February 29, 2012

American Cup Preview

This Saturday's American Cup is a ridiculous little competition, largely because of the vast disparity between its perceived importance and its actual importance. Under normal human circumstances, an eight-competitor meet with a weak field where a certain winner is all but guaranteed would receive little more than a whisper of attention. But because it's an Olympic year, because the meet is in the US, because it's gymnastics on TV and we'll take what we can get, and because the NBC team pulls out gems like "The Most Important Annual International Meet on American Soil" (because that's such a tough category), we get unnaturally interested.

So, as a proud lemming to the unnatural interest in this ridiculous competition (and being a ridiculous person myself, we actually make a good match), I present my completely informed and professional preview of the women who will be competing this weekend.

Jordyn Wieber will almost certainly win this competition and has, more importantly, already been named to the Olympic team. You may have missed the announcement because it never happened, but it's nonetheless true. There will be a lot of talk in the coming months about how every spot is up for grabs. This is a lie. She's on the team barring injury. 

Wieber is the perfect gymnast for this code because of her consistency and broad skill set. But because we know she'll be part of the team, our attention turns from her strengths to the areas she needs to improve, so the big event to watch this weekend will be bars. Through savvy routine construction, John Geddert has tricked people into thinking that Wieber doesn't have a weakness, but she does and it's bars. Despite her high difficulty, she does not perform with a natural rhythm or cohesive line, and therefore needs those difficulty tenths to bump up her score. The presence of a disappointing trend in women's gymnastics, the Weiler kip, adds a general "Ode to Molasses" theme to her routine. We've been promised a reconstructed routine with improved details in 2012, and I hope to see just that because she is a likely bars worker for team finals. 

Aly Raisman is the second American competitor, and I have a definite soft spot in my cold gymnastics heart for our sturdy little Massachusetts Romanian. She's becoming more comfortable in interviews and is refreshingly self-aware regarding her weaknesses. She would be the first to tell you that artistry, flexibility, and bars are not up to the expected level. That's certainly true, but because she knows it, I can look past it. She's not out there pretending she's an awesome dancer.

Raisman is clearly a Martha favorite (we all remember the "Here's my BEAMER! Next beamer!" heard round the world from 2010), and her unflappable solidity on beam and difficulty on floor should put her in prime position heading into the summer. That being said, I still have reservations about her spot on the team because she is just so easy to overlook. She's like the Lady Edith of Team USA. She really needs to go drive a tractor and help at the convalescent hospital so she can stand out. Debuting a competent version of her long-suffering Amanar would go a long way toward helping her chances.

But speaking of which, why have I not done a Downton Abbey/Elite Gymnastics conversion before? Nastia is Lady Mary, obviously. Martha is the Dowager Countess. Bruno Grandi and Nellie Kim are Thomas and O'Brien. Is Kim Zmeskal Anna? She would totally help Nastia carry the body of her dead Turkish lover back to his own bedroom, if you know what I mean.

Moving on, after the jump I'll look at the international competitors who have been kind enough to offer to play the roles of the Washington Generals on Saturday.

Kelli Hill is Carson.

OK, now I'm really done.

February 28, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (March 2nd-4th)

I had not intended to spend much time on elite gymnastics, but lately I've found myself coming down with a low-level case of . . . dare I say it . . . Olympic fever. To channel this fever, I'm going to try live blogging this weekend's American Cup. I won't be doing detailed quick hit commentary because there are likely several thousand other, mostly official, people doing that. My commentary will be focused more on providing exhausted observations and Daggett-induced apoplectic ramblings. It should be a good time. Use it as an opportunity to feel better about the NCAA scoring system.

My main focus, though, will remain NCAA gymnastics through the end of the collegiate season, and we have a lively showdown weekend ahead of us, highlighted by UCLA @ Georgia on Friday. UCLA is performing with an unseemly amount of confidence all of the sudden, and Georgia will be trying to solve a problem like Shayla and finally get a win over a top team. Expect high scores.

At the same time as the Georgia/UCLA meet (thanks, scheduling) will be the annual Nastia Liukin "I swear I'm not an elite" Pink Leotard Sleepover. This has become a fun opportunity for us to see our future NCAA gymnasts and make prognostications about how they will fare in a few years. Also at essentially the same time, Alabama will be visiting Oklahoma in an attempt to prove they are the better team and gain a much-needed high road score. Watch how Oklahoma compares to Alabama on vault and floor. If they can stay with Alabama, it will go a long way in proving how much they belong.

Top 25 (and other events) Schedule:
Friday – 3/2/12
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [23] Michigan, North Carolina, Centenary @ [11] Penn State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Kent State @ [14] Ohio State
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [3] UCLA @ [4] Georgia
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – Nastia Liukin Cup
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [5] Alabama @ [2] Oklahoma
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [18] Minnesota @ [8] Arkansas
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [20] NC State @ [10] LSU
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Southern Utah @ [15] Auburn
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [21] Illinois
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [9] Oregon State @ [7] Utah
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Utah State @ [16] Boise State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [17] Arizona, SJ State, Alaska @ UC Davis
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [22] Arizona State @ [25] Washington

Saturday – 3/3/12
11:30 ET / 8:30 PT – AT&T American Cup
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [13] Missouri, [24] West Virginia, W. Michigan @ [19] Denver

Sunday – 3/4/12
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – [1] Florida @ [6] Nebraska
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [17] Arizona, California @ [12] Stanford

February 27, 2012

Monday Rankings

We have finally, finally reached RQS land. This season just got real.

National Rankings for February 27, 2012
1. Florida – 197.195
2. Oklahoma – 197.145
3. UCLA – 197.025
4. Georgia – 196.830
5. Alabama – 196.730
6. Nebraska – 196.585
7. Utah – 196.555
8. Arkansas – 196.545
9. Oregon State – 196.250
10. LSU – 196.245
11. Penn State – 195.950
12. Stanford – 195.895
13. Missouri – 195.790
14. Ohio State – 195.760
15. Auburn – 195.515
16. Boise State – 195.405
17. Arizona – 195.390
18. Minnesota – 195.285
19. Denver – 195.270
20. NC State – 195.175
21. Illinois – 195.155
22. Arizona State – 195.145
23. Michigan – 194.795
24. West Virginia – 194.670
25. Washington – 194.525


Florida's big score over the weekend helped them erase one of their lackluster early scores and leapfrog Oklahoma in the RQS rankings. Given their talent level and their ability to hit routines the last few weeks, it's hard to argue against Florida as the top team in the nation, though UCLA certainly had a few things to say about that yesterday, recording a 198.050 for the top score of the season and their best score since 2004. All of the sudden they proved that the big five beam workers of Peszek, EHH, Zamarripa, Larson, and Gerber can make them the unexpected best beam team in the nation. Now, all they need is a convincing wig so they can introduce new walk-on freshman Vicki Tom as the 6th worker.

More thoughts:

February 26, 2012

Pre-Oscar Gymnastics – Arizona State @ UCLA Live Blog

Live commentary after the jump from 5:00 ET / 2:00 PT

UCLA pushed up the start time of their meet on Super Bowl Sunday, but they have not for Oscar Sunday. I'm not okay with this choice. We're gymnastics fans. We care more about the Oscars than we do about the Super Bowl.

That being said, this meet will likely be less predictable than the whole of the Oscar telecast. According to Val, Sam Peszek is still limited to only beam, so there are multiple Wong and Peszek spots that need to be filled on the other events. If they are filling those spots with 9.7s, it could be a long meet. Fortunately for UCLA, they do have Zamarripa back in the all-around. They'll need a 39.500+ from her.

As for scores, UCLA will be at least #5 in the country on Monday. They will move up to #4 if they score 196.125, and they will move up to #3 if they score 196.625. These are realistic and expected scores for a home meet at this point in the season. Even without some of their ideal routines, a 197 should be attainable. 

Arizona State still needs a third road score, so they will be counting this meet in RQS and hoping to go into the mid-195s so they can start dropping those 194s soon. Regardless, their spot as a 4th or 5th Regionals seed looks secure. Last week, Beate Jones scored a solid 39.225 in the AA. They will need a repeat of that performance.


February 25, 2012

Scoring Controversy!

A scoring controversy? For me? Oh, you shouldn't have!

Fortunately, after a meet of flat, uninspiring gymnastics, a scoring controversy has broken out to give us all something to talk about. Throughout the meet, scores were noticeably lower than they have been at Utah all season. I thought they were actually quite fair and reflected the level of scrutiny I would like to see from judges in the postseason. No one will talk about that, though, because of the issue regarding Stephanie McAllister's start value on floor.

