1. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous ranking: 1
Oklahoma removed the taste of that (shudder) 196—like what dirty peasants score—by recording its fourth 198 of the season and reestablishing its margin of advantage over the remaining teams. It was not one of OU’s best performances, but it was comprehensive and acceptably March in quality, each event with room for improvement. Nicole Lehrmann entered the floor lineup this week (the one real lineup question we still have for Oklahoma, besides the identities of the basically equivalent Yfulls) and provided a realistic option, though hers is probably a stop-gap routine until Natalie Brown is able to return in full. Brown hit her first beam routine of the season this week, making that lineup look pretty finalized.
2. UCLA Bruins
Previous ranking: 3
UCLA went big in its Utah-meet-rehab competition by breaking the 198 marker and recording the highest team score of the week, enough to launch the Bruins back to the #2 spot. The score was built on excellent beam and floor rotations that, while not necessarily going to score 49.7s when we get down to it, were both very legitimate 49.5+ events. UCLA would be quite happy repeating those exact performances in the postseason—though watch the fight for the floor lineup once Tratz is back in. With Kocian debuting there, and Dennis’s night-and-day composition change, it may end up that Ross is now the #7 floor routine on this team. At the same time, do you really want to give away the potential for an AH KYLA 9.975 I HEART YOU score? Decisions, decisions. No one is sold on vault yet. I’d like to see the next few road meets used to finalize who the actual vaulters are.
3. LSU Tigers
Previous ranking: 2
LSU drops a spot behind UCLA following a nonetheless perfectly acceptable victory over Georgia for 197.575, which just wasn’t the 198 it took to be in the top 2 this week. The Tigers will be pleased about not returning to their “weird mistake that counts so we get 197.1” ways, though there were still a couple weird mistakes—like Hambrick on floor. Her miss didn’t have to count but it did remove a potential huge number from the docket that would have bumped up the final total to something slightly more championshippy. Beyond that, we’re moving into the landings portion of the season, and LSU will need to get rid of those one-tenth lunges on vault to get the necessary score there. These 1.5s can’t be all 9.850ish.
4. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 4
Utah stays fourth after a surprising loss to Cal, a loss built predominately on not having the landings the way we typically expect—and not having Skinner to bump up those vault and floor totals, which probably took the team’s scoring potential down .200-.250. Breaking news, her scores are kind of important to the team. The 197.450 is still a very solid road total that Utah will welcome in the RQS picture and will use to stay comfortably in the top-5 heading to the postseason, with the big 5 teams continuing to cultivate a significant gap over everyone else.
5. Florida Gators
Previous ranking: 5
It happened. We can’t pretend it didn’t any longer. Florida actually recorded a very strong 197.725 to keep in sight of the other contenders (and was on pace for about a 198.2, the highest score in NCAA), but then Kennedy Baker tore her Achilles in the final routine of the meet, changing the mood and the narrative. Because she’s a senior, that means we won’t see Kennedy Baker do gymnastics again. What this means for Florida: it’s not good, but it’s not the end of the world. The Gators have Foberg, Gowey, and Hundley who can combine to replace those Baker routines with acceptable 9.850s of their own. At the same time, Florida has probably lost .200 in scoring potential from the team we expected to see, now being down a 10.0 start and an auto-9.950 on floor, which can make a huge difference at the end of the season. Even if they are replaced by a good Yfull and a 9.875 floor routine, it’s not the same.
6. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous ranking: 7
Alabama is beginning to steady things. Slowly and maybe not to the level the team would expect, but the weekend’s 197.300 road victory over Auburn does represent an improvement with a season high score. That’s a far lower season high than we’re seeing from the teams in the top 5, but it is enough to bump Alabama up to 6th and nestle comfortably with Michigan in this 6-7 regional zone once again in 2018. As hoped, Wynter Childers was able to return on bars (and beam) to mitigate the loss of Brannan and keep those events solid, though we’re all still worried about vault and floor because I spy with my little eye 9.7s.
7. Michigan Wolverines
Previous ranking: 6
Michigan drops behind Alabama after recording a distinctly medium 196.575 to tie Denver for the team victory at Elevate the Stage, Ohio edition. It’s a major improvement over the 194 road score Michigan had been counting but still not quite what Michigan is looking for from these road performances, which have yet to break 197. Still without Farley, the team looks rough around the depth edges, having to throw in some “please don’t count this” 9.7s to fill out lineups. Michigan was also displeased by the vault scoring in this meet, feeling like the total should have been higher. There were some unexpected individual scores (the fulls from Funk and Shchennikova would probably be 9.750s at most meets), but I ended up having that rotation at 48.900. It went 48.875, so within the realm of reasonably scored.
