Category Archives: NCAA Schedule

Things Are Happening – January 19, 2017

A. Weekend schedule

Friday, January 20
Scores Watch
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [23] Arkansas @ [16] Georgia LINK SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [3] Florida @ North Carolina FLOG
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [11] Auburn @ [9] Kentucky SEC+
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [21] Minnesota @ Michigan State LINK BTN+
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Eastern Michigan @ Central Michigan LINK ESPN3
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State, William & Mary @ [25] NC State LINK ACCN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Western Michigan @ Kent State FREE
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UW-La Crosse @ UW-Eau Claire
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Winona State @ UW-Oshkosh FREE
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Lindenwood @ SEMO LINK
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – TWU @ [2] LSU LINK SEC+
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [4] Alabama @ [8] Missouri LINK SECN
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Stanford @ Southern Utah FLOG
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah State @ BYU FREE
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [7] Denver, [15] Boise State, UIC @ [5] Utah P12
11:00 ET/8:00 PT – UW-Stout @ Alaska FREE
Saturday, January 21
Scores Watch
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Yale @ Penn
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Brockport @ Ithaca FREE
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – UW-Whitewater @ Gustavus Adolphus
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Northern Illinois, Seattle Pacific @ [19] Oregon State LINK P12
3:30 ET/12:30 PT – Cortland @ Cornell Ivy $
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [22] Iowa @ [18] Ohio State CSL $
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Maryland @ Penn State LINK FREE
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Pitt, Southern Connecticut @ New Hampshire
4:30 ET/1:30 PT – Illinois State @ Bowling Green
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Iowa State @ Arizona
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – UC Davis @ Arizona State P12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ West Virginia LINK WVU
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [10] Nebraska, Brown, West Chester @ Rutgers LINK
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [17] Washington, San Jose State @ [13] Cal LINK P12
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [24] Sacramento State @ Air Force FREE
Sunday, January 22
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Ursinus @ Temple FREE
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [19] Illinois @ [12] Michigan LINK FREE
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [14] George Washington @ Towson LINK FREE
Monday, January 23
Scores Watch
11:00 ET/8:00 PT – UW-Stout @ Alaska FREE

B. No live blogs this weekend

I’m abandoning you.


I know you’re really broken up about it. If you need to participate in group therapy about the wackadoo scoring or keep me apprised of important things that I should remember or complain about in the future, feel free to use the comments section on this page. Everything will be back to normal next week. Unless we’re all dead by then. Continue reading Things Are Happening – January 19, 2017

Things Are Happening – January 12, 2017

A. Weekend schedule

Friday, January 13
Scores Watch
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – [21] West Virginia @ Pitt LINK ACCN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [15] Kentucky @ [3] Florida LINK SEC+
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Georgia @ [14] Auburn LINK SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UW-Whitewater @ UW-Stout LINK FREE
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-Oshkosh, Towson @ Iowa State LINK ISU TV
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Hamline @ UW-La Crosse FREE
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ Winona State FREE
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [6] Missouri @ [12] Arkansas LINK SEC+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan State @ [24] Iowa LINK UI TV
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [1] LSU @ [4] Alabama LINK SECN
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [5] Utah @ [23] BYU LINK FREE
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [16] NC State, Bowling Green @ Utah State LINK FREE
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Stanford, Boise State, Yale @ UC Davis LINK
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [9] Oregon State @ Seattle Pacific LINK FREE
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – San Jose State @ [20] Sacramento State LINK
Saturday, January 14 Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – North Carolina, Cornell, Penn @ [10] George Washington LINK
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [11] Michigan, Washington, Kent State @ [22] Ohio State LINK CSL $
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [18] Minnesota, Arizona, Alaska @ Maryland LINK BTN+
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – New Hampshire, Bridgeport @ Brown
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Eastern Michigan, Rutgers, Illinois-Chicago @ [24] Illinois LINK FREE
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arizona State, TWU, Air Force @ [7] Denver LINK
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – That Ozone Thing (Illinois State, Temple, Centenary, UW-Eau Claire)
Sunday, January 15 Scores Watch
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Brockport, Springfield @ Rhode Island
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Central Michigan @ Western Michigan ESPN3
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – [17] Northern Illinois @ Ball State LINK FREE
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – West Chester, Cortland @ Southern Connecticut SCSU
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [19] Penn State @ Nebraska LINK
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [13] Cal @ [24] Iowa UI TV
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [6] Missouri, SEMO @ Lindenwood LINK FLOG
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [8] UCLA @ [2] Oklahoma LINK FSN
Monday, January 16 Scores Watch
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [16] NC State @ Georgia LINK SEC+

It’s a double-meet weekend for Missouri, NC State, Iowa, and Georgia. I have listed those four teams in the order in which they are ranked. This is the world we live in. Significant (as significant as we get in the second week of January) meets highlight Friday and Sunday. Saturday is a little sparse, but we’ll make do. I’ll have a live blog of that Ohio State quad with Michigan and Washington to keep things interesting. Here’s what I’m watching for:

B. LSU/Alabama

  • LSU’s vault edge
    In the first week, LSU competed three 10.0 vaults to Alabama’s one (Brannan did not vault) and showed much more control on landings. Repeated, those week 1 results would give LSU a margin on vault that Alabama would be hard pressed to make up on the other pieces without the benefit of some falls.

Continue reading Things Are Happening – January 12, 2017

Things Are Happening – January 5, 2017

A. Weekend schedule

Friday, January 6 Scores Watch
Live Blog
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [9] Georgia @ [2] LSU  LINK SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Kentucky @ Eastern Michigan  LINK ESPN3
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @ Michigan State  LINK BTN+
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Arizona State @ Iowa State  LINK ISU TV
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [3] Alabama @ [1] Oklahoma  LINK FSN
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [13] Oregon State @ [8] Auburn  LINK SECN+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [24] Illinois, Ball State @ [19] Missouri  LINK SECN+
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah State, TWU @ [18] Arizona  LINK  P12
Saturday, January 7
Scores Watch
Live Blog
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – New Hampshire, Bridgeport, William & Mary @ Rutgers  LINK
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Southern Connecticut @ Towson  LINK FREE
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-Oshkosh
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Bowling Green, BYU, Temple @ [23] Penn State  LINK FREE
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Ohio State @ Pitt  LINK ACCN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [7] Michigan @ [6] Utah  LINK  P12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [17] Arkansas @ [4] UCLA  LINK  P12
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [25] George Washington v. Yale (@ Boston, MA)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [14] Denver @ [16] Minnesota LINK BTN+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Winona State @ Air Force  FREE
Sunday, January 8 Scores Watch
Live Blog
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – West Virginia @ Maryland  LINK BTN+
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – UW-Eau Claire, Hamline @ Central Michigan FREE
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [5] Florida @ NC State ESPN3
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [22] Iowa, Western Michigan, Lindenwood @ Northern Illinois  LINK NIU TV
Monday, January 9 Scores Watch
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [11] Stanford, San Jose State, UC Davis, Sacramento State @ [10] Cal  LINK

Here we are. Here we be. The NCAA season. I’m commandeering these Things Are Happening posts for the NCAA weekend schedules now because…that’s what’s happening. Note that, of the top 25 teams, Nebraska, Boise State, and Washington will not be competing the first weekend, and the Northern California five don’t go until Monday.

Also be aware that older schedules had the Auburn/Oregon State meet beginning at 7:00 ET/4:00 PT, but it is now scheduled for 8:00 ET/5:00 PT. I’m interested in this one, but because of the timing, it’s going to get third-most-important-meet-right-now treatment.

If the streaming link doesn’t say “FREE,” it requires a cable log-in or a specific stream subscription depending on the meet. The ESPN3 links require only an internet log-in, so those are your best bet without cable subscriptions. For the others, try borrowing a log-in from someone you know (if you know people, which you really shouldn’t), otherwise you have my permission to stream them “illegally.” Shhh. My permission means a whole lot. If you’re not in the US, illegal streams are basically your option (unless you want to pay for the Pac-12 international subscription), so please be comfortable with the level of your ad blocker. Or the level of your wanting to know about hot Asian singles.

The schedule will continue to be updated with the remaining links as they become available. Continue reading Things Are Happening – January 5, 2017

2017 NCAA Schedule

It’s here sort of but not entirely! Ah, the NCAA special! Hurrah and hurrah!

