The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

I always hesitate to do a Super Six preview at this point because…well…we don’t actually know who’s going to be competing in Super Six or what sort of catastrophes may transpire in the semifinal to alter our view of what might happen, but as it stands, I don’t think the setup is dramatically different than we thought it would be heading into the season.

The first-tier favorites are Oklahoma and LSU. Oklahoma’s route to victory is through superior scores on bars (the Sooners’ 0.160 edge over LSU in the bars rankings is the largest for either team on any event) and the overall control and pristine execution of dance elements on beam and floor. Both teams are excellent on beam and floor, but it has been the Sooners’ precision that has put them ahead of LSU in the rankings on both events for most of the season.

If LSU were to win, it would be far from a major upset, but I still would characterize it as an upset. If it happens, it begins on vault. LSU has a giant collection of 1.5s, but the strength of the lineup is not just the 1.5s (even though they garner the most attention). LSU’s early-lineup fulls are the most stick-likely fulls in the competition, which can be just as much of an asset. In fact, LSU’s early-lineup scores are a critical potential advantage across most of the events, where they’ll hope to be rewarded for bigger floor routines to start the rotation and where no other team can match the quality of their first two beam routines. Oklahoma has the edge in the later-lineup beam routines, so LSU will need to gain a scoring advantage on those early routines and also use them to drive up the scores of the later sets.

The most compelling spoiler team, if you can call it that, remains Florida, a team that has been at times easy to overlook this season because the quality hasn’t been YOU’RE THE CHAMPION RHONDA, but Florida’s scores should be close to title-competitive through most of the lineups. It’s really just a 9.825 here and there at the beginning that has kept Florida from reaching the heights of Oklahoma and LSU, but that means it wouldn’t take much of a door opening.

Several other teams can peck around the edges of this group and maybe beat one of them on a given day, but when it comes to the actual score required to win Super Six, there aren’t all that many teams I expect to get there this weekend. A 197.575 is the lowest winning score in recent years, and that was when Florida counted a fall and still won. To find a winning score below 197.450, we have to go back to 2000. In each of the last five years, it has taken at least twelve scores in the 9.9s to win Super Six. That’s a three-per-event average and a fairly typical expectation for the total required to win a championship. If we can’t find twelve 9.9s on your team, and if you’re not regularly breaking 197.450, you’re probably not winning.

As a guide to thinking about this, here are some stats regarding the number of 9.9+ scores teams received this season. It’s a rough and simplistic way of looking at title hopes, but it can clarify a few things about just how likely teams are to get championship-winning totals. Oklahoma and LSU are really the only ones getting around that mark of twelve 9.9s fairly frequently, with Florida close behind but nonetheless behind. UCLA’s eight RQSs in the 9.9s is the other number that stands out as somewhat close to the required total, but that mostly just tells us that if the Bruins had the vaults of one of the top-three teams, they would be a title favorite.

Oklahoma
Regionals: 13
Lineup RQS: 16
Single-meet high: 14
Meet average: 11.9
Away average: 11.8

LSU
Regionals: 9
Lineup RQS: 13
Single-meet high: 14
Meet average: 10.1
Away average: 9.7

Florida
Regionals: 10
Lineup RQS: 9
Single-meet high: 12
Meet average: 8.3
Away average: 6.8

UCLA
Regionals: 4
Lineup RQS: 8
Single-meet high: 12
Meet average: 7.1
Away average: 6.2

Utah
Regionals: 6
Lineup RQS: 6
Single-meet high: 13
Meet average: 6.8
Away average: 6.1

Alabama
Regionals: 5
Lineup RQS: 6
Single-meet high: 13
Meet average: 6.3
Away average: 5.3

Michigan
Regionals: 6
Lineup RQS: 4
Single-meet high: 14
Meet average: 6.3
Away average: 3.7

Denver
Regionals: 4
Lineup RQS: 4
Single-meet high: 7
Meet average: 3.5
Away average: 2.7

Oregon State
Regionals: 2
Lineup RQS: 4
Single-meet high: 9
Meet average: 5.0
Away average: 3.6

Georgia
Regionals: 3
Lineup RQS: 3
Single-meet high: 9
Meet average: 4.6
Away average: 2.9

Washington
Regionals: 3
Lineup RQS: 2
Single-meet high: 8
Meet average: 4.0
Away average: 2.5

Nebraska
Regionals: 4
Lineup RQS: 0
Single-meet high: 7
Meet average: 3.6
Away average: 2.9

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