Nebraska Regional Preview

Next stop, Nebraska. Or, as it should more accurately be known, the Air Force Regional of Nebraska, starring Air Force.

Let’s just get through that nonsense so we can talk about the actual competition. Because of a geographical quirk, Air Force is the only (non-DIII) team in the North Central region that did not qualify a full team to regionals. That means Air Force was the only team eligible to receive individual spots here and qualified the whole competition roster, including a gymnast for beam who didn’t even make her own team’s postseason beam lineup but had an RQS from earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, gymnasts like Lindsay Lemke (Michigan State, 9.845 RQS on UB), Jordyn Penny (Ball State, 9.840 RQS on UB), India McPeak (Bowling Green, 9.825 RQS on BB), Kayla Rose (Bowling Green, 9.850 RQS on FX), Kaitlyn Menzione (Ball State, 9.850 RQS on FX), Katey Oswalt (Lindenwood, 9.825 RQS on FX), Erin Alderman (TWU, 9.845 RQS on FX), and Anna Martucci (Northern Illinois, 9.845 RQS on FX) didn’t qualify to regionals only because their schools are located close to other schools and for no reason related to gymnastics at all. Almost like this system should be fixed…

The NC region is always sparse, but typically either Iowa State doesn’t qualify and sends a bunch of individuals as well, or the DIII sides qualify people to mix things up. But this year, Iowa State is going as a team and DIII nationals conflicts with regionals (what is WRONG with everyone?), so the DIII schools can’t send anyone.

Anyway, rant over. To the competition.

April 1, 2017 – 5:00 ET/2:00 PT

Teams (starting event)
[2] LSU (bars)
[11] Boise State (vault)
[14] Nebraska (bye before floor)
[25] Arizona (bye before bars)
[29] Iowa State (beam)
[36] Minnesota (floor)

Individuals
Mariana Murphy, Air Force (AA)
Kara Witgen, Air Force (AA)
Anna Salamone, Air Force (VT, UB)
Riley Hill, Air Force (VT, BB)
Jamie Lewis, Air Force (VT, UB, FX)
Darby Germain, Air Force (UB, FX)
Brittney Reed, Air Force (UB, BB, FX)
Rita Koenigbauer, Air Force (BB)
Chelsea Grimison, Air Force (BB)
Casey Bell, Air Force (FX)

The favorite – LSU
LSU occupies an identical position as Oklahoma when it comes to regionals, placed in what should be a very competitive meet but so much stronger than the other teams that it’s going to be a cakewalk, barring a multiple-fall disaster. All things mirroring the regular season, LSU will expect to be about a point clear of the peloton.

Like Oklahoma’s vaulting, LSU’s bars is a strong lineup that nonetheless looks like it could give away valuable tenths in the title hunt, at least in its current state. It has also been LSU’s lowest event score the last four meets in a row, so stepping up the precision on the difficult landings (Zamardi, Harrold) and the form (Harrold, Priessman) will be a critical development looking toward nationals on an event that doesn’t have to be the biggest score but still needs to be over 49.4.

Floor should be right there with the other very top teams, but LSU is spoiled for choice and still has some decisions to make about that lineup. Do you go with the big routine from Edney or play the execution card with Finnegan? (Or go with Priessman if she’s OK again, but it’s unlikely to be worth the risk.) It’s one of those decisions where they’ll probably be fine either way, but it will be revealing about how risk-averse/risk-embracing they’re feeling.

The fight – Boise State v. Nebraska
We’re a heinous, bloodthirsty bunch desperate for destruction. Regionals day gets very boring when all the #1 and #2 seeds advance, as happened two seasons ago. We want upsets, which is why this little clash looks so delectable. Though like Kentucky against Washington, it’s hard to construct either result as a true surprise: Boise State as the higher-ranked team but Nebraska as a similarly scored home side. Of course in terms of history, Boise State making nationals would be the true upset, though they’re numerically favored to advance.

At least across the whole season. Nebraska’s host status complicates things, and when the season is reduced to only Nebraska’s home results compared to Boise State’s road results, Nebraska comes out with a 196.567 average to Boise State’s 196.489 average. It should be tight.

If the Washington regional is Battle Beam, the Nebraska regional is Battle Bars. Bars stands as the most impressive event for both BSU and Nebraska (as well as Arizona), and the margin between the teams on that event will tell us quite a bit about the overall result. Boise State is, was, and always will be a bars team and relies on those hit handstands, big dismounts, and sticks to establish an advantage, even when the other events get a little 49.0.

