that they probably shouldn't have gotten through.

  2. Super Six prediction:
    Semi 1 – Oklahoma, LSU and Stanford edging out Michigan.
    Semi 2 – Alabama, Utah and Florida

    For an upset I wouldn't mind seeing Nebraska take Florida's place – after the disappointment at SEC and a “dismal” performance at regionals Florida may be fragile enough to fall. I also expect Georgia to be in the top three after their first two events but then fall out of contention once they get to beam and floor, especially without Brittany Rogers (assuming her ankle won't heal enough for her to do floor after a month off and she'll stick with bars only).

    This is Bridget Sloan's title to lose. I wouldn't be surprised to see her get a 10 on beam after her fall at regionals (have more faith in Sloan rebounding then I do in Hunter putting up a solid bars score).

    But, if Sloan has a wobble or two, or a step on a landing, I wouldn't mind seeing Kat Grable, Lindsey Mable, Jesse Jordan or Emily Wong earn the AA title. For a dark horse either Kim Jacob or Sarah Demeo or one of the other non-team gymnasts.


  3. So weird how Alabama, one of the favorites to win it all, doesn't have a real contender for the All-Around. Kim and DeMeo are good but toe to toe and hit for hit, they aren't really above the likes of Sloan, Hunter, Courville and Sampson.

    guess it really is a team sport.

  4. That's why I like Alabama – they are truly a TEAM without individual stars. Though I would say LSU is more than just Courville – with Jordan, Hall, among others.


  5. Katherine Grable is my second pick, after Sloan, to win the title. It would be kind of cool to see a gymnast not with a team take it.

  6. Yeah, Alabama hasn't had an AA stand-out since Stack-Eaton. I think Mackenzie Brannon could be a top AAer, but most of the gymnasts coming in the next few years also look like they'll contribute heavily on two or three events rather than the AA. Seems to work very well for the team.

  7. Stack Eaton was special and should have won Floor in 2012 and All Around in 2011. I know she screwed up her very last dismount to give away the AA, but I can't remember why she lost to Kat Ding on floor.

    Before her…. not even Kayla Hoffman, Terin Humprhey, Ashley Miles or Morgan Dennis were true all around threats, just outstanding on 2 or so events.

    You'd have to go all the way back to Andree Pickens for a deadly AA capable of 9.975 on every event.

  8. Or Jeana Rice. Wasn't she after Andree? And didn't she win the AA one year? I could look this up, of course, but that's what I remember.

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