Now that a whopping 65% of next season’s NCAA schedules have been released, we have at least some semblance of an idea of how our 2017 lives will look. Enough to put together a composite schedule that isn’t just a wasteland made of tumbleweeds.

As always, the winner of Being Good at Schedules is the University of Wisconsin system, while the loser remains the Ivy League (brought to you by A Random Times New Roman Page of Fictional Maybe-Meets).

The new fun trend, and by fun I mean terrible, is for teams to put up a schedule that includes only home meets. Oh, thank you so much for this helpful and complete information…

As with last season, the full schedule with all 82 teams will sit in the bar at the top throughout the season and will be updated as the remaining schools get their lives together. And also it’s right here.


But because that thing is a behemoth, here is a summary schedule featuring only the meets I think might be mildly interesting and whatnot. Meets between two (or more) of last year’s Super Six teams are in bold.  Continue reading 2017 NCAA Schedule

The Weekend Plans – March 11-13

The last weekend before championship season. The last weekend of only two judges. The absolute last weekend of “exploring depth.” We hope. Some teams are still “exploring depth” in May. This weekend can be interesting to watch in terms of lineups, which teams decide to use it as an opportunity to rest gymnasts versus which teams feel it’s necessary to solidify final lineups this week before the various championships begin. Most teams fall into the latter category and have been using the past couple meets to throw in some rest weeks for various elites and fragiles, but we’ll see.

For many teams that are eager to solidify lineups, this weekend becomes the final chance to try to squeeze their 90%-injured athletes into the lineup and make sure they’re good to go for the postseason. LSU will hope to get Priessman back into action on Saturday, and if she’s actually back with the good and hitting, she could be LSU’s secret weapon for a title run. If not, they’ll want know that before SECs. UCLA has also been sans about a million crucial routines in recent weeks, with Peng out, no Dejesus/Cipra/Francis on floor last week, and with the deus ex machina that’s suddenly going to make bars better somehow still waiting to appear. Um…we need you? 

Top 25 schedule 
Friday, March 11

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – North Carolina @ [2] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Iowa State @ [21] Kentucky
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Pittsburgh @ [25] West Virginia
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [15] Missouri @ Western Michigan
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arizona State @ [7] Auburn
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Utah State @ [11] Arkansas
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ [20] Arizona
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Southern Utah, San Jose State @ [12] Boise State
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [14] Cal, Sacramento State @ UC Davis
Saturday, March 12
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Big Five Meet #1: [6] Michigan, [18] Iowa, [19] Minnesota, Rutgers @ Penn State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big Five Meet #2: [16] Nebraska, [23] Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland @ Ohio State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [9] Georgia @ [5] Utah
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [3] LSU, [16] Oregon State, New Hampshire @ Texas Woman’s
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [10] Denver, Seattle Pacific @ [24] Washington
Sunday, March 13
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Kent State, Yale @ [22] George Washington
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [25] West Virginia @ Pittsburgh
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [8] UCLA
Live blogging
ALL. THREE. DAYS. It’s a bit of a weird one on Friday. We’re used to the big Friday night SEC clashes (or FRIDAY NIGHT HEIGHTS, as the cool kids call it), but this Friday sees exactly no meetings between top-25 schools. I’ll certainly keep an eye on the big guns like Florida and Auburn, but the absence of significant dual meets also means that this should be a worthwhile chance to check in on non-famous teams we need to see, like Boise State.

Things get slightly more real on Saturday with the qualifiers to Big Tens. But here’s something dumb: The first meet will be broadcast live on BTN. (Yay!) After that, instead of showing the second meet, BTN will be showing the tape-delayed Nebraska/Penn State meet from January. Yeah, uh….WTF? Anyway, I’ll keep it going through Georgia/Utah and then return on Sunday for Oklahoma/UCLA. Pac-12 coming through with the good ones this week.

In the top 10, we could see some jockeying for a place or two this week. Utah, Michigan, and Auburn in 5, 6, 7 may shuffle themselves around, and Georgia and UCLA could flip-flop depending on which team is less terrifying, but the real action happens farther down the rankings. (Georgia theoretically has a shot to pass Auburn for the evening session at SECs, but it’s not too, too likely. Auburn can clinch with a 196.950, and Georgia would need an Auburn miss and a 197 of its own to have a shot.) 

Utah and UCLA have secured spots in the big-girl session at Pac-12s, but their companions are still TBD with Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington all remaining in contention. Stanford and Cal currently inhabit those spots, but Stanford is out of action this week. Cal needs 195.675 to pass Stanford, while Oregon State needs 195.850, and Washington needs 196.350. All attainable, which means it may come down to which two sides pass Stanford by the most. Saturday evening just got interesting.

Nebraska’s performance in the Big Five will also be critical. The Huskers are currently in 16th but have a 195.350 road score to drop and could move as high as 11th with a big result, which would drastically change the regional picture.

We’ll know more about what teams need to do to make the top 12/18 after this week because there are still a ton of different scenarios at this point, but farther down the rankings, Bowling Green is developing into a story. Bowling Green currently sits in 38th, .050 out of the regional spots, but with a meet on Thursday and another on Saturday, a serious chance to move up with some mid-195s jas suddenly presented itself. Bowling Green hasn’t made regionals since…quarter past ever? 


-Florida will cruise to victory on Friday, and with the lineups looking relatively finalized now that McMurtry is in on floor, the three topics to watch in this one will be landing progress (can’t win SECs bouncing back on vaults), beam consistency after weeks of rather unexpected discomfort and falls, and how many 199.975s they’re going to get with Sloan, Caquatto, BDG enjoying senior night. 

Unfortunately for UNC, the team sits all the way down in 57th right now, which is quite disappointing for a school that used to be regularly expected to make regionals. They won’t be able to take advantage of any big Florida road score to zoom up the rankings.

-A couple seasons ago, I remember noting that Kentucky’s scoring at home was much tighter than in most of the SEC for whatever reason. Shannon Mitchell would always nail beam routines and get 9.725. That has not been the case this season, with the 196s flying for both home and road teams in Kentucky. Kentucky is probably too far back from the top 18 for that to make a difference at this point, but Iowa State currently sits on 36th and would certainly take any and all available magic.

Sydney Waltz missed much of the season and has been limited since she returned, so my hopes were not high for Kentucky this season, but the freshman trio of Hyland, Dukes and Stuart have been nationally competitive and will challenge for individual spots in Fort Worth. It’s sort of reminiscent of what Miller, Harris, and Schugel did for Missouri last year and have continued to do this year, with the help of a million more essential freshmen like Porter and Ward.

-Auburn has transformed back into a 197 machine over the past month, and there’s no reason to expect that to change on Friday during the Caitlin Atkinson farewell tour costarring Demers and Kluz. Does Atkinson get her 10? This meet won’t be up for debate, but it will be fascinating nonetheless because Auburn is going up against Hot Mess State in the aftermath of VIP Cocktail Waitress getting thrown out on her stilettos. So I kind of can’t wait for that. 


-Big Five meets. The Big 10 conference has 14 schools in it. If you’re new to the NCAA, welcome. You’ll want a therapy dog. Of those 14 schools, 10 have gymnastics programs, which makes it difficult to conduct a conference championship in a way that isn’t terrible. As such, the championship takes place in two sessions, an afternoon session of 4 teams and an evening session of 6 teams. Rather than using the rankings, qualification to the evening session is determined by two Big Five qualifying meets. Because why the hell not? The top three finishers in each meet advance to the championship’s evening session, while the bottom two are relegated to the afternoon session. That’s a long way of saying…that’s why these are meets. 

-The first meets end up the more challenging one, featuring three of the top four teams in the conference now that Illinois decided to have a terrible season for unexplained reasons. Michigan should still clomp to victory, but the lack of Briley Casanova is becoming increasingly troublesome. She’s out with a back issue, but it didn’t sound at first like it was something particularly dramatic or serious or season/career-ending. Now, she has missed seven meets in a row, and if she’s not able to return for the postseason, Michigan drops a solid couple tenths of scoring potential by having to use backups who are not at her level. That could be the difference. Also, beam. Watch beam. Always beam.

