The day has arrived, when twelve become six and you become vaguely emotionally unhinged again.
By the magic of the draw (and by magic, I of course mean trash), the semifinals have been divided by conference and geography, with the eastern-ish teams from the SEC and Big Ten placed in the evening session and the western-ish teams from the Pac-12 and Big 12 placed in the afternoon session. It’s pretty racist.
We’re a little more than a week away from nationals now, so to begin preparing, here’s a preview of the race to qualify to Super Six from the first semifinal, the one that appears the more straightforward of the two but is certainly not open-and-shut.
April 14, 12:00 CT
Teams (starting event)
 Oklahoma (bye before floor)
 Utah (vault)
 UCLA (bye before bars)
 Oregon State (floor)
 Denver (beam)
 Washington (bars)
Jessica Yamzon, Arkansas, AA (rotating w/ Utah)
Alexis Mattern, Ohio State, AA (rotating w/ UCLA)
Shani Remme, Boise State, AA (rotating w/ Washington)
Angel Metcalf, Iowa, AA (rotating w/ Denver)
Katie Becker, Auburn, AA (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Haylee Young, Iowa State, AA (rotating w/ Oregon State)
Braie Speed, Arkansas, VT (rotating w/Oklahoma)
Samantha Cerio, Auburn, UB (rotating w/ Utah)
Clair Kaji, Iowa, BB (rotating w/ Utah)
As much as a sure thing to qualify to Super Six exists, Oklahoma is it. Oklahoma’s score from regionals was nearly a point better than any other team in this semifinal and was .625 better than any other team in the country. The margin for error the top teams usually have heading into regionals is what Oklahoma has in the semifinal. Counting a fall would be fine, and that’s pretty rare for nationals.
My primary areas to watch at regionals were vault, where Oklahoma responded with basically-almost sticks from Dowell, Jackson, and Nichols for 49.575, and the Maggie Nichols AA, which she did and scored 39.750. So, I’d say both of those were a check mark. A dose of floor landings was the only knock on Oklahoma’s regionals performance, which would serve them very well if replicated at nationals. I’ll get into the title race in more detail in a later preview, but it would be quite the ridiculous shock if Oklahoma were not to advance to Super Six somehow. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 1: Western Semifinal
I have a fun idea. Let’s put all of the most dangerous lower-ranked teams in the same competition and make it way deeper and more competitive than any of the other regionals. WHEEEEEEE!
April 1, 5:00 ET/2:00 PT
Teams (starting event)
 UCLA (bars)
 Oregon State (vault)
 Iowa (bye before floor)
 Illinois (bye before bars)
 Eastern Michigan (beam)
 Ohio State (floor)
Nicola Deans, Michigan State (AA)
Rachael Underwood, Western Michigan (AA)
Anna Corbett, Western Michigan (AA)
Ashley White, Centenary (AA)
Jovannah East, Bowling Green (VT, BB)
Lauren Feely, Bowling Green (VT)
Jessie Peszek, Western Michigan (UB, BB)
Hailee Westney, Michigan State (UB)
Elena Lagoski, Michigan State (FX)
Kira Frederick, Michigan State (FX)
The favorites – UCLA and Oregon State
This meet is on a low simmer right now. It has the potential to get delicious. Illinois just scored 196.8 at Big Tens, Iowa scored 196.7 at the same meet, and Eastern Michigan just won MACs with a 196.5, a score that would have qualified from three of the six regionals last season. But, whether this regional is thrilling chaos or super boring will be entirely up to UCLA and Oregon State.
Despite the challenges posed by the #3, #4, #5, and #6 teams in this meet, the Bruins and the Beavs still control their own destinies and can assure qualification simply with their normal performances. UCLA had a weak meet at Pac-12s—not counting a fall but with enough errors to be equivalent to counting a fall—and still scored 197.100, higher than the season highs of all teams in this regional other than Oregon State. That tells us UCLA does have wiggle room but won’t want to cut it that close. The vault situation with the Kramer 1.5 will be fascinating to watch. What confidence is there in these 1.5s? Having 1.5s seems essential if UCLA is going to challenge for more than just a Super Six place…but not if they’re falls. Continue reading Illinois Regional Preview
On to the Pac-12!
Like the SEC and Big Ten, the Pac-12 conducts its championship in two sessions, the first beginning at 1:00 PT and including Cal, Arizona, Stanford, and Arizona State, and the second beginning at 6:00 PT and including UCLA, Utah, Oregon State, and Washington.
For the rotation order, the Pac-12 did things a little differently this year, just to make everyone confused. Rather than a predetermined draw, teams were given the opportunity to choose which even they’d like to start on, picking in seeded order. So for the evening session, UCLA chose vault, then Utah chose bars, then Oregon State chose floor, then Washington was left with beam and went, “We’re all going to get 9.875 anyway, so eat that SUCKAAASSSS.”
For the afternoon session, Cal chose vault, then Arizona broke with convention and took beam with the second pick, Stanford took bars, and Arizona State was left with floor.
Session I – Cal, Arizona, Stanford, Arizona State
It’s not completely ridiculous to expect a good score to come out of the first session, a score that at least challenges a couple of the teams in the top group. The scoring potential UCLA and Utah have displayed this year should see them pull away with hit meets, but a team like Cal having a good meet and finishing third is entirely within the realm of possibility. Continue reading Pac-12 Championship Preview