NCAA Week 6 Preview

Full schedule and links

Marquee Meet

[4] Denver, [18] Iowa State @ [2] Florida

Friday, February 7th, 7:00pm ET – SEC+

I feel like you might not be as excited about this meet as you need to be. Maybe because it’s inter-conference, maybe because it’s a tri-meet, maybe because Denver doesn’t have the same name cachet yet, but this is a big top-5 clash (with an exciting spoiler thrown in for luck) of which we’ve had only a couple so far this season.

We’re sort of moving out of “oh, it’s an opportunity for Denver to prove itself against a big team” territory because that has happened a few times already this season, outscoring UCLA in Anaheim (albeit in a different session) and beating Georgia at Metroplex. But, this meet should present a helpful guide for evaluating how much (and whether) this current top 2 of Oklahoma and Florida has separated itself from that next closest tier of 197y teams. Is this another insane dominant Florida home 198 bouquet, or does it look like a mid 197 team going up against a high 197 team in an exciting clash?

Iowa State is not to be ignored here, though it would take at least a counting fall from another team to disrupt the presumed finish. The United Nations of Iowa has emerged as a squad capable of getting 9.9s at the end of those lineups on multiple events and moving into the 196s.

Schedule Highlights

[3] Utah @ [12] Cal

Saturday, February 8th, 12:30pm PT – Pac-12 Network

The big dual of the weekend sees Utah visiting Cal, the meet that —two seasons ago—produced perhaps Cal’s biggest victory ever when a then-program-record 197.500 was enough to upset Utah by half a tenth. Utah comes into this year’s edition as a comfortable favorite, though it is worth nothing that Cal’s lone home score this season (197.325) is better than Utah’s season high of 197.300, recorded last week. Cal would particularly love that previous sentence to matter coming off two straight losses in meets that should have been wins.

The one event of the four where Cal has the advantage is bars, where all things being hit, you’d expect the form and handstands of Cal’s lineup to produce a slight scoring edge. The two teams also should be able to match each other on vault difficulty, both with (theoretically) three Y1.5s in the lineup. That’s why, if Cal is going to have a shot at the upset here, a deficit at the halfway point is unlikely to be survivable. Bars and vault are Cal’s best looks.

A two-event deficit would be particularly troubling for Cal because even though we typically expect the home team to have the scoring edge in the final rotation being on floor, Utah’s clear best event this season is beam, where O’Keefe, Paulson, and LeBlanc have been revelations in reinventing the lineup. Every week this season, Utah has scored better in the second-half rotations than in the first, so Utes will fancy their chances as long as they hold some kind of a lead coming off bars and vault.

[9] LSU, Arizona State @ [22] Oregon State

Saturday, February 8th, 11:30am PT – Oregon State Live Stream

LSU’s work to try to manage this season’s newfound 196ishness has rendered the Tigers’ meets must-watch events (or maybe, a different kind of must-watch event) as we continue waiting to see when the real LSU will show up…or if this is the real LSU.

Typically, this meet would be considered a smooth proposition for the Tigers (in 2019, LSU hosted OSU right before the Beavs’ excellent postseason run, and LSU won by nearly two points), but last weekend LSU went 196.425 compared to Oregon State’s 196.825, with both teams at home, so a victory here certainly won’t be taken for granted. That’s especially true if LSU remains as injury-limited as it was last weekend, a big part of the story in the loss to Alabama. Going through the lineups, you see advantage after advantage for LSU, but if vault is counting 9.5s and 9.6s again, all bets are off.

This meet also marks LSU’s first visit to a Pac-12 team in 8 seasons. I don’t really have anything to say about that, but it’s interesting.

Sort of like Iowa State’s presence in the Florida tri-meet, Arizona State is expected to finish third here but did produce a progress-point 196 against Cal last weekend and will hope that it’s a beacon of things to come rather than a random home-meet blip.

[20] Arizona @ [5] UCLA

Sunday, February 9th, 2:00pm PT – Pac-12 Network

UCLA hosts Arizona this week for its Pride Meet, which I first want to give credit to because it’s such an improvement over last year’s fake-pride Bruinclusion meet—which fell back on no-one-get-upset crutches like “promoting inclusion and…the tolerance” which is vague nothing. We’re saying the words like pride and gay and LGBT this time, which is better.

Also, beam. Expect UCLA to win this meet, but after three beam problems in five meets, the team is verging on developing a full-blown balance beam situation and eyes will be on how that rotation fares in opportunity #6. This meet also presents a prime chance for Arizona to get a road 196 and continue packing up the sandbags against being dropped into the ugly part of the rankings later on this year.

What Else?

[10] Georgia @ [15] Arkansas – Now that we’re comfortably into February, I can talk about which teams are on road-score watch. And Georgia is definitely on road-score watch, looking for its first mid-196+ at a road meet. And this is one of the team’s best remaining opportunities for it.

[21] Missouri @ [7] Alabama – The important results have started to come for Alabama—beating LSU away, beat Georgia at Metroplex—and now the scores need to follow as teams with an extra 197 or two on their records will start moving up on Alabama this month if the good-not-amazing, high 196s continue. Missouri…just really wants to hit a meet.

[11] Washington @ [24] Stanford – Your Monday evening meet sees a Washington team that’s just tearing through the world at this point visit Stanford in a clash that would have seemed a close prospect in preseason, but now has Washington as a clear favorite. Stanford will be looking to refill those lineups and avoid counting an 8 on floor this week.

Ohio State @ [8] Michigan
Iowa @ [6] Minnesota
Penn State @ [25] Illinois
[19] Maryland @ [14] Nebraska

Michigan State @ Rutgers

The first month of the season has seen Minnesota emerge as the top team in the Big Ten, with Michigan close behind, and Nebraska a little farther back but still within reach of the top squads. When it comes to the next teams—the Maryland, Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State, and to some extent Michigan State group—the scenario remains very ambiguous. Watch out in particular for Penn State/Illinois this week, which should be the closest meet of the bunch, with Illinois just two spots ahead in the rankings and Penn State with the superior season high score.

17 thoughts on “NCAA Week 6 Preview”

  1. I know we are in PrimeTime NCAA season right now, but I cannot wait for Spencer’s Elite Team analysis each month, especially now that we have our top 12 teams locked in for Tokyo.

  2. Can I just saw three cheers for UCLA’s pride meet for including the A in pride. 🙂 People that don’t include the A aren’t a real pride meet and should not be taken seriously.

      1. I think the person is referencing the A in LGBT etc. which stands for Aromantic/Asexual.

      2. I still don’t see an “A” in the letters L, G, B, and T.

        Is this something new or something this one person in making up?

    1. I think you should’ve stopped after your first sentence in that comment. While it is best to be as inclusive as possible, Pride events that don’t explicitly call out the “A” community in their title are not invalid.

  3. Really would like to watch the Florida/Denver/Iowa Meet tonight but anyone have free international link to the SEC+ ??

    1. Really- aside from a dud of vt rotation and what they already acknowledged as a work in progress on bars- UGA went 49.4 and 49.35 on beam and FX without hitting all routines. Pick the wrong night and they won’t average 49 on vt and bars as they did last night. I think the losing Dickson for the season is really killing them- she wasn’t the most consistent but on a good night she could legitimately hit 9.9 or 9.95 on any event (and I say that acknowledging that she never carries her good night against all pieces.) Right now with their 5th or 6th beat on each event is lucky to hit 9.85 with a career best routine and when someone early misses you often see it carry over. I also wonder if making Lukacs the de facto AAer is not messing with her on her two strong events. This years choreo and tumbling choices are a lot better on FX but she is not hitting there as much as last year and I feel vt form is actually weaker. I am also assuming a couple of those Vt and FX routines were either to try out different gymnasts or rest some of the girls. Having exactly one senior and one junior in lineups is just not adequate depth- last night they only contributed 4 routines. As much as I love Vega- I expect simply throwing Dickson and Nguyen into lineups next year will net them about .5 points per meet.

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