But, Nebraska has been low-key excellent on bars this year as well, beginning with an intensely clean set from Houchin (that I want in the anchor position) and going right through Laeng’s national-class work that we’ve known for years now. The more Nebraska can eat away at Boise State’s presumed advantage on bars, the more likely Nebraska will be to take a lead with the other events. Conversely, if Boise State builds up that 3-4 tenth lead solely because of bars—as we’ve seen happen so many times—that’s a cushion that can be maintained through the whole meet because of improved execution and difficulty on the remaining events.

Which brings us to beam. Being not-terrifying on beam this season has been the most significant development in Boise State’s growth into a #2 seed, ranked 13th there this season (compared to 23rd – 2016, 23rd – 2015, 32nd – 2014, 35th – 2013). I firmly believe that right after Boise State had a chance to knock out Florida at regionals in 2011 with a hit beam and missed by .025, they were hexed by a cruel sorceress and have never been the same. This season, the curse finally appears to be wearing off through the work of exorcists Means and Remme. They’ll need to come through because Nebraska owns the scoring edge on the power events this year.

Floor is not exactly a close friend to either team, though. Nebraska will need Lambert to deliver the 9.9+ she’s capable of to make the RQS advantage a reality here. Between the two teams, hers is the strongest floor routine and can be a major boost as long as everyone stays in bounds. Boise State has the tumbling (Bennion’s double Arabian is, as the youths say, that fire emoji), though I’m interested to see how the dance elements are evaluated in a postseason context because short splits can be a weakness that brings BSU’s floor total down.

Now, VAULT. While bars may be the prettiest event for these two sides, vault will be the most interesting because of the high number of potential 10.0 starts and the decisions that must be made about actually competing them. Nebraska, kind of out of the blue, has three 1.5s now with Houchin (the most reliable), along with Crouse and Laeng. None looked particularly close to falling at Big Tens, which is step one, though Laeng looked the most uncertain of the three on her landing.

Boise State can theoretically top that with the handspring pike 1/2 from Bir along with three of its own possible 1.5s from Means, McGregor, and Stockwell. Yet, those 1.5s haven’t been completely consistent this year. They can be a little fallsy, a little bouncy, and a little knee form. The big strategic play for Boise State is whether to go for difficulty that keeps pace with Nebraska or play the execution game by performing fulls. Expect Nebraska to have the scoring edge on vault regardless, so the question is whether Boise State tries to get as close as possible to Nebraska by matching the difficulty or just plays it safe and says, “Let’s minimize the chance for falls or major landing errors and focus on getting our advantage on the other events.”

That’s why Boise State’s vault warmup will actually be one of the most exciting parts of this regional. How do those vaults look? Are they worth going for? (Personally, I think Boise State has to go for it to have the best shot at beating Nebraska in Nebraska, but it’s not a clear decision.)

Also, if there was still any question that changing the value of the Yurchenko full has been good for college gymnastics, look at this regional. The strategy of which vaults to perform for these #2 and #3 seeds, whether to play it safe, and how that compares to an opponent’s vaulting program has added an extra layer of intrigue and excitement to this meet that it just wouldn’t have otherwise. Now let’s find a way to bring that to the other events. (If you don’t have a same-bar release, you start from 9.950. Unconnected C dismount on beam, start from 9.950. C dismount on floor, start from 9.950. Just spitballing here.)

The spoiler – Minnesota???????
Hear me out on this one. Don’t laugh. Just wait. It’s unlikely that the lower three teams are going to challenge in this one, which should be an easy win for LSU and then a fight between Boise State and Nebraska, who would both have to count falls for another team to get in there.

Now, Minnesota is the 36th and final qualifier and just sneaked into regionals by a…well, we’re still not really sure how it happened because of all the falls. At the same time, Minnesota has been fairly competitive on vault and particularly floor this season (top 25 on vault, top 15 on floor) and is the best of the challenging teams on those pieces. The problem has been a tragic inability to hit bars and beam just…really ever. But if Minnesota were, somehow, to find a way to hit bars and beam in the same meet, the Gophers become a real 196 threat and suddenly the #4 team in this competition. The 196.800 season-high bears that out. It’s not the most likely scenario, but I’m throwing it out there.

The other spoilers – Arizona and Iowa State
There are no goats in this regional, no teams just making up the numbers, and Arizona and Iowa State will themselves expect to score in the 196s and challenge Boise State or Nebraska if those teams start flopping around. Arizona is getting healthy and impressed at Pac-12s with a comprehensive hit that could have ranked better than it did. It just lacked a little in VT/FX landings and had more balance checks on beam than we would hope to see. A 196 on the road at regionals is more than simply attainable. It should be the expectation.

Iowa State, too, has had its moments this season, the impressive 196.600 performance at Alabama being the highest profile. That was a very composed, 9.850 of a hit that, if replicated at regionals, would make ISU a serious challenger. Too often for Iowa State, the issue has been getting a little “9.7s until Haylee Young saves the score,” which won’t cut it in this meet. Watch the beam score in that first rotation as an indicator. Between the likes of Young and Diaz, Iowa State has the potential for some serious beam, but more often than not, it hasn’t come through this year and ranks just 31st. If ISU breaks 49 on beam, it’s worth keeping an eye on the rest of the performances.

Individuals
The one to watch out for in the all-around here is Haylee Young from Iowa State, who has been under 39.250 only once this season and has broken 39.400 on three occasions. Young has made a habit of being an individual threat at regionals and will be a serious one again regardless of which teams end up advancing.

If Boise State does not advance, the favorites to advance as AAers will be Shani Remme along with Young (McGregor has also scored well this year but hasn’t competed floor in recent weeks). If, however, Nebraska doesn’t go, then things will get quite competitive with Jennie Laeng, Taylor Houchin, and Young all looking like viable contenders with equivalent scoring potential in the AA. It’s tough for Houchin because she leads off two lineups, but she has the difficulty and execution and would be right there with the other two given a hit meet. I also wouldn’t count out Bailie Holst from Minnesota, though her high scores have been fewer and farther between.

Other AAers will be Paz and Sievers from Iowa State and Ciara Gardner from Minnesota. Paz and Gardner should hit the lower 49s but lack the four-event scores to get through unless it’s a splatfest.

As in the Oklahoma regional, LSU’s scoring is likely to preclude many individual event qualifiers, though someone like Mejia would be a nominee from BSU if they don’t go as a team. Haylee Young has a few potential 9.9s. Arizona has some beamers like Howard and Cindric. Bailey Abernathy gets some floor scores for Minnesota. High scores are there to be earned by the other teams, but it’s probably going to take a 9.950 to win or tie for an event.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS

Rotation 1 – Boise St vault, LSU bars, Iowa St beam, Minnesota floor
1. LSU – 49.415
2. Minnesota – 49.245
3. Boise State – 49.170
4. Iowa State – 48.920

Minnesota must take advantage of floor to be in with any chance, so they’d need to be right up with and probably ahead of Boise State after one event. Vault has been BSU’s low score, so they’d be OK with hitting for something near 49.170, which complicates the vault decision. Do they need those 1.5s?

Rotation 2 – Minnesota vault, Arizona bars, LSU beam, Nebraska floor
1. LSU – 98.920
2. Minnesota – 98.255
3. Nebraska – 49.300
4. Arizona – 49.215
5. Boise State – 49.170
6. Iowa State – 48.920

Nebraska competes on a scoring strength for its first event (highest event RQS to Boise State’s lowest), so the Huskers will want to be ahead after one piece. Arizona also starts on its best score and must be in view of the other teams at this point.

Rotation 3 – Nebraska vault, Boise St bars, Arizona beam, Iowa St floor
1. LSU – 98.920
2. Boise State – 98.565
3. Nebraska – 98.485
4. Minnesota – 98.255
5. Arizona – 98.065
6. Iowa State – 98.005

Boise State and bars. Being behind after bars has never been a good sign for Boise State, and it absolutely can’t happen here.

Rotation 4 – Iowa St vault, Minnesota bars, Boise St beam, LSU floor
LSU – 148.465
Boise State – 147.845
Minnesota – 147.280
Iowa State – 147.005
Nebraska – 98.485
Arizona – 98.065

Something, something Boise State needing to hit beam something, something.

Rotation 5 – LSU vault, Nebraska bars, Minnesota beam, Arizona floor
LSU – 198.005
Minnesota – 196.105
Boise State – 147.845
Nebraska – 147.780
Arizona – 147.165
Iowa State – 147.005

At this point, Nebraska would need to close the gap even closer than RQS predicts and probably would need take a lead with BSU finishing on floor to Nebraska’s beam. Floor is always the advantage. A lead at this point for Boise State would be golden.

Rotation 6 – Arizona vault, Iowa St bars, Nebraska beam, Boise St floor
LSU – 198.005
Boise State – 197.060
Nebraska – 196.835
Minnesota – 196.105
Arizona – 196.045
Iowa State – 196.020

These event RQSs are what provide evidence for Minnesota as the #4 team and show that, when Minnesota actually does hit individual events, it’s good enough for a competitive score. Even if that never happens in the same meet.

Here we see Boise State extending its lead over Nebraska, which is why Nebraska has to make its move in rotation 5.

