OK, enough of that elite slop. The time has come to transition fully to NCAA (preview) season, beginning with a look at some of this year’s marquee events that will soon bestow themselves upon us for us to pick apart like harpies. As always, you can view the complete season schedule for all the teams in the menu at the top. Or just…here.
- The 2023 season begins on Friday, January 6th, an opening day headlined by LSU @ Utah—what we can presume will be the first top-10 matchup of the year unless the coaches poll decides to take LSU’s finishing position last season deeply literally. Coming off that disappointing regional semifinal exit and having now graduated the Super Specialist class (Edwards, Durante, Desiderio, Dean, Campbell), LSU will be aiming toward a rebirth in these early meets and isn’t starting with an easy one.
- Michigan State @ Alabama is also slated for the first day, and she’s a lot. After deciding that the duck was not in fact worth, Alabama has a new head coach this season along with probably the deepest first-year class of any of the top teams, so eyes will be on the Tide early in the year to play Spot the Difference. Meanwhile, Michigan State broke through in a big way last season, thanks to ninja L10s Skyla Schulte and Gabrielle Stephen, and this year has added Senior-E champion Nikki Smith and Senior-D runner-up Olivia Zsarmani to the team in a realistic bid to be even more competitive with the major players.
- So…this Las Vegas House of Mysteries? If you heard tell as of the national championship last April, the 2023 season was supposed to begin with an 868-team cavalcade of stars in Vegas residency for the greatest show on earth. As we stand now, a little more than a month out from the season, we have 16 teams reserved on RTN’s schedule (including Oklahoma, Michigan, Auburn, UCLA, Cal, etc etc etc), an empty Collegiate Challenge website, and no official announcement of a meet. So let’s get on that. Ladies, what are we doing?
New program debuts
- We have three new teams in college gymnastics this season (bringing us back up to 84) with Fisk, Simpson, and Greenville joining the circus. It’s always interesting to see just where new programs settle in the hierarchy and how well they’ve been able to put together a complete team for the first meet. Fisk is supposed to start off at the Vegas House of Mysteries (or, if not, at Michigan the following Friday), while Simpson opens by visiting Hamline, and Greenville starts off with a tough-but-high-profile one against Ohio State, both on January 8th.
Big ol’ meets
- The annual Best of Utah competition on Friday of week 2 has now added a Foreigners Day (aka the Wasatch Classic) on Saturday, January 14, in which distinctly non-Utah teams are also invited to the party as long as they behave themselves. Minnesota, UCLA, Washington, and Boise State go that afternoon, while Cal, Iowa, Oregon State, and Pitt compete at night. For Cal, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon State, this is an opportunity for an early-season competition at what will be the host arena of Pac-12s for the foreseeable ever.
- Not to be outdone, LSU has added its own hosted-away-meet on podium—the Purple & Gold Classic—in Baton Rouge on March 3rd, where Cal, Washington, and George Washington will come to town.
- Metroplex—the “we love our Texas recruitsssss” special—is also up to 2 separate sessions this year on Saturday, February 11, with Utah and Georgia headlining the day session and Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, and Stanford going at night.
- This year’s Big Five meets—the Big Ten conference’s little mini practice conference championships—will head to Long Island for some reason, with Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, and Penn State competing on the night of February 24, and Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Rutgers going in the day on February 25.
- Pretty much all of this season’s biggest dual meets will be getting the ESPN Family treatment, with Utah @ Oklahoma on January 22nd crowned as the belle of the ball on Big ESPN.
- For ESPN2 meets, there is that LSU/Utah clash on the first weekend, then a doubleheader on January 13 with LSU @ Kentucky followed by Auburn @ Florida—which I guess is now the headlining SEC regular season dual since those were the two SEC schools to make the championship last year. ESPN2 has also snatched three of the other most anticipated meets of the year—UCLA @ Utah on February 3, Florida @ LSU on February 17, and Florida @ Oklahoma on March 3. Which this means you might be able to watch at least two whole Oklahoma home meets this year. It’s a brand new world.
- Three meets will also jump to ESPNU: Florida @ Alabama on January 20, Minnesota @ Michigan on February 10 and Oklahoma @ Michigan on March 6.
- Among the year’s biggest regular season meets, really only the Oklahoma @ LSU meet on Monday, January 16 is currently relegated to SEC+ subscription land.
- The behemoth conference championship day is set for Saturday, March 18, and nothing has been done this year to spread that out or make it at all watchable, but we do have some adjustments to the regional schedule to make that quite a bit more user-friendly.
- The UCLA and Oklahoma regionals will have their play-ins on Wednesday, March 29, regional semifinals on Thursday, March 30, and regional finals on Saturday, April 1, while the Denver and Pittsburgh regionals will have their play-ins on Thursday, March 30, their semifinals on Friday, March 31, and their finals on Sunday, April 2. This new schedule (and the actual division of each of the four regionals into four separate time zones) should mean that none of the regional semifinals or regional finals run at the same time as any other meet. The only overlap at all looks like it would be on Thursday March 30, when the play-in from the Denver regional will clash with the first semifinal from the UCLA regional, but we can live with that.
- The national semifinals are once again on ESPN2 on Thursday, April 13, while the final will be on ABC on Saturday, April 15. The championship meet times are slightly different than they were last year, with the semifinals at 3pm ET/12pm PT and 9pm ET/6pm PT, and the final at 4pm ET/1pm PT.