Seattle Regional Preview

Our fourth Regional up for debate will be hosted by the University of Washington at 7:00 ET / 4:00 PT on Saturday and features [4] Alabama, [9] LSU, [16] Arizona, [23] Washington, [30] Iowa, and [36] Central Michigan.

The Favorite:

Not to sound too repetitive, but like the other top seeds previewed so far (we’ll have a bit more discussion for the final two Regionals), I don’t see Alabama having any trouble at all taking first place at this Regional. One of the biggest issues for Alabama toward the end of the season has been establishing the best beam and floor lineups, but while the team certainly struggled on beam at SECs, I do think the lineup that competed was the correct choice. Gutierrez and Sledge have the potential for fine routines, but they have not proven the reliability that some of the others have. Milliner is still a bit of a question, and I would like to see Jacob regain some of her form from last postseason, but this is the best of the available options. At any rate, I don’t expect Alabama to have a fall at Regionals, so they’re fine.

The biggest factor in determining Alabama’s success likely will not be a single event but will be their ability to stick landings across four events. Alabama should always be neck and neck with UCLA for the top score on vault, but they haven’t stuck well in weeks. Now, they recently got a 49.475 at home, but if you watch the vaults, there were way too many tenths given away on landings. Similarly, the first three bar workers are not standouts and will incur definite deductions on handstands (Demeo’s half turn is just asking for it, and I question the routine composition for that reason), so stuck landings are a must. I don’t see any of the first three going above a 9.800 without a stick.

The other major key for Alabama is Geralen Stack-Eaton. This team is very reliant on its seniors and will not be successful if both don’t have a great meet at the same time. At Nationals, Stack-Eaton should be in the running for the AA title because she can go 9.900 on every event, but the team cannot afford her to have any stinker routines like she did at SECs. Those routines (along with Priess on beam) were the difference between first and second. If Stack-Eaton isn’t getting 9.9s, then who is?

The Contender:
I don’t mean to completely discount Arizona and Washington as teams, but do we really see them contending for the second qualification spot? I don’t. Of course, that will probably ensure that it happens as I have a really horrible history with predictions, but given recent performances and the cushy nature of this Regional, I think LSU has to feel pretty secure that about finishing second here.

Of all of teams, LSU is the most improved this year. 2011 was a complete disaster where they often struggled to break 195. Last year, a 49 was a great rotation, and this year it is an expectation. The antics of vault judge #2 at SECs not withstanding (poor judge #2, I’ve harped on her so much, but still . . .), LSU can earn huge numbers on vault and compete with nearly every other team. They are under-ranked at #6 on this event. They should be more like 3rd-4th.

One concern for LSU, though, is consistency. They are often accepting one fall on bars and beam, and while they haven’t had to actually count a fall in a while, that’s not a sustainable trend. Early lineup falls and 9.750s are no longer acceptable if they want to do anything other than make up the numbers at Nationals. Without some of those scores at the beginning of bars and floor at SECs, they would have challenged Alabama for a surprise second place. They really are just a few 9.850s away from being a top team, and while they don’t have the gymnasts to get there this year, there is hope for many future top 10 seasons.

The Near Contenders:
Arizona and Washington are very similar teams, but Washington’s frequent falls primarily account for the difference in ranking. At Pac-12s, Washington hit one beam routine higher than a 9.600 (and that 9.600 was when Whitney got a 9.900 from one judge and a 9.350 from another – how are we OK with that?). Arizona has been much more consistent, and I expect the Wildcats to hit for a mid-195 like they do most weeks. Like many #3 seeds this year, Arizona has some standout performers in Cristello, Matusik, and Quirk, but there’s not really anyone else on the team who can deliver more than a 9.800 with any level of consistency.

Washington has strong routines thrown in here and there, not so much from a couple standout AAers but from a wider range of specialists who can bring in periodic 9.850-9.875s. If Arizona finishes third at this meet, it will be on the strength of those AAers, but if Washington finishes third it will be on the strength of a consistent team-wide 9.800 effort. The other focus for Arizona will be trying to qualify individuals to Nationals, as Cristello and Quirk could be our AA qualifiers from this region.

Iowa was hanging around the same ranking as Washington for much of the beginning of the season, so I was a bit surprised to see them slip. A lot of that has to do with teams like Arizona and Washington being capable of going over 196 on a really strong day, while Iowa probably peaks out in the high 195s, which they did achieve a couple times. Jessa Hansen is the standout AAer for Iowa in that she can get 9.800 on every event, but it will be difficult for her to take one of the AA spots. However, give Iowa a shot at finishing 3rd at this Regional. They have just as much of a shot as the two above.

The Other:
Central Michigan just edged out BYU for the final Regional qualification spot. Surely the goal for the season was to make Regionals, so mission accomplished, though this has been a weaker year than some we’ve seen recently. There’s an outside chance that Teubner could take an individual spot, but mostly it will be about trying to stay close and manage a 49 rotation, which they did not do last year at Regionals.


Fayetteville Regional Preview

Our third Regional will take place at the University of Arkansas at 5:00 ET / 2:00 PT on Saturday and will feature [3] UCLA, [10] Arkansas, [15] Boise State, [19] Missouri, [29] New Hampshire, and [34] Maryland.

The Favorite:

Like Florida and Oklahoma, the UCLA Bruins are the clear favorite to win this Regional, and I expect them to have little trouble advancing here. Aside from the general narrative that UCLA teams peak beginning at Regionals, this UCLA team is much more secure across the apparatuses than some of the recent teams, which is the primary consideration for a top team advancing to Nationals. A great performance isn’t really necessary, as we saw at Pac-12s. This team had disasters from Peszek on bars and Courtney on beam and did not succumb to having to count a low score and didn’t let it deflate the overall performance (which was adequate but lackluster both before and after the falls). At this point, UCLA is a near guarantee for a 49.450+ on vault, and so a parade of 9.850s on the other events is all they’ll need to secure a top two finish.

As is always the case with UCLA teams, even though it is April, I still have multiple questions about the lineups. One of the major questions regards Kaelie Baer and where she fits in. She’s been the leadoff on vault all season, but in my mind the best vault lineup would be Hopfner-Hibbs, Larson, Peszek, Courtney, Frattone, and Zamarripa. So, does Val make the change or keep Baer in that position? Also, Courtney was put into Baer’s spot on beam at Pac-12s but had a disaster, so does Baer get the spot back? To me, it’s a question of attitude. Baer is perhaps the safer choice but doesn’t have a huge scoring potential.

We’ve become so used to talking about beam when it comes to UCLA, but I actually have confidence in the primary five to hit and avoid counting a fall. In evaluating the prospects for Nationals, the most tenuous apparatus for the Bruins is bars. This year should have been an improvement on that event, but with Wong’s injury and Whitcomb’s injury/handstands/disappearance, we’ve seen little progress at all. No one has been great so far, and this group is too capable of slogging along for 9.825s, which is fine for now but won’t be in Duluth. This dismounts in particular need to come together because many were not even close to sticking at Pac-12s.

The Contenders:

Arkansas reached #1 for one week this season, but they have been wholly out of form ever since the injury to Katherine Grable. What was once a legitimate high-196s team now hasn’t broken 196.500 since February 3rd. I do expect to see Grable back on bars and beam for Saturday, which should help avoid some of the weak routines we’ve been seeing, but it may not be enough to make Arkansas secure in this second position.

The biggest problem rotation for the Razorbacks right now, and throughout the season really, is floor. Even ignoring from the profound catastrophe of a rotation at SECs, this team has struggled to find six gymnasts who can go on this apparatus since January. Because of this, the Cooks may feel pressure to get Grable back into the floor lineup for this weekend, but she can’t have had very many numbers at all, so it may not be possible. Arkansas will be starting on floor again at Regionals, so we will know right away whether they are truly able advance or whether Boise State has some hope.

Last year, many people gave Boise State a shot to advance over Arkansas at Regionals (though it ended up being Florida that they gave the biggest scare to). This year, the Broncos don’t have quite the same scoring potential across all the events (floor in particular has been an issue), so since the competition is taking place in Fayetteville, I think they will need some mistakes from Arkansas in order to advance. Now, the difference between the two teams is close enough that those mistakes don’t need to be falls. A few too many 9.7s from Arkansas in the first three positions should be enough to make this close. Fortunately, both teams will be on the competition floor for the final rotation, so let’s hope it stays close the whole way to give us an exciting ending.

If Arkansas goes 49.300 on floor to start, expect them to take it, but anything less than that will give Boise State a chance. The Broncos must get a few 9.900s from Glass and Potvin-Green, and they need everyone in that beam rotation to go at least 9.750. The 9.675-9.725s that we’ve been seeing too often are not acceptable at Regionals. Potvin-Green has been putting up humongous AA performances the last few weeks, and she will have have the unenviable duty of needing to match Pisani to keep Boise State close.

Let’s also not overlook Missouri, as the Tigers have been peaking in March and proving a capability to go over 196 consistently. I’m not sure I see them challenging if this is a clean competition because they don’t have the 9.9s that the top three teams do, but they do have enough 9.850s later in lineups to make up for some lower scores starting off. Missouri made Nationals in 2010 on the strength of Sarah Shire and some home scoring, but they don’t have that AA force (like Pisani or Potvin-Green) to lift the rest of the group this year. However, they should hang around enough to pester the other teams and give us something interesting to watch throughout the meet. We won’t be ignoring them the way we will some other #4 seeds.

The Others:
On a good day, New Hampshire can go into the mid-195s, and they have some competitive individual routines but no one who can deliver a big score on more than one event. Expect to see a bunch of 9.725-9.750 routines with a 9.800-9.850 or two anchoring the rotations. The season-high score for UNH is 195.800, so meeting that at a Regional would be a victory.

Maryland posted their best score by far at the conference championships by getting some huge numbers on floor, but I don’t expect that to continue or be enough to contend at Regionals. Like New Hampshire, a score in the mid-195s for Maryland would be a nice result and would show that they can compete with some of the higher-ranked teams. It can be harder for the lower-seeded teams to get high scores at Regionals because they are directly compared with some of the best teams in the country, so staying afloat is a positive outcome.

Champaign Regional Preview

The second preview on the docket features our #2 national seed, the Oklahoma Sooners, traveling to Illinois in an effort to earn their place in yet another National Championship. Along with [2] Oklahoma, the teams competing in this Regional are [11] Stanford, [14] Denver, [22] Illinois, [24] Kentucky, and [32] Illinois-Chicago.

The Favorite:

For being the #2 team in the country, Oklahoma certainly has been flying under the radar lately. The Sooners put up a significant score at the Big 12 Championships at home (the highest in the country that weekend, in fact), so they should be in the forefront of the conversation. And yet, they preceded that result with two lackluster road performances and have to deal with the injury to Kayla Nowak, so there are definite questions as to how this team is oriented heading into the championship season and whether their best gymnastics is still ahead of them.

However, like Florida, I don’t see much of a chance that Oklahoma will fail to advance. This team is consistent enough that, even whey they perform poorly, they’re still able to avoid counting falls and manage an adequate score. Though the Sooners were all kinds of off when they visited UCLA, they still posted a mid-196, and even that score would be enough to advance out of this group.

When watching Oklahoma at this Regional, keep an eye on amplitude of elements across all the events. This area is always evaluated inconsistently during the regular season, but when trying to separate routines during the postseason, it can become a much greater issue. The Sooners have enough difficulty and excel at putting up consistent routines, but in vaulting, tumbling, and some of the beam elements, Oklahoma needs to show competitive amplitude, speed, lightness, and extension, the kinds of qualities that gymnastics people mean when they talk about showing sufficient dynamics.

But for now, I expect to see Oklahoma’s lineup hit a lot of 9.875 routines this weekend and score around 197, which would be enough to qualify easily.

The Contenders:

Before the Pac-12 Championships, Stanford was the odds-on choice for Regionals upset special for the second year in a row. While that still could happen, the combination of three excellent rotations at Pac-12s and a pretty cushy Regional draw means that I am no longer predicting it.

Stanford is beginning to peak and has shown some excellent, clean gymnastics, especially on the balance beam. Ivana Hong is also starting to hit the way she needs to in order to be a star for the team. At the beginning of the season, we knew it would be crucial for Hong and Shapiro to be scoring well on several events for Stanford to contend. Getting one of those two pieces in place means Stanford should make Nationals, though they will be hard pressed to go much farther. While the scores at Pac-12s were inflated, I can see Stanford earning in the high 196s for a complete meet counting no falls or major mistakes. I hesitate to go higher than that because I do still have questions about the depth of the floor and vault lineups as well as the ability to hit under pressure. And there certainly will be pressure at Regionals, with the team trying to overcome the disappointing memories from last year.

I feel confident enough that Stanford will advance, though, because the next seed is surprise #14  Denver. After a 196.350 on the road in the last meet, the Pioneers jumped to a season-high ranking to end the season. However, Denver peaks out in that low-196 range, so they are going to need someone above them to count a fall in order to advance because they don’t have the 9.900 performances to get there on their own. Moriah Martin’s vault can score very well, and there are some solid floor performances that can keep them competitive, but other than that, Denver will need to get those consistent 9.775-9.825 scores from every single competitor and hope that someone else makes a mistake.

I’m also including the #4 seed Illinois in the contenders section because they are the host team and they did make Nationals last year, but I don’t think it is too realistic to expect them to get there again. Illinois is in a similar situation to Denver in that they don’t have to 9.900s to help them get a big score, but they also have way too many routines that aren’t going to score higher than 9.750 to contend with Oklahoma and Stanford, even if there’s a fall counting. Once you get past Joannides, Weinstein, and See, the scores just aren’t there, even at a home meet. Vault has been the biggest struggle for Illinois this season, where they don’t break 49 and will give away so many tenths to the rest of the teams.

Oklahoma doesn’t really count falls and Stanford will be on enough of a mission that I see both of them advancing with a fairly comfortable margin.

The Others:
As a team, Kentucky is not too different from Illinois, but the Wildcats lack the strong AA presence that Illinois has, which can make up for some of the 9.7s at the beginning of lineups. For Kentucky, the routines don’t really build toward stronger gymnastics at the end of the lineup. Everything is a bit too unrefined to see them scoring much higher than mid-195s, which will not be enough to advance. The surprise 5th place finish at SECs, when everyone saw them finishing last, should be the victory for this season.

Speaking of victories, Illinois-Chicago has advanced to the Regionals for the first time in five years. They have no chance to advance further, but well done on that front. For teams like UIC, this meet is more about trying to hit 24 for 24 to see how they match up against schools like Kentucky. Outpacing a Kentucky or a rival like Illinois would be a great boost for the team to make that next step.

Raleigh Regional Preview

Over the next few days, I’ll be taking several moments to preview the Regional Championships, providing analysis and predictions as to what we might see come Saturday, my favorite day in the NCAA calendar. The Raleigh Regional boasts top seed Florida and will be the first to start on Saturday (4 ET / 1 PT), so it seems a logical place to begin. Our competitors will be [1] Florida, [12] Ohio State, [13] Penn State, [20] NC State, [26] Kent State, and [31] North Carolina.

The Favorite:

The Florida Gators once again find themselves in the 1/12/13 Regional, highlighting how nonsensical the seeding process is. If the goal is to finish in the top two at each Regional, why does the top-ranked team in the nation get the most difficult #3 seed? But this issue has been well covered, so I’ll stop there.

Last year, Florida barely eked its way into Nationals after imploding on beam when Boise State just missed the necessary score in the last rotation, but I don’t expect to see a repeat of those nail-biting conditions this year. While the Gators of 2012 are a bit less polished, they are also much less likely to incur a fall than were the Gators of 2011, which makes all the difference for qualifying. Lack of polish never prevented a top team from advancing. That’s the job of falls. As we saw at SECs, Florida can be a little off and still go into the low 197s, which should certainly be enough to win the group. I’m going to give this one to Florida in a landslide.

However, there are still issues we need to keep an eye on as we evaluate the Gators’ chances heading to Nationals. At SECs, the tumbling was uncontrolled and inexact, and there needs to be much more sticking across all the events. As Suzanne rightly pointed out on the SEC broadcast, Florida’s delayed training schedule has put them behind some of the other teams in terms of focusing on sticking. This is not necessarily a problem, in fact it’s probably a good thing, but it could become a problem if they haven’t made any progress on this front by Regionals.

Another concern of mine, as I’ve mentioned before, is the lineups. Florida is a very deep team on paper, but they have a self-imposed shallowness because of sticking to the same lineups. Who would go in on beam if there is an injury? What’s the vault situation? There’s Spicer in the first position and a slightly injured Ellis up second (or Shisler if Ellis can’t go), so there will likely be little progress above 9.800 in those spots. Now, as we saw at SECs, the final four for Florida can still make it a big rotation, but there is little margin in that lineup. If one of the last four takes a big landing deduction, they won’t be able to keep pace. At Nationals, Florida needs to be top 3 on vault. But this does go to show that Florida’s problems are relatively minor at this point, and having to count a couple 9.775s will not be a problem for another three weeks.

More interesting than the expected Florida romp, though, will be the fight for the second spot.

The Contenders:
Unlike most of the other Regionals, where we see a likely second qualifier and a #3 seed that might challenge on a good day, the Raleigh Regional has three legitimate choices for the second spot for Nationals.

Throughout the season, Penn State had the edge over Ohio State in the rankings, but given the performance at Big Tens, the favorite for this position based on momentum is Ohio State. Penn State didn’t exactly struggle at Big Tens, but they had so very many 9.7 performances throughout the lineups that the degree to which they rely on Sharaya Musser to bump up the scores was really exposed. Madison Merriam will have to nearly match the scores from Musser for Penn State to contend. However, on a good day, they can go mid-196s, which may be enough.

Ohio State is in a rather different position. The Buckeyes do not have that one big scoring leader, which can hurt them in some of the anchor positions, but they have more people throughout the lineups who are capable of scoring 9.850s. The performance at Big Tens was also a turning point for Ohio State because it was the first time they put up a 196 on the road this season, which was one of the major questions marks surrounding their potential performance at Regionals. They had recorded big home scores before (and we all still question that 197.625 from the middle of the season), but proving the depth through the 4th and 3rd positions on the road was a major step.

We also can’t count out the hosts, NC State. Normally, I would say that they are just a step below the rest of the teams and wouldn’t have a clear shot at one of the top two spots, but the Wolf Pack has recorded a few high home scores this season, which gives everyone reason to pause and consider their chances. Now, if the meet is scored consistently, I don’t see NC State advancing because they don’t have the cleanliness of the teams ranked above them, but a little home boost could put them right in the hunt for the second position.

In tracking which of these teams will advance, watch the floor scores throughout the meet. If the judges are convinced by Ohio State’s tumbling and start giving them a few 9.875s, Penn State is going to have a very difficult time coming back from that because they will likely already have given away a few tenths on vault (I see bars and beam as pretty equivalent between the two). NC State is in the advantageous position of finishing on floor, where building scores and home benefit just might help the judges overlook some form issues on dance elements and allow them to journey over 9.850 as well. If NC State goes 49.200+ on floor, all bets are off.

The Others:
I think we can safely assume that lightning will not strike again for Kent State. Ohio State drastically underperformed at Regionals last year and still finished just a tenth behind Kent State, and OSU has gotten better while KSU has not. The lack of Lenny in particular will keep Kent State’s scoring potential lower than last year in this deeper meet. While I’d love to see another surprise this year, I don’t think it will come from this team again. If we do have a drastic shakeup at the top with some falls, expect NC State to grab the open position.

I have seen only bits of North Carolina this season (during the dual meet with Alabama), but what I saw was a lot of 9.650 gymnastics. Expect UNC to score in the low-mid 195s with a good meet, but that will not be enough to leapfrog the higher ranked teams. Making the Regionals was the victory for them.

SEC Championships Broadcast

Here we go. Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne were on hand as always to bring us the SEC Championships. I’m really impressed with how Suzanne has come along as a commentator. She always has insightful things to say, but she seems much more comfortable on camera now and less nervous than she used to. It’s definitely an acquired skill.

Reports are the everyone was just a little tight and wobbly across all the teams, so I’m interested to see how that played out in the competition itself. We had tennis run over into the original broadcast, so my DVR didn’t catch all of it. I may have to catch up with the end of the competition at some later point, but at least we know what happened.

Rotation 1:

We start with Florida on beam. Stageberg is a little tentative with a wobble on a switch split, but it was by no means a problematic routine. Alaina Johnson is much the same. There is no wow factor in this routine, but only minor deductions as well. These routines would all be getting a tenth higher at Pac-12s. Dickerson has a pretty significant wobble on her series, which accounts for her score. Not her most confident performance. Hunter would have been better on beam as an elite had she not needed to add in difficult dance elements that she was ill-prepared to complete, but she’s much better in NCAA. Good lift on her acro. Suzanne agrees with me. The switch side is not strong and emphasizes the weakness in dance elements. King anchors the rotation with an extremely solid performance. Based on the scores, this seemed like a weak rotation, but I was perfectly fine with the showing. It’s not nearly the disaster from last year.

Georgia has Chelsea Davis start on vault with just a little lack of distance and a minor hop in place. It’s a nice performance overall, especially since vault was her weakness as an elite. Perfect type of vault to have in the leadoff spot. Noel Couch follows with her usual stick. Has her air form improved a little bit this year? She still needs to get those legs together and get some more distance, though. Hires has a pretty significant bounce back for 9.800. The judges are very landing conscious. Kat Ding also has trouble controlling her landing and seemed almost taken by surprise that it wasn’t great.

Alabama on bars. This is the biggest question mark for them because of handstands at the beginning of the lineup. Kim Jacob continues this trend by missing a couple of handstands, but the DLO dismount is very nice. We see Stack-Eaton in split screen have a pretty solid bar routine with a step on the double arabian dismount, followed by Priess. I somewhat question adding the Markelov to this routine because she has trouble with the handstand right after it.  A little piking and a low landing on the dismount as well. Fine, but not her best routine.

We didn’t see any of the Arkansas meltdown on floor, but we do see Pisani being excellent. Certainly could have won this event.

Rotation 2:

Yokay for Auburn on vault is extremely low on her handspring pike front half, nice to see that vault, though. Auburn is saved on vault by Guy’s good amplitude on her yfull.

“Kathy, I don’t know what Sarah’s doing on beam!” – Suzanne. Ha. Suzanne definitely likes to establish her beam lineup early and stick with it, like we’ve seen from Florida this season, but I am much more of a proponent of mixing things up. I think it’s a good decision for them to get Kayla Williams into the lineup because she’s solid and sturdy. Geralen looked very nice until a major balance issue on her walkover. Unexpected. Another wobble on her onodi. A very nervy routine. Followed by a really unusual error from Priess on her Korbut. Very strange mistakes but not something I would worry about if I were an Alabama fan. Fluke-y.

Courville on floor has an excellent double arabian, good position on her dismount as well. Nice routine.  She’s followed by Hall. We’ve already been through it.

Rotation 3:

We start rotation three with the saga that is Shayla’s bar routine. She’s extremely close on her Ray, missed nearly every handstand after that and then does her piked DLO dismount with a step. Jay is so languid in the way he spotted her on her dismount. Chelsea Davis was going extremely well until a very low dismount. Love her tkatchev as always. Nuccio is excellent to follow. Ding has an uncharacteristic hop forward on her dismount.

Alaina Johnson on floor. I’d like to see her work on the cowboying of the mount, but everything else is nice until a major bounce back out of the double pike dismount. “Gives you a break from the honky-tonk.” – Suzanne. Dickerson has a little lack of control on both of her first two passes and a low landing on the last. Not her best. King is just a little short on her DLO and bounces back out of her second pass. A lot of struggles controlling the landings for Florida. Kytra also bounces out of her DLO, but the following passes are excellent. Florida can be much, much better than this on floor. They need to pull these landings together. Everyone had problems.

Rotation 4:

Moffatt on the beam for Georgia. She has very nice form, but I’d like to see her make a little correction on her switch side. Being as minute as she is, though, she does look a little rickety on some of her skills. Ding is very rushed in her routine and uncertain on a number of her skills. Calm down, Kat. Earls had a wobble and a big step on the dismount, so not quite the cleanliness Georgia would like. Persinger as well is quite tentative. She also doesn’t have a lot of amplitude in her skills, but she gets through it with no real issues. Shayla figured it out on beam, but she did look very nervous at the beginning and had to fix it. A few clear wobbly deductions there.

Now we get to see LSU’s vault rotation where judge #2 gave everybody a 10 (not really) (but almost). That judge really was just judging landings and not body position. Ashley Lee didn’t even really stick. Courville is excellent with a hop back.

Priess is very clean in her routine, which went 9.900. Suzanne wants her to up her difficulty, and it would be nice, though she won’t with her ankles. In scoring Priess and Hopfner-Hibbs this season, the judges have made it clear that they are OK with double tuck mounts. Alabama has not had the problems controlling the tumbling that Florida did. Geralen is very much in control of her routine as well – though  would like to see the legs together on the front layout in her middle pass. Kathy has enjoyed going “Woooo!” tonight.

We see some bits of clean gymnastics from Auburn on bars.

Rotation 5:

Florida on vault. Spicer is clean in the air but can’t control the landing for 9.825. Ellis’s vault was equivalent. Dickerson has a hop in place and some wonky legs on the block. Kathy and Suzanne are pretending she stuck it but she didn’t. Johnson’s vault was the strongest so far, just a little piking and a step back. It’s a 9.900 that can go 9.950 at times. King goes up with an excellent Tsuk 1.5, and the commentators are spot on that she is not usually adequately rewarded for it, but she is here. Kytra finishes with a nice 1.5 with a step, so the 9.975 is mostly inexplicable. She’ll get a 10 for this vault before too long, though.

Rotation 6:

Sledge on vault for Alabama, with more landing issues like many of the teams have been having. Another bounce back. We could attribute this to podium, but it’s not an isolated incident. Alabama has been having trouble sticking for a few weeks. Geralen does a poor vault with a very low landing and a lunge forward. That’s happened a few times this year, and this is the last time they can afford it. Gutierrez makes up for it with a nice stick. Milliner finishes with a huge lunge forward on her Y1.5. They can legitimately go 49.500 on this event, but they were nowhere close to that here.

Kat Ding looks strong enough on floor, but I do think she looked more nervous than usual all night, which translated into some rushed gymnastics. Shayla looks fine on floor but is very low on her dismount. There’s very little tumbling in this routine with two passes that aren’t that difficult, but this probably her best effort choreographically.

We see some clean gymnastics from Morrison on bars for 9.850, but that’s all I have before the DVR cut off. I may try to find the rest of this at some point, but I probably won’t.

Overall, SECs was an equivalent meet to Pac-12s in a lot of ways, and if they had been scored by the same panels of judges, we would have seen very similar scores. I certainly don’t see that much of a claim for low scoring here. I think it was mostly accurate, just Pac-12s was very high.

Every single team in the country needs to work on these landings. No one is in postseason form yet. But I do think SECs had more highs (and more strange lows like Alabama on beam), whereas Pac-12s had more general lackluster gymnastics without the same peaks and valleys. I want to see some significant improvements across the board for Regionals.

Pac-12 Championships – Definitely Not a Live Blog

So, I’m just now getting around to watching the broadcast of Pac-12 Championships. I’m going to record my thoughts as I watch as if it were a live blog. I will be paying special attention to deciding just how insane the scoring was, which I will then compare to SECs when I watch that (tomorrow?).

Not in HD. I feel like I’m watching it through a sandstorm.

Our hosts are Amanda Borden and Some Guy #12. We’re starting with a recap of session #1 with some random routines from the four teams.

Aubree Cristello was by far the best scoring gymnast from the early session, but there are a number of deductions in her routine, namely a large lunge back on the double arabian mount, but her amplitude sets her apart from most of the other second-tier teams. She got a 9.850, which was too high given the deductions on the mount and the piking on the second pass.

Good difficulty from Cal’s Crawford for 9.875. They haven’t had big scores this year, but the potential for good performances is there under Durante more than it has been in a long time. For the most part, the routine composition is there even if the hitting isn’t always.

Beate Jones vaults a yfull. Pikes down, steps back, and lacks some distance. Goes 9.850, as does Fechter from Washington for a bar routine riddled with little deductions. None of the routines they’re showing are bad, necessary, but they are all going 9.850, which is a good tenth too high for all the leg separations and body position faults were seeing. We haven’t seen any actually clean gymnastics from this group. At events like World Championships, we always see the scores rise in the later sessions, and it looks like the judges backed themselves into a corner with their afternoon scoring, which explains some of the evening scoring.

Rotation 1:

Utah starts on vault. The last few times I’ve seen Utah vault, the landings have not been there, with most of the gymnasts incurring a tenth just for a lunge back. McAllister can’t do that because she doesn’t have the distance and amplitude of the others. Delaney gives them a solid vault, though, just a little piking down and a hop back. If she can maintain her body position the whole time, she could be an anchor for them in the future. Lothrop vaults her Omelianchik with a leg separation, lack of amplitude, and a hop back, so 9.900 is too high. I love this vault in general, but I’m not sure if it’s the right fit for her.

UCLA on floor, Zam is focusing on cleanliness instead of difficulty in this routine. A big of leg form on the mount and a little piking down on the dismount, which is not the kind of cleanliness they were looking for. Even though Zam looks a little less self-conscious with her movements than in the past, this routine is just sort of there. Nothing about it stands out. Peszek’s routine is growing on me. It’s more dynamic than it was later in the season, but she had a big bounce back out of her DLO. EHH has fortunately gone back to her all-star 2010 routine for good, but incurs a humongous deduction on her double tuck mount with an OOB.

Stanford is on beam, where they put up a whole team of 9.900s, which gave us our first opportunity to wonder about the scores. Pechanec is lovely to watch on this event and is quite clean except for a check on the side aerial and an awkward foot placement on her loso into the dismount. Alyssa Brown was extremely clean and gets the same 9.900 as everyone else, which is called not differentiating between quality of routine.

For OSU on bars we see Mak fall on her Bhardwaj, which is a shame because I love that skill. Amanda described the fall as “almost unexpected.” Stambaugh has a very nice Jaeger and a hop back on the dismount for 9.925.

So in the first rotation, we have visual evidence of what we all assumed, that the scoring was anywhere from .050 to .100 too high on every routine. However, I really enjoy Stanford’s line on beam, and we know UCLA can be much better than that on floor, so there is something to take from the first rotation.

Rotation 2:

Utah on bars. Lopez has very nice handstands, but needs to be sticking that landing on the DLO. It seems like it’s close to a stick. Next is Hansen, hmmm, what to say? She’s cleaned up this routine, but it’s not a 9.900, especially because she didn’t stick. In particular, I’d like to see the legs cleaned up on the pak. Dabritz does well, but I’d like to see a little more amplitude on the jaeger, which I don’t recall being an issue for her usually. Lothrop does an efficient routine with a missed handstand and hop on the landing, but it went 9.925. When Utah gets to Nationals, most of these routines will be 9.850, so there’s work to be done. We’re seeing way fewer stuck landings overall than I expected based on the scores.

On beam, OSU has Stambaugh who has made the lineup now after early career inconsistency. I wish she worked a little more aggressively, though. OK, one of the judges on beam gave Melanie Jones a 10 even though she had a clear balance check and a step on the landing. We need to make some optometry appointments now. 9.850 was appropriate. Leslie Mak anchors with a very clean routine, very confident performance.

UCLA on vault gets a stick from EHH. She’s perfect for this leadoff position because even though there are clear deductions in the vault, she can stick to get a big score from judges that are overly landing conscious (which these judges were), which bumps up the rest of the rotation. Peszek has a big hop back on her yfull, but Courtney gets a very nice stick. Frattone has a big leap forward. She needs to  be sticking every week, though. Zamarripa has a hop back on her yfull. Has she stuck it since her 10 at Cal in week 2?

For Stanford on floor, Ashley Morgan is aggressive, but her second pass is just layouts, so it doesn’t stand out in the way it might. It’s interesting how angle changes everything because in the original Stanford video of this routine, she looked very low on the dismount, but it looked fine here.

Rotation 3: 

UCLA on bars, MDLT didn’t hit her handstands the way she needed to and didn’t hit her landing either. She peaked at Championships last year and needs to do it again. Olivia Courtney was exactly the same, not great on handstands or landing. We get to see what happened for Peszek in this routine. Ooh, she really did land on her neck after peeling off the bars. That was a little scary but she’s fine. Zamarripa had a leg separation on the bail handstand and a weird stumble on her DLO. She can (and should) be going at least 9.900. Gerber has a big step back on her dismount, way too many dismount issues for this point in the season. Nearly everyone incurred a tenth.

On vault, Stanford’s Ashley Morgan does a solid enough yhalf. Ivana Hong sticks very nicely, a little issue with body position, but I love to see Hong scoring well in her first year. That’s a stuck landing, not these little shuffles we’ve been seeing all over the place.

Beam is where Utah had to count a fall and still scored nearly a 49, so we’ll see about that – except we won’t because the broadcast omits the falls. Showing the highlights isn’t the same as telling the story of the meet. We’re seeing so much perfectly fine 9.850 gymnastics from all the teams but not a ton to be enthusiastic about, certainly not as enthusiastic as the judges were that night. Big wobble for Lothrop on her side aerial, so I’m not seeing this 9.900 at all. Robarts finishes with a very clean performance.

Rotation 4:

UCLA finishes on the beam, Gerber is excellent except for a shuffle on the dismount, which is a bit unusual for her. Courtney looks extremely uncomfortable, which accounts for these two falls. Will she be in the lineup for Regionals? Baer is more reliable. Zam is very clean and sticks the dismount, but had two or three minor balance issues, so I’m not seeing 9.950. I should stop pointing it out because it’s every routine. We see EHH’s 9.975 (also posted above). She’s done much better routines, but she doesn’t get 10s for those, only the OK ones. Peszek has two notable balance issues and a hop on the dismount. I know the hands-free routine is a nice gimmick, but it also makes her dismount less stickable.

OSU on vault, the distance and amplitude isn’t there. This event really sets them back more than the others. When top teams go 49.500, OSU is happy with a 49.200.

Utah ends on floor, where they had four routines over 9.900. We see a bit of Kyndal Robarts’s routine. They’re sticking the passes they needed to. A little stumble on the triple dismount from Dabritz, but otherwise it was clean. Not Lothrop’s cleanest routine with a little lack of control on the middle pass and a very minor stumble on the dismount. McAllister has two nice passes but is awkward on the punch front in the middle pass.

Stanford ended on bars, where they just needed to hit to take the title, but they counted a fall to finish last. Ashley Morgan does a fine routine, but she has NCAA stuck her landings at this meet and will get deducted for it. We see Pechanec miss her Shaposh, which accounts for her low score (in the routine Stanford posted, we didn’t see the fall, so there was some question as to the score).

* * * * * * * * *

So there we have it for Pac-12s. In another world, none of these teams would have broken 197, or perhaps would have hit it exactly. As I mentioned, a lot of 9.850-level performances. Way too many landings were not stuck across the board with too much flat gymnastics. None of these teams should be that pleased with their performances. It will be fascinating to see how this compares to SECs in terms of both quality and scores.

Regionals Draw and Final Rankings

This year, the NCAA decided to hold a selection show to announce the draw for Regionals. This would make sense if there were any kind of suspense involved in the draw (or any kind of draw at all instead of just a guy reading out what a committee decided), but since we already knew the placements of seeds 1-18, there was little reason for it to exist. Our 2012 Regionals are as follows:

NC State Regional
1. Florida
2. Ohio State
3. Penn State
4. NC State
5. Kent State
6. North Carolina

Illinois Regional
1. Oklahoma
2. Stanford
3. Denver
4. Illinois
5. Kentucky
6. Illinois-Chicago

Arkansas Regional
2. Arkansas
3. Boise State
4. Missouri
5. New Hampshire
6. Maryland

Washington Regional
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Arizona
4. Washington
5. Iowa
6. Central Michigan

Utah Regional
1. Nebraska
2. Utah
3. Minnesota
4. Iowa State
5. Arizona State
6. San Jose State

Auburn Regional
1. Georgia
2. Oregon State
3. Auburn
4. Michigan
5. West Virginia
6. Michigan State

So there’s that. Thoughts on these placements? Is it possible to be excited about any of them? In the two weeks we have to wait, I’ll be putting together previews of each individual Regional, and I’ll probably try to convince myself there’s a greater chance for an upset than there actually is so that it will be more exciting.

Final rankings after the jump.

Final National Rankings:
1. Florida – 197.445
2. Oklahoma – 197.360
3. UCLA – 197.270
4. Alabama – 197.245
5. Nebraska – 197.030
6. Georgia – 196.995
7. Oregon State – 196.760
8. Utah – 196.705
9. LSU – 196.570
10. Arkansas – 196.545
11. Stanford – 196.410
12. Ohio State – 196.245
13. Penn State – 196.230
14. Denver – 196.090
15. Boise State – 196.055
16. Arizona – 196.020
17. Minnesota – 195.985
18. Auburn – 195.965
19. Missouri – 195.925
20. NC State – 195.870
21. Michigan – 195.825
22. Illinois – 195.695
23. Washington – 195.595
24. Kentucky – 195.490
24. Iowa State – 195.490
26. Kent State – 195.400
27. West Virginia – 195.265
28. Arizona State – 195.145
29. New Hampshire – 195.120
30. Iowa – 195.065
31. North Carolina – 195.010
32. Illinois-Chicago – 194.940
32. Michigan State – 194.940
34. Maryland – 194.905
35. San Jose State – 194.790
36. Central Michigan – 194.770

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama