National Championship Preview Part 2: Eastern Semifinal

The evening semifinal is shaping up to be the juicier and more uncertain of the two. While the first semifinal has three favorites and three challengers waiting to see if it’s a sloppy meet (which it will be), the second semifinal defies classification when it comes to the middle seeds. Really only the qualification of Nebraska, the most mid-196y of the teams in this semifinal, would constitute a true surprise or upset.

April 14, 7:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] LSU (bye before floor)
[2] Florida (vault)
[3] Alabama (floor)
[4] Michigan (bye before bars)
[5] Georgia (beam)
[6] Nebraska (bars)

Individuals
Mollie Korth, Kentucky, AA (rotating w/ LSU)
Briannah Tsang, Penn State, AA (rotating w/ Florida)
Alex Hyland, Kentucky, AA (rotating w/ Michigan)
Zaakira Muhammad, West Virginia, AA (rotating w/ Alabama)
Sabrina Garcia, Penn State, AA (rotating w/ Georgia)
Cami Drouin-Allaire, George Washington, AA(rotating w/ Nebraska)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan, VT (rotating w/ LSU)
Elizabeth Price, Stanford, UB (rotating w/ Florida)
Katy Clements, Central Michigan, BB (rotating w/ Michigan)
Chelsea Raineri, George Washington, VT (rotating w/ Georgia)
Desiree Palomares, Cal, BB, (rotating w/ Florida)

LSU
LSU enters the first day of competition as the Oklahoma of the second semifinal, the team that really should qualify to Super Six barring any kind of 2015-style “the freshman LOST HER MIND” moment. The Tigers did, however, score a low-for-them 197.450 at regionals without counting a fall—which is cause for some vague concern about what would happen if they did count a fall—but the overall scoring potential is too high to see LSU being vulnerable without multiple and significant mistakes. LSU would have to give qualification away. No one is going to take it from them.

A flew blips did crop up in that regionals 197.450, and fairly unexpected ones. Aside from a bit of a flopsy-daisy in the middle of the beam lineup, LSU did not perform as well on vault as we would expect, an event that must not only be an asset but a win at nationals if LSU is to take the championship. At regionals, Harrold didn’t go—Cannamela’s full replaced her—and LSU ended up counting a couple lowish 9.8s. That would be fine even if replicated in this semifinal (because Gnat, because Edney) but wouldn’t be enough to give LSU the necessary advantage in Super Six. Something to watch.

Florida
The Gators, too, exposed a weak underbelly in places during the regionals performance at home, which should have been a statement meet for a high 197, or even 198, but just…wasn’t.

The 197.125 is fairly troubling because that total is realistically beatable by three or four other teams in this semifinal. This low score did come as a result of (essentially) counting a fall on bars, from which Florida will take heart since a normal hit would have scored safely into the Super Six-qualifying zone. Still, the bars errors coupled with a just-OK beam rotation showed us a Florida that looked far too vulnerable on the eve of nationals.

Florida certainly remains a favorite to advance. Overall season scoring puts the Gators at a comfortable #2 in this semifinal, and even if there are flat moments, expected 49.4+ totals on vault and floor should pull them through. It probably would take counting a fall to keep Florida out of Super Six (and it would keep Florida out of Super Six—this semifinal is too deep to think they can get away with that), but watch beam as your bellwether regardless.

And not just Florida’s beam. All of them. Beyond being the most likely event to see a fall, beam has a tendency to be Florida’s most 9.825y piece. It’s the one place where Michigan and Alabama could theoretically gain a couple tenths, so keep an eye on those successive beam performances in rotations 3, 4, and 5 to see if Florida allows an opening and if the others score well enough to slide through it. If that doesn’t happen, the Gators really should be safe since they’re unlikely to give up that amount of juicy, juicy tenths on the other pieces.

Alabama and Michigan
The rematch. The two just faced off at regionals with Michigan the clear victor, and now they’re set to do battle again at nationals with a spot in Super Six on the line. Of course, it may not work out that way, but the most likely outcome in this semifinal has LSU and Florida advancing and Michigan and Alabama dueling for the remaining spot (and trying to hold off Georgia).

Alabama entered the season as the more likely of the two to make Super Six and finished the regular season ranked ahead of Michigan in overall RQS as well as on every single event. On the other hand, these two have been scoring remarkably similarly for weeks now, and then Michigan slapped down that massive 0.725 victory at regionals. A good argument can be made for either.

Let’s talk about Alabama’s vaulting. It hasn’t been a tremendous event for Alabama this season, but it has been more than acceptable. The short-landing Olympics we saw at regionals was several steps below that acceptable level. A repeat at nationals would be weird and unexpected, but the regionals miss does force the coaching staff into a difficult decision re: Desch’s 1.5.

I believe the threat posed by Michigan is significant enough that Alabama must go for that 10.0 start and cannot play it safe. Putting up a possible fall on vault is not THAT big of a risk in Alabama’s case because you really should have five other hit/usable routines, but FEAR OF FALL may lead Alabama to step down the difficulty. That would give them fewer 10.0 starts than Michigan, taking away a potential advantage. Alabama’s early-lineup fulls are typically better than Michigan’s, but not being able to match the Karas/McLean vaults at the end of the lineup would undermine that.

Alabama’s other major lineup decision regards Keely McNeer and beam. Under ideal circumstances, this isn’t a question, but since coming back, McNeer’s two scores have been 9.000 and 9.550. As much as they may want the idea of McNeer in the lineup, she hasn’t looked ready yet. Is two more weeks enough time?

With these decisions to make, the meet may be the ultimate test of the Alabama depth we talk/hear about so much. As well as Michigan performed at regionals, the team still had to drop a 9.7 on every event. That’s a tenuous position because being forced to count a 9.7 makes the difference in a tight semifinal like this among 197 peers. Alabama’s roster has realistic backup routines (in theory), and the ability to put at least a 9.825 in every lineup spot would be a better buffer against mistakes and an unmatched asset in this otherwise even fight.

Michigan ranked third nationally at regionals and has scored over 197 in six straight meets, the only team besides Oklahoma and LSU that can make that claim. Michigan has looked like the most dangerous Super Six spoiler since about February, and the only thing that may have changed now is the word spoiler.

The most important aspect of Michigan’s regional performance was the 49.450 on bars, which had been the team’s lowest-scoring event and biggest weakness compared to Alabama’s season scores. Brianna Brown’s return to the lineup boosts the score a solid tenth right there, but I’m still a little concerned about the beginning routines. Funk can get a little Funky, Polina can get a little Polinay (all elite watchers know the definition of Polinay), and while Michigan’s run of beginning road meets by counting bars falls seems a long time ago, it wasn’t really. Once again here, Michigan begins on bars, so if they can get through those very first routines of the meet with three 9.8s, that augurs well because a potential stumbling block will already be out of the way.

Regionals also saw Zaziski come in on floor—and every Michigan fan had a little bit of diarrhea—but she hit for 9.900, which would be quite significant for Michigan if Zaziski hitting floor is actually a thing now. Her scoring potential is higher than that of Marinez, so a confident Zaziski takes away some of that worrisome early 9.7ishness and allows Chiarelli/Karas/Artz to keep the score closer to Alabama’s and blunt another potential Alabama advantage.

Georgia
I don’t mean to discount Georgia entirely. Georgia is a strong team that’s also capable of, and expecting, a 197. But Georgia’s likely scoring range is still a couple tenths below that of Alabama and Michigan, particularly on the road where Georgia is yet to hit the 197 mark. Qualification will require a little bit more help in the form of, say, a 48.9-49.0 rotation from both Alabama and Michigan. Along with that, Georgia will need ideal meets from those early bars and beam routines because (THEME OF THE MEET ALERT), you can’t count a 9.7 when the teams are this good.

The regionals vault rotation was a critical performance for Georgia, a 49.325 and the best set of six landings they’ve shown all season. Moving Marino to the second spot proved a smart choice that appeared to help lift the scores for the bigger and cleaner fulls from Broussard and Johnson that followed. Even though Georgia’s beam is much improved this season, it’s still difficult to see that lineup beating the others in this semifinal without help, so those tenths have to be made up elsewhere. Vault didn’t necessarily look like that place a few weeks ago, but it could be now.

Other vital areas will be the second half of the bars lineup (sticks from Dickson, Snead, and Schick are essential to keep up there), and the floor lineup, where even without big difficulty, the amplitude and attention to form should make for a useful score. The concern is that Georgia just doesn’t have enough numbers over 9.900, meaning that even if they hit a strong meet, they’ll be defeated by better hits. Cue comment about needing Rachel Dickson. Like kind of a lot. If she’s still relegated only to bars, it makes it that much more difficult for Georgia to get the requisite 9.9s.

