Week 1 Ranking and Notes

Well, well well. Look at yourselves. No 197s. No accidental 10s given for Yurchenko fulls. You disgust me. If it hadn’t been for the crazy home-team floor scoring at literally every meet, I would hardly even recognize you.

For the moment, Michigan and LSU are riding the “not really doing anything wrong” train to the top spot, but very, very few of the scores recorded this weekend will be expected to stick around once RQS rolls into town. No one burst out of the gate with a shocking or overwhelming performance, except for Nina McGee, who tallied the first 10 of the season with her usual McGeeificiation of the floor exercise. She wins the award for best control and body position on a DLO this week. Now, let’s get to the standings and some general thoughts about the scoring changes based on week 1.

Week 1 Ranking (RTN)

1. Michigan – 196.950
Week 1 leaders: AA – Artz 39.450; VT – Karas 9.900; UB – Artz 9.900; BB – Artz, Chiarelli 9.875; FX – Artz, Karas 9.950

1. LSU – 196.950
Week 1 leaders: AA – Hambrick 39.450; VT – Gnat, Wyrick 9.900; UB – Finnegan, Zamardi 9.850; BB – Finnegan 9.925; FX – Gnat 9.950

3. Florida – 196.825
Week 1 leaders: AA – Sloan 39.500; VT – McMurtry 9.925; UB – Sloan 9.875; BB – Boren, Fassbender 9.900 9.875; FX – Baker, Sloan 9.900

4. Oklahoma – 196.725
Week 1 leaders: AA – Kmieciak 39.250; VT – Kmieciak 9.875; UB – Wofford 9.950; BB – Lehrmann, Brown 9.875; FX – Scaman 9.925

5. UCLA – 196.550
Week 1 leaders: AA – Ohashi 38.650; VT – Cipra 9.850; UB – Francis 9.825; BB – Lee, Francis 9.950; FX – Mossett, Bynum 9.950

6. Alabama – 196.300
Week 1 leaders: AA – Brannan 39.350; VT – Brannan 9.900; UB – Bailey, Winston 9.900; BB – Beers, McNeer 9.850; FX – Bailey, Sims 9.900

7. George Washington – 196.175
Week 1 leaders: AA – Winstanley 39.350; VT – Winstanley 9.925; UB – Winstanley 9.900; BB – DeMoura, Mermelstein 9.875; FX – Drouin-Allaire 9.825

7. Utah – 196.175
Week 1 leaders: AA – Lee 38.400; VT – Delaney 9.850; UB – Rowe 9.925; BB – Stover 9.825; FX – Schwab 9.900

7. Auburn – 196.175
Week 1 leaders: AA – Atkinson 38.300; VT – Atkinson 9.925; UB – Milliet 9.875; BB – Milliet 9.875; FX – Demers 9.875

10. Arizona – 195.700
Week 1 leaders: AA – None; VT – Cindric, Mattson 9.825; UB – Laub 9.850; BB – Sheppard 9.825; FX – Schneider 9.825

11. Cal – 195.575
Week 1 leaders: AA – None; VT – Williams 9.850; UB – Williams 9.800; BB – Howe 9.800; FX – Howe 9.875

12. Oregon State – 195.425
Week 1 leaders: AA – Gardiner 39.225; VT – Dessaints 9.900; UB – Dessaints 9.850; BB – Gardiner 9.850; FX – Radermacher 9.875

13. Denver – 195.375
Week 1 leaders: AA – McGee 39.250; VT – Fielitz 9.850; UB – McGee 9.900; BB -Hammen 9.825; FX – McGee 10.000

14. Missouri – 195.275
Week 1 A leaders: AA – Porter 38.900; VT – Miller 9.850; UB – Kelly, Porter 9.875; BB – Ward 9.850; FX – Harris 9.900

Week 1 B leaders: AA – Porter 39.250; VT – Porter, Ward 9.825; UB – Porter 9.800; BB – Kelly 9.850; FX – Harris 9.875

15. Georgia – 195.200
Week 1 leaders: AA – Rogers 39.100; VT – Snead 9.875; UB – Snead 9.900; BB – Box, Rogers 9.800; FX – Marino 9.875

16. Arkansas – 195.150
Week 1 leaders: No meet

16. Kent State – 195.150
Week 1 leaders: AA – None; VT – Williams 9.850; UB – Stypinski 9.900; BB – Lippowitsch 9.750; FX – Stypinski 9.900

18. New Hampshire – 195.100
Week 1 leaders: AA – Lauter 39.200; VT – Mahoney 9.825; UB – Mulligan 9.900; BB – Aucoin, Lauter 9.875; FX – Lauter 9.850

19. Illinois – 195.075
Week 1 leaders: AA – O’Connor 39.275; VT – O’Connor, Foley 9.700; UB – Horth 9.900; BB – O’Connor 9.850; FX – O’Connor 9.900

20. Eastern Michigan – 194.875
Week 1 leaders: AA – Conrad 39.050; VT – Valentin 9.875; UB – Valentin 9.850; BB – Valentin 9.850; FX – Slocum 9.750

21. Kentucky – 194.825
Week 1 leaders: AA – Dukes 39.125; VT – Dukes, Stuart 9.850; UB – Dukes 9.825; BB – Hyland 9.875; FX – Puryear 9.875

22. Stanford – 194.800
Week 1 leaders: AA – Price 39.500; VT – Price 9.850; UB – Price 9.900; BB – Price 9.850; FX – Price 9.900

23. Minnesota – 194.700
Week 1 leaders: AA – Mable 38.900; VT – Mable 9.900; UB – Hanley 9.850; BB – Mable 9.850; FX – Mable 9.800

23. NC State – 194.700
Week 1 leaders: AA – Knight 39.000; VT – Knight 9.825; UB – Turner 9.825; BB – Wild 9.900; FX – Woodford 9.800

25. Maryland – 194.400
Week 1 leaders: AA – Kathy Tang 39.025; VT – Kathy Tang 9.850; UB – Epperson 9.875; BB – Kathy Tang, Nee 9.875; FX – Brauckmuller 9.675

The scoring
-The significant story heading into the season was how the downgrading of the yfull would affect overall vault scoring. It’s too soon to draw any grand conclusions because the approach was not consistent from meet to meet. In several meets, we saw the judges being noticeably stricter on yurchenko fulls, not just accounting for the 0.05 downgrade but taking probably another 0.05 after that, at least compared to the last three or so seasons. For instance, Haley Scaman got a 9.825 for her yurchenko full with a hop back that would have received a 9.900 last season, as all her vaults did at the very least. Plenty of 9.750s popped up for yfulls, especially early in the lineup, that would have gone 9.825-9.850 last season. So in some cases, the judges were adding an additional level of scrutiny to the fulls, which is a positive development and should help create more separation in the vault scores, a desperately needed change.

-In these same meets, however, an identical level of scrutiny was not applied to the vaults that still started from a 10.0, with the judges much more willing to go into the 9.9s for y1.5s, even if the performance may not have merited it. Olivia Karas of Michigan comes to mind, with a pretty sizable step off to the side on her 1.5 that still received a 9.900. Perhaps we’re seeing a bit of overcompensation right now and the creation of an artificially significant separation between fulls and 1.5s of the same quality, though I would still say this is preferable to the previous situation of a glut of 9.925s being handed out to so many different vaults of widely varying quality. We’ll see how things level out in the coming months.

-Although, this approach was not consistent across all the meets. UCLA/Alabama, for instance, had more charitable scores given to a couple yurchenko fulls (Angi Cipra’s 9.850) and stricter scores given to 10.0 SV vaults, like Brannan’s. To me, that vault did look like a 9.900, which is exactly what it received (miracle of miracles!), but it was a stronger vault than some of the other 10.0 SVs that received 9.900s over the weekend.

-We’re going to have to work through this yurchenko arabian business together as a family. It’s going to create a lot of frustration this year. (Wyrick and Gnat got the same vault score this weekend, which is the exact opposite of what the scoring change was intended to achieve.) The bigger issue to me, though, is that NCAA gymnastics has always prided itself on being explicable and accessible to all fans, even those who never did gymnastics or who have never picked up a CoP before. For the most part (and I emphasize for the most part), the deductions are basic enough that someone with only a passing understanding can tell what constitutes a good routine or a not-so-much routine. Steps, handstands, wobbles, etc. The obvious things, what are often referred to as “visible deductions,” though I hate that expression because they’re all visible deductions. An invisible deduction is nothing. Differentiating between the y1/2 and yArabian (which the elite code does not) and giving them different start values, however, begins to get a little inside-baseball for the target audience of NCAA gymnastics. Why are those vaults different? Why is one scoring better than the other? Those are legitimate questions casual fans and gymfans alike will be, and have been, asking. In NCAA, scoring rewards should always strive to be as visually explicit as possible.

-In other scoring news, “strict” and “floor” are two words not even in the same continent so far. Oh, floor.

The teams
-Many of the top teams that scored in the mid-high 196s had a couple brilliant moments apiece but not much else to put in the scrapbook. It was a ragged weekend for most teams, especially in terms of adjusting to vault expectations. We’re going to see a lot of difficulty experimentation in the coming weeks as teams try to feel out which vaults they’ll get more rewarded for, which adds a little more unpredictability and removes some of the stagnation from NCAA vault, so I’m all for it. But for teams like Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, Alabama, etc., nothing happened this weekend to warrant a change in our preseason expectations for their accomplishments.

-George Washington. Yep, 196.175. And it seems pretty legit. Check out this channel for meet videos. The vaults from Winstanley and Drouin-Allaire in particular are competitive with pretty much all the rest of the teams. Everyone rush to fantasy gym to make the necessary trades.

-Is it bad that Stanford got a 194.800 and I don’t think it’s that much of a problem? Now, filling out the lineups is going to be a huge issue all season, especially on floor, but take away the unexpected mistakes (Rice’s floor fall and Hong’s beam fall, the things that shouldn’t be repeated), and this is a high 195, meaning Stanford would be in the top 10. Not a mighty accomplishment, but about where the team should be. Of course, they cannot afford even one more injury otherwise they’ll be back to not having enough competitors, but aside from the very real concerns over having enough competitive floor workers, doesn’t this count as on-track for Stanford?

-Georgia didn’t have a good opener, which was mostly disappointing because the beam problems put us all right back where we were last season. This should be a beam team in 2016, more so than in the last couple years, so let’s hope this 48.000 doesn’t develop into another edition of the Georgia beam epidemic of the last five years. Nebraska’s issues were more pronounced and more troubling (not even in the top 25 right now) because the team appears to lack both depth and 9.9 star power. Laeng had a good meet—and of the freshmen, Schweihofer looks like the usable 9.800 find—but the falls notwithstanding, they’re going to need to get more people into competition shape to have a true shot at nationals this year.

Sunday Live Blog: [3] Alabama @ [6] UCLA

Sunday, January 10 
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – William & Mary @ North Carolina
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Temple @ Kent State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Maryland, Eastern Michigan, Towson @ Pittsburgh
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – UW-Whitewater @ Hamline
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Missouri @ Lindenwood – SCORESFLO PRO($)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Alabama @ UCLA – SCORESTV: Pac-12 Net
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Nor Cal Classic (Stanford, Cal, UC Davis. Sacramento State @ San Jose State) – SCORESFLO PRO($)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Auburn @ Oregon State – SCORESTV: Pac-12 Net (Oregon)
Third live blog of the weekend! I know.
After I abandoned you in the cold yesterday, two things happened. One was George Washington breaking 196. The….Fightin’ Wooden Teeth (?) are currently tied for 5th in the country. So that’s a thing.

Also, Nina McGee.

She happened.

Continue reading Sunday Live Blog: [3] Alabama @ [6] UCLA

Saturday Live Blog – Oklahoma @ LSU, Georgia @ Michigan

Eeeeeee! Competitive meets! (We hope.)

Michigan’s 196.975 still stands as the top score in the country after yesterday’s very first-meet showing from pretty much every team. We’ve got two big meets happening somewhat simultaneously today, but I’ll try to keep on top of it. Here’s the whole schedule:

Saturday, January 9
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – UW-Oshkosh @ Gustavus Adolphus
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Georgia @ Michigan – SCORESStream (free)
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – NC State @ Penn State – SCORESStream (free)
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @ Western Michigan – SCORESESPN3
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Rhode Island @ Springfield – Stream
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Oklahoma @ LSU – SCORESSECN Stream
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ Iowa – Stream ($)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – New Hampshire, George Washington, Rutgers (Boston, MA) – SCORES
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Iowa State @ Minnesota – SCORES
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Southern Utah, West Virginia @ Denver – SCORES
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Illinois State, Seattle Pacific @ Air Force
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Ohio State @ Washington – SCORESPac-12 Net Stream

Of note in this LSU intrasquad video from yesterday, we see a lot of Lexie Lee and no McKenna Lou. (Right?) Though there are a number of gymnasts we don’t see, so…

A team of the people this season, Michigan’s stream will be free for everyone. LSU’s, as always, requires a login.
Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – Oklahoma @ LSU, Georgia @ Michigan

First Friday Live Blog – It’s All Downhill From Here

Friday, January 8
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ [21] Kentucky – SCORESSECN Stream
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Central Michigan, UW-Whitewater, Winona State @ UW-Eau Claire
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UW-La Crosse @ UW-Stout – SCORESStream
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Lindenwood @ SEMO – SCORES
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] Florida @ Texas Woman’s – SCORESFlogymnastics Pro stream
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ [4] Utah – SCORESTV: Pac-12 Network
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan State @ [18] Arizona – SCORESTV: Pac-12 Network Arizona
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [15] Illinois @ [23] Missouri – SCORESSECN Stream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Centenary @ Utah State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [11] Nebraska, Bowling Green @ Arizona State – SCORESPac-12 Stream
Preseason rankings

This is how everything stands before anything stands. So let’s change it up.

I’ll be here starting at 7 ET/4 PT to have all kinds of feelings. At least three of them. Are there more than three feelings?

The Weekend Plans – January 8-10

It’s here! Wait, how do we do this again?

Top 25 Schedule

Friday, January 8
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ [21] Kentucky
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Central Michigan, UW-Whitewater, Winona State @ UW-Eau Claire
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] Florida @ Texas Woman’s
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ [4] Utah
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan State @ [18] Arizona
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [15] Illinois @ [23] Missouri
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [11]Nebraska, Bowling Green @ Arizona State
Saturday, January 9
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [9] Georgia @ [7] Michigan
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – NC State @ [17] Penn State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [5] LSU
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Iowa State @ [20] Minnesota
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [24] Southern Utah, West Virginia @ [16] Denver
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [22] Ohio State @ Washington
Sunday, January 10
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [23] Missouri @ Lindenwood
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [3] Alabama @ [6] UCLA
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Nor Cal Classic ([8] Stanford, [14] Cal, UC Davis. Sacramento State @ San Jose State)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [10] Auburn @ [12] Oregon State
As always, the full schedule is available at the link at the top. Note that Arkansas and Boise State will not be competing this weekend. 
FRIDAY
-Let the live blogging begin! I’ll be here from the start, though there aren’t any really enticing matchups on Friday (you’re not even trying…), so I’ll probably bop around from meet to meet, missing everything important. I do want to make sure to watch a fair chunk of Nebraska since we rarely get to see Nebraska during the season. Florida against TWU will be broadcast on Aunt Flogymnastics, so those of you watching it are required to provide updates of honesty in the comments. You have your mission.

-For Florida, this will be a very comfortable win, but as I mentioned in the preview, I’m looking forward to seeing the lineup strategy. I’ll also be interested to find out where Peyton Ernst is at this point, how Alicia Boren does in her debut given how important she is to the team this year, and how many 10s Bridget Sloan gets. Over/under?

-There’s a little less mystery about Utah because we saw them at the RRP and they diligently release their lineups a million days in advance. This too will be an easy-peasy meet, but we’ve got a lot of event debuts (Lee and Schwab on bars, Merrell and Partyka on beam and floor), which is always reason for a keen eye. Bars and floor are the most depleted since last season, so watch for stuck-at-9.825-itis, though that may be expected to some degree this early in the season. But, is there potential to go much higher?

-Speaking of depleted, Nebraska has a bunch of empty spots in these lineups, and depth will be a major storyline this season. I’m hoping to see as many different freshmen as possible competing to give the team more options than I currently think there are. Let’s not make this not a six-AAers kind of season since that is the most nerve-wracking thing in the world. Someone find the bubble wrap. I’m also interested to see how Arizona State fills out these lineups, as in, can they? There are almost four people on the roster this season, but might it be a little less depressing than last year? A little?

 SATURDAY

 -Now that’s more like it. We’ve got two fairly huge meets on Saturday, which overlap because, once again, pull it together everyone. 
-Georgia travels to Michigan to open the season, and this will be the first meet of the year that actually has an uncertain outcome. Michigan does enter as the favorite, however, competing at home and coming off an impressive first meet for a team that was in so many pieces so recently, but it’s not open and shut. As we know, the Wolverines are still not a deep team and will need the exact competitors they showed in Cancun to be competitive with the best teams in the country this year. But now, after the Cancun success, it’s 197 or bust. Anything less is a regression. 
As of this point, Michigan’s strengths compared to Georgia look to be beam and floor given the troubles Georgia had on those events last season. The most important things the Gymdogs need to show in this first meet are a reborn, not-horrifying beam lineup (I’m hoping to see Cherrey and Jay and Schick among the new options to give this lineup some pop) and improved floor endurance versus this point last year. If they can prove those two events are under control, it will minimize any advantage Michigan might have in the second half of the meet. Georgia’s asset should be vault because of Jay and Rogers, though both teams are showing a solid number of 10.0 SVs. While bars will be very different for Georgia this season, for now at least the old story remains that Georgia needs a lead at the halfway point to have a chance. Please change the narrative, beam.
-The main event of the day, however, will be Oklahoma and LSU. Yikes. Showdown. I’m already excited. Nothing like starting the season by heading to LSU to test your mettle as the #1 team in the country. This should be an exceptionally high-quality meet, even in the first week of the season. LSU already looked in form at the preseason showcase, and Oklahoma always starts exceptionally prepared. I’m ready for both of these teams to hit 197 right off the bat, and I don’t think that’s a difficult accomplishment or expectation. 
Depending on who LSU has available, these teams are pretty well-matched on vault and floor. LSU has the bigger routines 1-6, so give the Tigers perhaps a slight advantage but not enough to be decisive or conclusive as a prognosticator. It could go either way. The real challenge for LSU, this season and always, will be proving the equal of a team like Oklahoma on bars and beam. Oklahoma is going through its own little reinvention on those events, so checking how those lineups match up to those of the past couple seasons will be interesting. Still, bars and beam are Oklahoma’s events. It would be surprising to see any actual weakness there. LSU has a wildly, wildly talented crop of beam workers, but one that is unproven and without rock-solid lineup saviors. They’ll be thrown into the fire right away by having to keep pace with the storied Oklahoma beam, but that’s what it will take to win the meet. 
SUNDAY
-Sunday also brings its share of fun with a 5 ET/2 PT triple-header of serious meets. For reference, I’ll be back for day three of the live blogging weekend for Alabama/UCLA, so if you’re watching either of the others instead, keep the rest of us posted. 
-Though UCLA is at home, which always helps, the Bruins are not exactly known for starting quickly or being at top form in January, so Alabama has more on the line as the team that really should win. Much is expected of Kiana Winston (by me), so we’ll have to see how she looks since her cameo last season doesn’t really count. Winston is especially significant with Lauren Beers coming off preseason surgery, meaning she may not be normal four-9.900s Lauren Beers right from the start. 
The vault decisions will be fascinating. Alabama has a number of 1.5 options, but we’ll have to see how many of them come to fruition right away, while UCLA has some work to do to keep pace while lacking the same pedigree of huge vaults. Paging Pua Hall. For the Bruins, this meet is all about Ohashi watch. Without Peszek and with Peng limited, they need a star to step up, and Ohashi is the nominee. That’s particularly true in this meet because if UCLA is going to win, it will be with beam loveliness since I do expect Alabama to be farther along and show more difficulty on vault and floor. UCLA’s beam should be exceptionally fantastic this year (though Alabama’s will be no slouch), and it would be really disheartening to see one of those UCLA January three-fall meets in such an significant showdown. 
-Last season, Stanford started with not enough people to compete, so the goal this time is…enough people to compete. I have no expectations for Stanford early in the season because we won’t see real Stanford until, oh, mid-March (that’s pretty true for UCLA too), but gauging depth of scores, at least six potential competitive scores on each event, will be the major factor here. A prepared and solid Cal will smell blood again this season. 
-Auburn/Oregon State may feel like the ugly duckling of the day since so much attention will be on UCLA and Alabama, but that should be a pretty competitive meet itself. Auburn has multiple new routines to try out, so we’ll have to see if this group looks like one that might become a Super Six team again in a few months. Or is it going to be a case of Caitlin Atkinson and her interns like it was in 2014? To tally the upset, Oregon State must show who besides Maddie Gardiner is ready to compete with top-10 teams. It’s the old refrain: where are the 9.9s? Right now, Auburn looks to have more of them because of Atkinson, and while it doesn’t necessarily take 9.9s to win in January, the location of the 9.9s is a serious mystery the Beavs have to solve this season. It would be nice to see at least the larval stages of a few of them.