Category Archives: NCAA Gymnastics Nationals

Explained: The New NCAA Championship Format

We’re five days away from the start of the NCAA season, so even though you’ve valiantly put off understanding the new championship format for as long as possible (and I’m so proud of you for it), it’s time to buckle down and do the thing.

The new postseason format instituted for 2019 is an improvement over the previous system in many ways, most notably because of the elimination of those bloated and interminable six-team meets with bye rotations. It still has its faults and problems from the previous format that have gone unresolved, which we’ll all be sure to complain about at every possible moment, but it’s a step. So here’s how it will go.

The season itself will progress as before. The teams will compete every weekend, they’ll all get overscored, you’ll be furious about it, and everything will be fine and normal. Following the conference championships, the top 36 teams will still advance to the elimination meets, as per usual, while the season ends for everyone else. After that, it gets new and different.


Previously, the 36 advancing teams would be divided among 6 regional sites—6 teams at each site—for a single day of elimination competition from which the top 2 teams at each site advanced to the national championship.

This year, the 36 advancing teams will be divided among 4 regional sites—9 teams at each site—for three days of elimination competition after which the top 2 teams at each site will advance to the national championship. Continue reading Explained: The New NCAA Championship Format


Bye Bye Byes

We officially have the report from this month’s NCAA committee meeting. First of all, I have to give them credit for providing the report to us during the same month as the meeting itself. Usually it trickles out to us peasants around Novembruary threeteenth. Progress!

The most important order of business is confirmation of the change in postseason format, which we’ve kinda-sorta-basically known about for several months, though this ultimate proposal has a minor tweak or two from what we heard about before.

Still, the headline remains the same. The new format adds an extra super-regional round to the postseason and eliminates all six-team meets and byes.

Why is this important? It’s a million times better for TV and the fan experience. It adds an additional round of exciting elimination meets and creates faster, clearer, and more interesting competitions with less downtime and fewer teams hanging around that aren’t ultimately going to be relevant to the final result.

Or, you know, because it

Do note that the proposal now goes to the Division I Competition Oversight Committee and will not go into effect until the 2019 season. Continue reading Bye Bye Byes

National Championship Final Notes

To round out nationals for another year (8.5 months away…), here are a few residual thoughts that have been rattling around my head since returning.

  • Largest margin of victory since 2006

The general sentiment about Super Six, from me and I think everyone: Oklahoma was ridiculous.

This was not supposed to be a blowout year. This wasn’t like some of those Kupets/McCool/Heenan seasons for Georgia, or UCLA in 2010, or Florida in 2013 (before counting a fall and making Super Six much more interesting than it had any right to be), where there was a clear #1 team that really should win by a lot.

Super Six 2017 was supposed to be extremely close between Oklahoma and LSU, but instead we were treated to a romp thanks to a comically excellent performance (particularly on beam) from Oklahoma, the only team to perform better in Super Six than it did in the semifinal. It’s very rare to see a team look that good and bring season-best gymnastics at Super Six, but that’s what Oklahoma did. Usually, Super Six brings performances more like what LSU showed. Continue reading National Championship Final Notes

National Championship Headquarters

The national championship begins on Friday (FRIDAY), but since I’ll be traveling to the event soonish, this is probably the last post I’ll put up before the competition begins. So, here’s every piece of information you could ever possibly need for nationals.

As last year, all sessions will air on the ESPN family of networks, and the WatchESPN live streams will have a main feed and the dedicated individual event feeds. For television coverage of the second semifinal, after the first hour of competition on ESPNU (the first hour of three……), main coverage will pick up on ESPN, while ESPNU will continue with a four-event feed.

This is ESPN trying to save college gymnastics from itself and issuing a not-so-subtle message that maybe if the competition were two hours (or under), it would be more reasonable and possible to show it on real networks that people watch. The fact that even some of a national semifinal is going live on main ESPN on a Friday night (and live on ESPN2 during the day) is a step up from the years of tape delays and literally nothing, but it would have happened earlier if the competition weren’t so unwieldy. You think ESPN wants to give college gymnastics three hours on a Friday night? I barely want to give it three hours, and I’m me. Continue reading National Championship Headquarters

National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

I always hesitate to do a Super Six preview at this point because…well…we don’t actually know who’s going to be competing in Super Six or what sort of catastrophes may transpire in the semifinal to alter our view of what might happen, but as it stands, I don’t think the setup is dramatically different than we thought it would be heading into the season.

The first-tier favorites are Oklahoma and LSU. Oklahoma’s route to victory is through superior scores on bars (the Sooners’ 0.160 edge over LSU in the bars rankings is the largest for either team on any event) and the overall control and pristine execution of dance elements on beam and floor. Both teams are excellent on beam and floor, but it has been the Sooners’ precision that has put them ahead of LSU in the rankings on both events for most of the season.