Nebraska
Nebraska will be heartened by the fact that they performed well, but not ideally, at regionals for 196.625, a score that can be improved upon with a normal hit on floor, typically the Huskers’ best event but their weakest in that meet. The problem is that even an ideal rotation on floor gets Nebraska to around 197, a baseline that the teams with Super Six hopes will expect to leap past, even in a tighter-scoring postseason context. I mentioned in the previous semifinal that the highest score ever to miss Super Six is 197.025, but if any semifinal is going to break that record…

Nebraska’s peak total may just be too low to get out of this session without help. The Huskers do, however, have some assets that can work to their advantage. They have more 10.0 starts on vault than Alabama, Michigan, or Georgia, along with a very clean bars lineup that should score right with the other teams. Those two events have to come through with minimum 49.250s to set Nebraska up to take advantage of mistakes while also ensuring that the size of the mistake doesn’t have to be that big. When Nebraska made Super Six in 2014 from a similar position, it was by performing just well enough to take advantage of the fact that both UCLA and Utah counted 9.6s on beam. By performing an ideal meet, they can put themselves into a position where the pounced-upon mistake doesn’t actually have to be a fall.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS
Rotation 1 – Florida vault, Nebraska bars, Georgia beam, Alabama floor
1. Alabama – 49.505
2. Florida – 49.465
3. Nebraska – 49.295
4. Georgia – 49.245

Floor is the only event on which Alabama outscored Michigan at regionals, so the Tide need to come through there and provide an early edge over the contenders. Similarly, Nebraska starts on a good piece and cannot fall behind because the opportunity to make that up won’t reappear.

Rotation 2 – Alabama vault, Michigan bars, Nebraska beam, LSU floor
1. Alabama – 98.845
2. Nebraska – 98.350
3. LSU – 49.545
4. Florida – 49.465
5. Michigan – 49.250
6. Georgia – 49.245

Michigan must outperform its bars RQS and score closer to its regionals total because even though 49.250 is a good score, it already gives away too much to Alabama. Georgia won’t be as devastated with the same score (because beam), but it’s still too large a gap to the presumed qualifiers.

Rotation 3 – LSU vault, Florida bars, Michigan beam, Georgia floor
LSU – 99.085
Florida – 98.875
Alabama – 98.845
Georgia – 98.620
Michigan – 98.585
Nebraska – 98.350

RQS shows that the top three should have opened up a multi-tenth lead by the halfway point. Michigan and Georgia cannot allow that to happen because they don’t necessarily have a scoring advantage on the remaining pieces unless vault really comes through in a season-best kind of way.

Rotation 4 – Georgia vault, Alabama bars, Florida beam, Nebraska floor
1. Florida – 148.275
2. Alabama – 148.185
3. Georgia – 147.845
4. Nebraska – 147.650
5. LSU – 99.085
6. Michigan – 98.585

Because Alabama finishes on beam (and beam is beam), they’ll want a healthy lead over the challengers after rotation four to provide at least some kind of buffer against minor catastrophe. Florida ends the meet on floor, so an overall lead at this point would mean smooth sailing to Super Six.

Rotation 5 – Nebraska vault, LSU bars, Alabama beam, Michigan floor
Alabama – 197.610
Nebraska – 196.835
LSU – 148.500
Florida – 148.275
Michigan – 148.025
Georgia – 147.845

By matching RQS, Michigan would give itself too much work to do on vault at the end of the meet. Michigan is usually good for something in the 49.2s-49.3s on vault (maybe a little more because it’s the last rotation) but will not want a deficit to Alabama larger than 49.200 heading to the last rotation, otherwise too much pressure.

Rotation 6 – Michigan vault, Georgia bars, LSU beam, Florida floor
1. LSU – 198.005
2. Florida – 197.715
3. Alabama – 197.610
4. Michigan – 197.315
5. Georgia – 197.075
6. Nebraska – 196.835

In the first semifinal, RQS predicts a five-tenth gap between the third team and the fourth team. Here, it’s only three tenths (and just about five tenths between third and fifth), which reinforces that this should be the closer of the two sessions and the one with more and stronger challengers.

By the numbers

[1] LSU
RQS: 197.865 [1]
Season high: 198.150 [1]
Season average: 197.744 [1]
Regional score: 197.450 [1]

VT RQS: 49.540 [1]
VT average: 49.431 [2]
VT regionals: 49.375 [2]
UB RQS: 49.415 [1]
UB average: 49.367 [1]
UB regionals: 49.400 [2]
BB RQS: 49.505 [1]
BB average: 49.442 [1]
BB regionals: 49.175 [4]
FX RQS: 49.545 [1]
FX average: 49.504 [1]
FX regionals: 49.500 [1]

[2] Florida
RQS: 197.635 [2]
Season high: 197.975 [2]
Season average: 197.470 [2]
Regional score: 197.125 [3]