8. Oregon State Beavers
Previous ranking: 8
Like Michigan, Oregon State was able to remain ranked solidly enough with an acceptable mid-196 road score, which erased an early season 194. Oregon State won’t necessarily be framing that performance since much of the meet was pretty bouncy and lacked the crisp sticks needed to get 9.9s, but it was also completely fine. The somewhat nerve-wracking absence of Dani Dessaints for a second consecutive meet did show in the final total. Her typically lineup-best score was missed on both vault and beam since it would have provided the boost necessary to get into the high 196s.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 9
Kentucky defied the odds by hitting a strong meet at home, really for the first time this season, also breaking that coveted 197 barrier for the first time with scores well over 49 on every event. The team will be particularly pleased by going 49.400 on floor even without Korth in that lineup. Any time Kentucky can show that Korth doesn’t have to single-handedly carry the non-beam events, it’s a win. That quality will be necessary at regionals.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks
Previous ranking: 11
Arkansas leapfrogs Washington this week after using the reflected glowing warming glow of being at Florida to record a 196.875, within a tenth of the team’s all-time road record, for what was not a peak performance by any stretch. They can be much better on beam in particular, though floor did receive the boost of Amanda Wellick’s season debut, providing a routine that will be quite necessary once the postseason arrives. The worry for the team right now is whether there’s enough depth just to get by on vault in order to let the other events earn a competitive total.
11. Washington Huskies
Previous ranking: 10
Washington drops one spot but stays close after recording 196.475 in a victory over Stanford, a performance that was a little blah in the first half but saved itself with an exceptionally strong beam rotation. Beam is far and away the team’s most impressive event, so basically whenever any other event scores higher than beam, that’s just a bonus. Lacking the BIG that many of the other nationals-hopeful teams bring on vault and floor, Washington has to be that much more precise in the landings, otherwise it’s so easy to get 9.800-ed to death for amplitude. That’s what we saw over the weekend and what Washington cannot afford in April.
12. Denver Pioneers
Previous ranking: 12
The 196.575 that Denver recorded to tie Michigan isn’t blowing down any doors, but it also marks an improvement for a team that had struggled to hit and struggled to get out of the 195s at road meets. This is a much more usable result. It did not include any counting falls at all, did include six whole people on every single event (!), and featured the return of Lynnzee Brown on bars, someone whose presence in the all-around by regionals will be essential if Denver is to fulfill its postseason hopes. She’ll allow for some of these “I can go if you need me I guess” 9.750s to return to backup roles and bump up the scoring potential.
13. Arizona State Sun Devils
Previous ranking: 17
Arizona State stayed at home this weekend and managed its fifth 196 of the season in a victory over Arizona, ensuring that the conversation continues to move from “hooray, Arizona State is cute” to whether the team can actually challenge for a spot at nationals. That’s still another step away—teams that make nationals this year won’t be putting up a 9.6 on beam or a tucked Yfull on vault—but with Leonard-Baker and the now-hitting-her-stride Kuhm, Arizona State has found scoring leaders who can save rotations with real-life 9.9s, which the team hasn’t had in a very long time.
14. Boise State Broncos
Previous ranking: 13
Boise State traveled to BYU just to take a loss over the weekend, as many teams have done this season, with a 9.7-heavy 196.175. That kind of score won’t do any damage in this sector of the rankings, though Boise State will feel mostly comfortable with having the lineup heartiness and overall routine composition to challenge for a spot at nationals. The next step will be to eradicate those landing 9.7s on vault, an event that should be a real strength this season.
15. Auburn Tigers
Previous ranking: 16
Yeah, welcome to RQS. Auburn had a total disaster against Alabama, counting falls on both bars and beam, but nonetheless moves up in the rankings because the switch over to RQS allows several of the disaster meets from this season to be dropped. If we were still going by average, Auburn would be ranked several spots lower. In fact, Auburn still has a 194 road score hanging around, so expect another ranking surge as soon as next week once that score can be removed. Auburn is very much the wild card of the NCAA season, just as likely to get a competitive mid-196 as to have 17 falls and score nowhere close.
16. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous ranking: 14
The switch to RQS is less kind to Nebraska because even though Nebraska has scored well into the 196s at home on each opportunity this year, the road scores aren’t there. Two 195 road total are still counting, which drags the RQS down, at least for the time being. The Huskers will expect to drop those road 195s shortly and move up because, by overall quality, this is a very 196 team. This weekend could have even been a 197 if the bars rotation had been hit, but until those ifs go away, Nebraska will have to lurk dangerously in the #16 spot.