By the numbers

[1] LSU
RQS: 197.865 [1]
Season high: 198.150 [1]
Season average: 197.744 [1]

VT RQS: 49.540 [1]
VT average: 49.431 [1]
UB RQS: 49.415 [1]
UB average: 49.367 [1]
BB RQS: 49.505 [1]
BB average: 49.442 [1]
FX RQS: 49.545 [1]
FX average: 49.504 [1]

[2] Boise State
RQS: 196.910 [2]
Season high: 197.675 [2]
Season average: 196.683 [2]

VT RQS: 49.170 [3]
VT average: 49.083 [3]
UB RQS: 49.395 [2]
UB average: 49.300 [2]
BB RQS: 49.280 [2]
BB average: 49.208 [2]
FX RQS: 49.215 [4]
FX average: 49.093 [3]

[3] Nebraska
RQS: 196.725 [3]
Season high: 197.175 [3]
Season average: 196.180 [3]

VT RQS: 49.185 [2]
VT average: 49.140  [2]
UB RQS: 49.295 [3]
UB average: 49.188 [3]
BB RQS: 49.055 [3]
BB average: 48.785 [3]
FX RQS: 49.300 [2]
FX average: 49.068 [4]

[4] Arizona
RQS: 195.880 [4]
Season high: 196.275 [6]
Season average: 195.373 [4]

VT RQS: 48.880 [6]
VT average: 48.809 [6]
UB RQS: 49.215 [4]
UB average: 48.932 [4]
BB RQS: 48.850 [5]
BB average: 48.677 [4]
FX RQS: 49.100 [5]
FX average: 48.955 [5]

[5] Iowa State
RQS: 195.750 [5]
Season high: 196.600 [5]
Season average: 195.310 [5]

VT RQS: 49.000 [5]
VT average: 48.844 [5]
UB RQS: 49.015 [6]
UB average: 48.865 [5]
BB RQS: 48.920 [4]
BB average: 48.663 [5]
FX RQS: 49.085 [6]
FX average: 48.940 [6]

[6] Minnesota
RQS: 195.420 [6]
Season high: 196.800 [4]
Season average: 195.036 [6]

VT RQS: 49.010 [4]
VT average: 48.866 [4]
UB RQS: 49.025 [5]
UB average: 48.568 [6]
BB RQS: 48.825 [6]
BB average: 48.441 [6]
FX RQS: 49.245 [3]
FX average: 49.161 [2]

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9 thoughts on “Nebraska Regional Preview”

  1. Thank you for doing these regional previews! I know all the main teams, but I love to read about the individuals to watch on some of the teams I haven’t followed. It’ll help me keep track next weekend as I try to watch all six regionals! This site is the best.

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  2. I’m probably jinxing them by saying this, but I feel like Minnesota actually figured out bars halfway through the season. They have hit at all 6 of their last meets and scored over 49 at 4 of them. Which is pretty good by Minnesota standards for bars. Beam, OTOH, started out decent, but has become a total disaster in the last half of the season, so I’m not holding out a lot of hope that they will have figure out how to hit beam in the last couple of weeks.

    The Boise-Nebraska showdown will be super interesting and I’m not sure who to root for. I’d love to see Boise make it for once, but I’m always a sucker for the hometown team coming from behind.

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  3. Random question related to your spitballing: if you don’t have a same-bar release, don’t you already start out of a 9.9 for all practical purposes, because of the new not-up-to-level deductions?

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      1. I believe Kyla gets a 0.1 bonus for connecting the two bar changes she does (Maloney is a D and shootover to handstand a C) so makes up for not having either a same bar release, E release, two D releases or an two E skills. She gets the other 0.1 for ‘up to competitive level’ for a D dismount.

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    1. You don’t need a same bar release, but you need a “major release” (I think a D?) So Kyla and others who have a shapash or a pak are “up to the level”, whereas people who only have a bail are not.

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    2. Ahhhhh, yes, Air Force has an 11 person team and 10 will be competing at regionals, in spite of the fact that the team finished the season ranked 57th overall.

      We hates you forevers!!! Signed: the collected gymnasts from Ball State, Rutgers and UIC…

      Kidding, really, but the NCAA needs to figure out a better way to qualify individuals to regionals than this. Even if it DOES mean taking the full pool of athletes and assigning them out like they do the teams.

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  4. Regional reshuffling idea:

    -Move the Illinois schools to the North Central Region from the South Central Region (Illinois, Illinois St, UIC, Northern Illinois)
    -Move the Louisiana schools to the South Central Region from the Central Region (LSU, Centenary)
    -Move Michigan to the Central Region from the North East Region

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    1. I say get rid of regions altogether. The top AAers and event specialists not on a qualifying team will qualify to regionals and be randomly placed with geography taken into consideration.

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