Cal @  UCLA
Sunday, March 8th, 1:00pm PT – Pac-12 Network
In the bookkeeping portion of this meet, Cal has a very specific scoring goal, with a 197.125 guaranteeing moving up ahead of Alabama for next Monday’s rankings. Qualitatively, Cal is looking to bring the level we’ve seen on vault over the last couple weeks through to the other events. If those last two meets are any indication, Cal can win vault at this meet because those Yurchenko 1.5s have been looking stronger than UCLA’s lately.
Last week, it was falls on bars—what really should be the team’s best event, even without Kuc—that proved Cal’s stumbling block, and the beam lineup very much missed Kyana George (look at us, look at us, talking about beam as Kyana George’s most important event). If those lineups are full and hitting, a lower 197 should be very attainable and basically the expected score at this point. While UCLA is the major favorite—and a 49.7+ floor rotation in this meet just feels like a given at this point—you wouldn’t die of shock if Cal were right in it after the first two events.
UCLA also has some manner of a scoring goal at its remaining meets with a few 197.2s still hanging around that need to go away, but the overall scoring picture is sufficiently strong. A 197.800 can ensure keeping the #3 spot for another week.
The larger question for UCLA is…where is this team in the title-race hierarchy? For several weeks now, we have seen Oklahoma and Florida dramatically distance themselves from the pack and make a fairly convincing argument for nationals 2020 being a glorified dual meet between the two. UCLA currently sits closest to them in 3rd, but we haven’t yet seen that same kind of nationals-caliber showing from the Bruins—that four-event, stuck-Y1.5s, bars-rotation-where-you’re-not-worried-about-a-fall-in-the-middle (*whispers Kocian and Frazier into a crystal ball*) performance that it will take to look like a convincing title winner.
There’s a difference between a meet with occasional gorgeous moments Kylaing around here and there that can go 197.6+, versus a meet that’s going to win a title. And we need to start seeing the latter. Otherwise, the nationals conversation will be more about whether UCLA can hang onto a place in the four rather than whether UCLA can win the season.
That dynamic is what makes this my marquee meet for the weekend because UCLA is talented enough to become the next-most-likely title winner, but you don’t get to keep talking about potential in March. Floor and Kyla and Glenn Beam can take you only so far (I mean, pretty far, like 3rd, it’s Kyla), and there need to be a couple more puzzle pieces in there.
Also, I would like to note for the record the joy I experienced when I wrote the words puzzle pieces and then immediately realized the feature image I could use for this. Unparalleled.Continue reading NCAA Week 10 Preview