Tag Archives: Arkansas

Saturday Live Blog – January 7, 2017

Saturday, January 7
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – New Hampshire, Bridgeport, William & Mary @ Rutgers LINK
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Southern Connecticut @ Towson LINK FREE
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-Oshkosh
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Bowling Green, BYU, Temple @ [23] Penn State LINK FREE
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Ohio State @ Pitt LINK ACCN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [7] Michigan @ [6] Utah LINK P12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [17] Arkansas @ [4] UCLA LINK P12
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [25] George Washington v. Yale (@ Boston, MA)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [14] Denver @ [16] Minnesota LINK BTN+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Winona State @ Air Force FREE

Today’s live blogging will be focused on the simultaneous Pac-12 meets hosted by Utah and UCLA (thanks, Pac-12 Network), but I’ll include some notes on action I’m seeing earlier in the day.

-Brianna Comport of Bridgeport started with a 9.850 on beam and a 9.825 on floor.

-Tyra McKellar of Towson has the biggest piked Jaeger you’ll see. Tons of other breaks in the routine, still somehow got 9.750 I think due to Jaeger respect because…that Jaeger. Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – January 7, 2017

Arkansas 2017

Let the preseason dossiers begin! Here, I’ll be providing a rundown of the major teams and their 2017 rosters, key gymnasts, event-by-event scoring prospects, lineup conundrums, and overall season outlook. It’ll be fun. If that’s the kind of thing you find fun. It probably shouldn’t be.

ARKANSAS ROSTER 2017
Seniors
Heather
Elswick
(redshirt)
  • Missed 2016 with injury; summer wrist surgery.
  • Staple of VT and FX lineups through her first three years.
  • Can fill in on UB when necessary. (It may be necessary.)
  • 2015 RQS – FX: 9.885, VT: 9.875, UB: 9.685.
Samantha
Nelson
  • Provides critical late-lineup routines on BB and FX.
  • Frequently called upon to VT for a 9.7.
  • 2016 RQS – FX: 9.890, BB: 9.855, VT: 9.775.
Amanda Wellick
  • Literally everything.
  • Essential, team-best routines on all four pieces.
  • 2016 RQS – VT: 9.900, FX: 9.880, BB: 9.875, UB: 9.840.
Juniors
Mia
Bargiacchi
  • Competed BB once in 2016 for 9.800.
Leah
MacMoyle
  • Weekly VT and frequent FX contributor in 2016 until mid-season injury.
  • 2016 RQS – VT: 9.785.
  • 2016 AVG hit – FX: 9.781.
Braie Speed
  • Top returning UB routine and weekly VTer in 2016.
  • Missed 2015 with torn ACL.
  • 2016 RQS – UB: 9.845, VT: 9.805.
Sophomores
Makenzie
Anderson
  • Originally VT and FX backup in 2016, replaced MacMoyle in lineups post-injury.
  • 2016 RQS – FX: 9.770
Sydney
McGlone
  • Weekly top-3 team score on VT and FX as freshman in 2016.
  • Often survived BB.
  • 2016 RQS – VT: 9.850, FX: 9.830, BB: 9.775
Freshmen
Michaela
Burton
  • Legacy Elite
  • 4th place on BB at 2016 JO Nationals
Hailey
Garner
  • Gymstars TN
  • 2015 JO National Champion on UB and BB
Kirby
Rathjen
  • Stars Houston
  • 8th place on BB, 12th AA at 2015 JO Nationals
Sarah Shaffer
  • Texas East
  • 2016 Region 3 AA, FX champion.
Jessica
Yamzon
  • Gymcats
  • 7th AA, UB at 2016 JO Nationals, 2nd UB in 2015.

Recent History
2016 – 20th
2015 – 14th
2014 – 15th
2013 – 10th
2012 – 6th
2011 – 10th
2010 – 11th

The last few years have not been kind to Arkansas, as major stars have up and graduated without being replaced by equivalent stars. Last year’s disappointing 20th-place—the Razorbacks’ worst finish since 2005, their third season in existence—undersells the quality of a team that entered regionals a more respectable 13th but suffered the Epic Vault Catastrophe of ’16 and came nowhere close to advancing. Continue reading Arkansas 2017

2017 Freshman Preview: Minnesota & Arkansas

Returning Routines – Minnesota
VAULT
Abernathy – 9.840
DeMuse – 9.815
Holst – 9.770
Gardner – 9.770
Hitchcock – 9.500
BARS
Holst – 9.885
DeMuse – 9.840
Gardner – 9.805
Hitchcock – 9.690
Cutler – 9.646
BEAM
Gardner – 9.820
Rahon – 9.730
Ung – 9.658
Holst – 9.525
DeMuse – 9.370
FLOOR
Gardner – 9.875
DeMuse – 9.850
Abernathy – 9.835
Rahon – 9.810
Holst – 9.765
Cutler – 9.650

Obviously, the worst part for Minnesota is the no-Mable part. But losing Nordquist, Haines, and Hanley doesn’t help the situation much either. Just…be generally concerned about everything you see there.

But for now, let’s focus on Paige Williams. Jenny Hansen casually added Williams to the class just this April in a very “Oh, didn’t I mention…?” kind of way.  Williams is the strongest gymnast in Minnesota’s hefty incoming septet and will need to compete the all-around. Also maybe more than that, if possible.

Here’s her double front on floor and even more impressive 90-foot straddle jump amplitude. I’m excited for Minnesota to have a big floor routine this year.

The ease of completion on that Yfull will also be a mighty fine addition. Just, you know, cross fewer state lines on landing. Continue reading 2017 Freshman Preview: Minnesota & Arkansas

Iowa Regional Preview

Thus, the insanity begins. Last year, we were subjected to the relative letdown of all twelve #1 and #2 seeds advancing to nationals, but this season has been marked by uprooting of the traditional order of things, with teams like Cal and Denver breaking into the top 12 and shoving out some more established powers. The heavy parity among most of the teams ranked 10-18 should be cause for hope that we’ll see some real upsets this year, but even if we don’t and all the #1 and #2 seeds go through, that would still mean that less-traditional qualifiers like Cal and Denver are heading to nationals. 

Before we go to therapy for our anticipation problems by dissecting the regional championships one by one, the news of the day is the announcement of the six finalists for the AAI Award, a.k.a. the Best Senior Award: Caitlin Atkinson, Ivana Hong, Lindsay Mable, Nina McGee, Haley Scaman, and Bridget Sloan. Snubs include Brandie Jay, Brittany Rogers, Danusia Francis, Lauren Beers, among others. I wonder who’s going to win…

Anyway, to the regionals! Let’s begin with the top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners and their visit to the land of that butter statue of Shawn Johnson, the great state of Iowa.
  
Competing teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (bye before bars)
[12] Nebraska (beam)
[13] Arkansas (floor)
[19] Iowa (bye before floor)
[30] Kent State (bars)
[35] Central Michigan (vault)

Competing individuals
Western Michigan (Anna Corbett – AA; Kelsey Hood – AA; Jessie Peszek – UB, BB; Rachel Underwood – BB, FX; Jessi Buis – VT; Jessica Juncaj – UB) 
Ball State (Denaisha Christian – VT, FX; Sarah Ebeyer – VT, FX; Jordyn Penny – UB; Baylee Bell – BB)
Centenary (Ashley White – AA)

The favorite — Oklahoma

The Sooners should sail through this competition for all of the reasons, of particular note being that their season average is greater than the season high of any other team in the meet and that they’ve spent the month of March looking even more postseasony than usual. It would be a massive disaster if Oklahoma were not to qualify out of this session, so I’ll spend more time addressing the Sooners later once we head toward nationals and start evaluating the title chances of the various top contenders.

If things go to plan and Oklahoma is up by, you know, seven tenths halfway through the meet, everyone’s attention will probably be directed at the exciting qualification fight for the second spot in this session, but there are still a few areas to look out for in Oklahoma’s performance with eyes toward nationals. As with pretty much all the teams, refining landings will be a major focus of the next month. Vault is the only event on which Oklahoma doesn’t own the world, currently sitting in 3rd place behind LSU and Florida, often a result of the lineup peaking around 9.875 when Scaman and Jackson have larger steps on their 1.5s at the end. They need some more consistently controlled landings on those 1.5s to keep pace with the Gnats and the Bakers. (Should Oklahoma mimic what Florida does with McMurtry and throw a sticker like Kmieciak or Capps in the anchor spot after the 1.5s to ensure they get 9.9s instead of potentially being kept down earlier in the lineup?) I’m also interested to see how the routines are being evaluated as a whole since we’ll get both Oklahoma and Florida as away teams at (hopefully) non-cuckoo-scoring venues at the same time for comparison. 

The fight — Nebraska v. Arkansas

This year, the #3 seeds are ending on a bye, which isn’t great for the excitement of the competition but does mean that we should know exactly what Nebraska needs to do on bars heading into the final rotation since Arkansas will already be done. We have reason to hope it’ll be close because there’s very little to separate these teams right now, as it should be when the #12 and #13 face off. It would be hard to consider either team advancing much of an upset. In fact, while Nebraska’s overall RQS is a touch higher than Arkansas’s, their four event RQSs total exactly identically.

The performances at conference championships pretty clearly illustrate the identities of each of these rosters at this point in the season (now that Nebraska has enough people to compete): Nebraska scored eight 9.9s to Arkansas’s one, while Nebraska also had three scores under 9.7 to Arkansas’s none, with the caveat that Nebraska’s conference championship also took place at home. Nebraska has more big-score potential from Blanske, Laeng, Breen now, and Williams sometimes but also still has to throw in the occasional backup auto-drop, while Arkansas has been 9.850ing along in pretty much every meet. After enduring a disaster in Cancun (“we’ve all been there, amiright?” said the worst person in the world), Arkansas has become one of NCAA’s most reliable teams.

This would seem to indicate that the meet is in Nebraska’s hands. If the Huskers hit to a relatively postseasonish level, they can take a couple tenths and run away and hide with them (recent form backs this up, with Nebraska’s lowest score in the last three being 196.900—a meet that included counting an OOB on floor—and Arkansas’s highest being 196.775). That’s why it’s imperative for Arkansas to nail its “big” routine on each event. Arkansas doesn’t have a lot of huge gymnastics, going the yfull-double pike route this season, so the showcase routine—be it Wellick on vault and floor, Zaziski on bars, or Nelson on beam—must be a big number to take away Nebraska’s chance of using more 9.9s to rack up a multi-tenth edge.

If we employ RQS as our constant and reliable guide—because without numbers we’re no better than the animals—Arkansas theoretically has the edge on vault and floor.

That’s mostly a reflection of consistency. Arkansas has shown better landing control on vault and has suffered fewer instances of having to put up only five on vault and floor. Or as the kids call it, Nebraskaing. They’ve both had some, Nebraska during Laeng’s absence and the Ashley Lambert injury saga and Arkansas after the injury to MacMoyle, but no one can out-“putting up five on vault and floor” Nebraska. The bigger routines from Blanske at the end of those Nebraska lineups, however, may negate any Arkansas consistency advantage, especially if she sticks that 1.5 the way she did at Big Tens.

Bars and beam, on the other hand, are supposed to go Nebraska’s way. Nebraska’s beam RQS is higher than its vault RQS, you guys. WHAT IS THIS WORLD? I don’t even know what to think. So I won’t. Bars has seen some lineup upheaval for the Huskers this year, but it was the event that nearly single-handedly saved their score at Big Tens as they Oklahomaed all over that score sheet.

Nebraska’s final event is bars, while Arkansas finishes on beam, which should be advantage Nebraska. Arkansas has been solid on beam this year and has found a lineup that works, but it’s not going to be a hugely huge score, especially if Sydnie Dillard keeps getting Aisha Gerber-level inexplicably low 9.7s in the first spot. That means the closer Nebraska keeps it early, the more the advantage shifts to the Huskers. All of these #2 seeds like Nebraska are starting on beam, so we’re going to have a pretty good sense of where the Upset Meter stands after the first rotation of each regional.

The spoiler — Iowa

“There’s nothing more dangerous than an unseeded host team capable of scoring 196.500” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

We can’t count out Iowa here. Quietly, this has been a pretty monumental season for the Hawkeyes. Escaping from the usual purgatory of the lower end of the top 30, Iowa used some mid-season 196s to jump squarely into the teens and enter regionals as the strongest of the unseeded schools. Competing at home, and with a competitive scoring precedent already set this season, Iowa could do some damage as long as Nebraska and Arkansas have a case of the 9.825s and stay in the 196s. On vault and floor early in the meet, watch the scores for Drenth and Glover. If Glover is hitting 9.900 on floor and Drenth is hitting 9.9 for her “arabian,” as she did at Big Tens, that’s your sign that this might be an out-of-the-ordinary scoring day and that Iowa needs to be watched. Still, unless it’s a day of true crazy home craziness, it’s hard to imagine Iowa beating hit meets from both Nebraska and Arkansas, who are much more likely to go into the higher end of the 196s. Iowa needs a couple meltdowns. But, they can be minor meltdowns as long as Iowa stays on 49 pace. If the first two events are sub-49, it will take more than a minor mistake from the others for Iowa to get into this meet.

And the rest
Kent State and Central Michigan round out the regional, and for them it’s more a fight with each other than a fight to make it to nationals. Central Michigan impressed last year, but after graduating basically the entire roster + seven people, CMU did well just to hang on for a spot at regionals this season. Kent State recovered from missing out in 2015 with some crucial late 195s to hop into the top 36. It will be a battle of Kent State’s floor versus CMU’s bars and beam. Kent State ranks very competitively on floor but relies heavily on that being a 49+ score because the other events are weaker, which may be Central Michigan’s opening.

Individuals
The top two AAers not on a qualifying team will advance to nationals from each regional competition, along with any event champions who are not on a qualifying team. Every year, a couple individual event gymnasts do advance to nationals, but it’s very difficult, especially in a regional like this when making nationals for a single event requires beating Oklahoma’s entire lineup. No easy task. Sorry, bars specialists. Wofford’s in the house.

In the all-around, Nebraska has several competitive AAers because, as usual, there are only about three and a quarter healthy gymnasts on this team. Blanske, Williams, Laeng and Breen are all back in the AA with 39.400 potential, and any two of them could advance to nationals if Nebraska doesn’t make it. Of course, if Nebraska doesn’t make it, that probably means at least a couple of them didn’t do so much with the great in this meet, but that’s why there are four. Two probably still will.

If Nebraska does qualify and Arkansas does not, then Wellick becomes the clear pick to advance as an individual. She’s the only AAer for Arkansas, so for the other spot, money probably goes on Mollie Drenth, who is capable of 39.3s/39.4s and could also quite realistically knock out some of the Nebraska gymnasts if that’s the scenario. Angel Metcalf of Iowa is also in the hunt, though Drenth probably has higher scoring potential. CMU will put up Bolender, Teet, and Janowicz in the all-around, but they’re lower down the scoring chart and would need mistakes from Nebraskans/Iowans to get in.

SEC Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Afternoon session 2:00 ET/11:00 PT
Evening session 6:00 ET/3:00 PT

It’s tomorrow! Everything starts very early, with Jesolo getting underway even before the first session of Big Tens. It’ll be a huge day of live blogging and gymnastics watching, so we’ll have to pace ourselves early. Don’t waste your energy before the big-girl sessions begin.

Finally. After years of watching poky live score spreadsheet templates that didn’t even update, followed by the recent generous bestowing of an internet stream, the SEC Championship will at last be broadcast live on actual televisions this year. Happy 1968, everyone!

In an attempt to make up for doing such a terrible job at this for so long, the SEC Network is whipping out all the bells and whistles this season, with a TV broadcast accompanied by each individual event streaming online, meaning we can make sure to watch all of Georgia’s beam routines from behind our fingers while still getting the competition done in a cool two hours. I’m on board. The SEC Network is also really talking up the hip new quad-meet scoring interface it will debut (to the point where it better physically shoot candy and cheeseburgers out of the TV to live up to this), so I’m eager to see what that looks like. The SEC Net has done a very good job of displaying the scores and running totals in an unobtrusive manner so far, so there’s reason for optimism.

NBC really needs to take notes on what the SEC Network does with live scoring heading into the Olympics. With an easy way to update live scores at the bottom of the screen, you don’t need to watch Gabby do her grips for 25 minutes while waiting for the score. You can move on to other routines, and then display the score and real-time rankings as they come in. You know, actual development and innovation, not just MEANINGLESS TRIANGLES.

EVENING SESSION
Florida, LSU, Alabama, Auburn

While we all roll our eyes every time an SEC coach says that winning the SEC Championship is harder than winning the national championship (it objectively isn’t to anyone who thinks about it for literally one second), this is still a hell of a competition with a solid five teams realistically capable of a hearty 197. Given the scores we’ve seen this season, however, winning this title really should take a high 197, which probably precludes Auburn and Georgia unless it’s a splatfest and they slide on through. Once again, we’re looking at Florida, LSU, and Alabama.

Alabama won last season, taking advantage of a beam catastrophe from Florida and beam foreshadowing wobbles from LSU to dance to the top spot with a 197.5, and Alabama’s totals so far this year indicate the need for something similar. Alabama has peaked at 197.5s while LSU has gone into the 197.9s and Florida into the 198s. But, if we correct for some silly scoring and for Alabama’s epic depth exploration in every meet, there’s probably not actually a whole fall worth of difference between these teams. While it will be tough for Alabama to match an ideal meet from LSU or Florida based on what we’ve seen, I’m not willing to write off the Tide quite yet. But between Florida and LSU? Take your pick. It will be close. Let’s get into it.

Rotation 1: Florida vault, LSU bars, Alabama beam, Auburn floor  

Event RQS for rotation 1
Auburn 49.435
Florida 49.390
LSU 49.370
Alabama 49.300

You’ll notice something a bit unexpected in those RQSs in that they tell us Auburn should be leading after the first rotation. It could happen because of floor reasons, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Although for Auburn, it’s absolutely necessary if a title challenge is in play. While Atkinson’s is a definite 9.9+ routine (along with occasionally Rott, Demers, and Hlawek), the high floor RQSs across the conference and country reflect loose end-of-meet scoring rather than significant supremacy over the quality of other teams on other events. It will be tough to replicate in this context, and Auburn taking a first-rotation lead would also require a couple other teams under-performing early.

This first event is also critical for LSU to establish a high-scoring pace since bars is their weakest event (the RQS is lower on beam, but beam). Finnegan is obviously a star, and the return of Priessman ups the scoring potential, but a couple 9.800s with form breaks and lower amplitude at the beginning of the lineup put LSU’s bars behind those of Florida. If LSU can get Zamardi, Finnegan, Priessman, Wyrick, and Hambrick all in the lineup at the same time, however, that should minimize counting any low scores and bolster what could be a flat event, but those five have not actually been in the same lineup yet this season. Judging by a high 197 standard, LSU must go into the 49.4s on bars to avoid falling off the pace.

Vault is Florida’s lowest-scoring event, though it really shouldn’t be, not with those huge 1.5s from Baker and Boren and supreme fulls from McMurtry and Sloan. It all comes down to landing control. Caquatto and Fassbender can get 9.800ish, and if Baker and Boren are bounding forward out of those 1.5s, those scores can get down to 9.850 in a jiffy. With a good hit, however, Florida should verge on 49.5 and will look to be leading after the first. Scoring down into the 49.3s would constitute a door swinging open.

Alabama has exquisite beam workers in Aja Sims, Guerrero, McNeer, and Winston and with an ideal lineup in place, shouldn’t be ceding ground to any other team in the country based on beam. They’re too talented. That’s why it’s a little surprising that Alabama has hit the 49.3 mark on just three occasions this season, and not since mid-February. Inconsistency has been a burden, with Bailey and Beers struggling to find the security of past seasons, and then there’s the old lineup shuffling. Those four I mentioned at the top of the paragraph haven’t competed on beam together since February 12th, but they’ll absolutely need to be the core at the center of a high-scoring cake. Cakes have cores. What are you saying about? Settling for 49.3s won’t be good enough to get on winning pace, even on beam, and while this rotation order means that Alabama probably won’t be bursting out of the gates, the 9.9 sisters must show up on beam if this is to be an Alabama postseason.

Rotation 2: Auburn vault, Florida bars, LSU beam, Alabama floor

Event RQS through 2 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 2):
Florida 98.855 (49.465)
Alabama 98.715 (49.415)
Auburn 98.685 (49.250)
LSU 98.660 (49.290)

Rotation two is going to be a good one. This rotation is why I’ll be glad for the four-event stream because the scores might seriously fly on every piece. Interestingly, RQS tells us that LSU should be trailing the pack after two events, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Tigers since they’ll end on floor and vault and can make up a ton of ground there. If LSU is within a couple tenths of the lead after two pieces, DD will be shooting animal-print rainbows out of her eyes. Still, LSU shouldn’t actually be trailing after beam and would consider something close to that RQS of 49.290 a disappointing performance. With this lineup and those potential 9.9s throughout the order, we should expect 49.4s. 

It will still be tough for LSU to lead after two because Florida and Alabama both also compete on high-scoring events in the second rotation, but the Tigers just can’t let it get out of hand. Florida is the conference’s best bars team and probably the country’s best bars team (though Oklahoma would disagree), and the Gators will expect to have a solid lead after two events. Sloan and Caquatto should be scoring in the 9.9s each time, BDG often hits that mark as well, and McMurtry…well, we know what happens there. It’s a believable recipe for 49.500 and has looked the closest to postseason-ready among Florida’s events over the last month. If Florida is looking for areas of advantage over LSU, bars is the biggest one.

Alabama has about 68 realistic floor options that could score 9.850, but whom to choose? It won’t be good enough just to hang in the 9.850s during this rotation, not with this level of competition, which is why success or failure in this championship could hinge on who is able to go on floor. The amount Carley Sims has been able to progress since we saw her two weeks ago will be critical. She’s back, but in her floor performances so far she hasn’t looked full Carley Sims. She needs more time to return to her normal level, but if she’s there and is joined by a Winston/Beers/Jetter-type lineup, we can expect at least 49.4, which is the minimum Alabama needs here to challenge. If, however, the Tide is forced to opt for a more Aja Sims/Giancroce-type lineup (both of whom are perfectly solid for 9.850), then challenging the LSU floor machine and staying competitive becomes a serious task.

As we’ve moved toward the end of the season, Auburn has been squeezing every possible tenth out of the vault lineup and staying much more competitive than I would have thought given the available options. At the same time, the limits of lineup depth and difficulty (just one 10.0 start most of the time) put a ceiling on what Auburn will be able to do here, making a big early floor statement all the more critical.

Rotation 3: Alabama vault, Auburn bars, Florida beam, LSU floor

Event RQS through 3 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 3):
Florida 148.260 (49.405)
LSU 148.170 (49.510)
Alabama 148.030 (49.315)
Auburn 147.965 (49.280)

And now we arrive at the portion of the meet during which LSU should be making a move. If we’re truly to believe in the Tigers’ ability to win, they’ll need to jump into the lead after three events. The RQS tells us that LSU should be in second after three, but with Florida ending on floor (even though LSU will be on a strength at the same time, vault), no team can allow Florida to have a lead going to the last rotation. They’ll just Baker everyone into submission. 

One through six, I’d say LSU has the strongest and most even floor lineup in the country, able to warrant 9.9s from Ewing in the first spot right through Gnat in the final spot. There are a couple issues (Wyrick has some leg form and chest position here and there, Kelley can be inconsistent with those landings), but fewer issues than the other teams have. We should expect the 49.5 that RQS tells us LSU will get, which is why the Tigers have the opportunity to gain a couple tenths on a Gator beam rotation.

Florida does score very well on beam, but uncertainty has crept into the lineup recently, assisted by the yet-another-injury to Peyton Ernst that kept her out of last weekend’s meet. The work is not quite as pristine as what LSU and Alabama can boast, with a couple more moments of leg form, short splits, and Ericha Fassbender’s sheep jump. Under normal circumstances, there are still a couple 9.9s in this lineup as long as Bridget Sloan remembers that she’s Bridget Sloan, that’s a side aerial, and COME ON. It’s not exactly a feeble event and has often won meets for Florida, but this is the closest Florida comes to a rotation where the other teams can pounce.

Alabama has the difficulty on vault with three 1.5s from Beers, Brannan, and Guerrero, all of whom have scored well at times this season, but it hasn’t quite come together in the same meet yet, keeping Alabama at respectable but often modest totals. The 49.2s won’t get it done in an SEC Championship. All three of the 1.5s should go at least 9.850 (Guerrero’s is a bit shorter and less laid out than the others, so she’s more likely to stay in the 9.8s, while Beers can go 9.950 for a stick), but the factor bringing the scores down has often been the quality of the fulls. The vaults from Bailey, Bresette, and Armbrecht aren’t consistently competitive in an SEC vaulting context, so Alabama will need to have McNeer and Winston back on vault to put up a number that can keep relative pace with what Florida and LSU do here. 

Meanwhile, in DLOs-that-are-to-die-for news, may I introduce Auburn. It’s somewhat surprising to me that Auburn is down at 8th in the country on bars because a lot of this work is exceptional, particularly the dismounts. There are a few form issues in the beginning of the lineup that can keep the scores in the lower 9.8s, but once we get to Milliet and Atkinson, expect the number to go quite high. Keeping pace throughout the meet will be extremely challenging for Auburn, but this event should merit a respectable score. In the rankings, Auburn is already pretty well set for that normally-coveted 6/7/18 regional (unless that 18 seed ends up being Stanford, in which case this would become the nightmare regional), but a 196.975 in this meet would guarantee dropping no lower than 7th in the rankings.

Rotation 4: LSU vault, Alabama bars, Auburn beam, Florida floor

Event RQS through 4 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 4):
Florida 197.745 (49.485)
LSU 197.615 (49.445)
Alabama 197.400 (49.370)
Auburn 197.140 (49.175)

Note that these are the totals of the four event RQSs, not the teams’ overall ranking RQS.

Florida has the luxury of coming home on an event that hat scored as high as 49.675 this season. I’m hoping that the introduction of four judges for championship season and the context of an actual title on the line will keep floor scores a little saner than they’ve been this season, but even so, finishing on floor will give Florida the opportunity to make up any small deficit that may have arisen (or just seal the deal). This floor rotation has had some issues this year, spending most of the first few months of the season looking like half a team, but McMurtry joining the fold and Caquatto getting it together lately has beefed up the lineup into something more competitive, relying less on 9.825s from McLaughlin and Fassbender or that backup routine from Hiller. It’s still not the strongest floor in the country, but when Baker and Sloan are hitting, it’s quite difficult to beat. If the Gators are in the vicinity of first place going to the final event, bet on them.

But it really must be the vicinity of first because LSU on vault is LSU on vault. The Tigers may drop a little bit to Florida in this rotation, but not much. If they have managed a lead after floor, they’ll be feeling pretty darn pretty going to vault. While I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as one of the all-time amazing LSU vault lineups, they’ve been able to take advantage of the new rules and superior difficulty to snatch some massive scores. Gnat’s giant DTY has settled into a pattern of going 10.000 when she sticks and 9.950 when she doesn’t, which is such a valuable scoring guarantee. The rest of the lineup would have to put up total stinkers for the score not to be competitive. They don’t usually do that, with useful 1.5s from Ewing and Savona (Savona may still need a little more time to find her landing) and one of the country’s better fulls from Hambrick. The Tigers occasionally lose a little bit in the early part of the lineup when they have to use Macadaeg and Cannamela, whose fulls are fine (and have improved) but not as dynamic as the best vaults. That’s more something to watch compared to Oklahoma when we get to nationals though, because the same remark can be made about Florida and Alabama.

Alabama’s bars terrify me. That’s not to say the score can’t be good. It has been as high as 49.6 this year, and Kiana Winston’s routine is among the best in the country. It also helps that the judges have suddenly decided that Brannan’s bars work is worth 9.925 even though it’s the identical routine she was performing at the beginning of the lineup for 9.800-9.825 early in the season. But then there’s also Jetter’s double front. Yikes. Watch that space. If Alabama is going to win this title, it will take a season-best performance during which things happen that we haven’t seen yet. Bars is the event where Alabama may just pull something out and be suddenly more competitive than we’ve expected as long as Winston, Bailey, and Jetter are all having a good day.

Being the runt of the session, Auburn has to start on floor and end on beam. (Would you rather go in the evening session starting on floor or in the afternoon session starting on vault?) Beam has been an OK event for Auburn this year, retaining some of the glory of last year with Atkinson, Milliet, and Demers uniting for a trio of lovely, but it hasn’t been quite as crisp, consistent, or high-scoring. Megan Walker has absolutely not been replaced. We’ll also have to watch Atkinson in the AA battle. Sloan enters as the favorite because of Sloan, but I’d probably put Atkinson at second-favorite to win, aided by the fact that she anchors every event. If intra-lineup score building is happening, Atkinson could ride that to a major total. There are a number of other contending options, including Baker and Boren for Florida (though they won’t have the bars and beam scores to win if Sloan is nailing the meet), Rogers and Jay for Georgia (beam asterisk), Hambrick for LSU (maybe not the bigness across four events?), and whoever does AA for Alabama this time (I like Winston’s chances if she’s actually able to do four events). But to me Sloan and Atkinson look like the most convincing favorites.

AFTERNOON SESSION
Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky

Sort of like the Pac-12, we do have a vaguely realistic title challenger in the earlier session in Georgia, though I would say Stanford is more likely to win the Pac-12 than Georgia is to win the SEC. Yes? True? With me? Georgia is capable of very high scores, but do we see the 197.8-197.9 it may take to win this thing coming from Georgia? I’m thinking Georgia would be really happy with a 197.4ish score and challenging for 3rd place. That would reflect four strong events with real hits, not just we-avoided-a-fall hits. Those have been too hard to come by this season.

Georgia’s asset remains vault, a lineup that is solidly top-3 in the conference and should be the primary factor boosting Georgia ahead of the other schools in this session, toward a mark that would be challenging for the evening teams to match. The Gymdogs have the difficulty with three 1.5s, aided by mostly solid fulls from the rest of the group. That, and a floor rotation led by believable 9.9s from Marino, Jay, and Box, is what will lead Georgia into the 197s. Bars has been fine, not the disaster it might have been this season given the lineup exodus. Although, they do need to figure out what’s happening in that second spot, which is now occupied by Johnson who works bars like a vault specialist. They’ll want to drop that score every time, which puts pressure on the others not just to hit but to 9.850+ hit. All of this is a way of dancing around the beam issue. We’ve talked about it enough. The last few meets have been encouraging, but that’s not enough to declare the epidemic over, especially because even if there’s no fall, Georgia is still risking a couple 9.7s, which is pretty much as good as a fall when trying to contend for an SEC title.

In spite of all that’s happened this season, Georgia has a legitimate shot to move into the 6/7 spots if either Auburn or Michigan has a bad day on Saturday. Although since Utah (currently #5) and Michigan (currently #7) are also regionals hosts along with Georgia, we’re looking at some rearranging either way.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of all these contenders has been Arkansas, a team that over-performed expectations early in the season by spending a couple months in the top 10 and has frequently proven capable of snatching 196.7s. Also helping Arkansas is the “neutral site that isn’t a neutral site” thing, making this pretty much a home meet that counts as a road meet. That will allow them to drop a road 196.1 (very doable) and move back up the rankings, potentially as high as #10. As things stand right now, Arkansas would be paired with Oklahoma and Nebraska at regionals, a fate they’d rather avoid.

The Razorbacks have somewhat exceeded what I expected this season, in large part because of vault. I expected the new vault values to destroy a team like Arkansas that doesn’t have 1.5s, but they have shown that a six-yfull strategy is still tenable (disproving the perennial fear that changing the vault values would make teams like Arkansas less able to contend) as long as those fulls are, you know, landed well. Beam has also been considerably un-terrible this season, much better than last year, with every score going over 49 since the first-week disaster. That’s much better consistency than I expected from this group. I normally rail against the strategy of burying the best beam workers at the front of the lineup, as Arkansas has done, because it compromises scoring potential (and I think you can argue that it has because Arkansas gets stuck at 49.1 for hit rotations). It’s often a knee-jerk reaction to falls and in many cases isn’t even necessary. Teams have a couple meets with falls, throw Janie Beamington into the first spot, and later the team starts hitting, believing that they’re hitting because Janie Beamington is in the first spot. When really, the two may not be related. But at that point, because they believe it, the lineup doesn’t get changed to one that would score better in the postseason, and the team has handcuffed itself.

Anyway, Arkansas has done well putting the best beamers at the beginning.

And Missouri has done well not being the weakest team in the conference this season. Hooray! Ever since Missouri joined the SEC, they’ve been the caboose of the conference, but picking it up to 7th out of 8 this year is a big deal. That sounds sarcastic, but it actually is a big deal. It has been too long since Missouri got 196s at all, let alone five of them in the same season. Porter, Ward, Miller, Harris, are Schugel make up a competitive core of high-scoring gymnasts that Missouri didn’t have even back during the glory season of 2010 when it was Sarah Shire and Company, starring Sarah Shire as Sarah Shire. Like Arizona, Missouri has an outside shot of getting into the top-18 and snatching a seed if everything goes just right, but it’s not likely. 

It’s rather unlikely that Missouri or Kentucky will challenge the top 6, though it’s certainly possible if Arkansas is just OK. More likely, they will be fighting each other not to finish in the basement, which is a meaningless distinction but helpful for pride. That’s pretty much what Kentucky is playing for here since little will change in terms of rankings or regionals placement at this point. Which team is more 196ish and more likely to hope for a weird upset bid at a regional, that’s what we’ll need to watch. They’re both in it with a shot. Dukes, Hyland, and Stuart have reinvigorated a Kentucky program that looked like it was headed for a dip this year after the million injuries and routine losses of last season. Keep an eye on next year. Top 18 wouldn’t be surprising. 

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. 

Friday Live Blog – [5] Alabama @ [1] Florida; Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia’s Crazy Beam

Friday, January 29
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Temple, Ursinus, Centenary @ West Chester
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Alabama @ Florida – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan @ Nebraska – SCORESBTN2Go($)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Georgia @ Kentucky – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Illinois @ Penn State – SCORESStream(free)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Hamline @ UW-Eau Claire
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-Stout – SCORESStream
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – NC State, Lindenwood @ Iowa State – SCORES
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-Whitewater @ SEMO – SCORES
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Winona State @ UW-La Crosse
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Auburn @ Arkansas- SCORESSECN
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – BYU @ Boise State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Southern Utah @ Utah State – SCORESStream
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Texas Woman’s, William & Mary, Seattle Pacific @ San Jose State – SCORES
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – UC Davis @ Sacramento State

Alabama and Florida. We’re not goin’ for no city championships.

Dana has done a whole heap of depth exploring in the first couple meets, which I always support (unless it’s still going on in March and terrible), so it will be interesting to see how the lineups actually shake out today for a real showdown in which Alabama can’t really afford to use B-team routines. We should have a better idea of who’s in favor for late-season lineups and who is “such great depth and spirit,” especially on floor, based on today.

Or not. Floor lineup is Sims, Giancroce, Brannan, Winston, Bailey, Beers. So looks like we’re still in the exploring phase. Dana Duckworth is like a fantasy gym nightmare. Florida’s lineups remain intact.
Continue reading Friday Live Blog – [5] Alabama @ [1] Florida; Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia’s Crazy Beam

Friday Live Blog – Every Team Ever

Friday, January 22
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Arkansas @ Alabama – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – SEMO @ Centenary – SCORES
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-La Crosse @ Hamline
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Iowa State, Arizona State @ Oklahoma – SCORES – TV: Various Fox Sports outlets
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Georgia @ Missouri – SCORESSECN+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan @ Illinois – SCORESBTN2Go
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Central Michigan @ Northern Illinois – Stream($)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Lindenwood, Ball State @ Illinois State – Stream($)
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Florida @ Auburn – SCORESSECN
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Kentucky @ LSU – SCORESSECN+
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah State @ Southern Utah – SCORES
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Boise State, UC Davis @ BYU – Stream
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Sacramento State @ Seattle Pacific – SCORES?Stream

With all the SEC meets and an Oklahoma home meet that’s actually televised for human people to watch, we’ll have quite a bit to get through today. There will be a period when I’m trying to watch Georgia/Missouri, ISU/ASU/Oklahoma, Auburn/Florida, and Kentucky/LSU, and blog about it all at the same time. It’s going to be freaky and monstrous. Get ready. I’m going for the land-speed record for mistyping tkatchev in a single blog post.
Continue reading Friday Live Blog – Every Team Ever

The Weekend Plans – January 22-24

Apparently, the east coast broke, so some of these teams will not be competing this weekend because they’re being preserved in ice for future archaeologists to find. George Washington is out of Saturday’s meet, but as of now, the meet is still expected to go ahead. Penn State was supposed to travel to Maryland, but that meet has been postponed because of “as if.”

Top 25 schedule + other notables

Friday, January 22
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [10] Arkansas @ [4] Alabama
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Iowa State, Arizona State @ [2] Oklahoma
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [9] Georgia @ [14] Missouri
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [3] Michigan @ [17] Illinois
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [1] Florida @ [8] Auburn
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [20] Kentucky @ [7] LSU
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah State @ [23] Southern Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [13] Boise State, UC Davis @ BYU
Saturday, January 23
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [5] UCLA @ Arizona
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [11] Oregon State @ [6] Utah
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – *[12] George Washington, [15] New Hampshire, Temple @ Pittsburgh
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Rutgers @ [18] Nebraska
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Michigan State @ [19] Minnesota
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Washington @ [16] Denver
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [25] Ohio State @ Iowa
Sunday, January 24
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – [21] Eastern Michigan, Illinois State @ Ball State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [22] Cal, San Jose State @ [24] Stanford

Live blogging
I’ll be here live blogging all the Friday slop as usual—get all your devices and alternate monitors and time machines ready because there will be periods when you want to watch three meets at the same time—as well as UCLA/Arizona on Saturday (but not Oregon State/Utah, just a heads up).  

Friday
-Most of the top teams are getting their meets out of the way on Friday, with only the major Pac-12 sides holding out until the weekend. Though the result is in doubt for very few of these meets, many of these teams are coming off nasties of varying severity in their most recent showings, so there are a couple key rotations to watch. Yeah, I’m talking about Georgia’s beam. The SEC Network should definitely cut in to Florida/Auburn when Georgia is going on beam with a breaking news update because we all need to see that thing.

-The premier meet of the week is Florida’s visit to Auburn because it features the highest-ranked underdog and because I haven’t seen a full Auburn meet yet this season. My needs make things important. Florida is the heavy favorite in this one, with a fuller contingent of both starring 9.9s and supporting 9.8s that would have to thrown up a relative splatfest for Auburn to come out on top. The Gators turned in the strongest and most complete performance in the country so far this season in their last meet, though the scoring was crazy-pie, so part of the interest in this meet will be how similarly hit routines are scored away from home. It should be a better indicator of where Florida is at this point in the season.

Perhaps surprisingly, or not, the floor rotation is the biggest question for Florida so far this year, once again last weekend featuring three great routines and three weak routines. Bridgey will chug along and get into form eventually, but that is a lineup that looks a step behind where it could be given the quality of Baker, Sloan, and Boren. Right now, they’re just missing that DLO from Wang or piked full-in from Spicer, or even the 9.850 that Boyce could bring in the first spot to make this a complete and dominant lineup 1-6. For a championship side, everyone in the floor lineup should be a possible 9.900. We’ve seen Florida, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, etc. do that recently, but that’s not the case for Florida right now. That wouldn’t be a real problem until Super Six, because this floor lineup is still great, but it’s something to keep in mind.

For Auburn, the first couple meets have been fine but not ideal. At this point, the team is still expecting to count some 9.7s and will need more time to develop routines from Krippner and Engler into 9.825-9.850 early-lineup options, rendering a 9.750 a drop-score rather than a phew-score. It will take more than a single January to get to that place, but those are the freshmen I’m watching with the biggest vulture-eyes in this meet. It has been encouraging to see Abby Milliet develop into a true and viable second-in-command to Atkinson on bars and beam (she even did floor last week). The question about Auburn this season is whether this will be a complete contending team or just the Caitlin Atkinson show, especially on bars and beam in the absence of Megan Walker. Milliet has already stepped up the quality from last year to fill that role.

-Let’s talk LSU and Georgia. Both teams had crazy scores going halfway through their most recent meets and then fell into the wood chipper never to be seen again. At the most basic level, this next meet is about…hitting beam. The situation is more serious for Georgia than for LSU because Georgia’s issue is a pattern rather than a single catastrophe, and it’s just getting worse. It’s also overshadowing what we’re seeing on the other events: the strongest vault rotation of any team so far this year (Monday against Stanford), improved floor fitness over this point last season, and a complete bars rotation that isn’t the weakness it seemed it might be without Davis and Brown. If beam comes together, this is a legitimate Super Six team, but beam has to come together.

Beam should be one of LSU’s best events and still will be as long as everyone stops losing her mind. Macadaeg, Hambrick, Finnegan? Come on. Don’t even start. The only thing standing between them and being a top-3 beam team is a case of the beautiful disasters, though one meet does not constitute a fully-fledged case of the beautiful disasters. Mostly, we learned from the Vegas meet that LSU is more dependent on Priessman and Kelley than it may have seemed at the very beginning. That’s perhaps a no-brainer, but the Tigers clearly missed those routines in Vegas and will need those scores. If one, both, or part of either is back this weekend, Florida’s nation-leading mark will be attainable.

-Alabama put on a show of floor depth during the double-meet weekend, marching about 75 people in and out of that lineup and getting competitive scores for all of them. Depth is Alabama’s best weapon this season and will serve them very well once things start to matter. They shouldn’t have too much trouble with Arkansas, although through the first couple weeks Arkansas has proven to be a more formidable and complete team than the roster seemed to suggest, one that has six competitive, minimum-9.750 routines on each event and is quite capable of 196s.

Saturday
-The Pac-12 takes over on Saturday, the showcase being Oregon State’s visit to Utah. In a gigantic twist, Oregon State is the Pac-12’s best vault team right now, which given historical precedent, is preposterous, but that’s the vaulting state of the Pac-12 right now. No Pac-12 team has even hit 49.200 through the first few weeks of the season. A lot of this comes down to difficulty, with the Pac-12 schools showing relatively few 10.0 vaults compared to their SEC peers, but the fulls we’ve seen so far have also not been remarkable enough to warrant high 9.8s. On Saturday, keep an eye on vault because all of these teams need to prove that they have multiple real 9.9s in their lineups, not just average fulls for 9.825s. Otherwise, it’s going to be an excruciatingly SEC season.

-Utah would be the favorite against Oregon State at either location, but that favorite status increases at home. The Utes could use a little traditional Utah boost after some lulls in the first couple meets. While Utah’s performances so far haven’t been outstanding, it’s clear that this will become a team that can low-mid 197 others into submission as the season progresses. The depletion of the floor lineup, however, has been quite evident early on. Floor won’t be the 9.9-a-thon of years past and the tumbling will not be as big, but Lee and Lewis need to come into their own to make this a competitive event instead of 13th in the country. It’s hard to challenge without at least 49.3s/49.4s on floor.

For the most part, Oregon State has been doing normal Oregon State things in the first couple meets. The Beavs will be in a position to pounce if Utah has to count a mistake, though the question from the preseason over where the 9.9s will come from remains, even stronger now without Aufiero this season and with Dani Dessaints mysteriously not competing last weekend. I haven’t seen one routine yet that looks like a sure 9.900+ every single time. 

-UCLA has started the season quite well, especially by the standard of “The Bruins Do 194s” that we have come to expect from time to time in January and February—when UCLA just has a beam crazy for no reason and then Valorie performs some extensive feelings about it. In general, the landings and endurance look pretty good for mid-January and improved over some recent years. The meet against Florida was more encouraging than the first because of the progression shown on bars, which now needs to be maintained and come to vault as well. With the downgrade, somewhat flat, medium-distance fulls are not going to cut it against teams like Georgia that are sticking multiple 1.5s.

The Yimettes had a horrible, three-beam-fall meet last weekend, one not remotely befitting the legacy of The Tabitha or Arizona’s ability and prettiness on beam. Like Georgia and LSU, but lower profile, The Fightin’ Arizonas need a comeback meet this weekend. They won’t beat a hit meet from UCLA and would have to rely on falls to win, but…let’s at least get back into the top 25, OK?

Sunday
-Cal heads to Stanford on Sunday for their second showdown already this season (why?) in a meet that no one will be able to see (why?). Cal beat Stanford the first time around, but Stanford showed some strides against Georgia by, you know, hitting and should feel more comfortable about their chances to win this one. Floor is still a big struggle, the bars lineup is incomplete, and vault is not at all competitive, but it’s getting better. Vault and floor are where Cal should have the advantage, with more believable 9.800s through the lineup, but achieving a second-straight smackdown of Stanford will hinge upon the ability to hit beam. Stanford can pretty anyone’s face off on beam, so Cal cannot afford to throw up another 48.5/48.6. That’s just too much to make up. Beam beam beam. The week of beam.