Tag Archives: Denver

Minnesota Regional Preview

Onward! Following the cue of the wildly circuitous Road to Rio we’ve been hearing about for the past year (I feel like there might be more efficient ways to get to Rio, like a plane or something), we move along the Road to Lovely Metropolitan Fort Worth from our first stop in Iowa to Minnesota. Wait, are we going the right direction? This feels wrong. Who’s navigating this trip? TRAUTWIG!!!???

Competing teams (starting event)
[2] Florida (bye before bars)
[11] Denver (beam)
[16] Minnesota (floor)
[20] Missouri (bye before floor)
[28] Ohio State (bars)
[31] BYU (vault)

Competing individuals
Iowa State (Haylee Young – AA; Meagan Sievers – AA; Sydney Converse – VT, BB; Briana Ledesma – VT, FX; Hilary Green – UB; Alex Marasco – BB; Kelsey Paz – FX)
Air Force (Kara Witgen – AA; Jamie Lewis – AA)
UW-Whitewater (Mackenzie Smith – UB)

The favorite – Florida

Much like Oklahoma, the Florida Gators enter regionals as the heavy favorite and should win comfortably, pretty much running away with it after the first rotation, even though they’ll be on a bye. The win at SECs helps reinforce Florida’s status as a comfortable pick to win a fourth-straight title, though the sheer competitiveness of that meet, along with getting outscored by Oklahoma by multiple tenths that day, indicate that it’s far from a safe proposition. Florida was challenged by multiple other teams during a well-hit meet. Mostly well-hit. 

That brings us to the Sloan problem. You’re the one who’s not supposed to be a problem! What is happening? For regionals, Florida does have the leeway to make a couple errors or count a fall and still advance, but it’s imperative that Sloan work out whatever is happening on beam and why. She has fallen on three of her last five beam routines, and while one of the other two hits was a 10.000, that’s not a very Sloan-like record at all. At nationals, the Gators don’t just need a hit from her. They need a 9.950. That’s how close and high-scoring this thing is going to be. We know Sloan can pull it together, as she mas many times before. As an elite, she had a bit of a Mikulaky reputation for falling on beam on the first day and then hitting on the second day, and even two seasons ago, Bridget was a beam disaster heading into the final Saturday and then got a 20 at Super Six. She needs to Sloan it out again. Our main focus in this meet will be lower down the standings, but Sloan’s beam routine in rotation three is a must-watch.

The fight – Denver v. Minnesota
This regional contest is among the more delectable because, aside from providing a potentially close race right down to the end, it guarantees a somewhat unexpected qualifier to nationals. While all three of the contenders here have advanced to nationals in the recent past (Minnesota in 2013, Missouri in 2010, Denver in 2007, 2008), none are what would be considered perennial qualifiers. Someone is going to be spoiling the old party. Also, the Jessica Lopez era was EIGHT years ago?   

Denver and Minnesota have both hit tremendous highs this season marked by historically significant scores, but some of those scores have been a little…creative, particularly that weekend of meets during which these two teams squared off twice and split the series.

For instance, this Julia Ross bars routine got a 9.900, which I use to illustrate high scores and because it’s one of the key routines for Denver that isn’t Nina McGee’s floor. They have others.

More likely, claiming the second spot here will require a mid-high 196, which is why this placement is such a juicy opportunity, not just for Denver and Minnesota but for Missouri as well. That’s a fairly conceivable score for all three, and this is the most open chance to make nationals any of these schools has seen for a while or is likely to see for a while. There’s no UCLA, or Michigan, or Georgia, or Stanford, or any of the other dangerous, big-reputation 2-3 seeds that must be defeated to make nationals. The task presented to these teams is simply to beat their peers. Dangerously attainable. It’s a doubly important opportunity for Denver and Minnesota because this is the last year of McGee and Mable, so it will be much harder next season once they’ve dropped that vital scoring potential (though it should be noted that Denver’s freshman class for next year is legit, including Maddie Karr from TCT who won the Nastia last year and Sam Ogden from WOGA who was elite for a hot minute this quad).

For much of the season, Minnesota looked like an also-ran, hovering in the 195s and unable to break through for a massive score, but the recent 197s coupled with this being a home meet make the Gophers much more of a threat. But how much will home be a factor? Minnesota hasn’t scored all that well at home this year, with those recent big totals all coming on the road. The one instance this year when these schools did meet at a neutral venue (at Air Force), Minnesota won by a couple tenths without a home advantage.

Minnesota’s event rotation, beginning on floor and ending on beam, isn’t as devastatingly terrible as it usually seems because beam is such an important event for this team. It’s the one event where they are clearly stronger than Denver, and no pair of routines is more critical to Minnesota’s success than Mable and Nordquist on beam. Ending the day with those two routines is not a bad deal at all (even if starting on floor is a bit of a pain that may somewhat neutralize another important score). A Hanna Nordquist end-of-meet senior-year home beam routine with nationals on the line is like judge catnip, though it will fall in the fifth rotation instead of the sixth, when Minnesota ends on a bye.

Denver, meanwhile, will look to break out on floor in the third rotation with that parade of power culminating in Nina McGee’s near-automatic 9.950. McGee has scored under 9.925 on floor just twice this season, which is why the team would be disappointed with any rotation total under 49.300. Denver’s floor should be the highest-scoring event of the meet for any team not named Florida and must be greater than what Minnesota scores on floor in the first rotation if Denver is going to snatch a qualifying spot.

While both teams have one vault that usually scores quite well (guess who it comes from…), vault isn’t a big difference maker for either, staying relatively even and 9.800y for both teams. Bars will tell us more. It has been a comfortable score for Denver this year and has been somewhat terrifying for Minnesota, as per tradition. That’s not to say Minnesota can’t score well on bars. Holst and Mable can both bring in big numbers on one of Mable’s good days, but she also has bad days on bars that often send the rotation down below the 49 line. It has to be a Mable good day, in all the ways, but especially on bars to prevent Denver from having two big asset events over Minnesota.

By the halfway point in the meet, both teams will have gone on floor, so Denver will hope to have a lead of at least a tenth or so (as long as they get through that opening beam rotation) and a score around 98.500. That would be somewhat challenging for Minnesota to match unless its floor scores are soaring, so Minnesota will be hoping things stay closer to 98.350-98.400 after two events, a much more attackable score in the second half of the meet.

The spoiler – Missouri 

Missouri has proven capable of 196.6 both at home and on the road this season and therefore cannot be eliminated from consideration if we expect the qualifying score to hover close to that range. Sure, both Denver and Minnesota are capable of scoring higher, so their performances will dictate whether Missouri is in contention or not, but if a few too many Gophers and Pioneers look a little 9.775, Missouri can jump right in. The major question is whether floor can be competitive in a group filled with teams eager to take advantage of 2016’s loose floor scoring to drive up the total. Missouri struggled on floor at SECs with several weak landings and, in fact, has not exceeded 49.150 on floor on the road all season. Staying 49.1s is unlikely to challenge without the help of falls from others. Floor is Missouri’s first event, which will tell us whether this is the road-season-high kind of day it will take to put the pressure on Denver and Minnesota. This performance will also be a useful case study (along with Kentucky’s) as to whether silly SEC scoring has driven Missouri’s stock up to an artificial level or whether the mid-196s are a true reflection of quality.

Shauna Miller is also one to keep an eye on. She had a nightmare at SECs, and while she’s not as critical to the team this year as she was in 2015 since Porter and Ward have taken up some of her duties, Missouri will struggle to put up a solid team score without a hit AA from Miller.

And the rest
Ohio State is more competitive than most of the #5 seeds nationally, but it’s difficult to envision a school has rested in the 195s all year suddenly advancing out of this region against teams that should be scoring much higher. Challenging Missouri for 4th is a realistic proposition, and hitting 196.000 is a very attainable goal and would constitute a solid day, but once we get past a couple excellent routines from Mattern, Harrison, and Hofland, the rest of the lineups don’t manage enough 9.8s to get a total into the mid 196s. BYU is in a similar position, though less likely to reach that 196.000 plateau. The Cougars have settled into this range of teams that usually make it to regionals, popping in as a #6 seed, but don’t look close to challenging for anything better or regaining the glory of yore.

The qualification fight between Denver and Minnesota features two of the strongest AAers in the country in Mable and McGee. It would be unacceptable for either to miss nationals. We have to unite as a family and make sure it doesn’t happen. In the most likely outcome, one will qualify with a team and (as long as there’s no fall involved) the other will make it as one of the two AA individuals from this regional. Their scoring potential is just too high compared to the others. If something weird and unfortunate does happen somewhere, they’ll both be in the hunt to make nationals as an event specialist on perhaps a couple apparatuses (as will Hanna Nordquist for beam if Minnesota doesn’t make it), but let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.

With one spot presumably taken by one of them, Missouri’s Morgan Porter looks the most likely to take the other spot. She’s currently ranked #20 in the AA and has scored at least 39.325 in her last five AA appearances. That seems the most believable setup for the two qualifying spots, though Shauna Miller is back in the AA and could put up a strong score if she’s suddenly having a much better day in the AA, and Ciara Gardner is another option for Minnesota if team qualification is not in the cards. Missouri would also consider Ward on vault and beam a possibility as an event specialist, but she’d have to beat Florida’s whole lineup, which seems unlikely.

If there are mistakes from that favored group of AAers, then we could see challenges come from Mattern and Harrison for Ohio State and Halliday for BYU, but they’re more likely to hang in the 49.1-49.2 range. They’ll need things not to go to plan for the higher-seeded teams to get in.

Friday Live Blog – Alabama @ Auburn; Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, AND SO MUCH MORE

Friday, February 12

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Southern Connecticut @ Bridgeport
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Air Force @ Cortland State – Stream
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Arkansas @ Florida – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Missouri @ Kentucky – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – NC State, William & Mary @ North Carolina – SCORES
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Pittsburgh, Ursinus, Penn @ Towson- SCORESStream
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UW-Eau Claire @ UW-Stout – SCORESStream
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-La Crosse – Stream
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Perfect 10 Challenge (Oklahoma, Denver, George Washington, Utah State) – SCORES – TV: Fox Sports Whatever
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Winona State @ Illinois State
8:00 ET/5:30 PT – IGI Chicago Style (Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Temple, Alaska) – FLOG
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Alabama @ Auburn – SCORESSECN
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – BYU, Sacramento State @ Southern Utah – SCORESStream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Minnesota @ Nebraska – SCORES
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Boise State @ San Jose State – SCORESStream
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – UC Davis @ Seattle Pacific – SCORESStream
Florida returns home. Place your bets for the number of 10s now.

Here’s something fun: Oklahoma’s RQS is already 197.420, which means the Sooners could check out for the rest of the season until regionals and still be fine. For reference, last season it took a 197.270 to get a #1 seed at a regional and a 196.680 to get a #2 seed at a regional.

The majority of other teams won’t have an RQS until after this weekend (I’ll probably give a preliminary RQS outlook along with the rankings on Monday), and we’re still another two weekends away from it actually going into effect, but it’s funny to see which teams are already safe. For comparison, Michigan is currently at 196.880 and Alabama is at 196.705, both already fine but certainly expected to improve greatly over the next month to get that top seed at a regional.

Continue reading Friday Live Blog – Alabama @ Auburn; Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, AND SO MUCH MORE

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.

-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’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.

-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.