Raleigh Regional Preview

April 7, 4:00 ET, North Carolina State University

Qualifying to nationals: Top 2 teams, top 2 all-arounders not on advancing teams, any event winners not on advancing teams

Teams (starting event)
[2] LSU (floor)
[11] Nebraska (beam)
[14] Oregon State (bye before floor)
[19] George Washington (bye before bars)
[20] NC State (bars)
[31] Maryland (vault)

Individual competitors
Morgan Lane, North Carolina (AA)
Katie Waldman, William & Mary (AA)
Mary Elle Arduino, Towson (AA)
Taylor White, William & Mary (AA)
Khazia Hislop, North Carolina (VT, BB, FX)
Madison Nettles, North Carolina (VT)
Tyra McKellar, Towson (UB)
Kaitlynn Hedelund, North Carolina (UB)
Gabriella Yarussi, Towson (BB)
Mikayla Robinson, North Carolina (FX)

The favorite

Top-to-bottom, this is the deepest and toughest of the six regionals, but LSU is far enough ahead of the rest of the teams that it should be impervious to the upset mixer. From week to week, LSU has been scoring somewhere around a point higher than the other teams here, and even early in the season when LSU was a little scrappy and counting errors, the final totals were still 197.1s and 197.2s. Those are advancing scores. (A 197 has never not advanced from regionals—the highest score ever to miss out being Auburn’s 196.700 from 2013). LSU should have the luxury of counting a fall here and still getting through.

LSU did expose itself to side-eye-level concern at the conference championship with an only-OK performance that reflected a dip in level rather than a rise toward the postseason—no 9.9s at all on floor, a fall on vault accompanied by lunges on the 10.0 starts. LSU will need to pick up the quality of the landings, particularly on the leg events, to look like a title threat again heading to St. Louis.

That vault lineup remains fascinating because it’s still so unresolved. Priessman didn’t vault at SECs, but if LSU can’t rely on 1.5s from Harrold or Cannamela (which at this point looks to be the case)…do you go with Priessman, who has done the 1.5 once this year and who has Priessman-legs, or do you go with just the three 10.0 starts and hope that holds up versus Oklahoma’s four? Choices choices.

The fight

The fight is not limited to only two teams in this one, with George Washington and NC State entering as nearly equal contenders to the seeded teams, but if either Nebraska or Oregon State goes 196.8+ (which OSU has done five times this year and Nebraska four), that probably seals the second spot as a battle between the two of them and cuts off the unseeded challenges. So let’s start with our seeds.

Nebraska owns the ranking advantage, built on scoring higher at road meets compared to Oregon State, which hasn’t often ventured out of the 196.5 zone on the road. RQS is Nebraska’s friend in 2018, rewarding those highs on the road while dropping struggle meets like the Big Five, but if we were going by average, Oregon State would be ranked higher than Nebraska, having been the more consistent of the two teams this year.

That tells us a lot. Consistency will be the story in this one. We have seen Nebraska look fantastic on vault one week and stick the crap out of huge fulls and 1.5s (which would provide a major advantage over Oregon State), and then the next week bounce into an adjacent county on all the landings for 9.6s. Nebraska can’t count a 9.6 on any event at regionals. These teams are too close for that. We have seen those 9.6 moments fairly frequently this year, and while total meltdowns like Big Five have been rare, Nebraska has also counted a fall on beam in two of its last three meets. Those are the things you worry about heading into an elimination meet.

At the same time, there’s a ton of 9.9 potential on this Nebraska team in the last two spots in all those lineups. Even in that meltdown performance, Nebraska put up five 9.9s, followed by seven 9.9s the next week at Big Tens. Oregon State, by contrast, had one 9.9 at Pac-12s (also in the first session, like Nebraska) and four 9.9s the previous week. That’s why Nebraska will feel confident in its ability to get through here with a solid hit, while Oregon State will feel confident in its ability to get a solid hit and stay more 9.8 throughout all six routines.

