National Semifinals Live Blog

The day has arrived, when twelve become six and you become vaguely emotionally unhinged again.

LIVE STREAMS Continue reading National Semifinals Live Blog

National Championship Headquarters

The national championship begins on Friday (FRIDAY), but since I’ll be traveling to the event soonish, this is probably the last post I’ll put up before the competition begins. So, here’s every piece of information you could ever possibly need for nationals.

As last year, all sessions will air on the ESPN family of networks, and the WatchESPN live streams will have a main feed and the dedicated individual event feeds. For television coverage of the second semifinal, after the first hour of competition on ESPNU (the first hour of three……), main coverage will pick up on ESPN, while ESPNU will continue with a four-event feed.

This is ESPN trying to save college gymnastics from itself and issuing a not-so-subtle message that maybe if the competition were two hours (or under), it would be more reasonable and possible to show it on real networks that people watch. The fact that even some of a national semifinal is going live on main ESPN on a Friday night (and live on ESPN2 during the day) is a step up from the years of tape delays and literally nothing, but it would have happened earlier if the competition weren’t so unwieldy. You think ESPN wants to give college gymnastics three hours on a Friday night? I barely want to give it three hours, and I’m me. Continue reading National Championship Headquarters

National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

I always hesitate to do a Super Six preview at this point because…well…we don’t actually know who’s going to be competing in Super Six or what sort of catastrophes may transpire in the semifinal to alter our view of what might happen, but as it stands, I don’t think the setup is dramatically different than we thought it would be heading into the season.

The first-tier favorites are Oklahoma and LSU. Oklahoma’s route to victory is through superior scores on bars (the Sooners’ 0.160 edge over LSU in the bars rankings is the largest for either team on any event) and the overall control and pristine execution of dance elements on beam and floor. Both teams are excellent on beam and floor, but it has been the Sooners’ precision that has put them ahead of LSU in the rankings on both events for most of the season.

If LSU were to win, it would be far from a major upset, but I still would characterize it as an upset. If it happens, it begins on vault. LSU has a giant collection of 1.5s, but the strength of the lineup is not just the 1.5s (even though they garner the most attention). LSU’s early-lineup fulls are the most stick-likely fulls in the competition, which can be just as much of an asset. In fact, LSU’s early-lineup scores are a critical potential advantage across most of the events, where they’ll hope to be rewarded for bigger floor routines to start the rotation and where no other team can match the quality of their first two beam routines. Oklahoma has the edge in the later-lineup beam routines, so LSU will need to gain a scoring advantage on those early routines and also use them to drive up the scores of the later sets. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

National Championship Preview Part 3: Individuals

NCAA women’s gymnastics takes individual titles about as seriously as you take whether Kyndyllegra finished in the top 10 on vault at the Level 6 jamboree this weekend.

They’re pretty much just an excuse to cram 174 people onto a single tier of the awards podium and award a random 8th-place trophy for no reason. Who cares who gets them as long as THEY’RE SMILING THE LITTLE GIRLS I’M SO PROUD OF YOU YOU’RE NOT REAL ATHLETES.

Anyway, all the individual titles are decided on Semifinal Friday starting last year, ensuring that they’re right at the bottom of all of our attention priority lists. But, they’re still competitions where we (the dwindling few) might actually care about who wins, so here’s how the races break down.

Maggie Nichols. Preview over.

The race for the NCAA all-around title has a tendency to be a complete random mess. With all the contenders this closely packed, the cliche of the title being decided by the tiniest step is actually true in this case. This year, a number of people do have a realistic argument for the title, but like Bridget Sloan last year, Maggie Nichols enters as the clear favorite who would need to have an off day in the semifinal to avoid winning the championship. No one else is as likely to go 9.950 on all four events as Nichols. With an RQS of 39.785 (2nd all time) and a season high of 39.925 (4th all time), Nichols is already in a territory all her own.

Oklahoma competes in the first session, and there’s NCAA gymnastics inherited nonsense-wisdom that you’ll often hear about the scores being lower in the first semifinal than the second, which is just untrue. There’s no numerical evidence to support that, and four of our last five national AA champions have come from the first semifinal (Sloan 2016, Hunter 2015, Peszek 2015, Sloan 2013). Afternoon or evening won’t make a difference.

But, if not Nichols, then… Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 3: Individuals

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama