Tag Archives: Florida

Sunday Live Blog – January 8, 2017

Sunday, January 8 Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – West Virginia @ Maryland LINK BTN+
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – UW-Eau Claire, Hamline @ Central Michigan FREE
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [5] Florida @ NC State ESPN3
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [22] Iowa, Western Michigan, Lindenwood @ Northern Illinois LINK NIU TV

Just a brief slate of meets for today, but I do think there’s quite a bit of interest in how Florida is going to look starting off the season, particularly Hundley and Gowey.

Continue reading Sunday Live Blog – January 8, 2017

Florida 2017

FLORIDA ROSTER 2017
Seniors
Claire Boyce
  • Missed 2016 season with injury
  • Weekly BB, FX, backup UB in 2015
  • 2015 RQS: BB – 9.905, FX – 9.860, UB – 9.825
Juniors
Kennedy Baker
  • Constant in the AA in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.940, VT – 9.915, BB – 9.870, UB – 9.860
Grace McLaughlin
  • Leadoff FX in 2016
  • One routine each on UB (9.800) and BB (9.775)
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.825
Alex McMurtry
  • Leader of VT, UB, BB lineups in 2016
  • Competes FX when physically able
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.945, UB – 9.940, VT – 9.925
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.885
Rachel Slocum
  • Transfer from Eastern Michigan
  • Weekly VT, FX for EMU in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.875, FX – 9.855
Sophomores
Alicia Boren
  • Competed AA in all but one meet in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.910, FX – 9.905, BB – 9.890, UB – 9.860
Amanda Cheney
  • Competed VT twice in 2016 for 9.713 average
Lacy Dagen
  • Missed freshman year with injury
Ashley Hiller
  • Backup FX, VT in 2016
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.725, VT – 9.700
Freshmen
Sierra Alexander
  • West Broward FL
  • 2016 Region 8 VT 4th
Maegan Chant
  • World Class CAN
  • 2014 World Championship team
  • 2016 Canadian Nationals 8th AA
Rachel Gowey
  • Chow’s
  • 2014 Classic AA 4th
  • 2015 Pan Am UB champion
Amelia Hundley
  • Cincinnati
  • 2016 Olympic Trials 9th AA
  • 2015 Pan Ams 4th AA

*NOTE: Ericha Fassbender has been deemed ineligible for 2017 and removed from Florida’s team. For the gossip about why, please see the entire internet.

Recent History
2016 – 4th
2015 – 1st
2014 – 1st
2013 – 1st
2012 – 2nd
2011 – 7th
2010 – 5th

The last eight months have suddenly become an era of turnover and turmoil for Florida, with the graduation of a program-defining senior class, the transfer of Peyton Ernst, the injury to Alyssa Baumann, recruit departures from Bailie Key and Laurie Hernandez, and now the ineligibility of Ericha Fassbender. This team looks a lot different than it did last year, but also a lot different than we expected it to look this year. Much can change in the course of eight months.

This turmoil has stunted expectations for Florida in 2017, but looking past the ambiguous notion of public expectations, this remains a Super Six-quality roster that stands among the five most likely winners of the national title. A title is certainly not the presumptive result it has been in recent seasons, but it’s still squarely in the picture. Because of the dramatic turnover in the roster, however, much of that potential success will rest on how well the accomplished freshman class can hit the ground Sloaning and not only fill empty lineup spots but replace multiple missing 9.9s on multiple events. Continue reading Florida 2017

2017 Freshman Preview: Florida

How does one live without a Sloan of one’s own?

Returning Routines – Florida
VAULT
McMurtry – 9.925
Baker – 9.915
Boren – 9.910
Fassbender – 9.830
Cheney – 9.713
Hiller – 9.700
BARS
McMurtry – 9.940
Boren – 9.860
Baker – 9.860
McLaughlin – 9.800
BEAM
McMurtry – 9.945
Boren – 9.890
Fassbender – 9.880
Baker – 9.870
McLaughlin – 9.775
FLOOR
Baker – 9.940
Boren – 9.905
McMurtry – 9.885
Fassbender – 9.835
McLaughlin – 9.825
Hiller – 9.725

I suppose we’re about to find out. Florida’s slate of returning routines gets pretty unlovely once you go past the third (or so) person on each event, but the Gators will be relying on a batch of injury comebacks (Boyce and Dagen) and transfers (Slocum) along with this season’s four freshmen to not only match but potentially increase the team’s depth over last season on each event. Except bars. Less bars.

The most important lineup augmentation for Florida this year will come courtesy of the little engine that could, Amelia Lee Hundley. A gymnast whose first sojourn to the ranch was met by Martha going, “What is this? Why do I have to look at it?” has gradually climbed the ranks during her 786-year elite career to become the star of Florida’s freshman class.

Encouragingly, 2016 turned out to be Hundley’s best year yet, so she seems to be on the rise heading into NCAA, the stage of gymnastics to which she always appeared best suited. Olympic Trials certainly brought out Hundley’s best-ever DTY, a vault she has occasionally had to downgrade away from while dealing with various MLTs. Sorry, I meant injuries.

Those years of not being able to do the DTY may actually come in handy in college as she has plenty of experience landing the 1.5. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see that from her. Now, about getting rid of this “Meals” nickname… Continue reading 2017 Freshman Preview: Florida

Returning Routine Rankings 2017

Yes, that is a picture of D-D Breaux in a pink hardhat. Because there doesn’t need to be a reason.

Now that the NCAA schedules are finally coming together-ish, it’s probably important for us to start remembering who the people are and what the things do. It’s a really tough job. We need three months.

Before beginning to evaluate this year’s incoming freshmen, I decided to check out where the teams stand without them, how they rank using only scores from 2016’s returning gymnasts. It’s a totally scientific and unimpeachable way of quantifying just how much work the freshmen and new transfers will need to do for teams to return to (or improve on) last year’s level.

When available, I used RQS for each gymnast, but when not, I used full season average.

Most teams do return at least five people who competed on each apparatus last year, but when they don’t, I filled out the remaining scores with punishment 9.700s (I told you, totally scientific). It’s a way of making sure each team has a comparable total, operating under the belief that for these top 15 teams, the backup gymnast who wasn’t good enough to compete probably would have scored a replacement-level 9.700. That is, unless the returning scores were already lower than that (*cough* Utah’s beam *cough*).

1. LSU – 197.726
VAULT
Gnat – 9.965
Ewing – 9.905
Hambrick – 9.880
Finnegan – 9.835
Cannamela – 9.835
Macadaeg – 9.790
Priessman – 9.750
49.420
BARS
Finnegan 9.915
Hambrick – 9.905
Zamardi – 9.875
Priessman – 9.869
Gnat – 9.727
Cannamela – 9.663
49.291
BEAM
Finnegan – 9.915
Gnat – 9.895
Macadaeg – 9.890
Hambrick – 9.885
Ewing – 9.870
Priessman – 9.725
Cannamela – 9.603
49.455
FLOOR
Gnat – 9.980
Macadaeg – 9.950
Kelley – 9.885
Hambrick – 9.880
Ewing – 9.865
Finnegan – 9.692
Zamardi – 9.517
Cannamela – 9.050
49.560

Losing only Savona and a not-100% Wyrick from last year’s Super Six team, LSU is sailing smoothly on most events. Continue reading Returning Routine Rankings 2017

National Championship Preview Part 3: You’re All Super to Me, Except for Five of You

Without knowing how the semifinals will play out, previewing Super Six is like looking for shadows in a blindfold factory. Still, performances so far this season have provided a pretty good indication of which teams are in serious contention to win the title and which teams are simply looking to make Super Six/snatch a respectable finish if one of the top teams falters. Surprise, surprise, the four most likely title contenders are also the four top-ranked teams.

Those rankings exist for a reason. The ultimate champion has not come from outside the top three since the beginning of the Georgia dynasty in 2005, when Georgia entered the postseason in 5th, and for each of the last three seasons, the regular-season top three has also finished Super Six in the top three places. So while a weird upset or two in the semifinals could help the chances for a cusp team like Utah to get into the rarefied territory of podium-land, the four teams that should be challenging for the title of Superest of the Super Six, because you’re all just super, are Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, and Alabama. The only other team that spent any time in the top three this season was Michigan, and that ship has sailed.

A rotation-by-rotation team comparison as to the pace they’ll need to set won’t be possible until we have the rotation order, although this is the draw for Super Six for quick reference once we know how the semifinals finish.

The winner of the second semi gets Olympic order, and the winner of the first semi gets to start on beam. Fun. The third-place teams are the ones who will end on byes, as by design.

Of course, to win Super Six, you have to be good on all the things, but rather than just go through the teams and say, “It would be nice if Florida got a good score on bars, and also beam, and floor, and vault. That would make it easier to win” (duh), I’ve assigned each of these four teams a critical event, not necessarily a “must-win” event because that’s hyperbolic (and I never, ever, ever write hyperbolically), but one that should be a massive strength, can’t be a massive weakness, or is generally the best indicator for that team as to whether a title chase is really on.

Vault – LSU

LSU’s ability on vault and concerted use of Gnat Power has made the Tigers the only non-Oklahoma team to occupy the top spot on any event to end the season. If circumstances play out the way they have during the regular season, vault appears to be the juiciest opportunity for the other teams to strike a blow to the Sooners since Oklahoma’s RQS is just a pitiful 49.415 here. (Like, are you even trying?) LSU is the best poised to do that.
Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 3: You’re All Super to Me, Except for Five of You

National Championships Preview Part 1: Innocent Gymnasts versus the Beam Troll

Gather round, darling children, and learn about the NCAA national championship, a far-off magical land where all the most glorious gymnasts assemble in an arena made of gumdrops and frozen tears for a battle royale to see who can force the biggest fake smile after her teammate falls on beam. It’s always a really close contest. 

As is only traditional, let’s begin at the start. The first of the two semifinals will take place in the void between the dimensions on April 15th at 2:00 ET/11:00 PT and should be a doozy. 

Competing teams (starting event)
[2] Florida (bye before floor)
[3] LSU (bye before bars)
[6] Auburn (vault)
[9] Georgia (beam)
[16] Minnesota (floor)
[18] Stanford (bars)

Competing individuals
All-around – Nicole Artz, Michigan; Alison Northey, Washington; Morgan Porter, Missouri; Sidney Dukes, Kentucky; Alex Hyland, Kentucky; Danielle Ramirez, Southern Utah

Vault – Meaghan Sievers, Iowa State
Beam – Lexi Mills, Arizona
Floor – Talia Chiarelli, Michigan; Brianna Tsang, Penn State; Lindsay Offutt, Pittsburgh

An argument can be made for five of these six teams advancing without having to concoct very many insane circumstances at all (sorry, Minnesota, but it would take a splatfest from the others). The big five should all expect to score into the 197s and will be disappointed by anything less than that. Even though we see 197s fall all over the place during the regular season, it’s not a given that the challenging teams will reach that plateau in this meet as scores tend to tighten at nationals (tend being the operative word). The highest score that has ever failed to advance from a semifinal is 197.025, an ignominious mark shared by Utah 2014 and Michigan 2015. That’s not a particularly impressive score these days during the regular season, but 197 remains a thing at the national championship.

To some extent, we’re in the dark about how scoring will play out in the semifinals because we’re entering a whole new era. Starting this year, six judges will work each event beginning with the semifinals. Will that depress the scores? Possibly. That’s two more whole people who have to be slipped a roll of cash under the bathroom door, which is a lot of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

This was instituted in an attempt to prevent a heap of ties for event winners now that those titles will be decided on Friday as well, and in case you’re wondering, it’s terrible. Theoretically, having more judges and more oversight for scores at the most important meet is a great idea, but this is also going to result in a ton of really ugly-decimal scores that will be inconsistent with the round-number scores we’ve seen all season long. It’s the most unappealing thing I’ve ever heard. I just want to buy a crate of apples and stab them all about it.

So…to the teams!

FLORIDA and LSU
Closer to nationals, I’ll do a Super Six preview, which is ludicrous to do before we know who has qualified to Super Six but when has this blog ever been unludicrous? I’ll save a more detailed discussion of Florida and LSU and how they match up against the other title contenders for that preview since they should both be in the mix. Of course, there’s still the semifinal to get through, and counting a fall could ruin the year for any team at this point, but these two are the clear favorites to emerge from this semifinal. If either doesn’t make it, it’s an upset. For the rest of the teams in this group, it isn’t.

Florida looked distinctly meh at regionals, and while that’s a near-annual tradition that shouldn’t necessarily indicate anything real, the score was a far-from-peak 196.725. I’m not expecting a 196.725 to make Super Six. By contrast, Florida also looked a little meh at regionals last year, but the score was still 197.475. Just a sliver of doubt begins to creep in, though I would be surprised by a repeat of those weak landings once we get to nationals. Another significant contributor to Florida’s low score was the Kennedy Baker ankle situation. She landed short on her double pike on floor and was pulled from vault as a precaution, and with normal hits from her on those events, Florida is close to—if not at—197 already, even with the same blah landings. Baker is essential to Florida’s title hopes, so the amount that ankle does/does not affect her will be a critical storyline on semifinal day.

LSU did not have the same issues as Florida at regionals, comfortably breaking 197 and sliding through to qualification without a question. Very reassuring. Except nothing is reassuring ever. Most doubts as to LSU’s ability to fulfill expectations this year are based on traumatic flashbacks to last season, when the Tigers were in an essentially identical position and seemed a sure qualifier to Super Six until three falls on beam happened. It didn’t come out of the blue last year. LSU had an iffy but manageable beam performance at regionals right before, which is why that 9.6 and 9.7 action from this year’s regionals did not help alleviate any of those flashbacks.

Still, this is prognostication about the likelihood of counting falls, which is a fool’s game, but that’s what it would take to knock Florida or LSU out of this. Based on the quality of the gymnastics we’ve seen this season, both of these teams should be in the hit-and-advance category. Elimination with a hit meet would be a massive shock.

AUBURN v. GEORGIA v. STANFORD
Basically, I could copy-and-paste the “Auburn v. Michigan v. Stanford” section from the regional previews here and just replace the word Michigan with Georgia. It would be upsettingly accurate and appropriate, hearkening back to some of my frustrations with the repetitiveness of the current postseason assignments. We more or less just did this, and if everything goes to plan, it will be these three teams facing off against each other, only now it’s a fight for one spot instead of two. The comparison is particularly congruent because Michigan was thwarted by the beam at regionals, and Georgia is Georgia. Just swap one for the other.

As I said then, I still consider Stanford the challenger of the group rather than a likely qualifier because of those weaknesses on vault and floor. Everything worked out at regionals because bars and beam came through as they were supposed to and the other teams had errors, but at some point relying on just two events won’t be enough. Still, if Stanford’s first-place tie at regionals taught us anything, it’s that this is more than possible. Georgia misses beam, Auburn repeats its uninspiring regionals performance, and hello Stanford once again. 

Auburn had a slow start to the year, with some untimely injuries and lost magical routines that needed replacing, but ultimately showed far fewer low points than either Stanford or Georgia. That’s why Auburn ranks the best of the group on three of the four events, and maintaining that commitment to fewer lows is Auburn’s path to qualification here. If I were to name the most talented of these three teams on each event, I would give vault and floor to Georgia and bars and beam to Stanford. It’s close, but that’s what I would do. At the same time, Georgia and Stanford are also more prone to faltering on the other events and throwing in weak meets in general, which gives Auburn the opportunity to jump into the top three by virtue of being the steadiest and least horrifying.

I suppose Auburn is the safest choice, but if the others, particularly Georgia, come through with a real hit on the weak events, they have higher potential score and could leave Auburn behind.

Beam beam beam. That repetition of the same word three times is always appropriate, but beam is particularly critical for each of these three teams’ qualification hopes. We’re all well acquainted with Georgia’s crusade against the troll that lives under the beam and occasionally pops out to force Brittany Rogers to answer his questions three, but if Georgia conquers beam, I would argue that Georgia becomes the favorite to advance. If we total the teams’ RQSs on the other three events, Georgia has the edge over Auburn by a tenth. Still, Auburn is ranked higher, defeated Georgia in their dual meet, and scored higher at SECs. Because of beam. When the teams met in the regular season, Auburn won the meet by .050 and won beam by .050. BEAM.

They really do balance each other out elsewhere. Georgia has the edge on vault, Auburn boasts more reliable sticks on bars. Georgia has Jay, Box, and Marino on floor. Auburn has Atkinson, Demers, and Rott. Auburn has not been as dominant on beam this season as last season, but Milliet, Demers, and Atkinson? That should be a stellar group, and with everything else too close to call, beam remains Auburn’s chance to pick up some ground in spite of the uninspiring score from regionals.

Beam is just as critical for Stanford, but in a somewhat different way. It’s not critical in the please-don’t-fall kind of way (although not falling is always a good idea), but more in the you-probably-need-a-49.500 kind of way. I don’t know how realistic that score is for a beam lineup that misses Vaculik and Wing, but because the scores on vault and floor will be somewhere around 49.1-49.2 on a solid day, the beam number needs to be large. Those vaults have been getting the “none for Gretchen Wieners” treatment all season, which isn’t tenable in semifinals. A 49.1 is not a Super Six score, which means by default, bars and beam must be world-beating to catch a hit meet from any of the top four seeds here. Bars delivered at regionals. Now beam needs to as well.

Stanford competes on bars and beam in the first two rotations so will let us know fairly early if this meet is a thing. The combined bars and beam score from regionals was 98.750, and if Stanford isn’t at least equal to that here, I have a hard time envisioning qualification or a 197. Top three at the halfway point is essential. If Stanford isn’t top three after three rotations, that’s it. Ground won’t be gained on floor and vault. Stanford must lead from the front. It’s not ideal, but Stanford had the same rotation order last year and was able to get the big scores early and use them to hold off a surging Michigan by a slim margin at the end.

Starting on beam, Georgia will compete on what presumably will be its lowest and highest scoring events in the first half of the meet, so an acceptable halfway score probably means something around 98.600. If we say 49.200 on beam and 49.400 on floor, that’s a solid number and one that is fully attainable for these lineups. Since Auburn gets to finish on floor during the year of the insane final-rotation floor scores, Georgia will want a healthy lead heading to the end of the meet to buffer against a Rott, Demers, Atkinson festival of 9.9s that could change the game at the last minute.

The fourth rotation is the serious one to watch here. Georgia goes to vault, Auburn goes to beam, and Stanford goes to floor. This is the Gymdogs’ opportunity to pounce. They should win this rotation by a couple tenths given the events on which the others will be competing, so Georgia’s margin (or lack thereof) at this point will tell us who holds the power.

MINNESOTA
Poor Minnesota, I’ve left you out of this completely, but Minnesota’s victory for the season is advancing to this stage. Until about March, that seemed unrealistic, but Minnesota held to the plan exactly at regionals by staying close with Denver on three events and then being clearly better on beam to establish a margin. Well, not exactly to the plan since Mable fell on floor, but mostly to the plan. If Mable doesn’t fall on floor in the semifinals, she’s one of the legitimate contenders for the all-around title in her final attempt. Minnesota has gone through some…issues…since 2013 when the team last qualified in Mable’s freshman year, so it’s sort of fitting to return to nationals in her senior year. It’s been a long road, but…poetic-sounding things about how it has come back around.

If Minnesota were to have a path to qualification, it would be through weathering a disaster meet from all corners. Minnesota is rooting for insanity and chaos. Say, Georgia and Auburn both have a beam catastrophe and Minnesota outscores Stanford by enough on vault and floor. It could happen, but it’s quite dependent on the performance of the other teams, not the performance of Minnesota. I do expect a competitive beam score for Minnesota since Mable and Nordquist would be late-lineup beamers for any team in this competition, and a mid-196 would be quite a worthy result.

THE PACE
Stanford and Minnesota will certainly need to exceed their RQSs to have a chance to qualify out of this meet (and the same applies to Auburn since Georgia’s event-by-event RQSs are actually higher than Auburn’s), but the rotation-by-rotation RQSs do provide a sense of where teams are expected to score/rank at various points in the meet so we can tell who is exceeding those expectations as we go.

Rotation 1: Minnesota 49.270, Auburn 49.250, Stanford 49.230, Georgia 49.180, Florida BYE, LSU BYE
Minnesota begins on floor and would need this exact kind of number to have any hope, but the Stanford bars and Georgia beam RQSs underestimate their capabilities (posssssibly). I’d say Stanford will expect and need the lead after one event. Not-last after beam may be the victory for Georgia.

Rotation 2: Stanford 98.425, Minnesota 98.390, Florida 49.505, LSU 49.370, Auburn 49.250, Georgia 49.180
Even RQS, which isn’t a particularly pretty picture for Stanford, tells us that Stanford should have a lead after two events, but the score will need to be bigger than this for Stanford to hold on. Stanford needs a giant lead after the second rotation. For Florida and LSU, as long as they can get relatively close to their RQSs on each event, they’ll be fine and dandy.

Rotation 3: Florida 98.925, LSU 98.725; Georgia 98.565; Auburn 98.545; Stanford 98.425; Minnesota 98.390
And this is why Stanford would need a much higher score after two events. Stanford needs to be top three once everyone has done two events, and RQS has them 5th. Nope. I really hope the race between Georgia and Auburn is as close as this the whole way because it’s going to make for an excellent finish. The rotation order gives us a relatively neck-and-neck picture throughout, and neither should ever leave the other behind. 

Rotation 4: Georgia 147.980, Auburn 147.760, Minnesota 147.570, Stanford 147.475, Florida 98.925, LSU 98.725
After that all-important fourth rotation, event RQS has Georgia leading Auburn by two tenths, which is the margin what we should be looking for if we want those two to end in a tie. When Auburn is on floor and Georgia is on bars for the last event, I’d take Auburn gaining about two tenths. Variation from that two-tenth margin will tell us who has the advantage. Except for the fact that inevitable falls will render all this moot, but if it goes to plan, this is the guideline. If Minnesota really is this close heading to beam, they’ll be over the moon.

Rotation 5: Minnesota 196.755, Stanford 196.595, Florida 148.425, LSU 148.270, Georgia 147.980, Auburn 147.760
High 196s like this would be a great result for Minnesota and would put the Gophers in a ripe position to take advantage of other teams’ mistakes, but Stanford should do better than this pace, in spite of this being quite similar to the result from regionals. A mid-196 is not going to be good enough, or an acceptable result for Stanford, even if the others have a sloppy meet. RQS tells us that Florida and LSU should have pulled away from the pack by multiple tenths at this point, which is why they should advance without all that much trouble given a normal hit.

Rotation 6: Florida 197.855, LSU 197.715, Georgia 197.260, Auburn 197.205, Minnesota 196.755, Stanford 196.595
The event RQSs give this thing to Georgia by a half tenth, while the overall meet RQSs give it to Auburn by a tenth and a half, hence Auburn’s higher ranking. That’s why I’m so hopeful for a really close contest. Once Georgia figured out beam (ish, sort of, not really), it became clear that these two teams are exceptionally evenly matched. Which brings us back to the quality of the beam hit. RQS assumes a relatively weak beam hit for Georgia, so the first rotation will provide a framework for which team seems to be the favorite.

Who Is Going to Make Super Six?

Are you still alive? Maybe? Ish?

The extended frigid hellscape that was regionals day is now squarely behind us, with all the Michigan tears and Stanford celebration dances accounted for, and if you were able to emerge from that 58-millenium barrage of meets and marathon of interminable bye rotations without passing out and deciding that you hate gymnastics now, you’re the winner.

For a recap of all the action you may have missed, or seen, or intentionally got amnesia about, or found infuriating, be sure to listen to this week’s episode of Gymcastic. I join Jessica and Uncle Tim to go through the day regional by regional to speculate about whether the Iowa regional was judged by three lemons and the concept of winter, argue over the merits of the handspring-onto-the-springboard vault, and warn that in spite of what you may have heard from your friends, the Stanford Rhythm Method is not a reliable form of making nationals. Among other topics. Get ready.

For the moment, let’s look toward nationals. We know our semifinalists, and the rotation order has been released, so it’s time to get a-speculatin’. 

It was probably going to be the case anyway, but the Michigan upset has left what looks to be a golden opportunity for several teams to snatch the third spot out of the first semifinal, assuming that Florida and LSU are the favorites. After all the terrors of this season, has Georgia become the pick to advance? The Gymdogs get to start on beam again. Nothing like a high-budget dystopian horror comedy to start the day. But they hit beam at regionals! Kind of! They did enough! Hooray!

Few of the rotation assignments jump out as particularly disastrous for any of these teams, though I do think that Stanford benefited from finishing on its good events at regionals and will have the opposite order here, starting with events that need to score massively and finishing on events that are unlikely to. Stanford will need the judges to be willing to flash the 9.900-9.950s right from the first routine of the first session because Stanford really must get 49.5s on bars and beam.

In the coming days, I’ll delve into more detailed prognostication about the semifinals, Super Six, and whether we even care about the individual competitions anymore, but for today, let’s set things up with a glance at the numbers. Which are the key events to watch if we’re looking for an upset? And who’s capable of pulling it off? Categories in which a team places in the top three in the session (a qualifying spot) are highlighted. 

SEMIFINAL 1

FLORIDA
Regional score: 196.725 [3]
RQS: 197.795 [1]
Regular season average: 197.502 [1]  
Season high: 198.175 [1]

VT regional score: 49.225 [3]
VT RQS: 49.420 [2] 
VT average: 49.341 [2]
VT season high: 49.500 [3]

UB regional score: 49.125 [4]
UB RQS: 49.500 [1] 
UB average: 49.439 [1]
UB season high: 49.650 [1] 

BB regional score: 49.300 [1]
BB RQS: 49.430 [1]
BB average: 49.318 [1] 
BB season high: 49.525 [3]

FX regional score: 49.075 [4]
FX RQS: 49.505 [2]
FX average: 49.405 [2] 
FX season high: 49.675 [2]

Florida should be the heaviest favorite in the first semifinal and settles in comfortably in the top three here in every category except those pertaining to that lackluster regionals performance. It’s worth treating as just an odd blip for now that shouldn’t compromise our expectations of Florida making it out of this semifinal safely and easily, but it doesn’t help in the race to catch Oklahoma.
 

LSU
Regional score: 197.300 [1]
RQS: 197.695 [2]
Regular season average: 197.209 [2]  
Season high: 197.925 [2]

VT regional score: 49.400 [1]
VT RQS: 49.445 [1]
VT average: 49.395 [1]
VT season high: 49.550 [1]

UB regional score: 49.300 [2]
UB RQS: 49.370 [2] 
UB average: 49.252 [2]
UB season high: 49.475 [3] 

BB regional score: 49.150 [3]
BB RQS: 49.355 [2] 
BB average: 49.141 [2] 
BB season high: 49.575 [2]

FX regional score: 49.450 [1]
FX RQS: 49.545 [1]
FX average: 49.420 [1] 
FX season high: 49.700 [1]

LSU goes all blue here because of a much stronger (and more charitably scored) regionals performance than Florida. There were some definite benefit-of-the-doubt scores, including Ewing’s 9.975 for an under-rotated 1.5 and Gnat’s floor 9.950 in spite of bouncing out of her final pass. Still, it would take a repeat of last season’s beam debacle to keep LSU out of Super Six, largely because of what the team can make up on vault and floor. Between Florida and LSU, the competition sets up pretty cleanly and clearly in that LSU has been the stronger vault and floor team and Florida has been the stronger bars and beam team (on non-regionals-type days), so determining which advantage is more valuable will be something to watch in this semifinal with an eye toward how these teams might fare in Super Six. 

AUBURN
Regional score:  196.525 [4]
RQS: 197.150 [3]
Regular season average: 196.692 [3]  
Season high: 197.325 [6]

VT regional score:  49.150 [5]
VT RQS: 49.250 [4] 
VT average: 49.167 [4]
VT season high: 49.375 [4]

UB regional score: 49.125 [4]
UB RQS: 49.295 [3] 
UB average: 49.215 [3] 
UB season high: 49.375 [6] 

BB regional score: 48.850 [6]
BB RQS: 49.215 [3] 
BB average: 49.042 [4] 
BB season high: 49.300 [6]

FX regional score: 49.400 [2]
FX RQS: 49.445 [3]
FX average: 49.269 [4] 
FX season high: 49.600 [4]

GEORGIA
Regional score: 196.850 [2]
RQS: 197.010 [4]
Regular season average: 196.462 [4]  
Season high: 197.525 [3]

VT regional score: 49.275 [2]
VT RQS: 49.415 [3] 
VT average: 49.283 [3]
VT season high: 49.525 [2]

UB regional score: 49.250 [3]
UB RQS: 49.280 [4] 
UB average: 49.165 [4]
UB season high: 49.400 [5]

BB regional score: 49.025 [5]
BB RQS: 49.180 [6]
BB average: 48.694 [6] 
BB season high: 49.425 [4]

FX regional score: 49.300 [3]
FX RQS: 49.385 [4]
FX average: 49.315 [3] 
FX season high: 49.625 [3]

Georgia finishes in the top 3 in more categories than Auburn, primarily due to Georgia’s superior regionals performance. Neither team had a phenomenal meet, but Georgia’s three post-beam events reflected a team that is quite capable of making Super Six out of this session. Auburn, meanwhile, won the coveted, definitely-very-important regular-season fight with Georgia to see which team would make the evening session at SECs. Georgia v. Auburn with a side of Stanford is setting up as the most entertaining part of semifinal day, barring the inevitable meltdown.

Critically, Auburn did worse than Georgia on beam at regionals. Surely that can’t be repeated in the semifinals if Auburn is going to qualify. And it all comes back to Georgia’s beam once again…

MINNESOTA
Regional score: 196.175 [6]
RQS: 196.495 [5]
Regular season average: 196.090 [6]  
Season high:  197.425 [4]

VT regional score: 49.175 [4]
VT RQS: 49.120 [5] 
VT average: 48.975 [6] 
VT season high: 49.275 [5]

UB regional score: 48.950 [6]
UB RQS: 49.180 [6] 
UB average: 48.963 [6]
UB season high: 49.425 [4] 

BB regional score: 49.150 [3]
BB RQS: 49.185 [5] 
BB average: 49.021 [5] 
BB season high: 49.675 [1]

FX regional score: 48.900 [6]
FX RQS: 49.270 [5]
FX average: 49.131 [5]
FX season high: 49.375 [5]

Of the 12 qualified teams, Minnesota is the least likely to advance to Super Six, though the Gophers do snatch a couple of blue spots thanks to Mable and Nordquist on beam, the duo that seriously helped them stay ahead of Denver at regionals. 

STANFORD
Regional score: 196.525 [4]
RQS: 196.355 [6]
Regular season average: 196.148 [5]  
Season high: 197.400 [5]

VT regional score: 48.800 [6]
VT RQS: 49.120 [5] 
VT average: 49.013 [5]
VT season high: 49.250 [6]

UB regional score: 49.500 [1]
UB RQS: 49.230 [5] 
UB average: 49.130 [5]
UB season high: 49.525 [2] 

BB regional score: 49.250 [2]
BB RQS: 49.195 [4] 
BB average: 49.088 [3]
BB season high: 49.375 [5]

FX regional score: 48.975 [5]
FX RQS: 49.050 [6]
FX average: 48.918 [6] 
FX season high: 49.250 [6]

The numbers bear out what we all already know about Stanford. When Stanford is having a good day, the bars and beam rotations can be a force and can contend with any team, but even though Stanford was able to overcome vault and floor to get out of a messy regional, can what is basically a two-event team + Ebee really put up a score viable enough to get out of a semifinal? 

SEMIFINAL 2

OKLAHOMA
Regional score: 197.575 [1]
RQS: 197.920 [1]
Regular season average: 197.588 [1]  
Season high: 198.075 [1]

VT regional score: 49.275 [1]
VT RQS: 49.415 [1] 
VT average: 49.356 [1]
VT season high: 49.475 [1]

UB regional score: 49.575 [1]
UB RQS: 49.575 [1] 
UB average: 49.467 [1]
UB season high: 49.675 [1] 

BB regional score: 49.425 [1]
BB RQS: 49.445 [1] 
BB average: 49.362 [1] 
BB season high: 49.550 [2]

FX regional score: 49.300 [3]
FX RQS: 49.575 [1]
FX average: 49.404 [2] 
FX season high: 49.700 [1]

ALABAMA
Regional score:  197.125 [2]
RQS:  197.400 [2]
Regular season average: 197.042 [2]  
Season high:  197.750 [2]

VT regional score: 49.225 [3]
VT RQS: 49.355 [2] 
VT average: 49.260 [2]
VT season high: 49.425 [2]

UB regional score:  49.275 [3]
UB RQS: 49.405 [2] 
UB average: 49.283 [3]
UB season high: 49.600 [2] 

BB regional score: 49.150 [3]
BB RQS: 49.320 [3] 
BB average: 49.142 [4] 
BB season high: 49.550 [2]

FX regional score: 49.475 [1]
FX RQS: 49.445 [3]
FX average: 49.356 [3] 
FX season high: 49.500 [4]

UTAH
Regional score: 197.125 [2]
RQS: 197.205 [3]
Regular season average: 196.970 [3]  
Season high: 196.675 [3]

VT regional score: 49.250 [2]
VT RQS: 49.255 [3] 
VT average: 49.200 [3]
VT season high: 49.400 [3]

UB regional score: 49.350 [2]
UB RQS: 49.395 [3]
UB average: 49.323 [2]
UB season high: 49.550 [3] 

BB regional score: 49.225 [2]
BB RQS: 49.290 [4] 
BB average: 49.168 [3] 
BB season high: 49.450 [4]

FX regional score: 49.300 [3]
FX RQS: 49.485 [2]
FX average: 49.280 [4]
FX season high: 49.625 [2]

The picture is clearer here. This looks to be the tougher of the two semifinals and poses a bigger challenge to the bottom three seeds. Based on recent performances, Oklahoma is pulling away from everyone, even the closest contenders like Florida and LSU, and Alabama and Utah look like the most convincing and least stressful choices among the remaining teams in this session. That outlook really hinges upon how influential UCLA’s beam and floor scores can be in trying to leap ahead of Alabama and Utah since vault and bars go to the top three seeds here in a landslide.

UCLA
Regional score:  196.375 [5]
RQS:  197.055 [4]
Regular season average: 196.782 [4]  
Season high:  197.475 [5]

VT regional score: 49.125 [4]
VT RQS: 49.180 [5] 
VT average: 49.084 [5]
VT season high: 49.375 [4]

UB regional score: 48.800 [6]
UB RQS: 49.235 [4] 
UB average: 49.105 [4]
UB season high: 49.350 [6] 

BB regional score: 49.050 [5] 
BB RQS: 49.325 [2]
BB average: 49.184 [2] 
BB season high: 49.575 [1]

FX regional score: 49.400 [2]
FX RQS: 49.430 [4]
FX average: 49.405 [1] 
FX season high: 49.600 [3]

UCLA is theoretically competitive with, if not stronger than, Alabama and Utah on beam and floor, but a repeat of the beam score from regionals would all but decide this competition and leave everyone waiting for a flurry of falls to somehow change the status quo. While it may not be quite as urgent as Stanford’s need on bars and beam, it’s tough to see UCLA advancing without exceeding RQS on beam and floor.

CALIFORNIA
Regional score: 195.925 [6]
RQS: 196.770 [5]
Regular season average: 196.230 [5]  
Season high: 197.500 [4]

VT regional score: 48.875 [6]
VT RQS: 49.185 [4] 
VT average: 49.086 [4]
VT season high: 49.225 [6]

UB regional score: 49.175 [5]
UB RQS: 49.150 [6] 
UB average: 48.936 [6]
UB season high: 49.475 [4] 

BB regional score: 48.900 [6]
BB RQS: 49.205 [6] 
BB average: 48.975 [6] 
BB season high: 49.350 [6]

FX regional score: 48.975 [6]
FX RQS: 49.295 [5]
FX average: 49.232 [5]
FX season high: 49.450 [6]

NEBRASKA
Regional score: 196.550 [4]
RQS: 196.635 [6]
Regular season average: 196.205 [6]  
Season high: 197.350 [6]

VT regional score: 48.925 [5]
VT RQS: 49.105 [6]
VT average: 48.991 [6]
VT season high: 49.275 [5]

UB regional score: 49.225 [4]
UB RQS: 49.180 [5] 
UB average: 49.016 [5]
UB season high: 49.475 [4] 

BB regional score: 49.125 [4]
BB RQS: 49.255 [5] 
BB average: 49.068 [5]
BB season high: 49.375 [5]

FX regional score: 49.275 [5]
FX RQS: 49.260 [6]
FX average: 49.130 [6] 
FX season high: 49.475 [5]

Nebraska was very steady in a somewhat strictly-evaluated regional, while Cal endured an off day to finish in the top two at its own, but the lack of blue categories for either raises the issue that they may not have the big rotation numbers it takes to emerge from a semifinal, the way UCLA might on beam and floor. Not since 2011 has a 196 been enough to qualify to Super Six, so the likelihood of hitting 197 must be the benchmark now.

Doesn’t this semifinal with Utah, UCLA, and Nebraska remind you of 2014 when Utah and UCLA were supposed to be battling for the final spot out of the second semifinal and then Nebraska just showed up on beam in that final rotation to go, “Oh wait, us.”

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.

Individuals
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.

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 – Senior Night in the Land of 10s

Friday, March 11
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – North Carolina @ Florida – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Iowa State @ Kentucky – SCORESSECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Pittsburgh @ West Virginia – SCORESStream
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Missouri @ Western Michigan- SCORESESPN3
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Centenary @ Lindenwood – SCORESStream
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arizona State @ Auburn – SCORESSECN
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Utah State @ Arkansas – SCORES
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ Arizona – SCORESStream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Southern Utah, San Jose State @ Boise State – SCORESStream
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Cal, Sacramento State @ UC Davis – SCORESStream
11:00 ET/8:00 PT – Air Force @ Alaska – SCORES

Week 9 rankings

Welp, the final weekend of the regular season means a whole heap of senior nights/days, which in turn means a whole heap of 10s. Let’s all admit that 90% of the reason we’re watching Florida/North Carolina is to see how crazy the scores are and whether Bridgey gets a 10 on floor.

While thinking about 10s, I just spruced up the Hall of 10s a little bit, adding videos for this season’s 10s (thanks NastiaFan101!), making sure all the home/away/location designations were there, and adding a couple more years through the diligent work of my garbage brain and scouring RTN. If you notice omissions, of which there are definitely plenty, please let me know. Ideally, I’ll keep going back and adding more years. Probably until 2004, because it would take a whole year just to write up all the 2004 10s.
Continue reading Friday Live Blog – Senior Night in the Land of 10s