The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2023 Preseason Coaches Poll

2023 Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Oklahoma (22 first-place votes) – 1727 points
2. Florida (21 first-place votes) – 1724 points
3. Utah (2 first-place votes) – 1648 points
4. Michigan (4 first-place votes) – 1600 points
5. Auburn – 1509 points
6. LSU – 1434 points
7. Alabama – 1395 points
8. California – 1325 points
9. Missouri – 1262 points
10. UCLA – 1242 points
11. Kentucky – 1154 points
12. Michigan State – 1129 points
13. Denver – 1119 points
14. Oregon State – 1066 points
15. Arkansas – 1043 points
16. Minnesota – 1042 points
17. Stanford – 1007 points
18. Iowa – 952 points
19. Ohio State – 844 points
20. Georgia – 794 points
21. Washington – 768 points
22. BYU – 674 points
22. Illinois – 674 points
24. Arizona State – 583 points
25. Arizona – 548 points

Honestly, this is one of the least insane coaches polls of recent memory, which is really hurtful to me and my whole deal. Where is the random first-place vote for Centenary? Where is the BS legacy ranking? Who even understands the point of this anymore?

Defending champion Oklahoma takes the top spot in this season’s poll, which is not particularly surprising given the history of the defending champion usually (but definitely not always) getting the #1 spot in the next year’s poll—combined with the general idea that Oklahoma should get even better this year with two new elite AAers joining 22 of 24 returning routines from the national championship. Last year was supposed to be Oklahoma’s beatable year, and no one beatable-d.

The interesting thing is that Oklahoma is essentially in a tie with Florida, which one might decide to attribute to the power of the SEC cabal looking out for its own, or to the power of the “Florida you have a million perfect gymnasts on this team, how are you not winning every time.” Either/or.  

Utah’s #3 position here mimics the finish from last season, and Michigan slots in at #4, just ahead of last season’s finalist Auburn, which more reflects the overall performance during the season and what probably would have happened had Michigan not melted down on bars and beam in the national semifinal. Michigan’s 4 first-place votes placing below Utah’s 2 first-place votes likely tells us that Utah was a more unanimous top-4 selection, while for Michigan, some people voted for a team that was in the top 3 all of last year, and some people copied their homework from RTN’s final standings. That’s the opposite of what usually happens with Utah. Utah typically gets a chunk of first-place votes and a chunk of like…zeroes…for a middling result.

We do see some actual awareness of what has transpired since the end of last season with the placement of Minnesota. Minnesota finished 6th last season but has famously lost Loper and Ramler and is now ranked 16th in the preseason poll. Such a drop from last season’s result is rare, but I would have done the same thing. We see the opposite phenomenon in the case of LSU, which didn’t really pay any poll price for missing nationals last year and received the #6 position here, about where LSU sat during the entirety of the regular season. 

UCLA comes in at 10th in the preseason poll, which is better than last season’s finish but still UCLA’s lowest preseason ranking since we’ve been doing this. The talent on this team is a lot better than 10th in the country, but after the results of the last two seasons, there hasn’t really been a lot of earning a high ranking. On that note, let’s talk about Georgia, where we also see an all-time low preseason ranking of #20 but also some evidence of reputation and historical deference since Georgia not only finished 30th last year but never once in the entire season ranked as high as 20th. Now, perhaps the coaches as a group are just really excited about JaFree Scott. I know I am. Or perhaps they saw the name Georgia. That’s between them and Olivia Colman.

On the other side of that coin, we have the upstarts and surprise finishes from last season. Missouri is up 7 spots relative to its preseason placement in 2022, while Stanford is up 16 spots, and Michigan State is up 24. All of those teams still rank below their ultimate 2022 finishes in this poll, so they’re not getting full credit for their results last season, but there’s some awareness of them.

Weird thing: There were way, way fewer respondents this year compared to last year. Last season, 69 ballots were submitted for the preseason poll, while this season we have 49 ballots. Not that many. BUT COME ON THIS MATTERSSSSS.

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