Individual video of the routine in question is not currently available, but you can view the whole meet here. McAllister's routine begins around 1:44:20.

The Salt Lake Tribune provides an account of the controversy, noting that the judges bumped down McAllister's start value (they gave her 9.8) because she lacked a leap passage beginning on one foot. Meg Marsden says that she already received the OK from Linda Fenton for McAllister's routine.

Greg Marsden gets a special A+ from me for also receiving a yellow card during the meet (though his card was for walking by the judges, which is the lamest reason for anything ever).

I have several reactions to this whole brouhaha. We'll start with the most childish, which is, "Eeeeee! An argument! I hope this lasts forever!"

But honestly, whether or not she should have received the deduction doesn't even matter that much to me. Stupid requirements for dance passages are one of my bigger gymnastics pet peeves. Just do some dance elements, hit your positions, and move on. Whether it started from one foot or whether it was immediately connected (or whatever other problem you can come up with) is so irrelevant to the overall quality of the routine that the amount of time spent on it is ridiculous. 

What are your thoughts? Fair deduction? Unfair? Who cares?

February 24, 2012

Friday Meets – Georgia, Florida, Utah, and More

We're getting close to the start of another big Friday, and we'll begin with Georgia visiting Florida, where I expect the scores to start flying. Then, a whole bunch of other teams are in action including Alabama, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and we'll be finishing things off for the night with a live blog of the Stanford @ Utah meet from 9:00 ET / 6:00 PT.

To prepare, here's a look at what Greg Marsden called Utah's best bar rotation of the year. Agree?

Thoughts coming soon and commentary after the break

February 22, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (February 24th-26th)

Top 25 Schedule:
Friday – 2/24/12
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [3] Georgia @ [1] Florida
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [15] Auburn, Pittsburgh @ Kentucky
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Kent State, William & Mary, Towson @ [19] NC State
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – Bowling Green @ [17] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [21] Michigan, Texas Women's @ [2] Oklahoma
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [3] Alabama @ [13] LSU
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [9] Nebraska @ [7] Arkansas
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [22] Minnesota @ Iowa
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [12] Stanford @ [5] Utah
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [16] Boise State @ [8] Oregon State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [25] Washington @ [14] Arizona

Saturday – 2/25/12
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – [10] Penn State @ [11] Ohio State
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – [18] Illinois @ Illinois-Chicago
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [23] West Virginia @ New Hampshire
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Sacramento State @ [20] Denver

Sunday – 2/26/12
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – [22] Minnesota @ Iowa State
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [24] Arizona State @ [6] UCLA

Is anyone else having premonitions of a big scoring weekend? (I mean even more than usual, snarkypants.) Nearly all of the top teams are either at home or visiting a high scoring venue. I think we can all assume that the judges at the Georgia/Florida meet will be viewing the 197.850 from two weeks ago as a challenge.

Georgia is coming off a strong home meet led by Kat Ding's emergence as a national all-around threat with a 39.550. Of particular importance for the Gym Dogs over the next two weeks will be solidifying those beam and floor lineups. Will Moffat, Breazeal, and Box stay in? When will Earls be back? Is Chelsea Davis going in on those events?

As we've been saying for two years now, Florida is crazy talented. They have a team that is absolutely capable of hitting that 198 mark given the scoring this year. What remains to be seen is whether Rhonda's master plan will work and finally get them showing their best gymnastics at championships. Of possible issue is Mackenzie Caquatto's status. Do they need to get her on more events? Is there time?

As for live blogs, I'll be providing various nonsense about Stanford/Utah, a meet where both teams could really use a big score. Stanford has to work on moving up into the top 12 (a mid-196 or more should help the cause), and Utah has to mentally recover from some low scores away. Momentum is no longer on their side.

I'll also be following UCLA's meet against Arizona State on Sunday. UCLA has lineup spots up for grabs and needs to get out of the 9.7 territory in the first and second spots. Peszek and Larson's statuses (and Val's selection of hairstyle) will be key.

February 21, 2012

They're Ugly. I Said It.

Aside from confirming Lichelle Wong's season-ending Achilles tear, the Grande Dame was in rare form talking about ancient John Spini and Lena Degteva's ugly leotards.

Wong and McDonald are out (not that McDonald was competing, but still), Sawa is not back yet, Cassie Whitcomb isn't making the bars lineup, and who knows when Peszek is going to be able to do all her events again. That's a lot of issues, and most teams could not withstand it.

While it is a lot of injuries, this team is in a fortunate position where they could almost Nebraska their lineups and still be competitive. Zamarripa, Peszek, Larson, EHH, and Courtney in the AA with Gerber and Frattone on two events each would still be a nationally competitive team. They won't have to do that, but they could. The keys will be getting Peszek back and getting Larson out of 9.825 land.

February 20, 2012

Monday Rankings

We have a few straggling teams that do not have their three away meets yet, so RQS won't officially come into play until next week (unlike last year, where we started RQS before Utah was eligible, so they were just a ghost team for a week). But that means that our official rankings are still based on average, so they're about as relevant as a Y2K reference. As such, I've included the top 25 based on current RQS as well below.

Official Rankings for February 20th, 2012
1. Florida – 196.929
2. Oklahoma – 196.784
3. Georgia – 196.725
3. Alabama – 196.725
5. Utah – 196.721
6. UCLA – 196.543
7. Arkansas – 196.500
8. Oregon State – 196.383
9. Nebraska – 196.308
10. Penn State – 195.982
11. Ohio State – 195.856
12. Stanford – 195.725
13. LSU – 195.575
14. Arizona – 195.321
15. Auburn – 195.250
16. Boise State – 195.225
17. Missouri – 195.211
18. Illinois – 195.036
19. NC State – 194.957
20. Denver – 194.829
21. Michigan – 194.700
22. Minnesota – 194.593
23. West Virginia – 194.543
24. Arizona State – 194.514
25. Washington – 194.504


For the uninitiated, RQS is calculated by taking a team's top 6 scores (at least 3 of which must be away), dropping the highest score, and averaging the remaining 5. Anyone who tells you it's complicated is lying. It took 27 words.

RQS Rankings for February 20th, 2012
1. Oklahoma – 196.995
2. Florida – 196.925
3. UCLA – 196.725
4. Georgia – 196.660
5. Utah – 196.555
6. Arkansas – 196.545
7. Alabama – 196.525
8. Oregon State – 196.180
9. Nebraska – 196.095
10. Penn State – 195.950
11. LSU – 195.935
12. Ohio State – 195.735
13. Stanford – 195.580
14. Missouri – 195.485
15. Auburn – 195.245
16. Illinois – 195.155
17. Arizona – 195.130
18. Boise State – 195.035
19. Denver – 194.890
20. NC State – 194.775
21. Washington – 194.525
22. West Virginia – 194.520
23. Iowa – 194.415
24. Kentucky – 194.255
25. New Hampshire – 194.150

Thoughts after the jump:

February 19, 2012

Things That Are Actually Good

I'm so pleased that we can welcome back scoring controversy in all its glory this year. Sure, we've had crazy scores over the past couple of years (we always do), but it was much more isolated to specific meets or specific locations. Now, we're getting it so intensely all over the country to the point where Greg Marsden had to comment on the inconsistency. It feels like it's been a few years since it's been this fun. Just me?

I never want to give the impression that I am ever upset or frustrated by crazy scores. I live for them. Where would we be without them? But, if you're tired of thinking about these scores and their tentative relationship with visual reality, I understand. I therefore submit the following soothing bar routines for your enjoyment:

February 18, 2012

Saturday Meets

Final Scores:
Georgia 197.225, Kentucky 193.125
Ohio State 197.625, Denver 195.450 (Ohio State got a 49.600 on floor. This is our second 49.600 on floor of the weekend. Unless you cured cancer as a second pass, you do not deserve a 49.600)

Georgia, Nebraska, Stanford, Penn State, and Ohio State are all in action on this busier than usual Saturday. I'll be paying attention primarily to how Georgia manages to score at home with a definite opportunity to pick up ground on Utah if they convert well.

UCLA has confirmed that Lichelle Wong suffered an Achilles injury yesterday during the three-minute touch before floor. The extent of the injury has not been specifically confirmed, so we can only hope it's not a complete tear, but...McDonald last week, Wong this week...this team might as well hold training sessions at urgent care.

In other news, congratulations are in order to former Arkansas gymnast Casey Jo Magee, who achieved her qualifying score today at the WOGA Classic to qualify to the Covergirl Classic as an all-arounder.

Georgia is soon to get underway against Kentucky at 4:00 ET / 1:00 PT. Moffatt and Breazeal are in on beam today for the Gymdogs, so that will be a rotation to watch. No Kaylan Earls on any event because of an Achilles-related issue. Trend?

February 17, 2012

It's Friday. There Are Meets. We Have Scores.

Some of them might even be interesting.  An early start to today's action as Utah visits Michigan beginning at 6:00 ET / 3:00 PT.

Michigan has carved out a little place for the team in the 20s in the rankings, and while the team may eventually climb up into the teens, it's hard to expect much more than that with how depleted they are.  They have only ten healthy gymnasts and two of them are non-competers.  Utah is looking to rebound after an uncharacteristically inconsistent meet last week.

Final Scores:
Utah 196.150, Michigan 194.850
Florida 197.500, Auburn 196.875
Oklahoma 197.400, Missouri 196.375
Alabama 197.650, Arkansas 196.125
UCLA 196.775, Oregon State 196.775

February 15, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (February 17th-19th)

Both Arkansas and Alabama are coming off weak scores of 195.875 and 196.000, respectively, which saw them fall from the 3rd and 2nd spots to the 5th and 6th.  The loser of this dual meet may be on downward spiral watch.  The last time Alabama competed at home they put up an enormous score, and we can probably expect the same thing this week when away 9.775s become home 9.850s.  The vault judges at Alabama are 2/2 for giving out 10s, do I hear a third?  I'm betting on Gutierrez this week.

Arkansas struggled last week because Grable struggled.  That was a test of whether their depth could make up for a weak meet from one of the stars, and they didn't really pass.  There are a lot of missed handstands and low landings in the early lineups, so keep an eye on how those routines are progressing. I finally got the chance to catch up and watch the Arkansas/Florida meet from forever ago, and I was not wholly impressed by Arkansas.  I need to see something more in the third and fourth positions.

I'll also be following the scores for the UCLA @ Oregon State (with Cal) meet, watching specifically for Oregon State's vault and floor scores because I still wonder about their amplitude and landing position  and for UCLA's bar scores (and lineup decisions).  Also, it will be interesting to see how much Zamarripa does.  They're praying that ankle issue is just a minor annoyance.

Georgia, Alabama, and Oregon State are the major teams competing at home, so they look the most likely candidates for the highest score of the week, especially with Utah visiting Michigan.  I'll go with Alabama because I think they have the highest scoring potential of the three, but I don't feel completely certain about that.

Top 25 Schedule:
Friday – 2/17/12
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – [1] Utah @ [21] Michigan
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – New Hampshire @ [19] NC State
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [3] Oklahoma @ [16] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [2] Florida @ [17] Auburn
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Michigan State @ [18] Illinois
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Iowa State @ [24] Iowa
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – [5] Arkansas @ [6] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – San Jose State @ [14] Boise State
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – BYU @ [15] Arizona
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [7] UCLA, Cal @ [8] Oregon State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [13] LSU, Seattle Pacific @ [23] Washington

Saturday – 2/18/12
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – Kentucky @ [4] Georgia
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – [20] Denver @ [11] Ohio State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [9] Nebraska @ Minnesota
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Brockport @ [10] Penn State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [23] West Virginia, Rutgers, William & Mary @ Maryland
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – Metroplex Challenge ([12] Stanford, Brown, Bridgeport)

Sunday – 2/19/12
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – [18] Illinois @ [25] Arizona State

February 14, 2012

Press Conferences

Val has mentioned a few times lately that she will pull people from the lineup who don't warm up well right before the competition.  I like this strategy for a deep team because it keeps everyone on their toes and ensures that the most likely hits get to compete (you're not putting in a clunker just because she usually hits in practice), but it brings up an interesting coaching question.  In the past, Val has been very adamant that she won't pull a gymnast from the beam lineup just because of a fall the week before because she doesn't want the gymnast to think that the coaching staff has no confidence in her.  This new attitude seems like a clear departure from that philosophy.  How is a gymnast going to believe you have confidence in her if you're yanking her right before the meet because you're afraid she'll fall?  

It's important that Rhonda is resting some of her gymnasts this week.  That foresight will be important in keeping everyone healthy, and it goes hand in hand with the new strategy to peak later.  They can't peak if they're not intact.  We haven't seen too much variation in lineups so far, so getting to see gymnasts like Wang come back into the lineup will help us see how much depth this team has and whether they really do have those reliable backups or whether there will be pressure to hold on to the six who are currently converting in competition.  A big road score will help them close the RQS gap with Oklahoma.