Penn State does have some talented gymnasts in spite of everything and may be able to pull something out at home, but the race for the second spot really should be a showdown between two quite equivalent teams in Minnesota and Iowa. Minnesota has a level of star power in Lindsay Mable that Iowa does not, so if Mable is having one of her good days and not one of her bars-fall days, that may give Minnesota the edge, though Iowa has been a touch more consistent in its 9.8ishness this season. I don’t think a lot of people have seen Iowa yet this year or what makes this season different from the others, so a big performance here could make this a “pay attention to our program now!” meet.

-In the second meet, Nebraska’s urgency for a big score will be a story, but the returns of Laeng and Orel are cause for optimism. At least in terms of having enough routines to do a meet. You know, little things. If Laeng, Blanske, and Williams are all firing, this should be a romp. Illinois has the talent and capability to challenge Nebraska (in fact, I had Illinois ahead of Nebraska in my preseason rankings because of the likes of O’Connor, Kato, Horth, and LeDuc), but just as the team seemed to be getting it together finally, Horth has disappeared mysteriously in the last couple meets, exactly what the team couldn’t afford.

There will also be some interesting ranking-watch action further down the score sheet, if that’s your kind of thing. Michigan State currently sits in 34th and Maryland in 39th. Maryland is the lowest-ranked team still in reasonable contention to make regionals, and with a couple 194s still to drop, a solid mid-195 could go a long way toward catching the schools ranked above, like say, Michigan State. Both teams are in precarious positions for the top 36 and will be rooting for both a high score for themselves and a low score for the other school to make qualification a bit more secure.

-Georgia to Utah! The first meet of the weekend that should truly be competitive without the help of an implosion. This dual meet is usually very close, decided by a tenth or two in favor of the home team (you know how that tends to works out…). It’s always a little crazy and always full of a little fanciness and crack, so I’m there with all the bells on. Who can forget the famous 2008 clash when Kupets fell on beam because everyone doubted her and the name The Balance Beam Situation was born?

I anticipate a pretty even showdown. Georgia is the better vault team, with more difficulty and more 9.9 potential, and while beam wouldn’t necessarily be considered a strength for either team, Utah has obviously been much more reliable and safe and should expect an edge there. Any prognostication of a Georgia meet must begin with “if Georgia hits beam…” because otherwise we can stop right here. If Georgia’s hits beam, this should be a real competition, one that is more important for Georgia than it is for Utah because of Georgia’s need to recover from this year of falls and quest to make the good session at SECs.

If we also give Utah the floor edge because of home floor (the teams have proven fairly equivalent in floor scoring this year, with Georgia relying on a couple erratic routines that are more likely to suffer OOBs but also going bigger in the tumbling), then bars becomes the critical event for Georgia. The Gymdogs boast the highest potential scores from Jay and Rogers at the end, but Utah’s lineup is probably more complete and less likely to have a weird landing error for a 9.7. Which team has the advantage there will be decided by whether Jay and Rogers bring their good ones. Georgia must take the lead early, and honestly with Georgia going to beam and Utah going to floor in the final rotation, Georgia would basically need a full point lead after three events, otherwise Utah is the favorite. 

-But that’s not all! LSU heads to Texas (Singular) Woman’s University, where the one woman receives an education, for a quad meet. But aside from Priessman Watch 2016: Storm of the Century, Oregon State’s quest to save a reasonable ranking may be the most interesting aspect of this one. The Beavs have had periodic moments of excellent this season, especially lately, usually stemming from Kaytianna McMillan doing Kaytianna McMillan on bars, so we know the necessary 196 is more than attainable. Vault, however, will be worth watching since the Beavs basically have an entire lineup of 9.750-9.800s, which has put them 22nd in the country and will render them quite vulnerable in a regionals context. Squeezing every possible half tenth out of the landings is all the more important for OSU.

-Washington is coming around on the outside on the final turn and is suddenly having the best Husky season for quite a while. That meet isn’t just about “Is Denver for real?” things because Washington might just be for real too. 


-Step Up 5: The Chalk. This year’s dance battle with a gymnastics meet around it will see Oklahoma come in as a strong favorite while UCLA will be hoping for either an Oklahoma error or 49.8s on beam and floor. It could happen. Otherwise, UCLA does not have the vault and bars work this season to challenge a team like Oklahoma, but if somehow it’s close at the halfway point, anything is possible. Primarily, this will be a choreography-off. That’s what you’re tuning in for. Be honest. Oklahoma will be futilely scratching to get in on the game of viral routines that seems to be happening at UCLA on a weekly basis now but will end up just having to hug themselves to sleep with another 197.9 instead.

Also, Chayse Capps/Danusia Francis battle of the beam 10s. Yes, please.

UCLA has been dropping down the rankings over the last couple weeks and is in mild danger of falling into a more fraught regional if the scores don’t pick back up into the 197s. Even if the lineup doesn’t regain some of its structure, 197 should be the minimum expectation for this meet. The Bruins really have no business giving us another 196, but some lineup reconstruction surgery would certainly go along way toward helping and boosting Super Six hopes. 

The Weekend Plans – March 4-6

Two weeks of normal competition until the conference championships. Two. The ranking and RQS situations are currently urgent, verging on EEEEEE, for more than a few teams. Plus, we have the elite world barging in this weekend. If you plan on doing things this weekend that aren’t watching gymnastics while making vaguely snarky yet harmless observations, we’re not friends.

Top 25 schedule

Friday, March 4
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [2] Florida @ [23] Kentucky
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [6] Utah @ [5] Michigan
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [8] Auburn @ [10] Georgia
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – NC State @ [21] George Washington
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [24] Eastern Michigan @ Kent State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Nastia Liukin Nastiathon for the Nastia Cup
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [17] Iowa @ Iowa State
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [18] Arizona @ [1] Oklahoma
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [9] Arkansas @ [14] Missouri
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [3] Alabama @ [4] LSU
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [19] Minnesota, Air Force @ [13] Denver
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Ball State, Seattle Pacific @ [20] Oregon State
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Southern Utah, Michigan State, Lindenwood @ [12] Cal
Saturday, March 5
11:30 ET/8:30 PT – AT&T Cupful of Americans 
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Northern Illinois, Illinois State, Illinois-Chicago @ [22] Illinois
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Like a Men’s Thing? With John Orozco? 
Sunday, March 6
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Ohio State, Bowling Green @ [25] West Virginia
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [21] George Washington, Pittsburgh, Texas Woman’s, Yale @ Maryland
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [10] Georgia, [16] Stanford @ [7] UCLA
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Utah State @ [15] Nebraska
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [13] Denver, [19] Minnesota @ Air Force
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Michigan State @ [11] Boise State
Live blogging
Whew. We’ve got a Friday in front of us during which every little thing on Earth will happen. All the top 10 teams except UCLA (always gotta be different…) have overlapping meets on Friday, which is either exciting or really poorly planned. Get all 20 of your screens ready. That doesn’t even count Nastia’s Athletic Cup, which I probably won’t blog since so much NCAA action will be happening simultaneously, but I’m sure others will be all up in that business. Pink things. I already blogged it. I usually end up watching it in about October, when all the competitors are starting NCAA and I need to remember who they are. 

Utah/Michigan will be broadcast on tape delay on BTN, four hours after the actual meet, which normally would be annoying but in this case may be some built-in prioritization and scheduling. This weekend is a women’s basketball whatever, so there will be far fewer live TV meets than usual. It’s an internet weekend. Or as I call it, a weekend. 

The big deal on Saturday is American Cup. I’ll be tweeting. Obviously. Then back to blogging on Sunday for the Georgia/Stanford/UCLA threeway.

We have a theoretical chance for movement at the top of the rankings, but just theoretical. Florida would need to score a 198.175 away at Kentucky AND Oklahoma would need to score 197.475 or lower at home against Arizona for Florida to take over the top ranking spot. Both teams are safe at 1-2 even if they do end up flip-flopping.

We could see some spot exchanges as we go down the top 10, with Utah and Michigan meeting on Friday with the higher ranking on the line and Auburn preparing to drop a fairly low road score and looking to leapfrog UCLA. #10 Georgia has the most to gain/lose this weekend with two meets, the Sunday meet away at UCLA being significantly more important. Georgia is still counting a 195.675 road score right now, and with even just a normal meet and a hit beam in both of the weekend’s endeavors, the Gymdogs will expect to zoom up, potentially as high as 7th, though a lot would need to go their way with the other teams for that actually to happen.

