The Weekend Plans – February 12-15

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

Top 25 schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week 5 Rankings + Notes

Oklahoma takes over the #1 ranking this week. That seemed unlikely heading in, but the Sooners managed to pour some 197.9 all over the NCAA as Chayse Capps suddenly became the most important all-arounder in your life, while Florida had a late-meet nasty and lost to Georgia. Georgia. With Georgia beam.

Our regal 10.000 of the week comes courtesy of Capps, because of course it does. Finally. You can see the video of her beam 10 on Aunt Flo, but it’s behind the iron subscription curtain. So otherwise, just imagine every other beam routine you’ve seen Chayse Capps do, and it’s that. Just a 10 this time. And with a walkover to scale.

In other big routine news, NastiaFan101 posted Sophina the diva’s floor routine and got it trending all over faceplace and the information superhighway. Hero’s work. It’s almost like social media is a tool that can be used to attract attention to the sport, or something. Teams should definitely continue not taking advantage of that at all and waiting for fans to do the work for them.

Love. Exciting. Beautiful. Fun and crowd-pleasing without being a joke. Though it will be interesting to see what it scores away from home given factors like whatever is happening after that switch ring. Or, knowing UCLA and the health situation and the Sophina being in the floor lineup situation, we’ll never see this routine ever again. RIP, Hallie Mossett’s feet.

This is why it has been frustrating to spend three seasons watching Sophina actively not making the floor lineup. Because she’s capable of this. Her performance elevates the lineup, and when we have DeJesus and Mossett going at the same time (ever?), it will start to feel like a classic, thrilling UCLA floor rotation of years ago. Even Cipra, whose routine is not my taste, moves quite well and performs with style. It’s encouraging to see that this year for a team that, especially in the couple seasons post-McCullough and EHH, had to keep the best dancers out of the lineup in favor of tumblers who could get the scores but didn’t really want to have to dance about it, when it was all Pritchett and Courtney and Zam. (Stop freaking out, I love the Zam, but she never really looked thrilled at the idea of doing these routines.)

Week 5 rankings
1. Oklahoma –197.393
Week 5 A: 197.925
Week 5 A leaders: AA – Capps 39.775; VT – Scaman 9.925; UB – Capps, Kmieciak 9.900; BB – Capps 10.000; FX – Capps 9.975

Week 5 B: 197.900
Week 5 B leaders: AA – Capps 39.625; VT – Jackson 9.950; UB – Wofford 9.950; BB – Capps 9.950; FX – Scaman 9.950

2. Florida – 197.220
Week 5: 196.350
Week 5 leaders: AA – Sloan 39.150; VT – McMurtry 9.900; UB – McMurtry 9.925; BB – Sloan 9.875; FX – Baker 9.925

3. Michigan – 196.860
Week 5: Monday meet

4. Alabama – 196.842
Week 5: 196.775
Week 5 leaders: AA – Bailey 39.450; VT – Beers 9.950; UB – Brannan 9.925; BB – Bailey, McNeer 9.875; FX – Bailey, Sims, Valentin 9.850

5. LSU – 196.705
Week 5: 197.425
Week 5 leaders: AA – Hambrick 39.625; VT – Everyone 9.875; UB – Hambrick 9.925; BB – Hambrick, Finnegan 9.925; FX – Gnat, Hambrick, Wyrick 9.900

6. Utah – 196.650
Week 5: 197.075
Week 5 leaders: AA – Partyka 39.450; VT – Partyka 9.875; UB – Lopez 9.925; BB – Stover 9.900; FX – Schwab 9.950

7. UCLA – 196.510
Week 5: 197.100
Week 5 leaders: AA – None; VT – Bynum, Preston 9.850; UB – Mossett 9.900; BB – Lee 9.925; FX – Cipra 9.975

8. Auburn – 196.204
Week 5: 196.825
Week 5 leaders: AA – Atkinson 39.575; VT – Atkinson 9.900; UB – Atkinson, Krippner 9.875; BB – Atkinson 9.875; Atkinson, Kluz, Rott 9.925

9. Arkansas – 196.200
Week 5: 196.150
Week 5 leaders: AA – Wellick 39.350; VT – Wellick 9.850; UB – Zaziski, Freier 9.875; BB – Wellick 9.850; FX – Wellick 9.825

10. Boise State – 196.194
Week 5: 196.250
Week 5 leaders: AA – Remme 39.325; VT – Bennion, Bir 9.825; UB – Jacobsen 9.875; BB – Remme 9.875; FX – Krentz 9.925

11. Georgia – 195.958
Week 5: 196.400
Week 5 leaders: AA – Jay, Rogers 39.375; VT – Jay 9.875; UB – Jay 9.925; BB – Box 9.850; FX – Box, Marino, Rogers 9.950

12. Denver – 195.945
Week 5: 196.675
Week 5 leaders: AA – McGee 39.600; VT – McGee, Chesnok 9.850; UB – McGee 9.925; BB – McGee, Hammen 9.875; FX – McGee 9.950

13. Stanford – 195.856
Week 5: Monday meet

14. Nebraska – 195.830
Week 5: 196.350
Week 5 leaders: AA – Williams 39.400; VT – Laeng 9.875; UB – Laeng, Lambert, Williams 9.850; BB – Schweihofer, Williams 9.850; FX – Williams 9.925

15. Missouri – 195.808
Week 5: 196.625
Week 5 leaders: AA – Porter 38.800; VT – Harris, Porter 9.800; UB – Schugel 9.900; BB – Ward 9.900; FX – Porter 9.950

16. Oregon State – 195.694
Week 5: Monday meet

17. George Washington – 195.656
Week 5: 196.075
Week 5 leaders: AA – DeMoura 39.300; VT – Drouin-Allaire 9.900; UB – Winstanley 9.850; BB – DeMoura 9.900; FX – Drouin-Allaire 9.875 

18. Minnesota – 195.530
Week 5: 195.775
Week 5 leaders: AA – Mable 39.550; VT – Mable, Abernathy 9.800; UB – Mable 9.875; BB – Mable 9.950; FX – Mable 9.925

19. Cal – 195.456
Week 5: Monday meet

20. Illinois – 195.290
Week 5: 195.000
Week 5 leaders: AA – O’Connor 39.275; VT – O’Connor 9.800; UB – O’Connor 9.850; BB – Kato 9.875; FX – Buchanan 9.825

21. Southern Utah – 195.185
Week 5: 195.700
Week 5 leaders: AA – Remirez 39.100; VT – Brownsell, Webb 9.850; UB – Yee 9.875; BB – Ramirez, Webb 9.900; FX – Brownsell, Webb 9.875

22. New Hampshire – 195.171
Week 5: 195.550
Week 5 leaders: AA – Doolin 38.850; VT – Mahoney 9.850; UB – Mulligan 9.925; BB – Aucoin 9.925; FX – Doolin 9.850

23. Ohio State – 195.165
Week 5: 196.350
Week 5 leaders: AA – Harrison 39.175; VT – Stone 9.875; UB – Hofland 9.875; BB – Hofland 9.925; FX – Mattern 9.900

24. West Virginia – 195.140
Week 5 A: 195.200
Week 5 A leaders: AA – None; VT – Muhammad 9.900; UB – Goldberg 9.825; BB – Gillette 9.875; FX – Muhammad 9.825

Week 5 B: 195.250
Week 5 B leaders: AA – None; VT – Muhammad, Koshinski 9.850; UB – Goldberg 9.825; BB – Tolbert 9.800; FX – Koshinski 9.850

25. Kentucky – 195.130
Week 5: 195.525
Week 5 leaders: AA – Dukes 39.375; VT – Dukes 9.875; UB – Dukes 9.800; BB – Hyland 9.900; FX – Dukes, Puryear, Stuart 9.825

-Florida gets a special squint this week for a significant beam and floor meltdown in Georgia. It happens. It’s not changing any expectations for Florida’s potential this postseason. Beam has been mostly solid up until now (it was the first beam fall for both Baker and Boren this year), so while it’s something to watch especially because Baker did go on that run of beam falls last season, it’s not a thing yet. They are clearly missing Boyce, but Sloan and Ernst should be able to carry the load with an occasional 9.900 from McMurtry.

Floor depth is the bigger concern. This week, Bridgey was sick and Sloan had a bad one, and the score immediately fell apart. There’s no competitive-scoring backup option, meaning there’s no room for an injury or for Bridgey to continue being out of form if Florida is going to fend off Oklahoma, LSU, and Alabama, all of whom will bring lineups with six legitimate 9.9s once April hits. It puts a lot of pressure on Baker and Sloan for 9.950s.  

-Oklahoma is ranked first on bars. Bars was my biggest concern this year because of having to throw in people like Jackson and Capps who haven’t been good enough to make the lineup in the past, but…it’s working?

-LSU recorded a very encouraging 197.425, finally delivering (almost entirely) on bars and beam at the same meet. Fall potential still remains a worry on some of the most beautiful routines, like Finnegan’s everything and Macadaeg’s beam, but this score is particularly encouraging because LSU is capable of much better, particularly on vault which peaked at 9.875 this week.

It’s hilarious to me that Gnat performed the exact same DTY she has done for three weeks, but took a small step this time, resulting in a 9.875 instead of a 10. Because that small step was worth .150? Amazing how when someone doesn’t stick, other deductions lose their invisibility powers.

-The top six teams on vault all have at least two Yurchenko 1.5s in their vault lineups. The highest any team has scored so far this year for a lineup with one or zero 1.5s is Arkansas’s 49.275. Contrast that with the best lineups featuring 2+ 1.5s, which are still going into the 49.4s and up to 49.500. Giving up multiple tenths on vault is an unacceptable proposition in the postseason, a particularly troubling issue for Utah and UCLA, who will struggle to keep up without joining the cult of vault difficulty especially if the vaults continue looking like they did on Saturday.

-Alabama needs Lauren Beers. The Tide did not have to count a fall over the weekend, scoring largely as expected except for Beers having a no good, very bad day all over the place (and Aja Sims getting a 9.6 on beam because huh?), but that was enough to bring the team total down to 196.775 and cause Alabama to lose ground on all the major players except Florida.

-Auburn got a 196.825, which was definitely a TWU score but also a symbolic performance, returning from two significant injuries in the previous week to look just as competitive if not better than before. The depth was tested, and the depth came through.

-Is there any all-arounder getting held down in the scores more than Amanda Wellick? Here. Take this scrap of 9.825. Fetch.

-Oh yeah. Georgia’s beam. It’s still horrifying, with yet another week of counting fall. Will this victory over Florida help, or will beam remain a soul-crushing experience ad infinitum? Once again, it’s a must-watch rotation this weekend at home against LSU.

This season is all about the hands-free routine, and while it seems to be mostly working for Ernst, it didn’t work for Peng, and it’s not working for Babalis. Floor has turned out better as she’s starting to nail those round-off + double backs, but that beam routine just looks so uncomfortable and challenging for her. As it does for everyone on Georgia except Mary Beth Box, who shows her confidence in the speed and aggression of every movement. She needs to teach a class called “How to work beam without looking like you’re about to have diarrhea 101” and everyone needs to take it.  

-Denver! A second-straight Nina McGee. I mean 196. Encouragingly, there were lots of 9.875s from supporting players this time around, which helps Denver’s prospects since it can’t all be about one person. Denver does get a few home 196s every season that don’t necessarily represent postseason potential, so the real test will come the next two weekends at road meets in which they will be directly compared to the likes of Oklahoma and Alabama. Those two meets will tell us where this team really is.

-Missouri broke the 196.5 barrier for the first time since the famous 2010 regionals performance.

-I haven’t talked about Lindsay Mable much so far this year, so…she continues being Lindsay Mable and continues keeping Minnesota competitive by herself. I’m worried about next season. Here’s her beam just because.

-George Washington took the torch back from New Hampshire this week with a 196.075 to New Hampshire’s 195.550. New Hampshire is absolutely killing it on beam but does not have competitive vaults, which makes it very difficult to get those 196s and puts a lot of pressure on bars and beam, while George Washington has the bigger vaults and higher scoring potential but gets very erratic scores for them. EAGLs will be good this year.

-Lots of Pac-12 Monday meets! Stanford, Arizona, Oregon State, Cal, Washington, and Arizona State all in action tonight.

Saturday Live Blog – Utah @ UCLA

SCORES
Pac-12 Net
4:00 ET/1:00 PT

Ah, Utah and UCLA. One of my favorites. The unfortunate aspect of this rivalry over the last three seasons has been the road team throwing up an utter catastrophe on bars in the first rotation, deciding the meet and dulling any kind of competitive excitement after about three minutes of gymnastics before anyone has time to get interested. This is supposed be a close, back-and-forth affair (it’s Utah and UCLA), but we haven’t had that for a while, so…here’s hoping. No one is allowed to have a catastrophe until at least beam.

Today’s pre-meet discussion topic is Angi Cipra’s floor routine, which now that we’ve seen it four or five times, is taking on a new identity where the theme is the continued emotional bullying of Angi Cipra. Why do people keep hanging up on her so much? Prank calls are just mean, you guys. Does she have no friends? Do we have a clique problem at this school? She keeps being like, “Who’s calling me?????” and every time the whole team is like, “I don’t know…” Dicks. Don’t worry, Angi. It gets better.

Bars has been a good event for Utah so far this year, unless the curse of away bars continues, while vault has been lackluster for UCLA, so Utah will hope to have a multi-tenth lead after the first rotation. If UCLA is in any position better than a two-tenth deficit at that point, that bodes well for the Bruins, who should be better suited for success in the second half of the meet.
Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – Utah @ UCLA

Friday Live Blog – The Cult of SEC Scoring

Friday, February 5
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Central Michigan @ Eastern Michigan – SCORESESPN3
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Florida @ Georgia – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Winona State @ UW-La Crosse – Stream
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – West Virginia @ Iowa State – SCORES
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-Stout @ Hamline
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Oklahoma, Auburn, Illinois State @ Texas Woman’s – SCORESFLOG
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – SEMO, Lindenwood @ Missouri – SCORESSECN
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Kentucky @ Alabama – SCORESSECN
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Arkansas @ LSU – SCORESSECN
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Boise State @ Southern Utah – SCORESStream
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – San Jose State @ UC Davis – SCORES
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Seattle Pacific @ Sacramento State – SCORESStream

Another Friday, another batch of exciting SEC meets. The real question is, now that the 10s have started flying again, who’s getting the first 10 of the Florida/Georgia meet: Brandie Jay on vault or Bridget Sloan on bars? Or will Sloan beat the odds and get a pre-meet 10 for just being so great.

It’s still early, but right now Georgia has maybe one score that would be OK to use for RQS (and even that 196.775 is not spectacular for a team with Georgia’s aspirations). If Georgia has hopes of being a top seed at a regional, which is going to require an RQS over 197, the margin for error is disappearing very quickly. Even without a win, a good score is critical.

Florida lineups:
VT – Caquatto, Fassbender, Sloan, Baker, Boren, McMurtry
UB – Baker, Boren, BDG, Caquatto, Sloan, 10y 10ington
BB – Baker, Ernst, Fassbender, Boren, McMurtry, Sloan
FX – McLaughlin, Fassbender, Boren, Sloan, Baker, Caquatto

So…the same. Why change at this point?

Ericha Fassbender already wins the award for the name that sounds most like a German gay slur. These are the things I think while waiting for gymnastics to start.
Continue reading Friday Live Blog – The Cult of SEC Scoring

The Weekend Plans – February 5-8

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

Top 25 schedule

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

Monday, February 8
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Maryland, Eastern Michigan @ [3] Michigan
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona State @ [12] Stanford
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [15] Oregon State @ Washington
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [20] Arizona @ [21] Cal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 4 Rankings + Notes

That Florida gymnastics isn’t marketing a shirt that says, “On Fridays, we get 10s” is ludicrous. Verging on lyyyyyudicrous. Florida’s meet was the closest to a postseason-level performance we’ve seen so far this year (closest, but not there by any means), and now the Gators lead the rankings by a big, heaping margin this week with that 687.900 (because of Florida at home), highlighted by a “yeah, I’m down with that” 10.000 for Bridget Sloan on beam, a “squint…but also that Dos Santos” 10.000 for Kennedy Baker on floor, and a “Bahahahaha” 10.000 for Alex McMurtry on bars. At least she has a same-bar release this year.

Kathy is not OK with these piked giants. The judges are. The interesting thing is that McMurtry gets a heaping load of side-eye for this bars routine every time because she gets such high scores, but if she were going, say, 2nd or 3rd in the lineup and getting a 9.850 for this routine, we would be standing up and applauding for how much she has improved on bars from her Level 10 career, when she was getting 8s for hit routines. Compare her 10.000 to this routine from the Nastia in 2013, which scored 8.925, uninspiring even by JO scoring standards. Improvements, clearly.

But let’s be honest, the biggest difference between 2013 and 2016 is going 6th in a Florida lineup. Many of the factors that got her an 8.925 remain, hence the saltiness about this 10.

And now Baker and Sloan.

Kennedy Baker is like, “This is the seventh-best floor routine I’ve done at Florida, and this is the 10?”

To the rankings!

Week 4 rankings

1. Florida – 197.438
Week 4: 198.175
Week 4 leaders: AA – Sloan 39.775; VT – Boren, Baker 9.950; UB – McMurtry 10.000; BB – Sloan 10.000; FX – Baker 10.000

2. Oklahoma – 197.185
Week 4: 197.550
Week 4 leaders: AA – Capps 39.575; VT – Jones 9.900; UB – Wofford 9.950; BB – Capps 9.900; FX – Jones 9.950

3. Michigan – 196.860
Week 4: 196.550
Week 4 leaders: AA – Karas 39.525; VT – Karas, Chriarelli, Sheppard 9.850; UB – Brown 9.875; BB – Brown, Karas 9.875; FX – Artz 9.975

4. Alabama – 196.855
Week 4: 197.525
Week 4 leaders: AA – Beers 39.650; VT – Beers 9.900; UB – Beers 9.925; BB – Sims 9.975; FX – Winston 9.925

5. UCLA – 196.758
Week 4: Monday meet

6. LSU – 196.525
Week 4: 196.750
Week 4 leaders: AA – Gnat 39.500; VT – Gnat 10.000; UB – Finnegan, Zamardi 9.900; BB – Gnat 9.925; FX – Gnat, Finnegan 9.900

7. Utah – 196.342 
Week 4: Monday meet

8. Arkansas – 196.210
Week 4: 196.600
Week 4 leaders: AA – Wellick 39.500; VT – Wellick 9.900; UB – Wellick, Speed 9.850; BB – Wellick, Nelson 9.850; FX – Nelson 9.925

9. Boise State – 196.175
Week 4: 196.400
Week 4 leaders: AA – Collantes 39.475; VT – Stockwell 9.850; UB – Jacobsen 9.950; BB – Everyone 9.825; FX – Collantes, Krentz 9.950

10. Auburn – 196.080
Week 4: 195.975
Week 4 leaders: AA – Atkinson 39.400; VT – Rott 9.900; UB – Milliet, Engler 9.875; BB – Demers 9.850; FX – Atkinson 9.900

11. Georgia – 195.870
Week 4: 196.275
Week 4 leaders: AA – Jay 39.350; VT – Jay 9.900; UB – Rogers 9.925; BB – Rogers 9.875; FX – Box 9.900

12. Stanford – 195.856
Week 4: 196.075
Week 4 leaders: AA – Price 39.600; VT – Price 9.875; UB – Price 9.950; BB – Hong 9.925; FX – Price 9.875

13. Denver – 195.763
Week 4: 196.125
Week 4 leaders: AA – McGee 39.525; VT – McGee 9.850; UB – McGee 9.900; BB – McGee 9.850; FX – McGee 9.925; LIFE – McGee 60.000

14. Nebraska – 195.700
Week 4: 196.775
Week 4 leaders: AA – Williams 39.500; VT – Laeng 9.850; UB – Laeng 9.925; BB – Williams 9.950; FX – Schweihofer, Williams, Orel 9.875

15. Oregon State – 195.694
Week 4: 195.875
Week 4 leaders: AA – Gardiner 39.300; VT – Gardiner, Jimenez 9.825; UB – M Colussi-Pelaez 9.850; BB – Gardiner 9.925; FX – Perez 9.900

16. Missouri – 195.645
Week 4: 195.825
Week 4 leaders: AA – Porter 38.750; VT – Harris 9.875; UB – Porter 9.900; BB – Kelly 9.875; FX – Harris 9.850

17. George Washington – 195.517
Week 4: 194.950
Week 4 leaders: AA – Drouin-Allaire 39.250; VT – Drouin-Allaire 9.875; UB – Raineri 9.825; BB – Pfeiler, Zois 9.850; FX – Drouin-Allaire, Raineri 9.800

18. Minnesota – 195.469
Week 4: 196.075
Week 4 leaders: AA – Mable 39.150; VT – DeMuse 9.850; UB – Holst 9.975; BB – Mable 9.900; FX – DeMuse 9.875

19. Illinois – 195.363
Week 4: 195.725
Week 4 leaders: AA – Horth 39.400; VT – O’Connor 9.825; UB – Horth 9.900; BB – Kato, Leduc 9.900; FX – Leduc, Buchanan 9.875

20. Arizona – 195.217
Week 4: Monday meet

21. Cal – 195.150
Week 4: Monday meet

22. New Hampshire – 195.095
Week 4: 195.800
Week 4 leaders: AA – Lauter, Pflieger 39.150; VT – Pflieger 9.750; UB – Mulligan 9.900; BB – Lauter 9.925; FX – Pflieger 9.900

23. West Virginia – 195.083
Week 4: No meet

24. Southern Utah – 195.056
Week 4: 195.250
Week 4 leaders: AA – None; VT – Ramirez 9.875; UB – Yee 9.875; BB – Webb 9.900; FX – Brownsell 9.850

25. Kentucky – 195.031
Week 4: 195.025
Week 4 leaders: AA – Dukes 39.300; VT – Stuart 9.825; UB – Dukes 9.825; BB – Dukes, Hyland, Whittle 9.800; FX – Dukes 9.875

-The top 10 is still sort of a work in progress at this point because UCLA and Utah are yet to compete tonight, which will change the dynamic. How Utah adapts to life without Kari Lee will be the most interesting part of tonight’s meets, but Valorie is teasing a Peng vault as well. It begins…?

-In addition to the four 10s recorded this week, Nicole Artz went 9.975 on floor, Aja Sims went 9.975 on beam for sticking her double tuck and showing everyone what dance elements are, and Bailie Holst went 9.975 on bars for a routine I haven’t seen yet. But Minnesota is the best about uploading all the routines to youtube, so I’m sure we’ll see it in due time.

-New Hampshire is in a fight with George Washington to see who can be the new, cool team this year, and UNH is gaining every week as Casey Lauter continues to be the gymnast you wish you had on your fantasy gym team. We need to make sure she makes it to nationals. Here’s her 9.925 on beam (along with all the other northeast-based routines your heart could desire from David Pendrys).

-Lizzy Leduc had a rough start to her NCAA career in those first couple meets, but a 9.900 on beam and a 9.875 on floor over the weekend are very good signs that my anticipated O’Connor-Horth-Kato-Leduc quadrangle of triumph may come to fruition after all.

-Grace Williams hit a 39.500 in the AA, the best mark of her career by over a tenth. With Ashley Lambert MIA again, that increases the pressure on Williams and Blanske to be all the types of fantastic, and this is much more the kind of number we expected for Williams based on her exceptional JO career.

-Fun game: Denver scored 196.125 on Saturday. Without Nina McGee, the score would have been 195.475. That’s an MVP. McGee better not get overlooked when it comes to naming the AAI six this year, even though Bridget Sloan has already won it. This is also a fun game to play with Ebee and Stanford, since Stanford would be ranked 600th without her.

-Georgia hit beam this week sort of! We’ll take a sort of. It was a beam rotation that the Gymdogs endured rather than thrived in, but that’s the first step. Vaculik came into the lineup, and weirdly, this is the most confident I’ve ever seen her look on beam. She’s a beautiful beam worker (it should be her best event) when she’s not terrified. We need this from her because two of Georgia’s other lovely beam options, Schick and Cherrey, may have to be jettisoned by the business-end of the season for consistency. Even if Georgia does work out beam, it may not be the strength it could have been if that means sacrificing style and execution to get six hit routines.

-Also, Brittany Rogers is a lunatic woman and attempting to compete Georgia/Florida and Elite Canada this week. How is that…I don’t even…? In other news, someone get her legs a therapy dog. 

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-The coach who picked Boise State #1 in preseason is looking at us all right now and going, “Mmmmmmmmmmmmmhmmmmmmm.” Except not really because…#1?

-Arkansas defeated Auburn in the Battle for Underdog SEC Darling of the Year, cementing the position as an outsider pick for a real postseason run in a meet that was marred by the physical destruction of every possible Auburn gymnast. With Phillips and Engler going down, the vault lineup in particular will need some serious help, putting more pressure on Atkinson, Rott, and Demers to bring the big numbers to overcome the inevitable low replacement scores.

-Sadly, a streak ended over the weekend when Michigan went sub-49 on beam for the first time since March 15, 2014. The fall from Artz was particularly unexpected, and while Michigan did record a perfectly fine 196.550 in the loss to Nebraska, the precarious depth situation did rear its head with the lack of Casanova clearly felt by all, particularly people watching that vault rotation. Michigan has no intention of counting Brown’s vault score, which means the other five must not only hit but perform ideal vaults to keep the total competitive.

-LSU continues to break hearts on beam, recording a 48.600 and dropping to a wholly unbefitting beam ranking of 18. This week, the Tigers had only two truly acceptable hits, from Hambrick and Gnat, which isn’t good enough even for this point in the season. Both of the falls came from gymnasts missing skills they never miss, Ewing on her layout and Finnegan on her triple wolf, but this can’t be dismissed as an anomaly because falls and weird 9.700s have been the name of the game in pretty much every meet this season. LSU, you’re on beam watch. Not everything can be Ashleigh Gnat’s job.

-There’s less to say about Alabama and Oklahoma other than that they looked goooood over the weekend. Alabama showed LSU what a beam recovery is and gleefully took advantage of a juicy Florida road score, even while continuing to exploring depth and shunning a top-strength lineup/missing Jetter. So many floor options. There are still questions about how competitive bars will be against the best teams, as well as who the six vaulters are (I’m not convinced by Bailey or Bresette yet, but Beers, Brannan, Guerrero, Winston, McNeer, TBD is enough to be getting on with), but the meet against Florida was a very good sign in spite of the loss.

-The last two weeks, we’re starting to see the performances we expected from Oklahoma from the very first week of the season: not pristine post-season level, but impressive, consistent, and clearly 197. Yes, it was Metroplex and there were some Metroplexy scores in getting to that 197.550, a number that flatters a meh-landed vault lineup and too many wobbles on beam, but for the end of January, this is how a title-contending team should look. Also, Chayse Capps’ best event is bars now. Apparently. I don’t know either. I think there’s still room to play around with those bars and beam lineups to bring out the best options. Are Jackson and Capps final lineup on bars (though if Capps keeps scoring like this…I guess so)? Is Jones final-six on beam? We’ll see how this progresses.

Metroplex Live Blog

It’s Metroplex! 8:00 ET/5:00 PT, streamed on Aunt Flogymnastics for those who have signed up for the arm-and-a-leg subscription. For those who haven’t, let me be your guide. There are no windows and no doors.

Five teams compete tonight (Oklahoma, LSU, Stanford, Missouri, Washington) because nothing says compelling entertainment like a bye. If there’s one thing sports fans love, it’s when their favorite team just leaves for a while. They go crazy for it.

Obviously, the judges will have viewed the excessively baroque scoring from the Florida meet last night as a challenge. Do I hear four 10s per team? Everyone is a perfect star! Who wants a juice box and a hug?

Last night’s Florida meet was the cue that we’ve moved past the old “the silver lining is that we know what we have to work on” raggedy portion of the season, and it’s starting to get real. And 198ish. Florida looks goooood, and Alabama also put together its most complete meet of the season, setting the mark for the amount of playtime-is-over progression we need to see from Oklahoma and LSU. Oklahoma started on this path last weekend with an impressive mid-197, but it was hardly the best this team can do. Let’s see who else can crazy-198 all over the place.
Continue reading Metroplex Live Blog

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