Tuscaloosa Regional Preview

April 7, 4:00 CT, University of Alabama

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

Teams (starting event)
[6] Alabama (floor)
[7] Michigan (beam)
[18] Georgia (bye before floor)
[22] Missouri (bye before bars)
[23] Illinois (bars)
[36] Central Michigan (vault)

Individual competitors
Ashley Potts, Northern Illinois (AA)
Madison Cindric, Arizona (AA)
Katherine Prentice, Northern Illinois (AA)
Mikailla Northern, Illinois-Chicago (AA)
Kierstin Sokolowski, Lindenwood (VT, BB)
Schyler Jones, TWU (VT)
Christina Berg, Arizona (UB)
Serena Baker, Illinois-Chicago (UB)
Mallory Moredock, TWU (BB)
Anna Martucci, Northern Illinois (FX)
Alexis Brawner, SEMO (FX)

The favorites

And so we move to our final regional, the giddily anticipated Alabama-Michigan-Georgia clash. It’s quite considerate of Georgia this year (like Stanford two years ago) to be ranked so low that the traditional snoozer 6-7-18 regional suddenly becomes the most interesting one. Theoretically. A poignant gift in the year we say goodbye to this trash format.

Still, the fundamental nature of the 6-7-18 regional is that it features two excellent teams that have proven their ability to score significantly better than the other schools in the meet and will go through with cleanly hit competitions. That’s the story for Alabama and Michigan here. For as dangerous as Georgia is (and Missouri and Illinois are), Alabama and Michigan will expect comfortable 197s for good meets at this point, and that’s going to be enough to advance.

A great day (yet realistic in an away, postseason context) for the other teams here would be a high 196, as score that would constitute a semi-miss for Alabama or Michigan. That doesn’t necessarily mean a counting fall. The somewhat sloppy bars rotation from Alabama at SECs took the final total down to 196.975, which would almost certainly still be enough to advance but would start to verge on a dangerous result. And if either Alabama or Michigan do count a fall, Georgia will expect to beat them.

If both teams hit their normal meets, however, it’s likely that they’ll simply be competing with each other for the entirely meaningless accolade of regional champion, a competition with very little to differentiate the two teams from each other. Beam is the strength and most pleasant event on which to watch both, but you worry about the full-lineup competitiveness on the power events when it comes to nationals. They’re really very similar teams.

Alabama will hope its vault lineup is finally coming together and that those early vaults can outscore some of the more questionable fulls at the beginning of Michigan’s lineup, but having a more reliable and higher-scoring middle of the lineup is exactly what Michigan will hope to use on beam and floor to provide its own edge. It’s .05s here and there, really.

While finishing first versus second is not particularly significant in this meet, if everything goes according to the seedings, these two will be fighting each other for a Super Six spot come nationals, at which point these same issues do become particularly significant. This is the preview.

The Georgia

Night of honesty: Both Illinois and Missouri have higher road scores this season than Georgia, which has peaked out at 196.350 away from home. That score is not good enough, and normally a team without a road score in the mid-196s would not merit this kind of potential-spoiler consideration. Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, the most likely outcome is that Georgia doesn’t get all that close to advancing here.

Still, Georgia really should be better than this, and the talent exists on this roster to get a higher 196, even in Alabama without the benefit of any home “love letter to Suzanne” scoring. Georgia’s spoiler potential here isn’t just about the name. This beam lineup is extremely talented and capable of equaling the performances of the top seeds, and bars is fairly close, just about 1.5 routines short of greatness.

The reason Georgia will have to rely on errors from one of the top two teams to get to nationals, however, is the absence of a full contingent of competitive scores on vault (and to a slightly lesser extent, floor). Georgia opens vault with three 9.7-level fulls and has just the five usable scores on floor, all of whom could get 9.800 but with no luxury to absorb a mistake. Those issues drive down the ceiling of Georgia’s scoring potential and mean that Michigan and Alabama will have to come back to the pack to give Georgia a chance. But there is definitely a chance.

