Category Archives: Meet Preview

SEC Championship Preview

Afternoon session – 2:00pm CT
Evening session – 6:00pm CT

SESSION II

For the win
One of the bigger surprises of the 2018 season: Florida not establishing itself as a true power. Now, Florida has been strong and fine and good and remains among the select few title contenders given the sheer talent potential on this roster, but Florida heading into SECs having broken 197.000 on the road just once all season? Never would have picked it.

As a result, for the first time in several seasons we come into the SEC Championship with a single solidly established favorite—LSU. LSU leads Florida by more than five tenths in the RQS standings and leads the conference rankings on three events (we’ll get to vault in a minute). Ergo, LSU is supposed to win this thing.

At the same time, when you compare the the lineups of the two teams routine-by-routine, there are really only minor differences that point in LSU’s favor, rather than FIVE TENTHS worth of clear advantage. It’s the superior landings on LSU’s early-vault fulls, the Macadaeg and Hambrick beam scores, Florida desperately missing that Baker floor 9.950. Important factors all, but also the kinds of things that can be overcome on any given day and could point to a closer fight than the rankings do.

If Florida really shows up—for the first time this season away from home—a close fight is what we should have, though one that still favors LSU on balance.

Let’s talk about bars, because that event has been critical in flipping expectations this season. Florida was supposed to be the stronger bars team this year (McMurtry! Hundley! Gowey! Baker! Baumann! Foberg! Boren!), but not all of that has panned out. Most importantly, though, LSU has been showing more comfortable and reliably stuck dismounts this season while also avoiding what seemed like inevitable depth problems. LSU didn’t have a lot of bars routines coming into the season, which is why the emergence of Sami Durante has been essential. Without her, LSU would have been in trouble coming up with six whole hit bars sets, and the event could have been a very different story. Florida will need to start sticking more than half its dismounts to mitigate the LSU bars advantage that has developed this season.  Continue reading SEC Championship Preview

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Pac-12 Championship Preview

IT’S CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON KIND OF.

Sure, the conference championships tend to mean more to the teams themselves and school-specific sports supporters than they do to gymnastics people (so…you were the best team…in a small, vaguely geographically based collection of…other teams? Hoorrrrray?) but we’ll take it. We’ll take it to the bank. Non-mattering-meet exhaustion has more than set in at this point. This time it kind of matters!

So, let’s try to get the excitement flowing with a little preview.

Pac-12 Championships
Afternoon session – 1:00pm PT
Evening session – 6:00pm PT

SESSION II

For the win
Ever since Utah joined the Pac-12, the conversation heading into the conference championship has been pretty similar. Utah versus UCLA, where UCLA has the talent and the scoring pedigree but is also kind of a garbage barge sometimes and might not bring it on the day to make things as close as they should be.

(And then we also respectfully allow for the possibility of the semi-occasional Oregon State “SUP MONKEYS” showing, which is likely out the window this season with OSU in the first session.)

This year, the overall shape of the meet is the same but the internal title dynamic has shifted by minor degrees. In 2018, UCLA ranks ahead of Utah by three tenths in overall RQS, as well as on all four events, and hasn’t displayed quite the same tendency toward CLANG every third meet that we typically expect from this team. For the first time since 2012, UCLA is making a legitimate argument as a top-3 team and a first-tier national title contender, all of which combines to mean that UCLA is supposed to win this meet.

Is it for real, though? Is UCLA really top-3 good? Or, is that ranking just a function of reputation-scoring and a few really excellent routines that paper over some other weaknesses that do not befit a national title winner? That’s a legitimate, still-unanswered question, and one that will be answered with a little more fervor one way or the other after this championship. If the Bruins are to be first-tier title contenders heading toward St. Louis, they’ll need to win this meet and show that they’re clearly superior to another high-level Super Six contender in Utah (in front of the same judging panel, neither at home). Otherwise, this is just another 2017 with 2017-level expectations. Continue reading Pac-12 Championship Preview

Pac-12 Championship Preview

On to the Pac-12!

Like the SEC and Big Ten, the Pac-12 conducts its championship in two sessions, the first beginning at 1:00 PT and including Cal, Arizona, Stanford, and Arizona State, and the second beginning at 6:00 PT and including UCLA, Utah, Oregon State, and Washington.

For the rotation order, the Pac-12 did things a little differently this year, just to make everyone confused. Rather than a predetermined draw, teams were given the opportunity to choose which even they’d like to start on, picking in seeded order. So for the evening session, UCLA chose vault, then Utah chose bars, then Oregon State chose floor, then Washington was left with beam and went, “We’re all going to get 9.875 anyway, so eat that SUCKAAASSSS.”

For the afternoon session, Cal chose vault, then Arizona broke with convention and took beam with the second pick, Stanford took bars, and Arizona State was left with floor.

Session I – Cal, Arizona, Stanford, Arizona State
It’s not completely ridiculous to expect a good score to come out of the first session, a score that at least challenges a couple of the teams in the top group. The scoring potential UCLA and Utah have displayed this year should see them pull away with hit meets, but a team like Cal having a good meet and finishing third is entirely within the realm of possibility. Continue reading Pac-12 Championship Preview

SEC Championship Preview

The arrival of the conference championships marks the beginning of the onset of the opening of the first stage of an NCAA gymnastics season’s march toward maturity, like a disgusting larva transforming into a slightly less disgusting larva.

Results still don’t really matter, but this is the last time results won’t matter. And that’s something. Also blah blah blah, bragging rights. The SEC coaches are always eager to tell us that winning the SEC Championship is harder than winning the national championship, which is just blatantly false and dumb to say, but also…a trophy? Hooray! Winner and losers! Life is happening!

Here, I break down prospects for victory and what I’ll be watching at the SEC Championship for each of the teams.

The championship will be conducted in two sessions, the first at 2:00 ET and featuring Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn, and Arkansas, and the second at 6:00 ET and featuring LSU, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. Teams will compete in seeded order in each session, so LSU and Kentucky begin on vault, Florida and Missouri on bars, Alabama and Auburn on beam, and Georgia and Arkansas on floor.

Session I – Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn, Arkansas
It’s not impossible to get a high score out of the first session. Last season, Georgia totaled 196.850 even with a mild beamtastrophe. Jay, Rogers, Box, and Schick all hit the 9.9 zone on at least one piece, and Jay scored high enough to finish third overall in the AA. So, there is precedent for a useful total.

At the same time, since the SEC went to a two-session format, no team has hit the 197 mark in the first group. With regional seeding and placements riding on how Kentucky and Missouri score in this meet, attempts to hold down the scores in the first session to leave room for the better teams in the second session (reasonable) will have implications for all the teams in the final season standings, not just the teams in this meet. Continue reading SEC Championship Preview