Behold! The part that sort of matters before the part that really matters!
That’s right, the conference championships are upon us once again, our first tentative toe dipped into the waters of the championship season, with trophies on the line and four-judge panels back to try to weed out the most erratic of Carols, but without losers getting eliminated just yet.
With a dozen separate college championships being contested this weekend, I’ve split the preview up into two parts. Let’s begin with Part 1: Some of them! (The theme of part 2 will also be some of them.)
Afternoon: Washington, Arizona State, Stanford, Arizona
Evening: UCLA, Utah, Oregon State, Cal
The typical dynamic of the Pac-12 Championship is skewed to some degree this year. Rather than the usual “Utah or UCLA? Where she stops nobody knows!” outlook, we have a true favorite for the Pac-12 title this season in UCLA. The Bruins outrank the Utes on three of the four events, defeated Utah (in Utah) at their dual meet this season, and lead by more than a fall in NQS. Now, I don’t think UCLA can actually count a fall and still win this meet in real life, but that’s what the rankings tell us.
UCLA’s biggest asset compared to Utah will come on beam, where UCLA has the potential to put together a lineup that begins in the 9.9s and stays there, while Utah is more likely to remain in the 9.8s for most of the lineup apart from the bookends. Add that to the Flatley-Kocian-Ross trio on bars, and what at this point is just an auto-10 from Ohashi on floor, and UCLA will have several areas in which to build up the scoring advantage against Utah.
The concern for UCLA is if the performance at Vallapalooza was more than just an emotional one-off, because that performance was not good enough to win Pac-12s. In the meet against Utah State, we saw how reliant UCLA has become on Ross hitting vault because once she missed, suddenly some uncontrolled landings on other Y1.5s had to count, and UCLA barely broke 49. That’s not going to cut it compared to a Utah team that has the more reliable landings on its big-difficulty vaults from Skinner and MMG.
What Utah has been able to create this season is four lineups that should start from 9.850 and go from there. When Lee sticks, when Roberts does her usual cleanest routine in the lineup work on floor (fight me), they’re establishing a pretty high baseline. That’s a main reason we haven’t seen Utah fall below 197 this season, because the lineups are almost never fighting against that lead-off 9.775. There’s always something very usable to count. It’s still going to make Utah vulnerable to a team with lineups that start at 9.900 like UCLA can put up on a few events, but it’s also why Utah shouldn’t have much trouble finishing top 2 here with a hit meet. Continue reading Conference Championships Preview – Part 1