The other spoilers

Like Georgia, Missouri has settled into a pattern of lower 196s in its road performances, the kind of score that will allow Missouri to feel like its in this meet but that won’t qualify outright to nationals without help. With Morgan Porter back this season, Missouri actually has more complete and typically more reliable lineups than several of its SEC peers, including Georgia, but where Missouri has struggled away from home is in pushing those best scores into the 9.9s rather than seeing the whole lineup stuck in 9.825 land.

A trip to 9.825-land is still worth those lower 196s that can slow-and-steady-wins-the-race an upset if someone else counts a fall. In that regard, the main, immediate, tangible goal for Missouri will be to defeat Georgia and Illinois and position itself as the team that can reap the rewards of a sloppy meet. But to do that, Missouri will have to outscore Georgia in the early-lineup routines because Georgia has the better end-of-lineup 9.9s. Missouri is more likely to end lineups with 9.850s, so the beginning has to be 9.850 too, otherwise there’s no way in.

In other news, this was supposed to be a really bad season for Illinois. No Horth, no Leduc, no Nguyen, new coach, Sarah Lyons having to change plans and come back for a fifth year to do bars. Expectations were very low. That Illinois has become a 196 team in the last month or so, winning Big Five and placing third at Big Ten, reflects a roster that is performing to its absolute highest potential.

These new 196s have been built on a much more secure floor lineup than we saw earlier in the season, giving Illinois three events that can believably go 49.1-49.2 in the effort to beat Georgia and Missouri and get that spoiler-worthy score. For two straight weeks, Illinois has recorded the highest score of these three teams and will like its chances to beat both of them again here. Illinois’s last two scores have been 196.8 and 196.6. Those are very “we did the upset!” numbers.

The worry for Illinois is vault, coming at the end of this meet. While Georgia and Missouri aren’t exactly racking up the numbers on vault either, Illinois is the most likely to get stuck in the 9.7s throughout an entire lineup, and if that happens, there’s probably no coming back from that with the scores on the other events.

And Central Michigan

Not having the road scores is sort of a theme for the challengers in this regional, and for no team was that situation more extreme than for Central Michigan, a school that started the season ranked #3 because of a big home score, peaked in the 197s at home, yet almost missed regionals entirely because of low road scores that went no higher than 195.650 all year and went no higher than 195.175 outside the MAC conference.

Some of that is circumstantial. CMU had an important run of road meets late in the season where Danelle Pedrick was unavailable, which coupled with the injury to Hilliker, put too much strain on the roster’s depth for the team to come up with competitive scores. Those last few bad road scores are not particularly representative of the team’s level. Pedrick is back now in the all-around, which makes CMU look more 196.0y, but probably still without the complete lineups to get into the same category as the other spoilers.

Nonetheless, Central Michigan is here, which at times in the last few weeks did not look too likely.

Individuals
At first glance, the all-around qualification story in this meet looks fairly straightforward. If Alabama and Michigan qualify as teams, then the favorites to go individually will be the two Georgia AAers Sydney Snead (#17) and Rachel Dickson (#23).

They’ll face some challenges, most notably from Rae Balthazor (#41), who has come on very strong in recent weeks for Illinois to lead the team’s scoring on the majority of events, as well as Aspen Tucker (#52) from Missouri, and potentially Nicole Biondi (#53) from Illinois, though her early-lineup positions may tamp down her scores a little and make Balthazor the more likely of the Illinois AAers to get a competitive total.

Typically, Morgan Porter would be right in this race, but while she has returned to the all-around now, the four whole scores don’t look like they’re quite there yet. And while Danelle Pedrick (#81) of CMU can excel on the power events with her DTY and big floor score, she may not have the bars number to score consistently with the top AAers here.

If one of Michigan or Alabama does not qualify, however, then chaos ensues, with all of their current AAers (Zaziski, Funk, Brown, Graber) heavily in the mix as likely qualifiers should they hit.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS
Rotation 1 – CMU VT, Illinois UB, Michigan BB, Alabama FX
1. Michigan – 49.390
2. Alabama – 49.315
3. Illinois – 49.210
4. Central Michigan – 48.920

Illinois would take this margin after one rotation. That’s close enough to Alabama to keep hope alive.

Rotation 2 – Alabama VT, Missouri UB, Illinois BB, Georgia FX
1. Alabama – 98.600
2. Illinois – 98.410
3. Michigan – 49.360
4. Georgia – 49.290
5. Missouri – 49.140
6. Central Michigan – 48.920

Pretty much the same goes for Georgia here as for Illinois in the first rotation. This is close enough to Michigan to be satisfying after floor, one of the worry events for Georgia. Something close to 49.3 would be very solid for a Georgia floor, which has not been more than 49.225 on the road.

Rotation 3 – Georgia VT, CMU UB, Missouri BB, Michigan FX
1. Michigan – 98.730
2. Alabama – 98.600
3. Georgia – 98.415
4. Illinois – 98.410
5. Missouri – 98.295
6. Central Michigan – 98.040

Michigan has the advantage on Alabama in the first half of the meet with its stronger-scoring events and will therefore want to be leading at this point, making Alabama look more like the wounded gazelle at the back of the pack. Georgia and Illinois are essentially tied here, which Georgia would take going to its better events in the second half. Even though Missouri is farther back here, it also starts on bars and beam and wouldn’t hate a 98.3 at halfway because that would mean a hit bars and beam.

Rotation 4 – Michigan VT, Alabama UB, CMU BB, Illinois FX
1. Alabama – 148.015
2. Michigan – 148.010
3. Illinois – 147.575
4. Central Michigan – 146.885
5. Georgia – 98.415
6. Missouri – 98.295

If there’s this kind of margin after four, it’s very difficult to see Michigan and Alabama giving it back, even though Alabama would still have to go to beam. That’s quite a sizable edge.

Rotation 5 – Illinois VT, Georgia UB, Alabama BB, Missouri FX
1. Alabama – 197.375
2. Illinois – 196.510
3. Michigan – 148.010
4. Georgia – 147.630
5. Missouri – 147.535
6. Central Michigan – 146.885

All Georgia can ask is to be ahead of Missouri and on pace to be ahead of Illinois at this point, which is what RQS predicts, giving Georgia the clear edge over the others as the most likely upset threat despite their close rankings.

Rotation 6 – Missouri VT, Michigan UB, Georgia BB, CMU FX
1. Alabama – 197.375
2. Michigan – 197.335
3. Georgia – 196.840
4. Missouri – 196.625
5. Illinois – 196.510
6. Central Michigan – 195.960

Event RQS helps Georgia a little bit, bringing the margin down to around five tenths. That’s still a fall, but the whole scenario of Georgia as an upset threat presumes that Georgia will outperform the level shown this season on the road. That 196.8 is around what the challenging teams want in order to be able to take advantage of a smaller-size mistake.

By the numbers

[1] Alabama
RQS: 197.165 [1]
Season high: 197.525 [2]
Season average: 196.835 [1]

VT RQS: 49.285 [1]
VT average: 49.129 [1]
UB RQS: 49.415 [1]
UB average: 49.300 [1]
BB RQS: 49.360 [2]
BB average: 49.169 [2]
FX RQS: 49.315 [2]
FX average: 49.238 [1]

[2] Michigan
RQS: 197.160 [2]
Season high: 197.550 [1]
Season average: 196.773 [2]

VT RQS: 49.280 [2]
VT average: 49.123 [2]
UB RQS: 49.325  [2]
UB average: 49.231 [2]
BB RQS: 49.390 [1]
BB average: 49.242 [1]
FX RQS: 49.370 [1]
FX average: 49.177 [2]

[3] Georgia
RQS: 196.515 [3]
Season high: 197.525 [2]
Season average: 196.335 [3]

VT RQS: 49.125 [3]
VT average: 48.998 [4]
UB RQS: 49.215 [3]
UB average: 49.092 [3]
BB RQS: 49.210 [3]
BB average: 49.071 [3]
FX RQS: 49.290 [3]
FX average: 49.175 [3]

[4] Missouri
RQS: 196.390 [4]
Season high: 196.925 [5]
Season average: 195.967 [4]