VT RQS: 49.465 [2]
VT average: 49.441 [1]
VT regionals: 49.475 [1]
UB RQS: 49.410 [2]
UB average: 49.339 [2]
UB regionals: 48.975 [6]
BB RQS: 49.400 [3]
BB average: 49.320 [2]
BB regionals: 49.225 [3]
FX RQS: 49.440 [3]
FX average: 49.370 [2]
FX regionals: 49.450 [3]

[3] Alabama
RQS: 197.355 [3]
Season high: 197.825 [3]
Season average: 196.963 [3]
Regional score: 196.625 [5]

VT RQS: 49.340 [3]
VT average: 49.244 [3]
VT regionals: 48.800 [6]
UB RQS: 49.340 [3]
UB average: 49.133 [5]
UB regionals: 49.350 [3]
BB RQS: 49.425 [2]
BB average: 49.288 [3]
BB regionals: 49.000 [6]
FX RQS: 49.505 [2]
FX average: 49.298 [4]
FX regionals: 49.475 [2]

[4] Michigan
RQS: 197.135 [4]
Season high: 197.825 [3]
Season average: 196.823 [4]
Regional score: 197.350 [2]

VT RQS: 49.290 [4]
VT average: 49.214 [4]
VT regionals: 49.200 [5]
UB RQS: 49.250 [5]
UB average: 49.064 [6]
UB regionals: 49.450 [1]
BB RQS: 49.335 [4]
BB average: 49.227 [4]
BB regionals: 49.275 [1]
FX RQS: 49.440 [3]
FX average: 49.318 [3]
FX regionals: 49.425 [4]

[5] Georgia
RQS: 197.005 [5]
Season high: 197.325 [5]
Season average: 196.565 [5]
Regional score: 196.775 [4]

VT RQS: 49.225 [5]
VT average: 49.177 [5]
VT regionals: 49.325 [3]
UB RQS: 49.230 [6]
UB average: 49.146 [4]
UB regionals: 49.200 [5]
BB RQS: 49.245 [5]
BB average: 48.965 [5]
BB regionals: 49.075 [5]
FX RQS: 49.375 [5]
FX average: 49.277 [5]
FX regionals: 49.175 [5]

[6] Nebraska
RQS: 196.725 [6]
Season high: 197.175 [6]
Season average: 196.180 [6]
Regional score: 196.625 [5]

VT RQS: 49.185 [6]
VT average: 49.140 [6]
VT regionals: 49.250 [4]
UB RQS: 49.295 [4]
UB average: 49.188 [3]
UB regionals: 49.225 [4]
BB RQS: 49.055 [6]
BB average: 48.785 [6]
BB regionals: 49.250 [2]
FX RQS: 49.300 [6]
FX average: 49.068 [6]
FX regionals: 48.900 [6]

 

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11 thoughts on “National Championship Preview Part 2: Eastern Semifinal”

  1. There also this interesting factoid: Alabama misses Super Six in years ending in “7” – they missed in 1997 and 2007. It’s 2017…

    Though…
    “since coming back, McNeer’s two scores have been 9.000 and 9.550”
    … which means if the scoring trend continues she’ll lead-off beam with a 9.95. 😉

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  2. On LSU and Vault: Not sure what lineup they will use at semifinals, but most likely the line up from SEC’s as opposed to regionals. For Super Six if I was the coaches I would bring 6 10.0 vaults. Besides the usual Gnat, Edney, Hambrick and Ewing, I fully expect Harrold to vault and I would pull Finnegan and let Priessman vault.

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      1. Lexie has an injured knee and definitely won’t be vaulting, expect Finnegan to lead off with the slew of great vaults from Hambrick (likely doing the full b/c its less risky and so clean), Harrold, Ewing, Edney, Gnat to follow.

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      2. Four 10.0 starts isn’t enough to beat OK. They need a 49.6 on vault if they are going to win. Not sure why Mya would go back to the full when her 1.5 has been looking better.

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  3. 2 Points on Michigans regionals:
    – On vault they counted a 9.75 from Nicole, so that margin between them and Alabama could probably have been almost a tenth higher.
    – And about Michigan having to drop a 9.7 on every event at regionals – This is why I think they have to take Lexi Funk out of the all around. They keep her on beam, because she can go 9.925, floor, because she can be a 9.8/9.825 if someone has a fluke mistake like Liv at Big 5s, and then bars because that regionals rotation though… Anyway, if Polina is physically able to vault, then I think she should go in over Lexi, because Polina has a higher average and season high, plus the other five should likely be the ones that count.

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