February 13, 2012

Monday Rankings

Rankings for February 13th
1. Utah – 196.855
2. Florida – 196.833
3. Oklahoma – 196.696
4. Georgia – 196.642
5. Arkansas – 196.554
6. Alabama – 196.540
7. UCLA – 196.504
8. Oregon State – 196.305
9. Nebraska – 196.200
10. Penn State – 195.988
11. Ohio State – 195.604
12. Stanford – 195.595
13. LSU – 195.429
14. Boise State – 195.175
15. Arizona – 195.130
16. Missouri – 195.017
17. Auburn – 194.979
18. Illinois – 194.860
19. NC State – 194.833
20. Denver – 194.725
21. Michigan – 194.670
22. West Virginia – 194.500
23. Washington – 194.425
24. Iowa – 194.383
25. Arizona State – 194.346


Have I underestimated Oregon State?  The team recorded a great score this weekend of 197.400, which certainly took me by surprise.  I tend to think of them as being the excellent Leslie Mak, a few routines from Makayla Stambaugh, and Olivia Vivian on bars.  To me, that's not enough to sustain a top team.  But if they're able to show more than that, we may have to expand our conversation to a nine-way race.  I haven't seen a full meet from them this year, so I will likely check in on UCLA @ Oregon State this Friday.

More thoughts after the jump.

February 12, 2012

Top 25 Scores

Scores from the Top 25 teams for the weekend of February 10th-12th.

Week 6
1. Florida – 197.850
2. Oregon State – 197.400
3. Oklahoma – 197.200
4. UCLA – 196.850
5. NC State – 196.775
6. LSU – 196.750
7. Georgia – 196.725
8. Penn State – 196.650
9. Nebraska  – 196.550
10. Stanford – 196.175
11. Utah – 196.150
12. Ohio State (1) – 196.125
13. Boise State – 196.025
14. Alabama – 196.000
15. Arizona – 195.900
16. Arkansas – 195.875
17. Michigan – 195.825
18. Missouri – 195.525
19. Arizona State (1) – 195.500
20. Ohio State (2) – 195.450
21. West Virginia – 195.175
22. Illinois – 195.100
23. Iowa – 194.425
24. Washington – 194.150
25. Arizona State (2) – 194.000
26. Denver – 193.750
27. Auburn – 193.650

Utah @ Arizona State - Live Blog

Watch Live from 4:00 ET / 1:00 PT [NOTE CORRECT TIME - I had it wrong before]

Though Florida put up a tremendous score this week, it looks like all Utah has to do at this meet to retain the #1 ranking is score over 196.  That should be no problem for them, but that also should not be the concern for them.  With Pac-12s and Regionals both in Salt Lake City, this team will have few opportunities to become accustomed to competing on the road (and scoring on the road) before Nationals, so this meet takes on added importance both for eventual seeding and for road experience.  It will be important for Utah to get the freshmen Dabritz, Delaney, and Lopez in the lineup significantly over the next two weeks so they can be ready for a Nationals atmosphere.

The gymnast I'll be paying the most attention to in this meet is Corrie Lothrop.  At least through the first month and a half of the season, she has made the successful transition out of the 9.825 territory with strong performances late in the beam and floor lineups.  She has been quite solid in landing her acro elements and appears to be performing with more confidence.  However, I do still have questions about her amplitude and landing positions.  Those questions were not shared by the judges at home, but how she scores on those events at an away meet will be very telling.

Commentary after the jump when the meet begins:

February 10, 2012

The Friday Scores

Lots of important meets to follow tonight.  I'm giving the edge for highest score of the week to Florida right now, since they are rapidly improving and are at home against SEC opposition.  At this point, it's almost like I'm rooting for crazy scores just so we can see how high they'll go.  You know they're hoping for 198. You might be too.

In addition to our usual meets, Oklahoma will be competing in the Perfect 10 Challenge (like the judges do every week this year) and UCLA will be taking on BSU, Missouri, and Illinois at IGI Chicago Style. Oklahoma will be providing live scores as usual for their meet, but we'll probably have to follow Chicago Style via telegram or something.  "Dear Val - Stop.  Don't stop!" Last year, gymnastike did a live broadcast of the NCAA meet at Chicago Style.  They've never tried again.