VT RQS: 49.090 [4]
VT average: 49.000 [3]
UB RQS: 49.140 [5]
UB average: 48.983 [5]
BB RQS: 49.155 [5]
BB average: 48.946 [5]
FX RQS: 49.240 [4]
FX average: 49.038 [4]

[5] Illinois
RQS: 196.265 [5]
Season high: 196.850 [6]
Season average: 195.704 [5]

VT RQS: 48.935 [5]
VT average: 48.848 [5]
UB RQS: 49.210 [4]
UB average: 48.921 [6]
BB RQS: 49.200 [4]
BB average: 48.950 [4]
FX RQS: 49.165 [5]
FX average: 48.985 [5]

[6] Central Michigan
RQS: 195.750 [6]
Season high: 197.025 [4]
Season average: 195.415 [6]

VT RQS: 48.920 [6]
VT average: 48.819 [6]
UB RQS: 49.120 [6]
UB average: 49.025 [4]
BB RQS: 48.845 [6]
BB average: 48.712 [6]
FX RQS: 49.075 [6]
FX average: 48.860 [6]

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Tuscaloosa Regional Preview”

  1. I have a doubt, this is my second year watching college gymnastics and this format for regionals…. so, next year, how is going to be the format for regionals ???

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  2. Alabama looked a little vulnerable on both vault and bars at SECs. They’re at home, so they should advance, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Michigan and UGA pull the upset. And if the do, Winston and Guerrero better make it as individuals!

    Also, Schild, Vaculik (underscored at SECs), Snead, Oakley, and Dickson (way underscored at SECs) on bars is an excellent lineup.

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    1. Alabama not advancing wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world considering that they haven’t had a great season, but they’ve started to pick up a little bit of steam in the latter half of the season and I expect that they’ll keep it going at a home regionals. Michigan will probably top them if Alabama has a normal meet and Michigan does well, they’re pretty much even. Georgia has a small chance, but they would need their entire vault and bars lineup to have the meet of their lives to give themselves a chance, and the probability of that happening is slim.

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      1. The thing about Alabama this year is that they haven’t had a fully hit meet yet. If it’s not getting .5 taken off for vaulting at the wrong time, then it’s counting a fall on beam from a gymnast who’s on the team solely to work beam, or just having a nasty bad bar rotation. (If Bama had hit their RQS bar score at SECs instead of… whatever that was… they would have won. 😭😭😭😭😭) They don’t have any single event that is really a serial low scorer compared to the others, they just have a problem with hitting all 4 on any given night. And while it’s certainly possible that they’ll continue that trend tomorrow, it’s also possible that they’ll get their shit together, hit the 49.4xx they’re supposed to be capable of on every event, and get a 197.8ish (which would be their highest score of the season by several tenths… lol). Not sure how Michigan’s max hit potential compares to that as I haven’t been following them. But I think this race for regional titles and the super 6 could wind up not being nearly as close as it looks on paper, if Alabama can just actually hit all 4 rotations at each meet.

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    2. Georgia actually beat Bama on bars at SECs and that was coming from the afternoon session where judges refused to go higher than a 9.85 on bars. I think they’ll need a repeat of SECs vault and will need to start strong (no OOBs and no large steps) on floor to have a shot. But Georgia should outscore Bama on bars and be close to Michigan on bars and beam could be a draw. All three teams have solid beam teams. If any team has had issues this year, it would probably be Bama, but being at home should help them on that event.

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  3. UGA is a big, raging question mark. If the first half of Vt hits like they dis at SECs, they put together a decent floor rotation with Dickson upgrading, bars gets atleast quasi sticks and 2 of the 3 SEC beam whiffs are corrected they are right there with UM and UA. The question is if those scenarios can all happen in the same meet. Individually- 5 of 6 bar routines and all 6 beamers can hit an honest 9.9. But again- they have to do it at the same time.

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  4. There are way too many good beam workers at this competition! During regionals I don’t mind event winners having a tie, there are so many solid specialists that I would be thrilled to see at nationals.

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