That UCLA Sunday meet is the most critical ranking meet of the weekend since it will also determine Stanford’s ceiling and decide whether the Cardinal are in the running for a #2 regionals seed. With a mid-196, Stanford is right in it, but with another 195, it will be exceedingly unlikely if not impossible.

Eyes on Denver as well, coming off that 197.5 and with two meets this weekend, one at home and one at almost-home against Air Force. I would honestly not be bowled over to see Denver knocking into the top 10 at the end of the weekend if Arkansas and Georgia don’t perform. 

Iowa is also looking to drop a 194.900 this weekend in a big rivalry meet against Iowa State and could move as high as #12 if things fall just right. Fall being the operative word.
Florida heads to Kentucky and Oklahoma hosts Arizona on Friday, and neither meet should be a mystery as to the result. The interesting thing will be the race for scores and watching the two teams comparatively as we start to anticipate the inevitable postseason battle.

More interesting will be Utah/Michigan, Auburn/Georgia, and Alabama/LSU. For Michigan and Utah, there’s not a ton to differentiate the teams and no event where either looks like blowing the opposition away. Michigan probably gets the edge, primarily because of higher scoring potential on vault and beam, and bigger floor tumbling that will also enjoy the benefit of being at home. Michigan has a tad more difficulty on vault and the Karas 1.5 that can score a 9.950, which Utah hasn’t done for any vault this year. Similarly, we’ve seen beam routines from Chiarelli, Artz, or Marinez get occasionally huge numbers, while Utah has Stover to match that but otherwise will probably get stuck in the 9.850s.

On the other hand, Michigan has looked uncomfortable on beam the last couple weeks, so taking advantage of that edge is not remotely a given. Utah’s path to victory would be built on stuck landings. It’s something that Utah is usually known for, especially on bars (which could make that an asset event for the Utes in this meet), and is something that will need to start developing now that it’s March. If Utah can stick more on vault and take the difficulty edge away from Michigan, it becomes much easier to see the Utes winning.

Auburn heads to Georgia as part of Battle Evening Session as the knock-down, drag-out fight to get into the big-girl session at SECs steers toward a conclusion. That’s part of why the meet is more important for Georgia. It’s also important symbolically for the Gymdogs because they should be better. You put those two rosters next to each other, and you’d pick Georgia’s to be ranked higher any day. Now, the fact that it isn’t can be attributed almost entirely to beam, but note that Auburn is also ranked higher on floor and very close to Georgia on bars. Beyond beam, Georgia needs to take advantage of more difficulty and quality on vault to build up a lead, while Auburn needs to stick the crap out of those fabulous bars DLOs to close that small gap with Georgia and mitigate the possible 9.9s coming from Rogers and Jay.

But for Auburn, so much is about Atkinson. She went 39.6 in two of the last three meets, and Auburn won both of those meets (against Alabama and Missouri), recording the team’s two highest scores of the season. Look how that happened.

Alabama/LSU is the highest profile of the three meets featuring two top-four teams and will be a grind. We all know winning meets at LSU is a challenge, but this meet is critical for Alabama from a psychological perspective if not as much from an RQS perspective. Alabama has been excellent this year, but also kind of…uh…losing. Losses to Florida, UCLA, Auburn, and Arkansas have sullied the season and sullied the record for a team that really shouldn’t be losing four times in a season regardless of the strength of the opposition. This is Alabama’s final meet before SECs, and five losses (four in conference) would not be the most auspicious note on which to head out.

LSU’s ceiling has been higher this season, with a 197.9 and a 197.8, while Alabama has peaked at the 197.5s. That, coupled with competing at home, is enough to make LSU the favorite in spite of the lower ranking. Still, there’s little to choose from between these teams. They’re both potentially phenomenal on beam, and they both have more than enough 9.9s in them on floor. Although, Alabama’s floor is the lineup to watch in this meet because it needs to settle down. To have a shot at keeping relative pace with LSU, Alabama needs to dispense with the depth exploration and bring out all the big guns, which right now are Beers, Winston, Jetter, and hopefully Carley Sims, though only if she’s BACK back, which she wasn’t in her return last week. Beyond them…I don’t even know at this point but the team has way too many big tumblers to accept 9.825s on floor.

We’ll know a lot after the beginning of the meet because while both teams have difficult vaults, LSU’s landings have been more consistent and better scoring, while Alabama’s sudden ability on bars to 9.975 you to death with concentrated Kiana Winston has turned that into a seriously important event. Which one comes through?

I’ve talked about the ranking picture for what will inevitably be known as the UCLA/Georgia/Stanford incident, but there’s also the matter of…who’s even going to win this meet? In sentences you don’t normally hear, UCLA has been the most consistent this year. At home, this is the Bruins’ to lose and would be a crucial milestone in a season that has been fine and solid but not memorable or overwhelming as yet. At this point, I think we can expect UCLA to win beam and floor, especially if Francis and Cipra are back after their little rests last week. The question for the Bruins will be how vault and bars stack up against a Georgia team that has much more difficulty and quality on vault and a Stanford team that has the highest-quality bars work of the three teams. UCLA can pick up a bunch of tenths in the second half of the meet, but UCLA is clearly the weakest on bars. If we’re seeing 48s on vault and bars again, that leaves the door open for Georgia and, more importantly, is not remotely OK for March regardless of how it stacks up against the others in this particular meet. 

Stanford has struggled enough on floor this year that it’s hard to see a victory without relying on both of the other two counting falls (a very real prospect), but Georgia’s peak score is actually higher than UCLA’s this year, so if beam does come together, you never know.  

The Weekend Plans – February 26-29

Before we get into the schedule and weekend preview, a few notes on the development of the week, Jess’s fantabulous interview with McKayla Maroney and a metric ton of pillows in which Maroney announced her don’t-call-it-a-retirement, which she will be expressing by retiring. In case you’ve been living under a rock on Pluto, here it is.

Obviously, I’m obsessed with it. The biggest news here is her discussion of AOGC and Artur and Galina, and I love that she had the giant steel ovaries to say exactly what was wrong about their treatment of her and exactly what is wrong about the treatment of the livestock athletes through the camps and tours. Not being allowed to smile or look at people? Horrible. All the athletes feeling afraid to eat at the ranch? Horrible. Not having her injuries taken seriously? Horrible. We have a tendency to gloss over terrible treatment of gymnasts with a “the kind of stuff that happened in the 80s and 90s” nonchalance, but clearly it’s still happening. Your move, USAG.

But also, getting in trouble for doing Yurchenko double backs at the ranch? Awesome.

Top 25 schedule

Friday, February 26
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [23] West Virginia, Penn State, Temple, West Chester, S. Connecticut (@ Philadelphia, PA)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [7] LSU @ [2] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [20] George Washington, NC State, William & Mary @ Towson
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [4] Michigan @ [1] Oklahoma
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [16] Missouri @ [8] Auburn
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [22] Kentucky @ [9] Arkansas
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Iowa State @ [24] Illinois
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [10] Georgia @ [3] Alabama
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [11] Boise State @ Utah State
Saturday, February 27
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [5] Utah @ [14] Cal
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Arizona State @ [6] UCLA
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [21] Eastern Michigan, Pittsburgh @ Ohio State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Winona State, Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline @ [19] Minnesota
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Washington @ [25] Arizona
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Sacramento State, Bridgeport, Northern Illinois @ [14] Nebraska
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [18] Iowa, SEMO, Illinois-Chicago @ [13] Denver 
Sunday, February 28
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Maryland, Towson @ [20] George Washington
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [24] Illinois @ Lindenwood 
Monday, February 29
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [12] Stanford @ [17] Oregon State
Live blogging
Friday is one of the biggest days of the regular season, perhaps the biggest, featuring three significant top-10 match-ups, so I’ll be all over it. Then, on Saturday, we have some simultaneous Pac-12 action. (Planning…) Utah/Cal is on the main Pac-12 Network and UCLA/ASU is just on the regional LA version of the network. I’ll be watching both simultaneously and commenting back and forth as usual, but let me know in the comments if you guys have a preference as to which one I focus on with the live blogging. 
Expect things at the very top to remain steady this week with many of the top teams competing at home and unable to drop their nasty road scores. Oklahoma at #1, Florida at #2, and Alabama at #3 are all guaranteed to retain those positions after this weekend. Beyond that, things get a little interesting with the next four teams, Michigan, Utah, UCLA, and LSU, who are capable of ending the weekend in really any order. With those 196.9s, Michigan has been safe at the top since the season began, but now the Wolverines are a little vulnerable to all other teams that are matching their couple mid-197s and high 196s. Pay particular attention to LSU in 7th. With a 195.825 road score to drop on this visit to Florida, the Tigers look very likely to zoom way up.

