The Nationals Scene: The Qualification Fight

One of the joys of this season has been the presence of many teams competing with a similar level of performance and execution. While there are certainly no teams that I would rank close to the status of memorable greatness, the parity (feel free to hate me for using that word) among the top few has made this an exciting year. There’s a lot of pretty good gymnastics coming from a number of teams. Because of that, it’s not too difficult to imagine one of our favorites having an average meet in Semifinals and failing to advance to Super Six. However, we cannot assume falls, especially at this point in the season. So, for the purposes of previewing the action, I’m going to set our top five seeds (Florida, UCLA, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Georgia) aside as fair bets to advance and discuss them later. For now, the focus turns to the battles for qualification and what I assume will be the most interesting story line next Friday, the Utah and Nebraska 9.875-off in the afternoon session (with an assessment of Arkansas’s chances thrown in as well).

Utah vs. Nebraska
It’s a shame this Semifinal has to take place in the afternoon because it’s far more interesting and should be featured in the night session. However, that’s not the case, so we’ll just have to move on and try to get by somehow. If we assume that UCLA and Oklahoma will advance, which is a fragile assumption especially given Oklahoma’s injury blight but should still be the case if both teams hit, then the third spot will come down to the Utes or the Huskers.

These teams have already competed against each other twice this season, and they have split the meetings, both of which took place in Utah. Because this is Championships, we can expect the scoring to run much closer to level of Regionals than the dual meet, which means, as I alluded to earlier, this will largely be decided by whether similar routines from both teams go 9.875 or 9.825.

Let’s start by looking at Nebraska because the single biggest determining factor in this session will be the health of Jamie Schleppenbach. She was not able to compete at Regionals, and Nebraska clearly did not have to routines to fill her place. While most of the top teams can muster up a 9.825 replacement in the event of an injury, Nebraska was not able to replace her with countable scores. I expect Schleppenbach to be back in the lineup for Nationals, but if she isn’t there on every event or hasn’t had the numbers, Nebraska will not be able to withstand the loss of her routines and will feel it in the scores.

On the positive side for the Huskers, we have Jessie DeZiel. Not only is she competitive with anyone in the country on vault and floor, but she has proven enough toughness on bars and beam to be a reliable mid-lineup worker, which the team is particularly desperate for on beam. I remember seeing Pan Ams last fall when DeZiel hit the most confident beam routine of anyone on the team, and at that moment I realized that her biggest contribution to Nebraska would not be her vault but her ability to hit a beam routine every time out under pressure. Beam is by far the weakness for the Huskers, so they will need that kind of stable performance to stay competitive. They may legitimately rank 5th on beam at this meet, and they have to minimize the damage so they can make up for it on good events. Nebraska will start the meet on bars, and they will need to outscore Utah here to advance, so look for something 49.300+. If they go below that, Utah will smell blood.

For the Utes, Regionals was similarly not a meet to remember, but not because of any one reason. It typified why Utah has not been in the title conversation for a few years now because there wasn’t really anything wrong with the gymnastics, but there were enough reasons to deduct that it became a parade of 9.825s. Some of this was to be expected once we entered the postseason, as counting on Beers or Hansen to go over 9.825 on bars is unrealistic. However, the biggest issue for Utah was the weird lineup decisions. Lopez anchoring beam with Lothrop leading off? Lothrop’s so-far-from-competition-ready vault as anchor? We saw plenty of conservative lineup decisions, which is not acceptable for this point in the season. Robarts even mentioned in her post-meet interview that they placed her last on floor because they were afraid she would fall. That’s some February nonsense right there.

Utah needs to have the confidence to put the best routines at the end of these lineups, otherwise they will be looking at another year of trying to sneak into Super Six on the strength of 9.850s and other people’s mistakes with no chance of making an impact on Saturday. Utah has more depth of scores in the floor lineup than Nebraska does, so look for Utah to try to get out in front on that event and hit beam with a bit more confidence than they did at Regionals. If they can excel on those two events, Nebraska will have to be perfect on the other two to match them.

Turning to the evening session, I debated putting Arkansas among the bottom tier of teams, but they are the most likely team in the evening session to cause an upset. So, perhaps out of sheer desire for something unexpected to happen during that session, I’m giving them a bit more of a chance to score well and take out one of the favorites.

The return of Katherine Grable erases so many of the holes for this team, which should allow them to exceed most expectations that are derived from the way they ended the regular season. In an ideal meet, this team can score in the 49.2s on every event, which means that they would be in prime position to knock off a team that does not have a great meet. Now, they probably will need a team ranked above them to count a fall or a score or two in the 9.6s for that to happen, but it’s a possibility, especially because the Razorbacks have the confidence and momentum coming off the Regional performance. They will feel like they have a second wind and a chance to peak for a second time this season now that Grable has returned.

This team will have to squeeze every possible 9.850 out of the lineups, so pay attention to whether landings are stuck on bars (because they have no hope without it) and how those 3rd and 4th workers are scoring on each event. We know that Pisani will be stratospheric and that a returned Grable will be able to nearly match her, but the deciding factor for Arkansas will be how people like Lewis, Borsellino, and Salmon are scoring. A 9.800 won’t be enough from this group, even though that’s what we’ve seen most of the season. Those routines have to go 9.850 for Arkansas to have hope of staying with anyone above them.


The Nationals Scene: The Bottom Four

Nationals goes by so quickly. We build up to it for weeks, perhaps longer given that we can usually assume the majority of competitors well before Regionals, and then within the span of a few hours half of the teams have been eliminated. And by the time forty-eight hours have passed, another season is over. So, it’s important to spend a few moments reflecting on all of the teams now because once Nationals start there’ll be no time.

I mentioned before last weekend that the tension of Regionals often produces a slew of sloppy, tight routines. But while we didn’t see much free-flowing gymnastics from any teams, the number of sloppy routines was kept to a minimum, at least in relation to my expectations. So, that development gives me some hope that we won’t see the same kind of disaster during National Semifinals that we saw last year, where the beam was obviously made of poison given how unwilling the gymnasts were to be near it.
And though that hope for a clean Semifinal should be a positive development for gymnastics fans, it’s not such a blessing for our lower seeds, who will be relying on falls to keep their Super Six hopes alive. While I don’t have to work as hard as I did during Regionals to envision a scenario where the lower seeds advance, it would definitely be a surprise to see any of these teams competing on the 21st.
So, let’s take a look at our teams seeded 5th and 6th at National Semifinals.
Of the four teams on the bottom rungs, I give Stanford the biggest chance to cause an upset. In fact, if the afternoon session were not so deep, I would probably make the Cardinal my upset special given that they are the most complete team of the four I’m featuring in this preview. Floor is usually the weak event, but unlike the other teams, they have proven the ability to post a big score on each event in recent weeks. 
So, why won’t they advance? The problems are severalfold, all stemming from the molasses-in-winter trajectory they have had this year. This team was bad to start the season. And by bad, I mean actually bad, not UCLA-four-beam-falls-in-January-but-we-know-they’ll-be-fine bad. That they have progressed as much as they have in the last month is commendable, but it also means that they have had no time to prove consistency. They missed bars at Pac-12s and underperformed on vault and floor at Regionals, so it’s difficult to say that this team could qualify with a great meet at Nationals because they’ve never done that. In the last two meets, Stanford has suffered five falls, so even though they’ve recorded their best scores, it’s hard to call that peaking.
Another rule of Nationals is “No 9.7-ing Allowed.” I fear that Stanford will be breaking that rule all over the place. Unless they get Pac-12 Championships scoring, they’re going to incur at least a few of those on vault and floor. On vault, Hanset lands far too low and Pechanec often bounces into the stands, and on floor, I don’t have a ton of confidence in the scoring potential of whoever gets that sixth spot (Shapiro/S. Morgan). These questionable routines put too much pressure on the later lineup to dig out of a hole. 
For Stanford to challenge for one of the top three spots, Ashley Morgan and Ivana Hong will have to be perfect (none of these 9.750-9.800 routines), and the anchors will have to do their jobs. The teams ranked above Stanford will be getting consistent 9.900s from their anchors, but Stanford’s anchors went 9.750, 9.925, 9.825, 9.175 at Regionals. That’s not good enough. 

Throughout the season, LSU has displayed a higher scoring potential than Stanford, but I give them less chance to advance because of clear weak events that Stanford doesn’t have. Stanford could go 39.300 on each event (I don’t see it happening, but they could), which would put them right in the qualification hunt. LSU, however, has a fair shot at going around 49.300 on vault and floor, but they just don’t have the routines on bars and beam to warrant that kind of score even on the best of days. The Tigers are a power team. They always have been, and that one-sided quality limits their capability to challenge in deeper years. 
LSU is going to peak out somewhere in the mid-high 196s, which means they will be needing charitable donations from the poison balance beam fund to contend regardless of performance. What absolutely cannot happen again is what we saw at Regionals, where they were in trouble even after floor and vault because the 5th and 6th workers failed to convert for high scores. No one in the first four positions on any of the events should be going 9.900, so the scoring onus falls to routines like Hall on floor, Courville on vault, and Morrison on bars. When they are recording falls and 9.800s, LSU cannot score well enough to be nationally relevant. Courville’s 9.875 on bars was the highest score LSU managed at all of Regionals, which really highlights the fragility of these lineups on an off day. 
Oregon State:
It’s easy to forget that the Beavers were the second seed in their Semifinal last year and were picked by many to advance to Super Six. They severely underperformed at that meet, and their missing out on advancing by just a tenth is indicative of the overall weakness of the performances from Utah and Florida as well. What’s interesting is that the Oregon State lineups have not changed that drastically from the team that everyone was so high on last year. The loss of Britney Ranzy certainly inhibits their scoring potential on vault and floor, but I am surprised at how much the graduations of Kesler and Colvin and the injury to McGregor have impeded the scoring potential since none of them were anchors or star performers. 
Like LSU, Oregon State has a couple of unimpressive events that will keep them from being competitive, but unlike LSU, one of those events is vault, which is devastating this year. The Beavers don’t have the amplitude, form, or landings on that event, as we saw at Pac-12s when even that loosey-goosey scoring managed to earn them only a 49.200 with no scores in the 9.9s. If the Beavers are trying to catch Georgia in their Semifinal, they cannot afford a several-tenth deficit solely because of vault, especially because Georgia should match them on bars and beat them on beam and floor.
But even though the vault rotation is unimpressive, they should still hit that event. Their perennial nemesis, the beam, may be even more dangerous. It’s not really fair to Stambaugh that she has been thrown into the beam lineup again this year when she is just not a beamer. The overall 9.825ishness of this rotation has forced them not only to compete her but rely on her for scores, and it’s not going to happen. We saw at Regionals how easily 9.6s can creep into this rotation, and I don’t have much confidence that they will be able to avoid those scores at Nationals.
Ohio State:
Thanks for coming, Buckeyes. I was trying to invent a scenario where I could see Ohio State advancing out of the Semifinals, but I couldn’t come up with one. Sure, anything is possible, but they will need multiple teams counting falls while also not falling victim to that same affliction. Ohio State is a very consistent middle of the pack team that got the final place at Nationals on the strength of a secure Regionals performance and some friendly home scoring during the season that earned them the sought-after #12 seed in the first place.
The bars and beam rotations for this team are just average, and the floor rotation is the kind that will garner some high scores speckled throughout the regular season but will pale in comparison to the top teams once everyone starts competing at the same time. Right now, this is a team that seems content with 9.800-9.825 scores, and why shouldn’t they be? Unless you’re one of the major teams, those are solid scores that will produce a victorious season, as Ohio State achieved this year. But looking forward, the expectations have to grow. This first trip to Nationals since 1990 is a tremendous accomplishment, but unlike Kent State last year, this doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. This team has the difficulty and talent level to expect more, so now it’s time to start stepping up the schedule with more difficult out-of-conference meets and sculpting an identity for the team (though that does take time).    

Afternoon vs. Evening Sessions

Yesterday I made the offhand comment that there was no statistical advantage to being in the evening session versus the afternoon session at Nationals. This was based entirely on my own perceptions and a reaction against the general narrative that teams should prefer the evening session because scores increase throughout the day. Well, it’s time to put that assumption to the test.

To find how this actually plays out, I looked at the All-Around, which is the only title decided on the first day of competition and therefore is the most relevant to this argument. I took the average of the top 5 All-Around finishers from each session over the last 10 years to see if the evening AAers actually score higher.

Afternoon AA Average – Top 5 Finishers:
2011 – 39.405
2010 – 39.460
2009 – 39.500
2008 – 39.455
2007 – 39.525
2006 – 39.425
2005 – 39.485
2004 – 39.485
2003 – 39.450
2002 – 39.495
Total Average: 39.469

Evening AA Average – Top 5 Finishers:
2011 – 39.385
2010 – 39.495
2009 – 39.540
2008 – 39.545
2007 – 39.490
2006 – 39.440
2005 – 39.595
2004 – 39.600
2003 – 39.470
2002 – 39.495
Total Average: 39.506

Well, there we have it. There does appear to be a slight statistical advantage for AAers competing in the second session. Now, some of these numbers may be skewed by the home team receiving some home scoring in the evening session, but I don’t think that alone is enough to account for the difference. It also should be noted that the differences were larger in the past and, over the last few years, the advantage has been statistically minimal or, as in 2011, inverted. In fact, the last three AA winners have come from the early session, including Kupets’s massive 39.800 in 2009. The only years where we see a truly notable advantage for the second session were 2004, 2005, and 2008.