The health of Dani Dessaints will be a critical factor for Oregon State. She returned on bars as Pac-12s to notch OSU’s lone 9.9 on what is historically her #3 event that she barely competes. If Oregon State has Dessaints’ beam routine back, or (fingers crossed for them) has her vault back at competition level, it increases the team’s ability to get a more competitive amount of 9.9s, control its own destiny, and avoid having to hope Nebraska throws in a counting OOB or something of the like.

If Nebraska’s vaults show up, that’s potentially a multi-tenth advantage on one event and the biggest edge Nebraska would have in this meet, so Oregon State must do everything possible to cut that edge down. Having more 10.0 starts than Nebraska would help, even if the landings aren’t at the same level.

Oregon State’s assets in this meet will be beam and floor, with lineups that have been a little fuller and more reliably 9.8 than Nebraska’s throughout the season. Nearly as important as the Dessaints contribution for OSU, then, will be Lowery and Yanish controlling those floor landings for 9.9s. Nebraska will expect its own 9.9s from Crouse and Schweihofer, but if Oregon State can match those numbers at the end of the lineup, it can develop an advantage with the scores from the earlier routines, where we can expect a run of 9.825s and 9.850s.

Unfortunately for these two teams, this clash is already a complicated mess of small, unpredictable margins, and it gets even more snarled when we introduce a couple more teams.

The spoilers

It won’t take a lot to bring George Washington and NC State into this meet. If Nebraska and Oregon State both drop down into the mid-196s (as Oregon State did at Pac-12s for a hit meet), then this turns from a two-team race into a four-team race. It wouldn’t even require a counting fall to open this thing up.

For George Washington, the time is now, the day is here. The end of the road has come for this senior class that typically contributes pretty much all of the counting scores on any given week. If George Washington is going to have its moment, this is the chance. It is possible, but it’s going to be tough. The absence of Alex Zois these last few weeks has introduced GW to a few more 9.6s and, as a result, two straight 195 totals. That kind of score is not going to get it done. But, if it’s a big day for the all-arounders, and Pfeiler, and Mermelstein, we’re going to see realistic 9.875+ scores and 39.4 all-around totals, which would be enough to get GW into the 196s and in a position to pounce on mistakes.

On solid days, George Washington is right on par with Nebraska and Oregon State if vault-beam-floor were a sport (called Sacramone Ball?) as GW ranks ahead of both teams on beam and ahead of Oregon State on vault. Sacramone Ball at this regional would be anyone’s game. But lately, a lack of depth on bars has led to several 9.675s and 9.700s, keeping the team farther down the rankings and out of the seeded spots. Watch that score as GW’s first event. If it’s entrenched in the 48s, it will be hard to challenge, but if it’s hovering around 49, we have a meet.

NC State has made a late and unexpected push to become a truly legitimate spoiler, especially as the host of this competition. NC State has gone over 196.5 at each of the last three meets, all away, and has hit the 196 zone in six of the last seven meets overall. Continued, those are very upsetty scores. Chelsea Knight is the team’s scoring leader, as she has been the last two seasons following the departure of Watkins, but a new level of consistency in 2018 has seen her lift the scores for the team on every event, every single week, not just from time to time.

The serious surprise for NC State, however, has been the suddenly robust group of supporting 9.8s that absolutely did not exist last year, coming nearly entirely from gymnasts who did compete last season yet are scoring a solid tenth higher than expected this time around.

It’s still going to be a very challenging road. NC State ranks fourth or fifth on every event in this regional and doesn’t quite have the depth of routines and hearty scores across four events—we will see some 9.7s peppered through the early lineups on two or three pieces. But the fact that NC State is in this one, not just to make up the numbers but as a legitimate challenger given a sloppy overall meet from others, is a significant leap for this season.

And also Maryland

Maryland doesn’t have much chance of getting out of this regional as a team, but returning to regionals this season after barely missing out each of the last two years is already the victory. The improvements have been apparent, particularly in a bars rotation that looked very competitive within the conference the last two weeks and that ranks #3 overall in this regional. With the team’s scoring leaders (Barber, Farina, Peterman) all underclasswomen this season, expectations are that Maryland will continue to improve for another couple years.

