The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Onward to St. Louis

We now know which lucky ducklings have advanced to nationals, so let’s set this scene for St. Louis. Just over a week to go!

Remember that we don’t have event finals anymore, so event titles are awarded based on the first day of competition, just like the all-around title. Six judges are used instead of four, with the high and the low dropped and the remaining four scores averaged, which as we learned last year gives us some really ugly decimal places like 9.8625. These extra judges were added to avoid having a thousand people get the same score and tie for titles. Unrelated: There was a six-way tie for the bars title last year.

Full draw


Semifinal #1 – April 20, 12:00 CT

[2] LSU – Beam
[3] UCLA – Vault
[6] Alabama – Bars
[10] Arkansas – Bye before floor
[11] Nebraska – Bye before bars
[18] Georgia – Floor

The significant story in this first group of six is Georgia’s very existence following its upset of #7 Michigan at regionals, an upset that turned inside out what should have been the more competitive of the two semifinals. Georgia claimed the spot at nationals when Michigan struggled through its regional performance while Georgia…also struggled through its regional performance? At least for the first two events. We’ll remember that one for a while because anyone who watched the first half of the meet would have thought there was no possible way Georgia could advance and that Illinois had the upset locked. But then no other team did noticeably better than Georgia, so it turned out that a theoretically disqualifying 48.950 floor score was a totally useful and respectable number in that meet.

The importance of rotation order also should not be overlooked in that one. Georgia got to end on its better events while Illinois had to start on its better events and end on its worst event. In a close meet, that kind of thing can make a difference.

In this semifinal, take note that Alabama got the Illinois draw and must end on vault, it’s lowest-scoring event. We’re seeing a relatively new phenomenon emerge these last couple years where starting on bars and ending on vault has become a bad draw (it used to be one of the better ones) because vault is the least likely to be the beneficiary of end-of-meet crack. Even a judge who’s hitting the booze can’t ignore a 9.950 start value ceiling. Most of the time.

The lack of Michigan’s 197-able presence would seem to clear the way for the top three seeds in this semifinal, but Nebraska’s run of 49.375s at regionals to a final score that nearly caught LSU has helped everyone remember that Nebraska is a thing. It will be an uphill task—and dramatic variation in performance from week to week has been a theme for Nebraska this year—but that regional result makes Nebraska look like the crown princess of spoilers in this one.

By the numbers

[1] LSU
RQS: 197.890 [1]
Season high: 198.175 [2]
Regular season average: 197.587 [1]

VT RQS: 49.400 [2]
VT average: 49.337 [1]
UB RQS: 49.580 [1]
UB average: 49.467 [1]
BB RQS: 49.475 [2]
BB average: 49.354 [2]
FX RQS: 49.540 [2]
FX average: 49.429 [2]

[2] UCLA
RQS: 197.840 [2]
Season high: 198.275 [1]
Regular season average: 197.554 [2]

VT RQS: 49.435 [1]
VT average: 49.285 [2]
UB RQS: 49.425 [2]
UB average: 49.346 [2]
BB RQS: 49.570 [1]
BB average: 49.452 [1]
FX RQS: 49.575 [1]
FX average: 49.471 [1]

[3] Alabama
RQS: 197.165 [3]
Season high: 197.525 [3]
Regular season average: 196.835 [3]

VT RQS: 49.285 [3]
VT average: 49.129 [4]
UB RQS: 49.415 [3]
UB average: 49.300 [3]
BB RQS: 49.360 [3]
BB average: 49.169 [3]
FX RQS: 49.315 [4]
FX average: 49.238 [3]

[4] Arkansas
RQS: 196.820 [4]
Season high: 197.300 [6]
Regular season average: 196.454 [4]

VT RQS: 49.055 [6]
VT average: 48.983 [6]
UB RQS: 49.340  [4]
UB average: 49.194 [4]
BB RQS: 49.285 [4]
BB average: 49.167 [4]
FX RQS: 49.265 [6]
FX average: 49.092 [6]

[5] Nebraska
RQS: 196.815 [5]
Season high: 197.525 [3]
Regular season average: 196.356 [5]

VT RQS: 49.250 [4]
VT average: 49.146 [3]
UB RQS: 49.250 [5]
UB average: 49.044 [6]
BB RQS: 49.150 [6]
BB average: 48.975 [6]
FX RQS: 49.320 [3]
FX average: 49.192 [4]