Regionals in Review

Before we get to reviewing the action from Regionals, let’s take a look at our sessions for Nationals, which were announced officially today.

Afternoon Session:
[2] UCLA
[3] Oklahoma
[6] Nebraska
[7] Utah
[10] Stanford
[11] LSU

Evening Session:
[1] Florida
[4] Alabama
[5] Georgia
[8] Arkansas
[9] Oregon State
[12] Ohio State

This marks the third straight year that UCLA has found itself in the early session and the third straight year Florida and Alabama have been in the evening session. Some variety would be nice, but the time of the sessions is largely irrelevant. The only notable thing the draw would influence is the AA title, but I don’t think there’s much evidence to support the claim that the later session has a statistical AA advantage. It doesn’t matter. The teams in the early session will be sure to emphasize that they like this placement because it gives them more time to rest before Super Six, but I expect any team to be able to handle either session.

The afternoon session is a bit deeper in that it does not have three clear favorites, but I don’t think UCLA or Oklahoma should be that concerned by the draw. Both teams had some struggles at Regionals and still went over 197, and it’s unlikely that we will see teams fail to advance to Super Six while scoring a 197 in the Semifinals. I will do a series of Nationals previews over the next two weeks and will get into this in much more detail then.

For now, let’s talk about the weekend’s action from Regionals.

When there is so much going on at the same time, it is often difficult to digest exactly what’s happening and make evaluations based on it. Now that some time has passed, the situation we saw play out at Regionals becomes a bit clearer.

To start, no one was that amazing. We some some great individual rotations and a few teams excel on most events, but no one earned the title of Nationals Favorite based on the performances from Regionals, which makes the Nationals picture even more interesting. Nearly all the best teams scored in the low 197s, and nearly all of them are capable of so much more. Let’s take a moment to break down what we saw. I would normally add videos to illustrate the action, but we don’t have a ton of individual performances online yet, so enjoy some endless text!

Top Qualifier:
We’ve had a tumultuous season thus far that has seen many teams claim the mantle of title contender, whether realistic or not, but Florida has always been the odds-on favorite (with a peaking asterisk). Nothing changed after Regionals. The Gators were not phenomenal, especially on beam where we saw some seriously tentative gymnastics from the freshmen, but there were enough improvements from SECs for anyone to be optimistic about Florida’s chances. They proved they are still on an upward trajectory. Vault in particular was the best it has been all season in terms of containing landings. Kiersten Wang stepping in for Ellis was a completely different gymnast than we saw in January. At times this season vault was lagging behind, but that rotation at Regionals proved that they can compete with UCLA on this event (I hesitate to retain Alabama in that same category, and we’ll get to that soon).

We know Florida can win the National Championship, but they have to continue on this same path. The landings still need to improve (on vault King and Hunter can do better and they still scored 49.550, and there were two OOBs on floor), and I have some concerns about Rachel Spicer in that second position on beam. The performance from Regionals will not win Nationals in its own right, but no other team proved more capable.

Heir to the Throne:
The UCLA Bruins posted the second-highest score from Regionals, and that’s cause for the same kind of optimism that Florida fans should have because UCLA was not so awesome for large periods of that meet and still came out of it with a comfortable score. They performed one of their best floor rotations of the season, but every other event had problems. That probably should be a concern because we have yet to see amazing gymnastics from this team, but this is UCLA. More than any other team, UCLA doesn’t need precedent to pull out a great performance. Only one vaulter performed up to capability at Regionals, and they still scored a 49.450. If Frattone and Zamarripa hit well, that’s a 49.600 rotation. Also encouraging for UCLA is that the most crucial unexpectedly low scores came from Aisha Gerber,   a solid senior without a history of mental collapse, so I wouldn’t bet on that becoming a trend.

The true concern for the Bruins coming off Regionals is the bars. It’s not a concern solely because of De La Torre’s fall (though she needs to be going 9.850). It’s a concern because there is a lot of just OK gymnastics. Larson incurs way too many deductions for her talent level, and Gerber cannot have a January-type landing at this point in the season. As it stands, this team probably tops out at 49.200-49.250 on a good day. That’s not a National Championship kind of rotation. They have to stick every landing to squeeze as much as possible from bars, and I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Also Contenders, But . . .
Oklahoma and Alabama have been right in the mix all season, but the Regionals performances for both of these teams give me a few more reasons to be concerned than I have for Florida or UCLA. Oklahoma managed well enough at Regionals, especially with a makeshift lineup after the injuries to Nowak and then Ward. Beam was excellent and they scored better on floor than I expected, which should be encouraging. Like UCLA, they had some lackluster performances on bars, but the biggest red flag was the weakness on vault because vault is the highest scoring event nationally. Even if UCLA has a bad bar rotation, or Florida has a wobbly beam, they are both going to drop only a couple tenths on the better performing teams, but Oklahoma could legitimately face a four or five tenth deficit just because of vault, which could be too great to overcome.

I’m very surprised by the weaknesses I saw from Alabama at Regionals, and even more surprised that they have become a trend. Of all the top teams, Alabama showed some of the weakest, least contained landings, which absolutely should not be happening. Alabama traditionally survives on the kind of solidity we haven’t seen for weeks. The way they landed on vault and floor reminded me of a team that is too injured to try to stick. Now, I don’t think that’s really the case for Alabama, but that’s what it looked like, which is a problem. For a bunch of weeks in a row now, they have not landed their vaults effectively, and there were multiple mistakes on tumbling passes at Regionals. Unless something changes, this is a third-fourth place team.

Look Who’s Still Here:
Georgia isn’t going anywhere, which is fascinating. On paper, they should not be as competitive as it appears they are. I made the comment in the Regionals preview that Noel Couch would not be getting 9.9s in the postseason, but she got two of them at Regionals, so up is down and I don’t know what to think. Could it happen at Nationals? Maybe, I guess.

Georgia had their best floor rotation of the season, and were a Shayla-ed beam routine away from being right with UCLA. The problem for the Gymdogs is that, of the top five scoring teams, they performed closest to their best gymnastics. On a day like we saw on Saturday, they will appear nationally competitive, but they don’t have the depth of high-scoring routines throughout the lineups to keep pace with a Florida or UCLA if those teams have a great day.

Note that Tanella did not compete at Regionals, and I didn’t even notice for a long time. Persinger is a better choice because she has gained consistency and has the NCAA equivalent of “international look,” which even though Martha invented it, is still a thing in NCAA, especially at Nationals. Jay also completely broke with his coaching precedent by adding Cheek into the vault lineup at Regionals. He doesn’t usually like to make changes that late in the season, so I was glad to see it in him. One of my complaints about Jay is that he has seemed far too set in his ways for being a new head coach, so his trying new things is excellent to see.

Falling . . .
Utah and Nebraska had the unfortunate status of being in the gymnastics overload final Regional, so it was a bit difficult to care about their performances out of fatigue. Scoring seemed significantly tighter at Utah than it was just a few weeks before. That’s good for the Utes because they need to get used to how they will be scored at Nationals, but it’s bad for them because it showed which previously 9.900 routines won’t actually be getting those scores. Corrie Lothrop needs to scrap her new vault yesterday because it’s not very good and is an unacceptably low score for the anchor position.

The big story for Nebraska was the injury to Schleppenbach, which prevented her from competing. Not much news from the Huskers about her prognosis, so we’ll keep her tentatively penciled in for Nationals. However, that development showed how reliant they are on every single top contributor hitting every routine. Jessie DeZiel is absolutely excellent on vault and floor, and there are some strong bar routines in that lineup, but Nebraksa needs Schleppenbach in the lineup otherwise I don’t see them advancing out of that Semifinal. Busacker has had so few routines this year that she is not a solution.

The Comeback:
Arkansas should be extremely proud of the way they came back from poor performances and scored well at home. Having Grable back and Lewis healthy was obviously a tremendous boost, but many people picked them to be upset, so overcoming those low expectations was impressive regardless of lineup. Now, the actual performance at Regionals should make the Razorbacks both pleased and concerned. They should be pleased because they performed extremely well, and they should be concerned because extremely well for them probably won’t be good enough to advance out of Semifinals. The bar rotation was the best I’ve seen from Arkansas this season, with a bunch of stuck landings, and they were still mired in the 9.8s. In most cases, they hit to the best of their abilities throughout the meet and were still not close to challenging an average UCLA because of a 49.250-49.300 ceiling on each event.

What Do We Do with You?
Stanford was a bit unphenomenal at Regionals, but they did well to hit the final four beam routines to save a recurrence of last year’s harrowing result. This team has the potential on every event, and there is an outside chance for them to advance to Super Six because I see them scoring pretty close to Utah or Nebraska if they actually put together a complete meet, though that has yet to occur this year. As we have seen most of the season, flashes of brilliant rotations were followed by awkward landings and unimpressive or tentative gymnastics. For instance, vault had been improving so much over the weeks, and then it was a disaster at Regionals all of the sudden.

The Backup Dancers:
Ohio State, Oregon State, and LSU are also teams. Ohio State did well to qualify out of Regionals, but they performed a lot of iffy gymnastics and were way too close to NC State for comfort and advanced because of hitting more beam routines than Penn State did. I wasn’t that convinced by any of the Buckeye gymnastics. It’s great that they advanced this far, but now they are being judged on national standards and they will not meet them.

Oregon State and LSU fought off valiant efforts from Michigan and Washington respectively, and I admit I was rooting for the upsets both because upsets is more fun and because neither of the higher seeded teams were very impressive at all. LSU should be extremely concerned about not scoring well on vault and floor because the bars and beam rotations are just average and have been all year. They rely on bumping up their scores with two great events, which is a risky game anyway, and did not work at Regionals. Likewise, Oregon State is a really nice bars team with a lot of unmemorable performances on the other events. Vault and beam in particular are not going to give them much chance at advancing to Super Six. I wholeheartedly commend Michigan and Washington for keeping it exciting, but that it was even as close as it was says more about the poor performances of OSU and LSU. Michigan and Washington had season-best showings but did not have the depth or talent level to take that trip to Nationals based on their own merits. It was about other teams underperforming.

Regionals Live Blog – This Is the Show

The Regionals have finally arrived. With all the top teams competing nearly simultaneously in must-hit situations, this really is the most exciting day in NCAA gymnastics. In the words of Our Lady of Perpetual Valorie, “It makes for Fantastic. Sport.” As always I’ll be commenting on all the action in a live blog after the jump, trying desperately to keep up with everything that is going on. Since there will be moments when we have four Regionals happening at the same time, I will invariably miss things, so keep me up to date in the comments.

Do any of the top six seeds have a chance of going down? I don’t see it, but it wouldn’t be a Regional without an upset, so I may be rooting for it, especially as we get toward the end if the early Regionals have been breezes. It’s just better that way. Regionals can be a nervous breakdown of a day, so lots of nonsense can happen. Remember last year when Ashanee had that beam disaster and Shayla fell on her bars mount?

Regionals. This is what happens. Get ready.

The 2012 Balance Beam Situation Room, with all your Regionals needs:

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – Raleigh Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, NC State, Kent State, North Carolina

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Champaign Regional   VIDEO   SCORES  (Individual apparatus video)
Oklahoma, Stanford, Denver, Illinois, Kentucky, UIC

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Fayetteville Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
UCLA, Arkansas, Boise State, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maryland

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Seattle Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Alabama, LSU, Arizona, Washington, Iowa, Central Michigan

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Auburn Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Georgia, Oregon State, Auburn, Michigan, West Virginia, Michigan State

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Salt Lake City Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa State, Arizona State, San Jose State

Not too far away from the beginning of action now. I’m pleased that we’ll just have one Regional to start with instead of the cavalcade we will see later in the day. That way we can get comfortable with a slower start, especially seeing as Ohio State and Penn State are both on byes to start the first Regional. So, we’ll really have only Florida on bars to focus on in that first rotation.

Just watched yesterday’s press conference from the Fayetteville Regional. Val mentioned that Peszek might be questionable because of a dislocated rib (true story?) at Pac-12s. Could make things interesting.

I expect the scores in Raleigh to go quite high, and Florida on bars in the first rotation will give us a good sense of how high. If Dickerson and Hunter go over 9.850, it will be a high scoring day. I expect to see a 49.400 from Florida, but anything 49.200+ is fine. To get off on the right foot, NC State needs to break 49 on vault in that first rotation.

Coverage beginning now in Raleigh. We’re yet to introduce the teams, so we have a while to wait. Ugh, pre-meet festivities are unbearable. It’s very difficult to cover a quad meet, so I’m interested to see how much of the non-host teams we see on these feeds. Hopefully they give us sufficient focus on the other top teams.

Temp tattoo numbers. Harrowing.

Underway in Raleigh, NC State starts with an OK Yfull with low body and step forward. We’re seeing some North Carolina on floor now, some low tumbling to start things off.

Dickerson on bars, misses one handstand but sticks the DLO nicely. This stream has been very inconsistent for me. and live scores have not yet updated. Let’s pull it together. Score is a 9.900, so note what I said before about high scoring.

Barr for NCST on vault, pretty nice yhalf with a little tucking and a step to the side.

King looks very nice on bars, just a larger hop back on the DLO, so won’t score as well as Dickerson. Kent State has a fall on beam, so they’re counting a score under 9.7 now.

The commentator mispronounces Caquatto. Seriously? Nice routine but probably shouldn’t go higher than 9.900. She can be a bit cleaner, but very solid.

North Carolina (Durkac?) attempts a triple on floor, but whirls out of it and out of bounds, so likely will be a drop for them.

NC State goes 49.125 on vault, so the judges were pleased with that performance, giving out two 9.850s. Florida leads as expected with a 49.300 on bars, Dickerson and Johnson go 9.900 to lead the rotation. It’s within the solid range for Florida but lower than their RQS. Kent State and NCar will be trailing after the first, a bunch of 9.650-9.675s for both teams.

North Carolina got away with an OOB on floor, but way to many low scores to even reach the high 48s, which would have been the goal. 48.625 is the total there. Still waiting on the final score from Kent State on beam, but it’s not looking great.

Raleigh Rotation 1: Florida 49.300, NC State 49.125, North Carolina 48.625, Kent State 48.350

The second rotation will feature Florida on beam, Ohio State on floor, and Penn State on bars. The commentators are really noting that they think the scores are low, which they aren’t, but they are lower than I expected them to be so far. Both PSU and OSU need to go over 49 on these rotations to keep pace with what NC State put up, even though NCST should go a bit lower on bars and beam later on.

Stageberg starting on beam for FL. She’s right on here, a minor wobble but very solid start. If Spicer hits, I expect them to be home free on this event. She’s the one who has fallen earlier in the season.

Welsh on bars for Penn State, a little sluggish in the swing, but nice stuck double front. Spicer wobbles on her loso, very tentative in this routine but hits her gainer full dismount. Similar to the beam routines we saw at SECs that went in the 9.7s.

Stumble out of a 2.5 from DeLuca on floor for Ohio State. North Carolina is performing some very 9.7 vaults. Over to Johnson on beam, she’s also looking a little tentative but not letting it show in her landings with a stuck dismount. Penn State goes over on a handstand, neither PSU or OSU really impressing so far, and as I say that, a fall for Ohio State from Jones on the floor dismount.

Ashanee is clean on beam, obviously a far cry from last year, with a stuck double back. That will score quite well. We’re only getting bits and pieces of penn State on bars in inset, but Musser looks strong. Ohio State recovers well on floor.

Kytra has to grab the beam, which means they’ll be counting Spicer’s 9.675. Uh oh. Pressure on Marissa now.  Good clean tumbling from Dean for Ohio State. I don’t expect them to have to count that fall, but Miller still has to go. King is completely in focus on beam, looking very strong, and a gorgeous stuck dismount. Should be the highest score yet for Florida.

Miller on floor, a little lunge out of the double arabian but it was fine, good loso out of final pass. Strong way to finish the rotation. It’s now time for our next two Regionals to begin, so once we get the scores here, I will switch over to Fayetteville, probably. Peszek is in the AA lineup, so no worries there.

Nearly underway at the Arkansas Regional . . . We’re looking at Maryland starting on floor now. Apparently we’ve had a mistake from De La Torre on bars. Oh UCLA. Let’s watch out for this. Disastrous start for the Bruins.

Checking out the scores in Raleigh, we see a bunch of 9.800s to start from OSU and PSU.

Just OK from Missouri on vault so far, some 9.7-level routines. We’re not seeing a ton of gymnastics on this feed. Lots of waiting. More low landings for Missouri on vault.

Fall alert: Penn State will be counting a fall on beam, so a huge opening for Ohio State and NC State here. This could really go either way between the two.

We’ve barely seen any of UCLA on bars. Larson is a little sloppy but it’s a hit, which is all they really need from the final three competitors to save the rotation. Don’t have any scoring updates from the Champaign Regional yet. Anyone?

Peszek hits well, flings out her DLO a little but sticks it anyway. Zamarripa is absolutely excellent except for a little hop together on the dismount. They just need Gerber to hit now to save it. Huge stumble back from Gerber on the dismount. That was a very weak rotation from UCLA, but they can probably overcome it.

In Raleigh, Ohio State and NC State are neck and neck at the halfway point, both with beam still to go. Penn State had a poor beam rotation, so they are well back as of right now, along with Kent State, who counted a fall on floor.

Scoreboard for the Arkansas Regional is terrible at updating. Very slow, but it looks like Maryland got a 48.850 on floor, which is very strong for them.

Over in Illinois, Oklahoma has a low score on bars that they will be hoping to drop, a 9.475 from Ward [Changed, though]. UCLA squeaks by bars with a 49.050, and they are lucky to escape by going over 49, but they need to be excellent, not just OK, on beam. Still, they have a lead before Arkansas and Boise State begin.

In the second rotation, Arkansas will have to erase those SEC memories. Like UCLA, Oklahoma escapes bars with a low 49s score, so they should be fine going forward. Illinois is right with them after a solid vault rotation, which has been a weakness for them this season. This could be a close one here.

Zumwalde starts floor for Arkansas, exactly what they needed, fine, clean, solid. Baer hits beam very cleanly, important for her coming back into the lineup, especially after Gerber struggled (but hit). This is a different Arkansas team on the floor so far.

Larson hits beam nicely with a slightly low dismount. Impressive for Lewis coming back on floor for Arkansas after her injury two weeks ago. Did she do two double tucks? I think so.

Over in Raleigh, Florida is hitting floor well to maintain the lead. NC State is struggling a little bit, so Ohio State should be feeling pretty good about their chances.

Boise State is looking strong on bars, and UCLA has been fine on beam, but the scores haven’t really been coming. So beam scoring looks a little tighter than I expected at this meet. Pisani hits floor exceptionally well as expected. It will be interesting to see how Grable does coming into the event.

Florida goes 49.275 on floor to extend their lead with on vault remaining.

Peszek is very clean through her routine, just a little hop back, so UCLA’s score should once again be fine but not great. They are not out of the woods at this meet. Arkansas will get some huge scores on floor after Grable’s hit routine. Could get close with UCLA and Boise State, but UCLA still has the benefit of vault coming up, so they should escape.

Now that we’ve seen two rotations in Fayetteville, I’ll switch back over to Raleigh to see how things are starting to wrap up there. Over in Raleigh, Florida is in great shape to go over 197, while NC State’s wobbly beam has taken them down a bit.

Spicer starts well on vault for Florida with a yfull with a little pike down. Good vault, though. Wang surprisingly comes in on vault for Florida, she has improved that vault A LOT from the beginning of the season.

Alaina Johnson vaults very cleanly as well, they have improved this quite a lot since SECs. Apparently there was a change from Oklahoma on bars, so they scored higher than expected, and they are also scoring extremely well on beam, so they should have no problems. These vault scores have been very high (though for very nice vaults) and Florida will get a humongous total.

Hunter hits vault well, so Florida will win this meet easily, total score is a 49.550 on vault for a 197.325 total. Ohio State will just have to hit through the rest of the meet to take the second position, it looks like. They will lead NC State by .550 going into the last event, so it’s still alive for NC State because OSU will be on beam, but it will be tough for them to get through.

Keeping up with Stanford, they had a fall from Ashley Morgan on floor that they did not have to count, and scored a 49.100 to go a tenth ahead of Illinois right now. Denver had a pretty poor bar rotation for 48.625. Doesn’t look like it will be a problem for Oklahoma and Stanford here.

So far on vault, Arkansas is scoring fine but not great numbers. I bunch of 9.800s, so they’ll need Pisani to bump up the rotation.

Last rotation coming up in Raleigh, it’s all up to Ohio State. A brief check back in with the Fayetteville Regional now, where it looks like Potvin-Green just hit a strong beam routine for Boise State. The remedial live scoring for that meet is helping no one. Arkansas finished vault with a 49.200, so it does look like the Razorbacks will have the highest two event score. Boise State is counting a couple low scores on beam, and Missouri got a 48.625 on bars, so Arkansas and UCLA should be feeling pretty good right now.

Back in Raleigh to close things out, Ohio State on beam, NC State on floor, Penn State on vault. First two routines from Ohio State are hits. Good first score from Penn State on vault, but a couple wonky landings after that. NC State is putting up a couple fine scores on floor, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough as of right now with Ohio State hitting cleanly on beam.

In Illinois, Stanford has two scores in the 9.7s so far on vault, so they are keeping things interesting. 9.725 from Pechanec and 9.700 from Hanset. Although, Illinois and Denver aren’t scoring high enough to take advantage.

Penn State finishes with a 195.650, which will not be enough this year. Ohio State has a few wobbles in the fifth routine, but it’s a hit which should ensure that the Buckeyes go to Nationals. Time to head back to Fayetteville. Finals: Ohio State 196.225, NC State 195.975. Close, but not enough.

Very schizophrenic coverage at the Arkansas Regional with flipping back and forth between routines in the middle of them. Zamarripa is very clean on floor, and Olivia Courtney hits very well. They are finding their stride after that poor start. These are very nice floor routines so far.

In Illinois, Stanford went under 49 on vault, but they still have a .250 lead on Illinois. Oklahoma is well out in front.

Pritchett hits floor for UCLA, while Missouri is struggling on beam and Maryland is getting a bunch of 9.7s on bars. UCLA looks in control now, and if Arkansas can hit beam they should be just fine. Peszek’s leaps were a little Peszek-y, but other than that it was an excellent routine with a minor bounce back out of the double pike dismount.

Updike from Issouri is clean on beam, and EHH is doing her 2010 routine very well, just a minor bounce back out of the double back, but otherwise an excellent hit rotation for UCLA. 49.475, so they can still go over 197 with even an average vault rotation.

Ah! It’s already almost time for our fourth and fifth Regionals. Too much! Soon the Seattle and Auburn regionals will begin, so I’ll check in with those early on if these two Regionals continue to be dominated by the top seeds. While I think the top seeds should go through comfortably, we never know. We haven’t seen enough surprises yet. I blame everybody.

Huge scores coming from Oklahoma on floor, a couple 9.900s already early in the rotation. They’ll be trying to catch Florida’s 197.325. Illinois trying to avoid counting a fall on beam, which would take them right out of it.

Fifth rotation getting underway in Arkansas, UCLA will try to solidify the qualification spot on the vault, while Boise State will try to get back in it on the floor and hope that something happens to Arkansas in the next two rotations. Arkansas is having a few handstand issues in these first two rotations, but good stuck landings. Scoreboard still isn’t working for this Regional, so it may be a while before we know what’s happening.

Illinois gets out of beam to keep within sight of Stanford, Peszek sticks one of her best yfulls of the year. Should score very well, if we were to get any scores, of course. 9.950 for Peszek in the third position, but Courtney does not stick as she usually doe. Grable hits bars to continue the good news for Arkansas.

Apparently not the best vault from Frattone. She hasn’t hit that well since her 10 on Senior Day. Another hit from Pisani on bars, very clean. They’ve worked these landings well. Zamarripa does not stick her vault, but just with a tiny hop and should obviously score very high.

Very nice on the tkatchev and jaeger from Howdeshell, a big hop on the DLO. Maryland is having a minor disaster on the beam, which will take them totally out of it.

The commentators inform us that UCLA finishes with a 197.225, which will easily be enough to advance. Arkansas will have a significant lead over the rest of the teams as well.

I think it’s time to check in with the Auburn Regional, which should be about underway. Four events at once, how am I supposed to handle this? So Persinger did come in on bars for Georgia after all, but came in for Tanella. Shayla hit for 9.850. It’s an Auburn miracle. Really erratic stream there for me, a lot of buffering, so I’m switching over to Georgia’s audio for that meet. 9.900 for Nuccio. Georgia scoring very well on bars. Ding sticks the DLO.

Big score from Michigan, 49.225 on vault. Pressure on Oregon State, who is starting on a bye. Georgia is just ahead with a  49.300. Michigan’s score has been bumped up to a 49.300, so they are level with Georgia.

In Illinois, Stanford gets a huge 49.400 on bars to erase the problems from Pac-12s. They will advance if they hit beam in the final rotation. Oklahoma finishes with an average vault rotation to score 197.025, which will help them qualify easily.

In Seattle, Alabama gets 9.900s from Sledge and Stack-Eaton, so they will be leading after the first rotation regardless of Priess’s number. Washington recorded a very strong 49.200 on vault. Alabama finishes bars with 49.350 with beam to come soon. In most cases, bars is the weakness for Alabama, so they seem to be through the toughest one with a great score.

I haven’t watched any of the Seattle Regional yet, so I’m going to check in there for a little bit for Alabama’s beam and LSU’s floor. I’ll also keep an eye on Georgia’s beam score and whether Arkansas and Stanford can finish out their qualification places with hits on beam. Arkansas has hit the first two beam routines.

Dickson starting floor for LSU, very confident on her tumbling to start, will not score nearly as low as it did at SECs. Jacob hits beam for Alabama, 9.825. Milliner next, very confident in her acro, looking solider than I saw her earlier in the season, just a couple minor steps on the dismount.

Williams next on beam, it’s interesting that beam has become her major contribution to the team instead of vault or floor. One wobble and a step on the dismount, but it’s fine. We’re only seeing the very end of these LSU routines, so it’s difficult to judge.

Demeo now, right on for her acro, great routine.

Stanford has had a fall from Pechanec on beam, so I’m going to head over there because they now need four hits in a row, otherwise this thing gets good. Hong hit in the third position. Shona Morgan up now, solid on series, hits the routine. Down to Spinner and Brown now.

Good series from Spinner and hits her loso. Really strong routine in a pressure situation. Brown is a good anchor for this team because she has a relatively low-risk routine, not to jinx her.

(I switched away from Fayetteville, did Arkansas close it out on beam as they should have?)

Brown has a minor wobble on the punch front, but she hits and Stanford will go to Nationals. Looking at the scores, they probably could have even counted that fall.

Alabama ended up hitting beam well for 49.225. LSU was just OK on floor for 49.050, so they will be behind Washington after one event, but I don’t expect that to last. Arizona had a disaster on bars to take them right out of it.

Shayla hit bars, so she had to miss somewhere just so we knew it was still her. 9.400 on the beam, but it doesn’t matter. 49.100 rotation for Georgia. Oregon State goes 49.075 on floor and Auburn goes 48.900 on bars. Lots of teams in this right now.

In between rotations right now in Seattle and Auburn, waiting on SLC to start. The first lull we’ve had in hours.

Watch out for Michigan on bars and Oregon State on vault, these could be some interesting rotations because they aren’t exactly strengths, which seems strange to say about Michigan on bars. They need Martinez back. Low score to start for Oregon State on vault.

In Seattle, Washington starts bars with two scores in the 9.7s, and LSU has a 9.800 and a 9.700.

Miele clips her heels on the bar for Michigan but continues the routine, won’t be a high score. 9.575, so they’ll need to drop it. Lots of scores in the 9.7s at the Auburn Regional (which Kevin Copp also just said, oh dear).

Over in Seattle, odd fall for Courville on vault, so LSU scores just a 49. Low scores on LSU’s best two events, which leaves an opening for Washington, but they will have to hit beam, a big ask for this team. Washington currently leads LSU by .225 at the halfway point.

In Auburn, Oregon State scores a 49.125 on vault. Just fine, but it is not unassailable. Really close between a bunch of team here. Great to see! Georgia 98.400, Michigan 98.350, Oregon State 98.200, Auburn not too far behind. Let’s settle in because this will be close, even West Virginia is not totally back of the pack. Both Auburn and WVU are less then half a point behind Oregon State. In the next rotation, Georgia goes to floor and Michigan goes to beam.

In Utah, no routine from Schleppenbach on bars, so Nebraska has a fall from Busacker (the problem with their lineup, no one else had competition experience), 49.125 on bars in the first rotation, below their average and no one goes 9.900.

In Seattle, Alabama getting ready to go on floor, Washington heading into that all-important beam rotation. Warmups going on now. Georgia also about to get going on the floor in Auburn. Interesting that Davis is coming in on floor for Shayla and Cheek is debuting on vault. I love these changes, but it’s very un-Jay.

Little bounce out of the double pike for Milliner, following a 9.800 from Jacob. Earls hits floor for Georgia. Washington is having some serious wobbles on beam, but it appears they are staying on so far. They’ll need to drop a 9.550.

Huge stumble for Alabama on floor from Priess I believe but she stayed on her feet. More hits for Georgia on floor. Earls goes 9.850 in the leadoff position. Michigan is having a few wobbles on beam but nothing disastrous.

Bounce back out of the mount for Sledge, too many minor errors for Alabama on floor. They should be scoring much better. Gutierrez up now, great DLO and kept it in bounds, very good form in the second pass. Washington has a fall on a mount, so LSU looks like they will probably be out of the woods in their Regional even though the first two rotations have been average.

Georgia getting a bunch of 9.850s on floor, outpacing Michigan’s beam, though Michigan is hitting which will put pressure on Oregon State. Davis goes 9.900 on floor for Georgia and Kevin Copp is positively giggly about something Julie Clark just did. I don’t even know what’s happening . . .

Big scores continuing for Georgia, so I expect them to take this Regional with just vault to come. Michigan will be trying to stay ahead of Oregon State, but the Beavers are capable of a big number. Michigan looks like they will be at 147.100 after three events. Just ahead of West Virginia’s 146.975.

Noel Couch goes 9.925 for a 49.400 rotation for Georgia. Alabama scores just 49.125 on floor, but they are certainly capable of a big vault score as we all know. LSU needs to go high 48s on bars to stay ahead of Washington.

Utah has started floor with some 9.850s, and Nebraska will be counting a 9.750 on beam but no falls yet, so they should get through this just fine as no one else is scoring competitively.

Alabama getting started on vault, Kayla Williams solid with a step back. A few form breaks for LSU on bars, but nothing problematic. Nice vault from Priess with a hop back, they need to fix these landings, though. Nicely done from Priess. Randi Lau has a little problem on the pak for LSU but stays on the bars. Washington will still feel in this if LSU continues to have some of these 9.7s on bars.

Sledge scores lower than Priess on vault, but I think hers was better. Nice from Gutierrez but she takes a step. We know she can stick, and they’ll need that in two weeks. Milliner also has a minor step to confirm Alabama’s advancing to Nationals. Final score is a 197.025.

Lindsey Cheek debuts on vault for Georgia with a minor step. Kat Ding finishes witha yfull with a step, so Georgia will advance easily with a solid score 197.100.

Utah scores 49.325 on floor, so they will be on pace to lead by a bunch early on.

Oregon State scoring well on bars to open up a lead over Michigan that they should be able to keep up as long as they hit beam. The main focus will now be on LSU and Washington who are nearly tied going into their final events. That could go either way since LSU is on beam and Washington is on floor, which could be their best event.

Michigan would need to gain .400 on the final rotation to catch Oregon State, so it would need to come down to a fall or fall equivalent.

Utah is getting some strong scores on vault, so they look to have complete control of this Regional.

All-important last rotation starting in Seattle. It could go either way. Hit routine for Washington to begin with just a minor stumble out of the second pass.

Shelby Prunty has a fall for LSU. They now need five straight hits to advance. Podlucky for Washington is very low on the double pike mount and has a huge stumble out of the second pass. They’ll need to drop this score.

Third floor routine from Washington opens with an OK double pike and is certainly a countable score for the Huskies. They’re showing us way too many irrelevant routines and not enough of LSU on beam. Now we’re seeing Hall, big wobble but she fights through it and stays on.

Looks like Washington hit the fourth routine. Courville hits her Arabian and the loso series well. Another hit routine for LSU. Fechter matches with a nice hit for Washington. I think LSU has a slight advantage right now, but it will come down to the last routine. Exactly what we could have hoped for! Jordan hits the final routine for LSU and that will probably do it, but we’ll have to wait for our final scores. LSU finished with a 196.075, which will indeed outpace Washington’s 195.825. A shame for the Huskies, they were very close.

After we get the result here, head over to Auburn where Oregon State might be throwing this thing away to Michigan in the final rotation! This should come down to the last routine as well. Michigan will not be counting a score below 9.800 on floor.

Oregon State needs probably 9.850s from Vivian and Mak, which they are certainly capable of, but they have to convert. Vivian sticks her landing, so Mak will be capable of taking this for OSU. The 9.875 from Vivian makes Mak’s job easier. She may just need a 9.825. Mak sticks the routine, which should be enough to just barely pass Michigan. Uhhhhhh . . . so close. Officially, Oregon State will defeat Michigan on the strength of Mak’s 9.925.

So after all that all of our top seeds are going through? Pending Utah and Nebraska, of course, which does not look close at all.

Our qualifiers so far are Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, Arkansas, Georgia, Oregon State, Alabama, and LSU, with Utah and Nebraska out to big leads in the final Regional, so we can assume that is our National picture.

After three events, Nebraska is on solid 196.500 pace and leading Arizona State by a point. After two events, Utah is on 197 pace and looks to win the event easily unless there is another mishap on the beam.

Nebraska finishes out the meet with a 9.950 from DeZiel on vault to score a 196.525. Utah looks like they will just have to hit beam to exceed that number, but the Schleppenbach-less Nebraska Huskers will advance to Nationals.

Confirmed now. Utah finishes with 196.825 to become our final qualifier to National Championships. I’ll be back tomorrow with a roundup and analysis of all the Regional action.

Regional Scoresheets

If you’re a dork like me, you may enjoy following each Regional with a scoresheet. Google Docs files containing a scoresheet for each of tomorrow’s meets are linked below for your printing or referencing enjoyment. I’ve included the most recent RQSs next to each competitor/team because I always like to have those as an easy reference for comparison to see if someone is over/under-performing.

Note: The lineups listed are just expectations and are subject to change (they certainly will change). In most cases, I just used the lineup from the most recent competition except for cases like Arkansas where were expect there to be some differences.

Raleigh Regional
Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, NC State, Kent State, North Carolina

Champaign Regional
Oklahoma, Stanford, Denver, Illinois, Kentucky, UIC

Fayetteville Regional
UCLA, Arkansas, Boise State, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maryland

Seattle Regional
Alabama, LSU, Arizona, Washington, Iowa, Central Michigan

Auburn Regional
Georgia, Oregon State, Auburn, Michigan, West Virginia, Michigan State

Salt Lake City Regional
Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa State, Arizona State, San Jose State

Auburn Regional Preview

Our sixth and final Regional, hosted by Auburn, is one I’ve been looking toward for a while now in the belief that Auburn would be the most dangerous #3 seed in the event. Now, I’m not so sure. We’ll see. The teams competing in this Regional will be [6] Georgia, [7] Oregon State, [18] Auburn, [21] Michigan, [27] West Virginia, and [32] Michigan State.

The Favorites:
I give the edge to Georgia, but the difference between the Gymdogs and Oregon State is not enough for one team to be the clear favorite. Like in the Utah Regional, it won’t take a fall to separate the two. It may just take one sloppy bar dismount (Shayla!) or one flat vault rotation (entire OSU team!) to decide this one.

Georgia had a fine but unimpressive SEC Championships to score 196.575. A lot of competitors who had been going 9.875 were suddenly going 9.800 due to both some tentative performances and the more contained scoring we saw at that event. I expect the scoring at Auburn to be a bit looser, so anticipate Georgia going much closer to 197.

However, an issue that came to light at SECs was the clear reliance on Noel Couch getting high scores. Noel has improved some of her details since her freshman year, but Georgia has been relying on her to go higher than 9.850 on multiple events this year to get those scores in the 197s. Her RQS on floor is 9.915. Do we see her going close to that at Nationals when compared to all the other floor routines in the country? I don’t. Now, Georgia does have a number of routines that can go 9.900+ at Nationals, Kat Ding on two events, Nuccio and Davis on bars, and Worley on beam. For Georgia to legitimately challenge, those can’t just be potential 9.900s, they have to be 9.900s every time because those scores aren’t going to come from anywhere else. So, watch those key routines at Regionals, because if they don’t get the necessary scores in two weeks time, Georgia could be facing another 7th-8th place finish.

Oregon State hasn’t been able to break that 197 mark with any consistency this year because they are  essentially a three-gymnast team. The scoring onus is entirely up to Mak, Vivian, and Stambaugh to bring in 9.9s. The quality of those three gymnasts is enough to keep OSU ranked fairly high, but nearly all the rest of the routines are going to be 9.8s. The Beavers are strongest on bars (where they should score exceptionally well), but at Pac-12s we saw what happens when one of the big three has an issue. Mak fell on bars, which brought the score down and all of the sudden made bars the worst rotation. There is no one to step up with a big score if one of the top three doesn’t convert.

If Mak, Vivian, and Stambaugh all go at least 9.875 on their main events (which is possible), Oregon State can get to that high-196s or low-197s score that will be unassailable by the lower seeds, but if something goes wrong and Auburn is hitting with home scores, this could get a little interesting.

The Contenders:
Now, that’s a big “if” given Auburn’s last place disaster at SECs. That performance is the primary reason for my new reservations about whether Auburn has any chance of advancing. At SECs, 9 out of 24 routines scored under 9.700, and only one routine (Guy on floor) managed a 9.900. The positive for Auburn is that they have not been amazing on the road all year (no scores reaching 196), but they have put up some significant scores at home, which could certainly happen again if they hit their routines. They got scored a little tightly on bars at SECs, and we know that won’t happen this Saturday. I still believe they will need some help, but it’s help I can imagine being provided. This Regional is all just a bit too similar to 2010 when Georgia and Oregon State went to Missouri, and Georgia was upset by the host #3 seed.

The rotation order is also a bit interesting because Auburn is directly following Georgia on every event, which could go either way. On the one hand, Auburn’s routines may pale in comparison, which could bring down the scores, but on the other hand, high scores from Georgia may serve to bump up the Auburn scores on a traditional score-building trajectory. In most Regionals this year, I think the former will take place and hurt the #3 seeds, but since Auburn is at home, I see the latter happening, which could also make things closer than they might otherwise be.

Let’s also not discount Michigan. I don’t give the Wolverines too much chance of advancing, but it sure would be great to see them do it what with the depleted squad this season. They’re basically running on 2.75 gymnasts this year, which means they’ve had to put up way too many 9.7 routines in competition just because they exist. A few events like vault remain competitive, and I could see Michigan going 49.250 there, but they are just far too likely to count a fall to have much say in the qualification spots. The beam and floor lineups in particular are 9.775 from top to bottom and don’t have any type of score building or elite routines to finish them off.

The Others:
In my mind, West Virginia is probably the strongest #5 seed in any of the Regionals. They have had way too many 194 scores this season to go much higher in the rankings, but based on potential they are consistent with many of the #4 seeds. Hope Sloanhoffer put up three 9.900s to win the AA at EAGLs, which should give the Mountaineers a solid chance at an individual qualifier to Nationals as well as a scoring leader at the end of the rotations (something Michigan could use right about now). And on a weird day, anything can happen, which is a more optimistic attitude than I have for most of our #5 seeds.

Michigan State also advanced to Regionals, but like most of the other #6 seeds, they stand little chance of advancing and would do well to hit 195, which should be the goal for the competition as I don’t see many hopes for individual qualifiers to Nationals. Staying competitive with West Virginia or Michigan would be a nice goal, but more likely than not I think Michigan State got placed with five teams that are  too accomplished, and they won’t place any higher than their seed.