The individuals
As with Oklahoma, let’s assume LSU goes through to make it easier to handle the individual prospects.

The best-case scenario for the individuals on the 4-6 teams in this regional is LSU and Nebraska going through. That would get Nebraska’s top all-arounders out of the picture and allow Cami Drouin-Allaire (#18), Chelsea Knight (#19), and Jillian Winstanley (#27) to become the three favorites to get those two spots in what would be a very close, mini tri-meet within the meet.

They would not be alone. Audrey Barber (#35) of Maryland could get in, as could McKenna Singley (#43) of Oregon State, and don’t forget about Morgan Lane (#37) of North Carolina competing here as an individual. It’s always tougher to get the scores as an individual in a postseason meet, but Lane has a national profile and will be rotating with LSU, competing after the LSU lineup on each event. She’ll hope to draft off the back of the LSU scores to drive up her own numbers. These three are the most likely to act as spoilers to the Drouin-Allaire, Knight, Winstanley group, though there should be others competing the all-around here as well like Drew Grantham (#55) and Kirsten Peterman (#65).

If Nebraska doesn’t go through, however, things get really rough because that brings Big Ten champion Megan Schweihofer (#22) and Sienna Crouse (#44), who has gone 39.5+ this season, into an already crowded group, potentially competing with that Drouin-Allaire, Knight, Winstanley trio for the same two spots. Rough day.

As usual, it’s not really worth prognosticating about individual event qualifiers because it’s a total crapshoot, but remember that Khazia Hislop is here and will be competing floor.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS
Rotation 1 – Maryland VT, NC State UB, Nebraska BB, LSU FX
1. LSU – 49.540
2. Nebraska – 49.150
3. NC State – 49.040
4. Maryland – 49.015

It’s a serious first rotation for Nebraska beginning on beam, by far its lowest-scoring event. Escaping that and ranking 2nd at this point would be a huge relief and would start to close down NC State’s chances.

Rotation 2 – LSU VT, George Washington UB, NC State BB, Oregon St FX
1. LSU – 98.940
2. NC State – 98.200
3. Oregon State – 49.380
4. Nebraska – 49.150
5. Maryland – 49.015
6. George Washington – 48.975

George Washington can’t be in sixth after the second rotation. That’s too much of a hole in this meet, while Oregon State must be in third at this point because of floor scores bring floor scores. If Nebraska’s beam is outscoring Oregon State’s floor, that would be a very bad sign for OSU. NC State would looooooove to be through bars and beam over 98. That would be huge.

Rotation 3 – Oregon St VT, Maryland UB, G Washington BB, Nebraska FX
1. LSU – 98.940
2. Oregon State – 98.515
3. Nebraska – 98.470
4. Maryland – 98.255
5. George Washington – 98.210
6. NC State – 98.200

Even though the RQS has Maryland ahead of GW and NC State at this point, if the upset is on, GW and NC State would have dropped Maryland and would be challenging Oregon State and Nebraska. Nebraska probably has the more charitable end-of-meet rotation draw, so Oregon State will want to be leading by at least this small RQS-predicted margin at the halfway point.

Rotation 4 – Nebraska VT, LSU UB, Maryland BB, NC State FX
1. LSU – 148.520
2. Nebraska – 147.720
3. NC State – 147.465
4. Maryland – 147.140
5. Oregon State – 98.515
6. George Washington – 98.210

Note how close even RQS predicts that NC State (the #5 team here) will be to Nebraska (the #2 team here) after three events. That’s on the edge of being a really manageable, normal margin to make up.

Rotation 5 – NC State VT, Oregon St UB, LSU BB, George Washington FX
1. LSU – 197.995
2. NC State – 196.630
3. Nebraska – 147.720
4. Oregon State – 147.715
5. George Washington – 147.505
6. Maryland – 147.140

Nebraska and Oregon State, basically tied going to the last event. That’s what RQS tells us, anyway. At that point, you’d favor Nebraska finishing on bars while Oregon State is on beam. Beam is beam.

