The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

NCAA Week 3 Preview

Full schedule and links

Marquee Meet

[4] Minnesota @
[3] Michigan

Friday, January 22 – 5:30pm ET – ESPNU

Michigan and Minnesota recorded two of the most successful debuts of the season last week and will now have to pit that success against one another to claim the grand title of……I mean nothing it’s gymnastics but it should still be a good one. Our first clash of 197 teams so far this season.

Michigan will enter as the favorite, largely thanks to the extra difficulty on vault and floor. Michigan’s vault squad boasts five Y1.5s to Minnesota’s three, so Minnesota will be hoping to see a little hoppiness on the landings from Michigan to mitigate that power advantage. Michigan also enters ranked better than Minnesota on bars after last week’s display of postseason-level landing control and will hope to keep that going for another week to develop a bars edge as well.

To try to snatch the upset, Minnesota will rely on the human weapons that are Lexy Ramler and national AA leader Ona Loper, who went 9.925+ on five of their eight routines last weekend. Minnesota doesn’t have the same depth as Michigan and will find some lower scores early in its lineups, so the ability of Ramler to go, “Oops I got a 10 while you were getting 9.850s, isn’t that cute for you” at the end of the beam rotation is the single best asset Minnesota has in attempting to outscore Michigan.

Schedule Highlights

Pac-12 Debuts

Arizona @ Utah – Saturday, 1:00pm MT – Pac-12 Network
Arizona State @ UCLA – Saturday, 2:00pm PT – Pac-12 Network
Washington @ Oregon State – Saturday, 2:00pm PT – Live stream

Three more Pac-12 teams—UCLA, Washington, and Arizona—will get their seasons started this weekend, and after what happened to Oregon State in its debut last Friday, a wide latitude of expectations should be prepared for how these debuts will go.

Preparation for teams in the west coast states has been rockier than for many other teams around the country (note that Stanford is not able to start its season until mid-February now—at best—and has had multiple gymnasts opt out of the season), so this will be a test of just how much training time these teams have enjoyed and what actual expectations should be for competitiveness this season.

UCLA’s debut would be cause for fascinated wariness even under the best of circumstances because so many excellent routines from last season are gone. These lineups and their quality were always going to be a bit of a whodunit, and the Devil Season has only heightened the mystery. Similarly, Washington lost a major senior class as well as a head coach since last we saw this team compete, so they’ll head to the meet at Oregon State with both teams eager to say, “It’s gonna be OK you guys I promise!”

What Else?

[13] Ohio State @ [9] Iowa – Two teams with very encouraging debuts last week will be eager to show that those 196s were not one-off performances.

[11] Georgia @ [5] LSU – Georgia’s opening low 196s aren’t bad scores, but they’re not going to hold up for a team hoping to be in the top half of the conference, so Georgia will be looking for a clear improvement to that on Friday. LSU recorded last week’s top score, besting Florida and Oklahoma. Is that a thing that’s going to keep happening?

[1] Florida @ [8] Arkansas – Arkansas’s 196.625 with a counting fall turned heads last weekend. Is it for real? A home meet against the #1 team could provide another opportunity for scores to fly. Florida will view this as a chance to best that first-meet 197.500 to set a new top score in the country.

[18] Auburn @ [10] Alabama – A slow start for Auburn and a counting beam fall for Alabama last weekend have both teams looking for a statement score this week in the intra-state clash. Auburn in particular will need to improve or risk being punted well down the rankings as a bunch more teams debut in the rankings next Monday.

Nebraska @ Penn State – On the topic of things teams want to pretend never happened, both Nebraska and Penn State will be unsatisfied with their opening 193s from last weekend. The question is, were those just slow starts because of the everything? Or a harbinger of how things are going to be this season? Meet 2 should provide some insight.

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