GQ Invitational:  Utah,  LSU,  Missouri, Stanford
Friday, 6:15 CT, Flogymnastics
At the top of the playbill, the GymQuarters Mardi Gras Beads and Whatever Invitational brings us a comparison we almost never get in a non-postseason context—Utah against LSU. That comparison is becoming particularly relevant this season as Utah and LSU spend more and more time entrenched at #4 and #5, rankings that will be assigned to the same regional site in the new postseason seeding format.
While both #4 and #5 would be seeded to advance to nationals, one’s going to be the leader and the other’s going to be the old gazelle at the back of the pack, the one vulnerable to getting picked off by a surging underdog. We just don’t know which one is Utah and which one is LSU yet.
Because Utah has shown the more consistent performances thus far with those weekly 197 victories, winning this meet becomes more important for LSU—a team that has had its share of dramas and losses (admittedly with a more difficult schedule) and is coming off a quite lackluster performance against Kentucky. In addition to whatever sentimental hogwash and confidence concerns you might want to imbue the current situation with, pragmatically, LSU has fewer usable scores than Utah right now (only one worthwhile road total) and needs to take this opportunity of a road meet to get a mid-197.
At the same time, LSU’s desire for victory may be tempered by some difficult lineup decisions since this is a two-meet weekend. On the one hand, it’s preparation for the back-to-back days of regional competition. On the other hand, this roster has a number of fragile athletes you wouldn’t necessarily want to push on the leg events for a two-meet weekend right now. Do you hold them back in one meet or the other? Balancing the powerful desire to get confidence back right away by going all out and trying to beat a higher-ranked team like Utah with the patient knowledge that it’s still the regular season and you’re going to make regionals with a fine seeding regardless is a challenge.
Utah will have to manage some of the same lineup considerations for its two-meet weekend with Skinner and Tessen and Reinstadtler all having faced participation limitations in the early going, but will also want to bring out the fireworks for this one. This is the first real big-money meet of Utah’s season—a top-ranked opponent, a podium meet—and one that ushers in the far more difficult portion of Utah’s schedule. Monday’s meet against Stanford is Utah’s last remaining competition without a top-10 opponent. Other than that, it’s LSU and UCLA and Georgia and Michigan and Pac-12s. Difficult asks, but also serious opportunities to move out of that solid-but-not-nationals-level rut of lower 197s. Continue reading Week 7 Preview