While those four may change order, the current top 7 are guaranteed to remain the top 7 for another week. Georgia has a road 195.350 to drop and can close the gap significantly, and do so even with another 4/6 beam rotation, but getting this Georgia team ranked where it should be is going to be a multi-week process. Still, with even just a 196.100, Georgia would be guaranteed to jump ahead of Arkansas for 9th.

Stanford doesn’t compete until Monday night, so it’s quite possible in the new rankings that we could see the Cardinal dropped by the likes of Denver, Nebraska, and Cal, making Monday’s meet for Stanford all the more important to avoid a yucky ranking. There’s no more margin for error. One more bad meet, and Stanford is counting a 195 for RQS. The score on Monday is similarly critical for Oregon State, the #17 team that could theoretically move as high as #12 and pass Stanford if everything falls just right.

Big fat showdown #1: LSU @ Florida
LSU will be itching for the upset here, and while Florida is ranked significantly higher at present, there’s not all that much between the teams. Florida is the pick because of the nature of scoring in Florida and the way we all know floor is going to go, but Florida Scoring is usually a boon for both teams and one that LSU can take advantage of as well, at least to some degree. Regardless of the result, this is a massive opportunity for a road score that LSU cannot let slide.

These teams are pretty evenly matched in many categories. Slight edges here and there. Vault probably goes to Florida very slightly for having the big four of Sloan, Boren, Baker, and McMurtry, even though Gnat’s DTY is the most likely to go 9.950+. Similarly on floor, LSU has the more difficult and complete lineup especially with the return of Savona, but we can expect that to be mitigated by home-floor advantage. 

Florida’s real path to victory goes through bars. It’s the one event where Florida has a clear edge and is categorically stronger than LSU, with potential 9.950s from Sloan, Caquatto, and…McMurtry…that LSU can really only match by Finnegan having one of her great ones. Florida can realistically gain multiple tenths because of bars, which would be decisive in an even battle like this. The closer LSU keeps it on bars, the better things will look for the Tigers because they’re at least in with a shot of showing stronger routines on the other three.

Big fat showdown #2: Michigan @ Oklahoma
This is an important meet for Michigan. The Wolverines have faced a couple strong teams this year, but the January meet against Georgia was one of Georgia’s meltdowns, so it’s not a tremendous indicator. This will be Michigan’s first match-up with a team that actually looks Super Sixy, and while Oklahoma should win, this is an opportunity for Michigan to restore consumer confidence in that beam rotation and prove that there isn’t a significant quality gap between them and the #1 team. That would go a long way toward making Michigan a more comfortable Super Six pick rather than a borderliner/possible repeat of last season.

With a hit meet, Michigan is certainly capable of taking advantage of any Oklahoma error and changing the script, but Oklahoma has an increased level of precision across pretty much all the events (ranked #1 on every single piece) marked so far by crisper split elements and landings. Michigan will be looking at perhaps floor difficulty and amplitude as a place to show an advantage, but the meet is primarily in Oklahoma’s hands.

Big fat showdown #3: Georgia @ Alabama
Ah, the original showdown. It’s not the same as it used to be, when it was the SARAH AND SUZANNE RUMBLE instead of the How Many Ns Are In Dana Cup, but this should still be an entertaining and worthwhile clash. Of course, it’s hard to make any prognostication beyond Georgia beam because of Georgia beam. The Gymdogs had a relapse last weekend and absolutely must get back on the wagon. Away against Alabama is not exactly the easiest place to do that. I’m interested to see what happens with Georgia’s lineup this time, particularly with Babalis. She has competed in every meet but has reached 9.8 just twice in eight attempts, which normally would be cause to pull someone from the lineup, but the available replacements like Schick and Cherrey haven’t been better. Is the current six just the six, sink or swim, or is it still worth mixing and matching to see if there’s something better.

If Georgia does hit beam, we’ve got ourselves a serious meet. In total across the other three events, Georgia trails Alabama by just .037 on season average and not all that much more on RQS. There hasn’t been much to differentiate between them on the other pieces. They have equivalent difficulty on vault, though Jay has been the most reliable 9.900+ on either team this year, while Alabama proved at last week’s meet that any bars discrepancy may be fading, especially if Winston and Brannan keep pulling out 9.975s. On floor, Alabama should be stronger with more and bigger options (and at home), but a tendency to get stuck in the 9.850s has blunted some of that advantage in multiple meets this year. So in all, even if Georgia actually hits beam, it may still come down to beam as the biggest method of differentiation between the two sides. If Alabama actually gets the 9.9s that workers like Sims, Winston, and Guerrero are more than capable of, even a hit from Georgia may not be enough.

The Pac-12 takes over on Saturday, and while the result of UCLA/Arizona State is not in doubt, there are still a couple interesting things to watch there. Bizarrely, Arizona State has managed the feat of looking better than last year while doing worse. At this point last season, ASU had three 194s and a 195. This year, it’s two 194s. It’s always something, usually involving counting an 8 on bars. I’m not convinced this is a regionals team yet, but Dr. Rene Lyst’s squad is better than #46.

UCLA is still ranked #6 and still doing fine, but last week’s absence of not only the broken-sternum twins, Ohashi and Mossett, but also Peng and some of Meraz made the team the team pretty flat and threadbare, especially on the events that were already issues, vault and bars. The remaining stars got the essential 9.9s to save the score, but the lack of Ohashi beginning to wear. She’s supposed to be on the way back and is a possibility for this weekend, and none too soon. This team is already without Toronjo this year and absorbing a limited Peng and would absolutely not be able to withstand missing Ohashi when things start to matter.

The Utes head to Cal this weekend somewhat reeling themselves with Delaney out and Partyka limited. That’s going to put some serious pressure on the vault and beam lineups in particular where yet more backups will be expected to nail routines. It’s not going to be a postseason-lineup Utah, but it’s still a Utah capable of a useful score at a point when low 197s are becoming the norm. It’s time to break out for a higher number, and that should still be the mission even with a somewhat depleted group. On the other side, which Cal shows up, Good Cal or Bad Cal? Toni-Ann 9.950 on floor Cal, or What’s A Beam Cal? The showing last week against Oregon State was flat, sloppy, and did not reflect the team of high 196s that entered that arena. Like Michigan and Georgia, Cal is under a microscope after those mistakes to see whether this next showing can become a recovery meet.

The Weekend Plans – February 19-22

We’ve already hit the point in the season when teams begin having senior night/day. What is happening? This weekend marks the final home meet for Stanford and Iowa, among others.

Top 25 schedule

Friday, February 19
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Western Michigan @ [21] Eastern Michigan 
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [2] Florida @ [19] Missouri
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Illinois @ Michigan State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – New Hampshire, North Carolina, William & Mary @ [17] George Washington
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [11] Arkansas @ Maryland
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [18] Minnesota, Air Force @ Iowa State
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [8] Auburn @ [6] LSU
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [3] Michigan, UC Davis @ [23] Southern Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Ohio State @ [9] Boise State
Saturday, February 20
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [10] Georgia
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [4] Alabama, [13] Denver, Cornell @ Penn State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [5] Utah @ [12] Stanford
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [15] Cal @ [16] Oregon State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Towson @ [24] Iowa
Sunday, February 21 
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [22] Kentucky @ West Virginia
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [14] Nebraska, NC State, UW-La Crosse @ Iowa State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [7] UCLA @ Washington

Monday, February 22
9:00 ET/6:00 PT –[20] Arizona @ Arizona State

Live blogging
Friday and Saturday, as is becoming the norm. Friday’s headline meet is Auburn and LSU, but Michigan and Florida will be worth keeping an eye on as well. Once again, Saturday totally beats Friday, with a whole heap of overlapping afternoon meets. It’ll be another Gymnastics Situation Room kind of day, so prepare your eyes, devices, and attention spans.

