A. Weekend schedule
|Friday, March 10
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT –  West Virginia @  Florida||LINK||SEC+|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Towson @ NC State||LINK||ACC+|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ Kent State||LINK||FREE|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Temple @ William & Mary||LINK||FB|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Winona State @ UW-Eau Claire||LINK|
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-La Crosse @ Gustavus Adolphus||LINK|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT –  Kentucky @  Missouri||LINK||SEC+|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Pitt @  Auburn||LINK||SEC+|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT – San Jose State, Centenary @ Arkansas||LINK|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Lindenwood @ Illinois State||FREE|
|8:30 ET/5:30 PT – New Hampshire @  LSU||LINK||SEC+|
|8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Iowa State @  Alabama||LINK||SEC+|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Denver @  Boise State||LINK||FREE|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Southern Utah @  Utah State||LINK||FREE|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona @ BYU||LINK||FREE|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Sacramento State, Bridgeport @ Arizona State||LINK||FREE|
|10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Air Force @ UC Davis||LINK||FB|
|Saturday, March 11
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Brown, Cortland, Rhode Island @ Springfield||FREE|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Ursinus @ West Chester|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ Central Michigan||LINK||FREE|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Big Ten Qualifier:  Nebraska,  Ohio State, Michigan State, Maryland @  Illinois||LINK||BTN|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big Ten Qualifier:  Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Rutgers @  Iowa||LINK||BTN|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT –  Utah @  Georgia||LINK||SEC+|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT – SEMO @ Western Michigan||LINK|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @  Oregon State||LINK||FREE|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Hamline @ UW-Whitewater||LINK||FREE|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Bowling Green @  Eastern Michigan||LINK||EMU|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Seattle Pacific @  Washington||FREE|
|Sunday, March 12
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Penn, Southern Connecticut, Ithaca @ Temple||FREE|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Stanford, NC State, Yale @  George Washington||LINK||GW $|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Cornell, Brockport @ Towson|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – North Carolina @  UCLA||LINK||P12|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT –  Oklahoma @  Cal||LINK||P12|
|Monday, March 13
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT –  Southern Utah @ BYU||LINK||FREE|
The final weekend before championship season is upon us. It’s an odd one because the “conference schedule” is over, so that means we get a lot of haphazard matchups between random teams. Not a bad thing—we get to see teams we don’t usually—but it doesn’t make for a ton of exciting meets. The highest-profile contests will come on Saturday and Sunday with Utah/Georgia and Oklahoma/Cal, though it’s Friday’s Denver/Boise State meet that may prove the most worthwhile of all. These are two fairly even teams, both often hovering around the 197.0 marks and both looking to play the same spoiler role in the postseason.
B. Meet Notes
- Utah @ Georgia
Georgia is unlikely to challenge the top six in the rankings before we head to regionals, but the title of Most Likely Spoiler is still very much up for grabs. Beating Utah would make a compelling argument. Georgia’s recent home scores and Utah’s recent road scores are not different enough to think this will be a walk, though Utah does enter as the favorite.Being at home probably eliminates questions about Georgia’s competitiveness on floor because you know Marino is getting a 9.950, but some other potential stumbling blocks have arisen for Georgia, particularly in the difficulty/scoring of the pre-Snead vaults and some 9.7ishness in the beginning of the bars lineup. That’s why Merrell will be a key gymnast for Utah. If she has a good day, hits her 1.5 before Skinner and starts off bars in the 9.8s, that would give Utah a critical edge on the early pieces.
- Big Five Big Ten Big Five Five Five Five Ten Ten
This weekend, the Big Ten schools will participate in the unglamorous and cumbersome “Big Ten Big Five” meets, an expression we should all refuse to use on principle. We would expect nothing less from a conference with 14 schools in it that’s called the Big Ten, or even worse, B1G, which isn’t even words.These meets are apparently important in deciding the Big Ten regular-season champion (guhguhguhguhguh), which is how Minnesota ended up with that title last year. Hearing Minnesota called the 2016 Big Ten regular season champion is a great example of why regular-season champion is nothing because we’re all like, “Huh…?” In other consequences of these meets, the top three finishers in each one will compete in the evening session at the Big Ten Championship, while the 4th and 5th finishers will compete in the early session. The two competitions will run simultaneously because you definitely didn’t want to watch both of them.If that raises your blood pressure, please don’t look at the schedule for regionals day.
- Washington and Cal
The race for the evening session at SECs is already decided with LSU, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia taking those spots, but there’s still a spot to be won at Pac-12s, with either Washington or Cal joining UCLA, Utah, and Oregon State in the cool kids group. Washington has the inside track but would need 196.850 to guarantee the evening spot, which is not an easy score. Anything less, and Cal will have a chance to pass. With Washington competing Saturday and Cal on Sunday, Cal will know exactly what it would take against Oklahoma to move ahead, if it’s still possible.
- And the rest
A large-ish collection of the top teams (LSU, Florida, UCLA, Alabama) faces opposition that should be quite beatable and doesn’t have a ton riding on this weekend’s meets since the RQS scores are fine already. This should be an opportunity to rest the more broken gymnasts before the meets that matter. There’s another school of thought that the weekend before conference championships should be used to finalize lineups and “get people comfortable with postseason expectations,” whatever that means. Eh. If you’re not comfortable yet…
It’s a big weekend for Southern Utah, with two meets and a 194 poised to drop. We should expect SUU to jump into the seeded spots with anything resembling a hit weekend, putting pressure on #18 GW and #19 Illinois to get season highs to try to retain their own shots at seeded places. Higher up the seeded chart, that bunch from 11-14 (Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska, Washington) would currently create the nastiest regionals, so keep an eye on whether Michigan and Kentucky can disentangle themselves from challenging placements.In the race to make regionals, Western Michigan used a Tuesday score to move up to 36th, bumping Penn State out for the moment. Penn State still controls its own destiny, though, with a pre-house-cleaning 193.2 that should be dropped rather easily. If that happens, we could end up with a Michigan cluster of CMU, WMU and MSU all very close and all fighting for a single regionals spot, with perhaps a little BYU thrown in.
C. Bad Penny
Weirdly, it appears that haphazard, unprofessional, and negligent handling of sexual abuse cases is grounds for removal, even in the world of US National Governing Bodies. Wonders never cease.
Members of the USOC told Christine Brennan, “Hey, this makes us look bad. Steve Penny should go so that we don’t have to talk about this anymore and can do better at all the PR. I mean, because of protecting children. That. We care about that.” Exact quote.
But, even though the USOC cares about sexual abuse now, starting Tuesday, it has no power to travel back in time and say this years ago when it should have happened. Nor does it have the power to fire Penny or ask for his resignation. That power lies with the USAG board. So, Penny promptly called up his knitting circle, a.k.a. the USAG board, at 1-(800)-BEST-BITCHES to tell them to run outside and support their BAE 5EVER publicly, which they did in a statement titled, “This Isn’t Short-Sighted, March Edition.”
We’ll see how long Penny digs his fingernails into the door frame on the way out.
D. American Cup
So, that was three-and-a-half hours we’ll never get back. It co-starred the glorious form of Yul Moldauer and the smoldering aftermath of a scorched world.
Of note, Riley McCusker came in with all the excitement and freshness of a newborn basket of sea otters but had the misfortune of immediately falling into a coastal eddy made of emotions as part of Strike Force Bring Martha
Back from the Dead Out of Retirement.
After verge-of-tears-ing her way through bars and beam, McCusker went to floor where NBC treated us to the obligatory, “THIS FLOOR ROUTINE WILL DETERMINE THE COURSE OF HER WHOLE LIFE, WILL SHE FAIL AND NEVER STOP CRYING??????” Even though in 30 seconds she’ll go to Jesolo, hit the all-around, it’ll be like, “What’s American Cup?” Because of, you know, how critical American Cup has been in the course of no one’s career.
Or, sorry, I mean, “VALERI OUT THIS IS THE END OF GYMNASTICS.”
In spite of herself falling on beam, Ragan Smith won the American Cup trophy, an exotic piece made from 24-karat starring-off-into-the-middle-distance-in-despair, because this thing was just a big old mess. Highlights like Kim Bui’s lovely bars hit and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos sticking her double tuck off beam were few and far between, with Smith running away with the title on difficulty and Asuka Teramoto finishing second on “I’m just not going to fall, guys…” Everyone else got an 11. I’ve watched all the routines. I would not wish it on any but my worst enemies.
The Routine and D-Score Database has been updated with the routines from the American Cup competitors.
Next on the elite agenda is this weekend’s International Gymnix competition in Montreal. The senior division features all the major, healthy Canadians, a couple relevant Australians, and a Chuso in a pear tree. The junior division is headed by a quartet of Americans (Malabuyo, O’Keefe, Perea, and Lee) and some Italians who will be the future of that team’s competitiveness (the D’Amatos, Villa, and Iorio). Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Carmen Machado are among several other Americans competing in a separate Challenge Gymnix division because of sure.
Malabuyo, O’Keefe, and Perea are seniors next year, while Lee is a senior in 2019. At this point, they’re the strongest juniors the US has to offer. First person to tweet, [BLANK] WOULD HAVE WON THE AMERICAN CUP IF SHE HAD BEEN AGE ELIGIBLE wins.
On this week’s episode, I got the fun job while Jessica and Uncle Tim did real, important things. They ran through all the latest sexual abuse news and Senate bills and document releases (we recorded before the latest Steve Penny developments), while I mostly just talked about Bart Deurloo’s balls. Hero’s work.
In competition news, we broke down the key points from the American Cup, as well as highlights of the Nastia Cup and all the latest 10s and cracky scoring developments in NCAA gym.
G. Beam Routine of the Week
Thinking about double pike beam dismounts this week. I don’t know, maybe watching those American Cup routines subconsciously made me seek out beam therapy. This double pike made Sarah Patterson do a literal prance.