Rotation 6 – G Washington VT, Nebraska UB, Oregon St BB, Maryland FX
1. LSU – 197.995
2. Nebraska – 196.970
3. Oregon State – 196.880
4. George Washington – 196.705
5. NC State – 196.630
6. Maryland – 196.250

Event RQS gives this thing to Nebraska by a tenth (slightly larger than the overall RQS difference between the two), but I’m most interested in how much the event RQSs close the gap with the #4 and #5 teams. There would be just three or four tenths of difference among four whole teams if everyone hits close to an ideal meet.

By the numbers

[1] LSU
RQS: 197.890 [1]
Season high: 198.175 [1]
Season average: 197.587 [1]

VT RQS: 49.400 [1]
VT average: 49.337 [1]
UB RQS: 49.580 [1]
UB average: 49.467 [1]
BB RQS: 49.475 [1]
BB average: 49.354 [1]
FX RQS: 49.540 [1]
FX average: 49.429 [1]

[2] Nebraska
RQS: 196.815 [2]
Season high: 197.175 [3]
Season average: 196.356 [3]

VT RQS: 49.250 [2]
VT average: 49.146 [2]
UB RQS: 49.250 [2]
UB average: 49.044 [4]
BB RQS: 49.150 [5]
BB average: 48.975 [3]
FX RQS: 49.320 [3]
FX average: 49.192 [3]

[3] Oregon State
RQS: 196.780 [3]
Season high: 197.300 [2] 
Season average: 196.580 [2]

VT RQS: 49.135 [5]
VT average: 49.050 [4]
UB RQS: 49.200 [4]
UB average: 49.150 [2]
BB RQS: 49.165 [3]
BB average: 49.077 [2]
FX RQS: 49.380 [2]
FX average: 49.302 [2]

[4] George Washington
RQS: 196.460 [4]
Season high: 196.875 [4]
Season average: 195.921 [4]

VT RQS: 49.200 [3]
VT average: 49.106 [3]
UB RQS: 48.975 [6]
UB average: 48.719 [6]
BB RQS: 49.235 [2]
BB average: 48.956 [4]
FX RQS: 49.295 [4]
FX average: 49.140 [4]

[5] NC State
RQS: 196.440 [5]
Season high: 196.800 [5]
Season average: 195.833 [5]

VT RQS: 49.165 [4]
VT average: 48.975 [5]
UB RQS: 49.040 [5]
UB average: 48.863 [5]
BB RQS: 49.160 [4]
BB average: 48.858 [5]
FX RQS: 49.265 [5]
FX average: 49.137 [5]

[6] Maryland
RQS: 195.930 [6]
Season high: 196.575 [6]
Season average: 195.411 [6]

VT RQS: 49.015 [6]
VT average: 48.861 [6]
UB RQS: 49.240 [3]
UB average: 49.029 [3]
BB RQS: 48.885 [6]
BB average: 48.586 [6]
FX RQS: 49.110 [6]
FX average: 48.936 [6]

7 thoughts on “Raleigh Regional Preview”

  1. I’m going to need alcohol to survive this regionals. It’s seriously already giving me hives.

  2. I love how wide open NCAA gymnastics has become. Regionals are better than Elite Worlds!!!

  3. Would love to see George Washington earn the second NCAA championship berth (LSU gets the first because, duh).

  4. I just never get the hype about Hislop’s floor….I get that she has “long lines” but I just never see it as a 9.95 routine …

    1. It’s because her technique is impeccable. There’s nothing to take on her tumbling and jumps. She’s also capable of doing a double front tuck so I’m hoping she brings that back for regionals

  5. As deep as this regionals is, I’m still indifferent about who gets in after LSU. The only teams outside the top 7 that I like is Auburn and Georgia, both of whom don’t seem to really be a major threat to advance out of their regional.

  6. Is there any news on where Alex Zois is? GW could really make a great run at the second spot for nationals with her back in the lineups.

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