First Round – March 29, 2pm PT – BYU vs Boise State
Semifinal 1 – March 30, 2pm PT – Utah, Auburn, S. Utah, Washington
Semifinal 2 – March 30, 7pm PT – UCLA, Missouri, Stanford, TBD
Final – April 1, 5pm PT
It hasn’t been the ideal season for either #33 BYU or #36 Boise State, both teams that typically aim for rankings in the top 20 but have seen themselves in the 30s this season. BYU had to climb up from as low as 42nd in week 2, while Boise State ended up as the final qualifier, making it by .070 over San Jose. One will see the season end here, while one will get a chance to boost that final ranking.
The two just went head-to-head in front of the same panel of judges at the MRGC championship last Saturday, which is very helpful for prognostication purposes. BYU had the better showing, going 196.575 to Boise State’s 196.000, which should establish BYU as the mild favorite heading into this one. Boise State will counter that the MRGC performance featured a bars fall from Emily Lopez, who has a 10 this season, and a leadoff beam fall from Alyssa Vulaj, who went 9.950 at a recent meet, so does not reflect the team’s scoring potential in a true hit.
Boise State would prefer to point toward the 196.825 scored away at Minnesota a few weeks ago, the highest score this season for either team, which most notably featured a 49.425 beam total. Delivering that kind of good beam day, where Vulaj got the 9.950 and Adriana Popp’s best-in-NCAA 2-foot layout received a 10 from one judge, will be essential rather than the beam rotations of the last couple weeks, which have been 48.7s, a score that will not hold up in a sudden death regionals scenario.
Both teams can bring the beam, with BYU’s Elease Rollins typically garnering some of the top scores in the country, though given BYU’s overall scoring potential advantage on floor, it’s probably more important for Boise State to get that big beam result to change the situation from last weekend. With BYU ending on floor and Boise State ending on beam, Boise State can’t afford to drip tenths in that rotation.
Regional Semifinals – Battle to Watch
Can Stanford pull a total Stanford? Yes, the team’s reputation for dinking around for 3 months and then suddenly being amazing in the postseason was built in a different era with no actual bearing on this year’s athletes, but also…Stanford.
Now, it’s deeply possible that this regional has a snoozer of a semifinal day, where Utah and Auburn cruise over Southern Utah and Washington and then UCLA and Missouri cruise over Stanford and the play-in winner, and we just wait to see if anything interesting happens in the regional final. That’s the most likely outcome.
Still, over the last four meets, Stanford has two scores of 197.4+, the kind of total that would absolutely be in the running to upset Missouri and advance to the regional final.
When Missouri is really on, beam is the team’s best event, with the unimpeachable trio of Sheremeta, Hu, and Schreiber always in contention for 9.9+, but Stanford does have the chops to match Missouri there. Widner is certainly up to the task of competing with the back half of Missouri’s lineup, and when Onyshko, Alexeeva, and Neault all hit, it’s a big number. Where Stanford may struggle to keep up is more in terms of the firepower. Typically, the vault and floor from Moore and Celestine are going to outpace what Stanford puts up and give Missouri a non-insignificant advantage.
To snatch the major upset here, Stanford would really love to see a repeat of Missouri’s vault problems at SECs, featuring three scores of 9.650 or lower and saved only by the fact that Moore and Celestine delivered. Stanford has made a major competitiveness upgrade on vault this season with the Y1.5 from Anna Roberts and the potential DTY from Taralyn Nguyen to turn what has typically been a weak score into one that could at least take advantage of another team’s errors. But if Missouri has a clear edge on vault, it’s hard to see that dwindling away on the other events.
As for the semifinal headlined by Utah and Auburn, both teams are certainly favored to go through, but it shouldn’t be considered a walk for Auburn. Auburn’s last three away scores have been 196.550, 196.450, and 197.100. Not impervious. Should be safe with a hit, but a counting fall would be beatable by either Southern Utah or Washington.
Regional Final – Battle to Watch
It’s quite possible that the regional battle to watch could end up being UCLA and Utah against themselves.
If the seeds hold, the regional final will feature UCLA, Utah, Auburn, and Missouri: quite a deep meet on paper. We’ve got some names. In practice, UCLA and Utah lead the NQS race on every event, went 197.925 and 197.850 at conference championships compared to Auburn and Missouri’s 197.100 and 197.000, and over the last three meets have averaged 198.100 and 197.850 compared to Auburn and Missouri’s 197.050 and 197.108.
UCLA and Utah should have this, but Auburn and Missouri are 197 teams, which means they have the goods to pounce. Certainly, if either Utah or UCLA have a meltdown, Auburn and Missouri are too good to let that pass unpunished, but they’re also too good to simply wait and rely on another team counting falls. Missouri has gone 197.850 this year and Auburn went 197.600 on senior day. Those scores could advance to nationals on their own merits, not because of someone else’s error.
With no further news on the Suni front, we have to work from the assumption that she won’t be available, which is a 4-5 tenth blow to Auburn’s scoring potential and does undercut the chance for an upset that otherwise would look much riper. Her absence has been the toughest to manage on beam, where Auburn lost a potential 10 and has now counted a 9.7 in each of the last two hit rotations. Auburn would start on beam in this regional final and probably cannot afford even a 49.2 when up against UCLA and Utah teams that would consider a 49.500 a pauperish performance.
Competitiveness without help for Missouri and Auburn also depends on the floor numbers coming. When Missouri did score that 197.850 away against Arkansas, the most notable aspect was a 49.525 floor score at a road meet, which has not typically been the case for Missouri this season. Missouri has a large floor gap between home and road performances with a 49.308 floor average on the road versus a 49.475 floor average at home, never scoring under 49.400. Auburn has a very similar gap, averaging 49.329 on floor on the road versus 49.495 at home. Those mid and high 197s just aren’t going to be there without a home-type floor performance.
Individual qualification sees the top-ranked AAer and top-ranked performer on each event who are not part of a qualifying team advance to nationals as individuals, based on the scores from the regional semifinals.
If UCLA and Utah do advance, the all-around will presumably be a race between Sienna Schreiber of Missouri and Cassie Stevens of Auburn, though Auburn will likely also have Sophia Groth and Olivia Hollingsworth going in the AA.
But there are some sleeper agents in this one. Washington has Skylar Killough-Wilhelm, whose all-around could be UW’s best look at getting an individual to nationals. Stanford has several competitive all-arounders, and Brenna Neault matched Killough-Wilhelm with a 49.400 at the Pac-12 Championships. Meanwhile, Southern Utah’s Karley McClain won the all-around at MRGC with a 39.525.
On the events, Missouri would at least aim to qualify a beamer, with Helen Hu the frontrunner but any of the back three legitimate contenders. Hu’s bars would be another compelling option, as would Moore’s vault, one of many Y1.5s in this regional that could go through depending on landing control. Missouri has options on everything.
Auburn (and humanity)’s goal would be to get Derrian Gobourne to nationals for floor but should also have Y1.5s from Stevens and Gobourne that could make it, as well as one of the top beams in this regional from Gabby McLaughlin.
Chloe Widner’s beam and bars probably provide Stanford’s best look at an individual qualifier, the Lopez bars for Boise State and the Rollins beam for BYU should be the best options for those teams, and don’t overlook the individuals from Long Island coming to this regional, with Mara Titarsolej’s bars and Ilka Juk’s beam both ranking as legitimate contenders to make nationals, rotating with Utah and in-effect anchoring their rotations.