We move onto RQS Island starting on Monday, which means we’ll have a more defined sense of exactly what teams need in order to move up now. Oklahoma is guaranteed to retain the #1 ranking for at least another week. Alabama and Florida are neck-and-neck for the #2 spot right now with both teams heading out for what should be comfortable road wins. A slight advantage goes to Florida because the Gators have a 196.350 to get rid of while Alabama is trying to drop a 196.775. Florida is more likely to increase RQS even with an average result. 

Michigan is almost surely safe at #4, with only UCLA having an outside chance to overtake (though it would take a season-high for UCLA and a season-low for Michigan to get it done). UCLA is currently at #7 but has a 195.175 road score to drop this weekend and with a big result, can leapfrog both #5 Utah and #6 LSU regardless of what either team does.

Stanford and Georgia are two other teams with high increase potential, with Georgia looking to drop a 195.700 and Stanford looking to drop that nasty wretch of a 194.800. Also, don’t lose track of Iowa. Iowa is currently at #24, but with a fifth consecutive 196, it would not be surprising to see Iowa jump right up into the mid teens.

-Most of the results on Friday seem relatively predestined, except perhaps for Auburn and LSU, the annual instance of Tiger on Tiger crime. Auburn is coming off that huge upset of Alabama and, more importantly, a return to the type of scores we saw last season. Winning away against LSU, however, is more challenging prospect. LSU is the stronger team overall and so tough to beat at home, but LSU has managed a 197 just once so far this season, not displaying enough consistency yet to earn the mantle of prohibitive favorites. LSU didn’t count a fall last weekend but still came in below Auburn’s mark by half a point because of way too many minor errors across every event. 

Until last weekend, vault would have seemed a major advantage for LSU, and while LSU still should have the edge primarily because of the Gnat Factor, Auburn can keep the meet close early, or event get a lead, if the vault landings are similar to last week. The halfway lead may be possible because bars, particularly dismount control on bars, is one area where Auburn has looked stronger than LSU. It’s necessary because once we get to the second half of the meet, LSU has more 9.9 potential on beam, meaning that if LSU actually hits real routines (hasn’t always happened/hasn’t usually happened), Auburn will drop tenths in spite of Demers/Atkinson greatness. Those tenths will be tough to make up against LSU on home floor.

-Florida’s mission this weekend is a big road score, which has so far eluded the team. This Gator roster is far too capable to be maxing out at a low 197 on the road, even in February. Last weekend’s result was perfectly solid, but a little misleading in the vault and floor scores because essential routines from Sloan and Baker were missing, which made those rotations look a little more flaccid than they are. Yes, I used the word flaccid. Florida doesn’t have enough depth on vault and floor to rest people and still maintain Florida-esque scoring potential, but with full lineups, this team should be able to do mid-197s regardless of venue. We do still need to be on floor watch/Bridgey watch, though.

-Another up-for-grabs result should be New Hampshire (and company)’s visit to George Washington. Both teams have scored 196 this year. Both teams have scored 194 this year. George Washington is more consistent and less likely to throw up a stinker on vault and floor, which primarily accounts for the difference in ranking as New Hampshire has the ability to score quite well on bars and beam while counting 9.1s on vault and floor. I’ll be keeping an eye on those scores.

-Did you guys hear that Georgia’s, like, good now? Starting recently. That should make Saturday’s showcase meet against Oklahoma a much more interesting prospect. If Georgia is able to continue getting home mid-197s, Oklahoma will actually have to pay attention and try this time. Oklahoma probably has the edge on each event, but Georgia shows a touch more difficulty on vault, which could be an advantage if the landings are there. Keep that Brittany Rogers DTY. I think she proved last week that it’s comfortable enough to be worth it. In general, Georgia will be aiming to replicate last week’s performance and wait for Oklahoma to suddenly have more errors than we’ve seen in this recent run of 197.9s. Both teams are pretty exciting to watch (sometimes even for good reasons), and I’m eager to see their routines back-to-back.

Oklahoma has not been completely impervious this season. We’ve seen some strange things, like the unexpected regression of Kara Lovan, who is currently not making any lineups and falling all over the place. My fantasy gym team is not happy about it. The Sooners have enough depth to afford that, but Lovan got two 9.900s in Super Six last year, and those are 9.900s the team would have been counting on this year. There are plenty of 9.850s waiting to take those spots, but that’s still a .050 loss that could be significant later on.

-Utah goes to Stanford in a meet that is much, much more important for the Cardinal than the Utes. Utah could certainly use a big road score right about now, but there’s time. This is Stanford’s final home meet and one of just four remaining regular-season competitions, all of which need to be at least mid-196 if Stanford is going to feel comfortable staying in the top 12. It’s still sort of early for Stanford, but it’s starting to become crunch time when the real routines need to show up, instead of just being Ebee and the 9.750s.

-Cal has starting pouring on the scores like no one’s business over the last two weeks, so this will be a delectable showdown against Oregon State to see if the balance of power really is shifting in the Pac-12. Ever since Utah joined the conference, it has been the A Team: UCLA, Utah, Stanford, and Oregon State, and the B Team: Cal, Arizona, Washington, and Arizona State. Cal has been knocking on the door for a few seasons and had that great showing a couple years ago when hosting Pac-12s, but is this the year the power dynamic truly switches and a new top four is born?

-Team Broken Sternum visits Washington on Sunday in search of a witch doctor who can bring Katelyn Ohashi back to life and show us what this team is truly capable of. And also a much-needed road score, what with this being the team’s final road meet before Pac-12s. If Peng doesn’t hit beam…
…we won’t do anything. She’s Peng.

Also, this is a thing that happened in real life.

“The Hip Hop Gymnast” was on Ellen. Please note that she will be known as “the Hip Hop Gymnast” in all future live blogs. Sonya Meraz is becoming a household name…

The Weekend Plans – February 12-15

Saturday night meets? What, do they think we all have no lives? Oh wait, that is correct.

Top 25 schedule

Friday, February 12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [9] Arkansas @ [2] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [15] Missouri @ [25] Kentucky
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Perfect 10 Challenge – [1] Oklahoma, [12] Denver, [17] George Washington, Utah State
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [4] Alabama @ [8] Auburn
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – BYU, Sacramento State @ [21] Southern Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [18] Minnesota @ [14] Nebraska
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [10] Boise State @ San Jose State
Saturday, February 13
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [5] LSU @ [11] Georgia
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Penn State @ [23] Ohio State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Iowa @ [20] Illinois
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Southern Connecticut @ [22] New Hampshire
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Washington @ [6] Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [13] Stanford @ Arizona
11:00 ET/8:00 PT – [16] Oregon State @ [7] UCLA
Sunday, February 14
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – [25] Kentucky, Lindenwood, Kent State @ Ball State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Michigan State @ [3] Michigan
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [24] West Virginia @ [4] Alabama

Monday, February 15
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [19] Cal @ Arizona State

Live blogging
Friday as usual, probably with special attention to the Perfect 10 Challenge since I’ve seen so much of the SEC this year and less of Denver and GW. Saturday is also sort of making Friday look like an idiot this week, so I’ll be all over that with LSU/Georgia and then again later for the glut of Pac-12 action. It’ll get crazy. Sit back and let the insanity wash over you like a fine breeze or the knowledge of your own insignificance.

-The most competitive meets on Friday will probably end up being Missouri/Kentucky and Minnesota/Nebraska. The higher-ranked team will be favored in both, but upset potential exists. I’m particularly curious to see how Missouri fares away from home after that unexpectedly huge score last weekend. The next away meet is always the best test of how realistic home scores are.

-Among the big girls, Alabama against Auburn is the showcase on Friday. Apparently, this is kind of a rivalry or something, but in spite of meeting three times last season and this already being the second meeting of 2016, Auburn is still yet to record a victory against Alabama since turning good. At home and coming off a season-high, this is the best chance they’ll have. That said, Alabama should win the meet and is the better team on every event, but that doesn’t mean it will be a blowout. The Tide has displayed inconsistency this season, and while there haven’t been any implosions since the loss to Arkansas, counting medium mistakes or weak landings has become commonplace, including on two of the four events in the last meet. Relying on those mistakes will be Auburn’s hope.

Alabama has two meets this weekend, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect to get any answers about postseason lineups quite yet. Dana has been jumbling people all over the place and will likely do the same this time in order to keep everyone relatively rested and avoid over-pressing the fragile ones. I would bet on more depth exploration for the time being.