If LSU were to win, it would be far from a major upset, but I still would characterize it as an upset. If it happens, it begins on vault. LSU has a giant collection of 1.5s, but the strength of the lineup is not just the 1.5s (even though they garner the most attention). LSU’s early-lineup fulls are the most stick-likely fulls in the competition, which can be just as much of an asset. In fact, LSU’s early-lineup scores are a critical potential advantage across most of the events, where they’ll hope to be rewarded for bigger floor routines to start the rotation and where no other team can match the quality of their first two beam routines. Oklahoma has the edge in the later-lineup beam routines, so LSU will need to gain a scoring advantage on those early routines and also use them to drive up the scores of the later sets. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

National Championship Preview Part 3: Individuals

NCAA women’s gymnastics takes individual titles about as seriously as you take whether Kyndyllegra finished in the top 10 on vault at the Level 6 jamboree this weekend.

They’re pretty much just an excuse to cram 174 people onto a single tier of the awards podium and award a random 8th-place trophy for no reason. Who cares who gets them as long as THEY’RE SMILING THE LITTLE GIRLS I’M SO PROUD OF YOU YOU’RE NOT REAL ATHLETES.

Anyway, all the individual titles are decided on Semifinal Friday starting last year, ensuring that they’re right at the bottom of all of our attention priority lists. But, they’re still competitions where we (the dwindling few) might actually care about who wins, so here’s how the races break down.

Maggie Nichols. Preview over.

The race for the NCAA all-around title has a tendency to be a complete random mess. With all the contenders this closely packed, the cliche of the title being decided by the tiniest step is actually true in this case. This year, a number of people do have a realistic argument for the title, but like Bridget Sloan last year, Maggie Nichols enters as the clear favorite who would need to have an off day in the semifinal to avoid winning the championship. No one else is as likely to go 9.950 on all four events as Nichols. With an RQS of 39.785 (2nd all time) and a season high of 39.925 (4th all time), Nichols is already in a territory all her own.

Oklahoma competes in the first session, and there’s NCAA gymnastics inherited nonsense-wisdom that you’ll often hear about the scores being lower in the first semifinal than the second, which is just untrue. There’s no numerical evidence to support that, and four of our last five national AA champions have come from the first semifinal (Sloan 2016, Hunter 2015, Peszek 2015, Sloan 2013). Afternoon or evening won’t make a difference.

But, if not Nichols, then… Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 3: Individuals

National Championship Preview Part 2: Eastern Semifinal

The evening semifinal is shaping up to be the juicier and more uncertain of the two. While the first semifinal has three favorites and three challengers waiting to see if it’s a sloppy meet (which it will be), the second semifinal defies classification when it comes to the middle seeds. Really only the qualification of Nebraska, the most mid-196y of the teams in this semifinal, would constitute a true surprise or upset.

April 14, 7:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] LSU (bye before floor)
[2] Florida (vault)
[3] Alabama (floor)
[4] Michigan (bye before bars)
[5] Georgia (beam)
[6] Nebraska (bars)

Mollie Korth, Kentucky, AA (rotating w/ LSU)
Briannah Tsang, Penn State, AA (rotating w/ Florida)
Alex Hyland, Kentucky, AA (rotating w/ Michigan)
Zaakira Muhammad, West Virginia, AA (rotating w/ Alabama)
Sabrina Garcia, Penn State, AA (rotating w/ Georgia)
Cami Drouin-Allaire, George Washington, AA(rotating w/ Nebraska)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan, VT (rotating w/ LSU)
Elizabeth Price, Stanford, UB (rotating w/ Florida)
Katy Clements, Central Michigan, BB (rotating w/ Michigan)
Chelsea Raineri, George Washington, VT (rotating w/ Georgia)
Desiree Palomares, Cal, BB, (rotating w/ Florida)

LSU enters the first day of competition as the Oklahoma of the second semifinal, the team that really should qualify to Super Six barring any kind of 2015-style “the freshman LOST HER MIND” moment. The Tigers did, however, score a low-for-them 197.450 at regionals without counting a fall—which is cause for some vague concern about what would happen if they did count a fall—but the overall scoring potential is too high to see LSU being vulnerable without multiple and significant mistakes. LSU would have to give qualification away. No one is going to take it from them.

A flew blips did crop up in that regionals 197.450, and fairly unexpected ones. Aside from a bit of a flopsy-daisy in the middle of the beam lineup, LSU did not perform as well on vault as we would expect, an event that must not only be an asset but a win at nationals if LSU is to take the championship. At regionals, Harrold didn’t go—Cannamela’s full replaced her—and LSU ended up counting a couple lowish 9.8s. That would be fine even if replicated in this semifinal (because Gnat, because Edney) but wouldn’t be enough to give LSU the necessary advantage in Super Six. Something to watch. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 2: Eastern Semifinal