17. Georgia Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 15
Samesies for Georgia. Like Nebraska, Georgia would be faring much better in the rankings if we were still going by average (14th instead of 17th) following another perfectly acceptable 196.725 at home. Yet, because an equivalent number of road scores have to be used, Georgia’s inability to break 196.150 so far on the road becomes quite an anchor in the RQS rankings. With just three road meets left, scoring a hearty 196 at the Elevate the Stage this coming Friday becomes essential in Georgia’s quest to avoid a really tough regional placement. It’s now crunch time for those “real” late-season lineups we were promised to emerge because if Georgia doesn’t get some road scores soon—as in this weekend—it might end up in such a tough regional that having all the Schild and Oakley its heart desires won’t make a difference because the top-2 teams are too good.
18. California Golden Bears
Previous ranking: 21
Cal’s ranking surge continues in a big old way after a program record-tying 197.500 in a victory over Utah. Basically, the team couldn’t have asked for a better result. Cal also remains in position to keep gaining three ranking spots every single week since a 194 and two 195s are still left in the RQS picture and aching to be dropped. There remains quite a bit of urgency in the Cal performances because of needing to drop those three low numbers, but at the very least Cal has already set itself up as a really difficult #3-seed in a regionals draw. While Utah will be upset about losing to Cal, Utah will also be very pleased that Cal has finally been able move into the top 18. (Geographical placement of the 19-36 teams at the end of the season would put Cal in the Utah regional. No fun.)
19. George Washington Colonials
Previous ranking: 22
George Washington continues putting the pressure on after a very welcome 196.475 road score against Penn State. When the big seniors come through with hits on all their events as they did this time, GW has the potential to score exceptionally well, the worry being that if they don’t, the team is starting to count 9.6s pretty quickly. Still, George Washington’s role this year will be as a really pesky spoiler at regionals that can take advantage of a big team falling, and these mid-196s are exactly the kind of score it takes to do that. So on any given day…
20. Missouri Tigers
Previous ranking: 20
The two-meet weekend started rouuuughly for Missouri with a 9.6-athon against Kentucky that did nothing to resolve the urgent road score situation in which Missouri found itself. That put quite a lot of pressure on Sunday’s meet in Illinois to be a good score, but it was—in fact, a season-high 196.625. That gives Missouri a fourth 196 on the year and takes some of the urgency out of the remaining four meets of the regular season. Missouri will still need two or three more 196s to have any hope at a seeded place at regionals, but that seems possible.
21. Ohio State Buckeyes
Previous ranking: 26
The switch over to RQS finally finally finally allowed Ohio State to forget that first meet against UCLA ever happened. What’s more, this weekend’s road 196 (recorded despite a rough time on beam) allowed all scores under 195 to go away forever, suddenly rendering OSU a much more competitive figure in the fight for the top 20. That’s a conversation Ohio State hasn’t really been in for a few seasons now, but with three 195s left to get rid of in the next four meets, Ohio State has the opportunity to stick around here for a while.
22. NC State Wolfpack
Previous ranking: 27
RQS has also allowed NC State to move into a ranking territory we haven’t associated with this school in several years. The January 194s can go away, and the February 196s can start doing the talking. There’s still a way to go and a number of scores to get rid of if NC State wants to keep a place in the top 25, but NC State also has a busy schedule that provides a number of meets in which to get those totals. When NC State is really firing, it’s not just Knight who gets the scores, though her success in the AA is still essential to the team’s hopes—which we learned this weekend when a fall from her on bars took the team out of contention for a 196 right there.
23. Iowa State
Previous ranking: 25
Iowa State was back in action this week after a week off, rest that must have done the team some good. The 196.450 is the team’s season high by multiple tenths and helps start erasing some of those disappointing low-195s from January. Those scores didn’t reflect the expectations for this team in 2018, where improving on last season’s 25-30th side looked very likely at the start. Now we’re seeing a ranking that bears this potential out. To keep this ranking, however, Iowa State can’t throw in as many early lineup 9.7s as it currently does, which tend to keep the team vulnerable to 195.7s, which won’t be worthy of the top 25 by the end of March.
24. BYU Cougars
Previous ranking: 18
Among the teams for which RQS is not kind: BYU. The Cougars have scored five 196s so far this season (just like Arizona State), but because four of those five have come at home and because BYU has just one usable road score, the team RQS won’t be very good until BYU proves that it can be a 196 team on the road on three separate occasions. The opportunity to do that exists with four of the final meets coming on the road, but at least two of those have to be big scores in order for all of those home 196s to mean something in the final rankings.
25. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous ranking: 19
Just when it seemed things were on the rise, Minnesota got stuck with a very disappointing 194.425 over the weekend marked by a counting fall on bars and disastrous scores across the floor rotation. Because Minnesota has competed in fewer meets so far this season, that 194 still must be used for RQS, dragging down the total significantly. There will be plenty of opportunity to drop that score ahead, but Minnesota really does need three more 196s in the remaining four meets to keep up with these other schools, and to keep up with a number of sub-25 challengers that have higher peak results this season and will expect to move up soon.