We should also be on Beers Watch 2016, not just because it’s important to start drinking during beam but because even though Lauren Beers has competed a remarkable amount for someone who spent the preseason in several pieces in a shoebox, she has been very up-and-down, occasionally starting to look like herself and then immediately falling a bunch of times. How much will they push her in a double-meet weekend, and will we see GoodBeers or DarthBeers?

-Nadia and Bart’s Perfect 10 Challenge (get it, because Nadia got a 10?) is Oklahoma’s home-away-from-home competition, basically a home meet that counts as an away score, though the meet hasn’t necessarily exhibited silly home scoring in the past so it essentially is an away meet. The Sooners looked serious last weekend, so I’m not worried about them. I’m more interested in the other teams competing for second place. Both Denver and George Washington have had their share of impressive scores this season, but those scores have not been achieved against major opposition in a higher-profile setting, so this is an excellent opportunity to evaluate how 9.875y those routines really look directly compared to an Oklahoma.

This is also a podium meet, which is always valuable experience, but for teams like Denver and GW that don’t go to nationals or a conference championship on podium, this is an even rarer and newer experience that may show up in the performances.

I’m mostly worried about what Kathy is going to do without Bart on Friday. It’ll be like that thing where you’re holding one half of an enchanted locket but can’t find the other half.

-Florida is also in action on Friday at the usual time, in need of a comeback meet after a burned-up mess on the last two events at Georgia. The Gators are at home, so the potential for a memory-wiping 198 is high. I’m not that worried about beam, even though they counted a fall last weekend, but floor is becoming more and more fascinating by the week. How can a lineup that has three legitimate 9.950s and is 4th in the country be such a worry? Viability hinges on Bridgey. Grab your spellbooks and pentagrams.

-Saturday’s early session is headlined by the LSU/Georgia showdown. Georgia enters the meet in an odd narrative position because beam is not getting any better and was a river of salty tears again last weekend, and yet, they beat Florida. Does that give the team a boost of confidence to remember that I may or may not have described this as a top-5 beam roster in my preseason preview? Or is the epidemic even worse than we possibly feared?

LSU has had its own beam problems, sprinkled with a garnish of bars problems (can you tell I just finished watching Top Chef?), but last week’s meet was by far the team’s most refined, confident, and complete meet across four whole events, with just Sarah Finnegan going breaking our hearts on bars. It was LSU’s first meet without counting a fall in a month, which is both slightly horrifying and ultimately encouraging. Just like NCAA gymnastics.

The Tigers should take this one, even on the road, but if both teams actually hit, this will be a closely run affair. LSU gets the edge on vault. Georgia is a very strong vault team with superior difficulty and ideally would be competitive with LSU, but the landings the last couple meets have not inspired that level of confidence. There is a rumbling that we may get BATTLE DTY at this meet if Brittany Rogers decides to throw hers to match up against Ashleigh Gnat’s, which should be pretty fun. But the most important thing is that Gymdogs other than Brandie Jay show up with their landing pants on this time.

Georgia needs to be ahead at the halfway mark because it’s conceivable that they would have the edge on bars. Both teams have a couple potential 9.9s at the end of the lineup (with some caveats), but Georgia is a bit cleaner at the beginning of the lineup. They’ll have to take advantage of that and create a buffer zone to alleviate the pressure on beam. Beam is obviously what makes LSU the favorite in this meet. That’s not to say that the Tigers have been glorious on beam so far this year, but compared to Georgia, they’re basically a ball of diamonds in a pool of rubies. Even if Georgia were to hit 6-for-6 on beam, right after the unicorns with the Super Bowl with sparkle dust, LSU would still have the advantage because of a greater number of 9.9-possible routines.

LSU will need beam to come through because even though LSU would be considered the stronger floor team at a neutral site, the obscene level of home floor that is sprouting up all over the country this season renders LSU’s theoretical floor advantage null. We’re seeing home teams finish meets with 49.6s all over the place for perfectly well hit, but pretty normal, floor performances, just as Georgia did last weekend. Being better on floor doesn’t look like something the Tigers will be able to rely on, so they’ll have to win the meet because of lovely, hit beam or risk getting Florida-ed.   

-In the late session, the showcase meet features Oregon State heading to UCLA. For UCLA, all eyes are on Sophina after she became Sophina in the last week. I’m fascinated to see how she responds because suddenly she’s going to be the name in this meet and the gymnast people are waiting to see, or coming to the meet expressly to see. Sophina certainly thrives in the spotlight, but that’s a whole new level of pressure, especially for a gymnast who has not always been the most consistent (or there) on floor. I mean, you know something is going to go wrong this time. You know it. It’s like when Lloimincia had her moment and you knew she wasn’t going to make the floor final at nationals right after that. 

It’s a situation where usually I would argue for moving her to the anchor spot to take advantage of this attention and get her what is basically an automatic 10 if she hits her passes, but in this case it’s probably best just to keep things as normal as possible and not add any extra hoopla.

Attendance will also be interesting to watch. Has UCLA been able to turn this 15 minutes of being internet-famous into people in the seats? Or will it just descend right back into same-old, same-old, like gymnastics after the Olympics every four years? This won’t last. In a couple days, people will see the name Sophina DeJesus and think “Did I used to work with her or something?” so they have to take advantage while they can.

Apparently, there are also other gymnasts in this meet. Oregon State is coming off a 48.8 of a performance against Washington on Monday, which is not going to cut it against UCLA barring a meltdown. With the season-ending injuries to Aufiero and Dessaints, OSU has become a 9.825 team that lacks the big vaults and bars routines to compete with Super Six-contending schools. The same argument might be made for UCLA (is this going to be a good bars week or a bad bars week?), but UCLA’s situation is less extreme. The Bruins also boast big potential scores on beam and home floor—home floor is becoming the fifth event; vault, bars, beam, floor, and home floor—to make up for any 9.800ishness on the first two events.

Utah hosts Washington in what should be a comfortable showing. There are areas where I’m still not sold on for Utah, with a moderate-to-severe case of the Pac-12s on vault, but this should be an easy win. Hopefully Washington will come back after we got all excited about this team and then they had an absolute meltdown against Oregon State. Bars and beam pretty, come back to us. COME BACK TO US.

In the non-nationally-televised meet, Stanford heads to Arizona with Arizona looking to keep the cap on the beam this time and Stanford looking to…be a little less Stanford than last week? I know we all wait to even bother analyzing Stanford until mid-March because we’ve learned our lesson, but the dearth of 9.8s on vault and floor is an anytime problem.

-Michigan went home and got better on Monday, finally breaking the 197 barrier in style and assuring everyone that Michigan-scoring is not a thing you have to worry about. The judges were really happy about that performance, especially the one who decided to give Karas a 10 on vault. Michigan has been moving along fairly well, and we can expect the scores to more regularly hit that mid-197 range as the details are refined toward the postseason. The Wolverines already have an RQS that would put them at a #2 seed at a regional, and it’s February 11th. Ideally, they’ll stop throwing in the random dropped fall on bars and beam that makes me nervous and can’t be afforded when things really matter, but there’s no reason not to expect another 197 this weekend against Michigan State.

The Weekend Plans – February 5-8

After this weekend, a number of teams will be halfway done with their regular-season schedules. Why yes, we did just start this two seconds ago. 

Top 25 schedule

Friday, February 5
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [1] Florida @ [11] Georgia
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [23] West Virginia @ Iowa State
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma, [10] Auburn, Illinois State @ Texas Woman’s
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – SEMO, Lindenwood @ [16] Missouri
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [25] Kentucky @ [4] Alabama
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [8] Arkansas @ [6] LSU
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [9] Boise State @ [24] Southern Utah
Saturday, February 6
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [7] Utah @ [5] UCLA
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [19] Illinois @ [18] Minnesota
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [14] Nebraska @ Iowa
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Utah State @ [13] Denver
Sunday, February 7
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Towson, Bridgeport, Brown @ [22] New Hampshire
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [17] George Washington, Northern Illinois @ Kent State
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [23] West Virginia @ [2] Oklahoma
Monday, February 8
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Maryland, Eastern Michigan @ [3] Michigan
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona State @ [12] Stanford
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [15] Oregon State @ Washington
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [20] Arizona @ [21] Cal

Live blogging
Friday and Saturday. On Friday, my focus will be Florida/Georgia, the TWU meet featuring Oklahoma and Auburn, and Arkansas/LSU, with perhaps brief check-ins with Kentucky/Arkansas. Saturday is all about the Utah/UCLA rivalry. Also on Sunday, check your cable options if that’s your kind of thing because Oklahoma’s second meet of the weekend will once again be broadcast on some really random networks. Otherwise, just spend the day making fun of handegg like a normal.

-Coming off the pile of gold doubloons falling from the ceiling that was Florida’s meet last Friday, it’s hard to envision any kind of drop in quality coming into the Georgia meet. The Gators will be major favorites against the have-we-stopped-reeling-yet Gymdogs. As the road team, however, Florida may be hit with a reality stick this time around as to what scores they’re really earning for hit routines. Because Georgia has never exhibited crazy scoring. Never ever. I don’t know what you’re talking about. 

If Georgia is to pull off the upset, it will probably take Florida counting a mistake, but it will also take winning vault. That’s the one event where Georgia may find an opening. While Florida displayed much-improved landings over the weekend, and Georgia the opposite, Georgia has a touch superior difficulty and the real capability to stick for 49.5s, especially at home, which not that many teams have. If Florida’s vault landings return to mid-January level, Georgia could gain some very valuable early tenths.

Of course, we can’t go much further without talking about Georgia’s beam. It’s the all-important factor that will decide whether this meet is even in the vicinity of close. Last weekend, The Gymdogs graduated to just one fall, which was a laudable achievement, but they must take the next step and actually hit six whole routines this time. That’s the short-term goal, but one that’s immediately necessary with a tough opponent like Florida. The long-term goal, which could be decisive when evaluating postseason aspirations, is not just getting six hit routines but getting them from the six highest-potential scorers. Keep watching the lineup members and order. If Georgia is forced to compromise too much scoring potential in order to get a hit rotation, by removing pretties or moving top workers to early spots (my most loathed of strategies), that’s almost as bad as having a fall. 

As for the other events, Georgia has impressed so far on bars and floor. This was the least terrifying January floor performance of the Durante era, and bars looks much stronger than I thought it would based on preseason showings, with a particular gold star to Gracie Cherrey for cleaning up her DLO so dramatically in a short period of time. The question going forward for Georgia on bars will be Brandie Jay’s dismount. She’s capable of a big score on bars but doesn’t have the most pristine form or handstands in the world. Couple that with a DLO 1/1, difficult to stick and maintain body shape, and she’s always on the verge of getting dropped down to 9.800, a score that looks comparatively harsh against the rabble of much less inspiring 9.800s that we see all over the place. The team needs a 9.900 from Jay pretty much every time, so when will be the time to introduce a more cynical, simpler dismount so that she can join the ranks of stuck dismounts on this team? The Gators have more of those likely 9.9s, even for Piked Giant McGee, which will give them the bars edge.

On floor, I still think Florida is suffering from a case of the half-a-lineups, in spite of the score last weekend, but the big routines from Baker and friends will likely overshadow what Georgia has to offer. That’s why vault is so important for the GymDawwwwwwwwwgs. I added extra w’s because I can’t take it seriously. 

-Oklahoma heads to TWU looking for another nice road score (we’re going to have to start paying attention to the RQS outlook soon), though the main story of the meet will be how Auburn recovers from breaking into all the pieces last time out. With Arkansas eager to retake the spoiler role this season, Auburn cannot afford to replace these new missing routines with 9.700s and still be competitive. Auburn spent the preseason talking about the great depth on this team, so…time to prove it. The good news is that the loss of two vaulters coincides with the return of Kait Kluz on vault, which should mitigate the problem and may actually end up as an upgrade. Samantha Cerio will be called on to replace Engler on bars and beam. She’s a JO bars champion, so theoretically, the team should be able to absorb these injuries.

-The second real showdown on Friday features Arkansas and LSU. And boy, has the Arkansas bandwagon picked up a whole heap of steam. That’s what happens when you start the season fit and prepared. You score well, you upset less-prepared teams, and you accrue some of that valuable notoriety and reputation that all but the big-name schools lack. It’s a strategy Oklahoma employed very well for many years. Arkansas looks to have a solid 196 of a roster, but there’s more to prove if this team is truly going to be a threat in the postseason rather than a shooting star that falls back to the pack and finishes 11-13th once the best teams get their acts together. Away at LSU is a very good place to prove things.

LSU is stronger than Arkansas on all the events and should win the meet, with much bigger gymnastics on vault and floor and extra 9.9s on bars and beam that will push them over the top. Although, we do have to keep an eye on beam since it has been a problem in two of the four competitions so far. The Tigers will eventually have to rely on beam as an asset, not just an event to get through, so they need to figure out how to get over THE FRESHMAN LOST HER MIND-itis and figure out who’s actually in this lineup. In the preseason, it looked like LSU would have similar depth on beam as on vault and floor (events which have been able to endure a lack of Savona and barely miss a beat), but now…when is Priessman going to be able to beam? She’s looking more and more necessary.

-The most interesting and least predictable meet of the weekend will be UCLA and Utah. The Utes recorded their biggest score of the season on Monday in their first Kari Lee-free meet, which was an important symbolic performance even though fancy fancy fictional floor scores papered over a couple holes, particularly vault and beam rotations that were not inspiring. UCLA, meanwhile, finally had its annual early-season UCLA road catastrophe, which helps remind us that these are still our Bruins. Phew. As far as the meet went, it actually wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It’s usually a 194. But the longer Katelyn Ohashi is out with her sternum fracture, the harder it will be for UCLA to contend. Even without Lee, Utah still has more depth.

It’s a tough one to pick. Utah showed much, much, much improved floor landings on Monday, catching up with a UCLA team that had scored well on floor in every meet until this most recent showing when the landings completely deserted everyone. Neither team gets the consistency edge there, but UCLA is at home in a major meet, so it’s quite easy to envision a repeat of that “Hallie Mossett gets a 10” scoring from the first weekend as long as the landings are there. In an even somewhat close meet, that could seal it, especially because the Utes end on beam, the event on which they feel the lack of Lee the most. I used to say that Utah was a team of 9.825s on beam, which was true for a couple years in there. Lee and Stover changed that last season, both capable of deserving 9.9s, but suddenly on Monday without Lee and with Stover falling, this looked like a team of 9.825s again.

Contrast that to the Bruins who, even without Ohashi, should dominate beam. But also, let’s talk about Peng’s composition. She’s vaulting, so I know she can use that wrist. It’s time to trash the bluetooth routine and give her something she can hit. UCLA’s path to victory involves winning beam by a real margin and then homing it home with homeness on floor. Utah, by contrast, needs to gain a serious edge in the first half, and since vault is not great for either team right now (minor advantage to Utah), that means nailing bars. Utah’s bars rotation is much more composed, reliable, and consistent than UCLA’s right now and should easily go over 49, whereas UCLA’s, especially in the absence of Ohashi, has form and dismount struggles and remains a nerve-wracking proposition.

In UCLA’s last meet, I was happy to see how much Honest is working on making toe point less of a weakness. The work showed, and even though Stella Savvidou had basically the worst possible college debut you could imagine and fell on every handstand, she’s a worthwhile project and a potential future gem. When she was hitting that first handstand, before she fell, you all had a Zamarripa moment and don’t deny it. The dismount looks like the real obstacle for her because she did a double tuck and cowboyed it pretty seriously, which isn’t so encouraging.

-The rest of the Pac-12ers will bunch together on Monday evening, and the most interesting prospect there is Oregon State’s visit to Washington. Washington used the opportunity of Metroplex to step out of the shadows a little bit, taking advantage of some Texas scoring and showing us what they’re truly capable of, especially on beam and somewhat on bars. Those are the obvious strengths and are both events Washington could conceivably win against Oregon State. In spite of the rankings and general accomplishments, this meet isn’t open and shut.

Oregon State does remain the more evenly balanced team, having displayed relatively consistent 48.800-49.100 scoring potential across all the events so far this year. That should be enough to win, especially because of Washington’s struggles for depth and 9.8s on vault and floor, but I expect it to stay pretty close. The Beavs still lack the 9.9s of a nationals team, so if they’re going to get out of the #15 doldrums, we need to see growth in that department.