Category Archives: NCAA Preview

NCAA Week 9 Preview

Full schedule and links

Here’s a rundown of the various randoms I’m thinking about heading into the…second-to-last weekend before conference championships. You know, the big one.

UCLA @ Cal – Saturday afternoon is going to be a thing. In this season’s shifted hierarchy, UCLA currently ranks 4th in the Pac-12 to Cal’s 3rd, while Arizona State leapfrogged both to move into 2nd after last week’s two meets. It’s a different world. And yet in dual meet results so far, it’s pretty much been the same world. The normal expectations have held. UCLA and Cal have both defeated Arizona State and suffered their only losses in pretty tight meets away against Utah. Those are basically the results you would expect in any old season. This weekend, Cal will be eager to confirm that these shifted 2021 roles—where Cal is the numerical favorite against UCLA—are a real life thing with an actual win in a dual meet.

In practice, there hasn’t been much separating these #2, #3, and #4 teams in the conference in their scores all season. All three have been in the low 197s thus far for their good hits, so UCLA/Cal result—as well as their final season rankings—should be considered a toss-up. Arizona State hosts Arizona simultaneous to the UCLA/Cal meet, though ASU’s low home score is already a 197.150, which means there’s probably not a ton of room to continue improving that ranking this week. Meanwhile, UCLA is trying to drop a 196.600 and Cal is trying to drop a 196.075, so there’s clearer room for those two to raise their NQSs with quality performances in a bid to catch ASU.

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NCAA Week 7 Preview

Full schedule and links

Marquee Meet

[14] UCLA @ [3] Utah

Friday, February 19 – 7:00pm MT – ESPNU

It’s…a different year for this UCLA/Utah rivalry. But it’s still UCLA/Utah. Typically, this meet is about parsing minor advantages and little ifs and buts and preparing for a judging apocalypse (it was just a year ago that Utah went 49.775 on beam and UCLA 49.800 on floor in the final rotation of a 198-a-thon). This year, however, Utah enters as a more convincing favorite than we’ve had in this dual-meet series in quite a few seasons.

Thus far, UCLA has peaked at 196.750, while Utah has scored over 197 in its last three meets and has dipped below that 196.750 mark only once in five competitions. Utah is ranked higher on all four events and, in both roster depth and preparation, has a major edge on UCLA this year. Now, expect to see a better UCLA team in this meet than what we saw during the annual “exploring depth” adventure at Washington last weekend. The Bruins were resting some important routines at that meet and should bring them back against Utah to have more complete lineups, including the full complement of potential 9.9+s at the back half of a floor rotation that can keep pace with, or beat, Utah there. Despite last week’s 195, UCLA will be aiming to hit the 197s this week.

Utah’s scoring aims will be noticeably higher, with the team’s primary advantages coming on vault and beam. UCLA relies on Yfulls from Campbell and Dennis for its top vault scores (and won’t have Wright’s 1.5 again this week), while Utah has four Y1.5s to end the lineup and therefore starts from a much higher place when the landings are on. Beam is Utah’s go-to event these days, compared to a UCLA team that has looked tight and tentative so far and has fewer natural, comfortable beamers than we have come to expect from UCLA beam lineups of yore. UCLA has been working beam lately like they’re at their first middle school dance, and if we see one improvement for the Bruins against Utah, it needs to be that.

If Utah opens up the expected lead because of vault and beam, there won’t be a lot UCLA can do. Beyond winning, Utah will be aiming to improve bars in its quest to get close to those 198s that the popular-girls table has started scoring. Bars is the event that has looked a little medium lately, particularly in the handstand and sticking departments. I mean, there’s only so much a Farden fist pump can do if you cut off your casts and lunge on landing.

Continue reading NCAA Week 7 Preview

NCAA Week 5 Preview

Full schedule and links

Marquee Meet

[5] Oklahoma, Temple @ [8] Denver

Sunday, February 7 – 2:00pm MT – Denver stream ($)

The season’s first clash between Oklahoma and Denver is supposed to pit these two hitting, high-scoring juggernauts against each other in a preview of a national semifinal (or even final as in 2019), but rather we’re greeted by two teams who just burped up a 195.850 and are eager to look around the room and be like, “Who did that?”

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NCAA Week 1 Preview

Full schedule and links

Marquee Meet

[16] Missouri @ [10] Georgia
Friday7:00pm ET – SEC Network

It was kind of difficult to choose a marquee meet for this opening weekend (you know, that very important classification) because, among the SEC slate, we have the four traditional powers—Florida, LSU, Georgia, Alabama—each in separate dual meets they’ll be expected to win. Elsewhere, Utah and Oklahoma will be major favorites in their competitions, so it’s quite possible we could have six straightforward and predictable results. And yet, it’s the first meet of a truly bonkers year and there are many unanswered questions, like who’s out with COVID. Or, I mean, who’s injured, or which freshmen are for real and which ones aren’t. Many, many reasons not to be confident about what we’ll end up seeing this weekend. But anyway, I went with the one where I’m most interested in seeing who ends up in these lineups.

In 2021, Georgia’s highest priority will be actually figuring out bars, so I’ll be hyper-focused on how that six shapes up during the first meet. Theoretically, things should get better, but the team will need to see freshmen like Victoria Nguyen come through with competition-ready routines, and Marissa Oakley maintain her health long enough to lead that lineup. Another season of cobbling together a lineup of people who’d rather not be doing bars will lead to Georgia fighting to stay in the top half of the SEC once again. Also Victoria Nguyen. College debut. A thing. Interesting. Watch.

Georgia’s released tentative lineups include Nguyen on everything but beam (I have 16 questions) and include Emily Schild on both bars and beam. That’s a potential boon for Georgia as her injury history had made me, shall we say, skeptical that we would see her again. I notice a disturbing lack of Rachael Lukacs in the lineups below.

Missouri will be without Helen Hu this season, which forces a lineup reshuffle. During the showcase about a month ago, Missouri showed just three scored vaults. There are several obvious vaulters on the roster who were not part of that three and I assume will be vaulting now, a month later, but how Missouri fills out a vault and bars lineup of six will be worth following. Kyra Burns is a potentially significant freshman who did not compete at that showcase and would be expected to make it into both lineups normally. Do expect to see at least a couple events from Jena Swanson and Amaya Marshall.

Continue reading NCAA Week 1 Preview