[6] Georgia
RQS: 196.515 [6]
Season high: 197.525 [3]
Regular season average: 196.335 [6]

VT RQS: 49.125 [5]
VT average: 48.998 [5]
UB RQS: 49.215 [6]
UB average: 49.092 [5]
BB RQS: 49.210 [5]
BB average: 49.071 [5]
FX RQS: 49.290 [5]
FX average: 49.175 [5]


Semifinal #2 – April 20, 6:00 CT

[1] Oklahoma – Beam
[4] Utah – Vault
[5] Florida – Bars
[8] Washington – Floor
[9] Cal – Bye before floor
[12] Kentucky – Bye before bars

The draw in this semifinal has Florida and Washington ending on the byes. Ugh. Based on ranking, that would be the fight for the final Super Six spot—the #3 and #4 teams—so of course you would want those two teams not even competing as the meet concludes. Just keep whispering to yourself that this is the last year of byes. We have so many new complaints to develop for next year. Some that we haven’t even thought of yet! How exciting!

The competitors in this second semifinal are entirely as expected based on ranking. Oklahoma, Utah, and Florida will not hate this draw and will expect to go through here, coming in with higher RQSs as well as a significant advantage in regionals scores.

I think we all have a repeat of 2017 Super Six in mind as the default position approaching nationals, waiting to see which teams look the most mistake-likely to see if an upset is on.

By the numbers

[1] Oklahoma
RQS: 198.120 [1]
Season high: 198.375 [1]
Regular season average: 197.850 [1]

VT RQS: 49.535 [1]
VT average: 49.485 [1]
UB RQS: 49.545 [1]
UB average: 49.525 [1]
BB RQS: 49.605 [1]
BB average: 49.396 [1]
FX RQS: 49.530 [1]
FX average: 49.444 [2]

[2] Utah
RQS: 197.540 [2]
Season high: 198.150 [2]
Regular season average: 197.368 [2]

VT RQS: 49.440 [3]
VT average: 49.380 [2]
UB RQS: 49.320 [3]
UB average: 49.307 [3]
BB RQS: 49.320 [4]
BB average: 49.223 [3]
FX RQS: 49.520 [2]
FX average: 49.459 [1]

[3] Florida
RQS: 197.390 [3]
Season high: 198.150 [2]
Regular season average: 197.170 [3]

VT RQS: 49.445 [2]
VT average: 49.345 [3]
UB RQS: 49.470 [2]
UB average: 49.361 [2]
BB RQS: 49.440 [2]
BB average: 49.291 [2]
FX RQS: 49.420 [3]
FX average: 49.173 [5]

[4] Washington
RQS: 196.960 [4]
Season high: 197.400 [5]
Regular season average: 196.571 [4]

VT RQS: 49.105 [6]
VT average: 49.025 [6]
UB RQS: 49.220  [6]
UB average: 49.121 [4]
BB RQS: 49.345 [3]
BB average: 49.183 [4]
FX RQS: 49.350 [4]
FX average: 49.242 [3]

[5] Cal
RQS: 196.890 [5]
Season high: 197.500 [4]
Regular season average: 196.150 [6]

VT RQS: 49.275 [4]
VT average: 49.123 [4]
UB RQS: 49.230  [5]
UB average: 48.892 [6]
BB RQS: 49.230 [6]
BB average: 48.977 [6]
FX RQS: 49.255 [6]
FX average: 49.142 [6]

[6] Kentucky
RQS: 196.800 [6]
Season high: 197.100 [6]
Regular season average: 196.469 [5]

VT RQS: 49.200 [5]
VT average: 49.121 [5]
UB RQS: 49.245 [4]
UB average: 49.065 [5]
BB RQS: 49.295 [5]
BB average: 49.046 [5]
FX RQS: 49.315 [5]
FX average: 49.238 [4]


The draw for Super Six will be as follows:

Vault – Semifinal II, Team #2
Bye before bars – Semifinal I, Team #2
Bars – Semifinal I, Team #3
Beam – Semifinal II, Team #1
Bye before floor – Semifinal I, Team #1
Floor – Semifinal II, Team #3

You know, that thing where you’re like, “I REALLY WANT TO FINISH SECOND IN THE SECOND SEMIFINAL!”


Individuals

The individual competitors traveling to nationals without teams are typically an afterthought because there’s so much going on during the semifinal day—and ALL ABOUT THE TEAM and whatnot. Plus, your major title contenders are usually there with teams anyway.

This year, however, there will be a little bit more attention on the individual competitors because Elizabeth Price is a very legitimate threat to win the national AA title. She has been paired with Utah, going in Olympic order in the second group, so her floor will be the final routine of them all on semifinal day.

Not since 1995 has a non-team gymnast won the individual all-around title, but this has already been the year of the individual with two (Morgan Lane, Jovannah East) qualifying to nationals that didn’t even get to compete at regionals with their teams. A very rare feat.

Maggie Nichols will nonetheless enter nationals as the significant favorite for the AA title with an RQS advantage of nearly a tenth over anyone else, but things are often crazy in the all-around as we saw last season. And every season before that.

Of note, the heavy majority of the major AA contenders will be competing in the second semifinal here. Of the top 15 all-arounders in the country, only the LSU AAers are competing in the first session (in addition to Kyla Ross, but she did not compete floor at regionals, so that remains a question mark).

Does that matter? Probably not. Discussion of scores building in the second semifinal is typically overblown. Historically, there’s no numerical evidence to support the idea that scores build for the second semifinal. In individual instances like that year, we can point to noticeably bloated scores in the second group, but when you take all years together, the difference between the scores in the two semifinals reverts to insignificance.

So while there may not be an actual evidence-based advantage to competing second, the nature of this year’s draw indicates that our national AA champion is fairly likely to come from the second group.

Teams mostly tend to prefer competing in the first semifinal because it allows for more rest before Super Six, although last year the teams in the first semifinal were upset because they had to return to the arena at 10pm for an 18-hour award ceremony followed by press availability when they would rather have been resting for Super Six.

Ah, the dramas of NCAA.


Just for fun. Don’t freak out.

Because of UGH BYES, I applied next year’s postseason format to the rankings from this year and used last weekend’s regional scores to see what we would have ended up with if that format were in place this year. (Some of the lower-ranked seeding format principles haven’t been resolved yet, but I’ve done it based on what they should be.)

Full format

Round 1 (Play-in round)

Penn State – 194.900
Central Michigan – 195.825

New Hampshire – 194.950
Iowa – 195.050

Maryland – 195.850
Kent State – 194.900

Southern Utah – 194.625
Pittsburgh – 195.125

Round 2

[1] Oklahoma – 198.000
[16] Auburn – 196.525
[24] Minnesota – 196.100
[Play-in 4] Pittsburgh – 195.125

[8] Washington – 196.275
[9] Cal – 196.725
[17] Arizona State – 195.750
[25] Ohio State – 196.500

[3] UCLA – 197.650
[14] Oregon State – 194.975
[22] Missouri – 196.100
[Play-in 2] Iowa – 195.050

[6] Alabama – 197.225
[11] Nebraska – 197.525
[19] George Washington – 195.425
[27] West Virginia – 194.400

[2] LSU – 197.675
[15] Boise State – 196.225
[23] Illinois – 196.425
[Play-in 3] Maryland – 195.850

[7] Michigan – 196.350
[10] Arkansas – 196.775
[18] Georgia – 196.500
[26] Stanford – 195.600

[4] Utah – 197.475
[13] Denver – 196.275
[21] BYU – 196.300
[Play-in 1] Central Michigan – 195.825

[5] Florida – 197.725
[12] Kentucky  – 197.050
[20] NC State – 196.050
[28] Iowa State – 195.925

Regional Finals

[1] Oklahoma – 198.000
[9] Cal – 196.725

[16] Auburn – 196.525
[25] Ohio State – 196.500

[3] UCLA – 197.650
[6] Alabama – 197.225
[11] Nebraska – 197.525
[22] Missouri – 196.100

[2] LSU – 197.675
[10] Arkansas – 196.775
[18] Georgia – 196.500
[23] Illinois – 196.425

[4] Utah – 197.475
[5] Florida – 197.725
[12] Kentucky  – 197.050
[21] BYU – 196.300

National semifinals

Semifinal I

Oklahoma
UCLA
Cal
Nebraska

Semifinal II

LSU
Utah
Florida
Arkansas

Sucks to be ranked 6th? We have been conditioned to think in terms of 1-6 being the strong rankings, but next year, the quest will be to get situated in the 1-4 spots and avoid being in a position like Alabama here. One thing I really like about this format is that it adds many more ranking goals to the regular season to place more urgency on the normal meets. In particular, you REALLY want to be in the top 28 to avoid those play-in meets, in addition to just hoping to make the top 36.


 

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