In the news, Brianna Brown of CGA has verballed to Georgia.  This is not a surprise given the discussion a while back about Jay getting himself on board the CGA train in a big old way.  Since Whitcomb, Jetter, and Williams were already spoken for, it was assumed he would be courting Brown and Hundley. Priessman is in a different boat since elite success in the next quad may alter her NCAA trajectory.

Follow after the break as we start with the Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas meets.

February 8, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (February 10th-12th)

On Friday, keep an eye on Florida and Georgia.  As the major home teams, they will be expected to lead the way with scoring this weekend.  This year, scoring under 197 at home is a loss for the top teams, which means that there is such pressure to keep pace, even when teams should be comfortable competing at home.  You can't count a fall for 196.400 and expect to remain at the front of the conversation.

Alabama finally converted last week for a huge 197.725 to bring the team up to #2.  Much like we were saying with Florida last week, it is necessary to maintain the momentum this week on the road and not suffer a letdown.  Bars will be the rotation to watch because these gymnasts need to get out of the 9.825 funk.  (I'd also like to see a little more contribution from the freshmen.  Kayla Williams has been a non-factor so far.)

UCLA and Oklahoma are at USAG meets this Friday, so it may be difficult to get the kind of live scores we're used to.  UCLA will be providing updates via twitter.  Not exactly ideal.....

On Sunday, Utah is visiting Arizona State.  I haven't tried out the live streams for the Arizona State meets this year, but we'll give it a whirl for a live blog for that meet to watch how Utah carries this momentum on the road.

Top 25 Schedule:
Friday – 2/10/12
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [2] Alabama @ Kentucky
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [14] LSU @ [4] Florida
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [23] Iowa @ [11] Ohio State
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [3] Arkansas @ [6] Georgia
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Perfect 10 Challenge ([5] Oklahoma, Iowa State, SEMO)
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – IGI Chicago Style ([7] UCLA, [15] Boise State, [18] Missouri, [19] Illinois)
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [17] Denver @ BYU
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [9] Oregon State, Sacramento State @ UC Davis
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [25] Arizona State @ [16] Arizona

Saturday – 2/11/12
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [20] Washington, [22] Michigan, Southern Utah @ [8] Nebraska
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [10] Penn State, William & Mary, George Washington @[21] NC State

Sunday – 2/12/12
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – [11] Ohio State, [13] Auburn, Ball State @ [24] West Virginia
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – [1] Utah @ [25] Arizona State
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [12] Stanford @ California

February 7, 2012

First Four Routines

Bear with me a bit on this one.

I often think about scoring in terms of "positive routines" and "negative routines."  Positive routines are those scoring over 9.800, routines that would put the team on a positive path toward breaking 196.  Negative routines are those scoring below 9.800, ones that would put the team below 196 if maintained.  A score of 9.800 exactly is basically breaking even.

All of the very best schools will be able to put up very positive routines in the 5th and 6th positions (solid, consistent 9.9-level performances).  Championships are so often decided by the rest of the lineup, not the stars.  I decided to take a look at how the 1-4 performers were scoring for the top teams, and how many of the routines were positive.  Here's how it breaks down for the top 8 teams in the country.

Percent of #1-#4 Routines Scoring Over 9.800 (Overall)
1. Utah – 60.9%
2. UCLA – 57.5%
3. Alabama – 56.3%
3. Oklahoma – 56.3%
5. Nebraska – 53.1%
6. Arkansas – 45.8%
7. Florida – 45.0%
8. Georgia – 41.3%

It's no surprise that Utah occupies the top spot on this list as well as the rankings, having recorded three straight scores over 197.  Teams can't score that high unless they are getting contributions throughout the lineup.

The issue for Arkansas, and one that may come into play more as the season progresses, is that nearly all their top scores come from Grable and Pisani, and even the numbers that put them at 45% on this list often come from Pisani when she is competing in the 4th position.  They have a lot of other 9.8ish gymnasts in their lineups, but those 9.8s need to become at least 9.85s in April.

I was a bit surprised to see Georgia at the bottom of this group (and the clear bottom as well), but they are often relying on Ding and Worley in anchor positions to push their numbers up.  They're seeing a lot of 9.775-9.800s from Davis, Earls, and Persinger in those earlier spots.  Interestingly, their worst numbers in this respect come from vault and beam.  Didn't Jay say those would be their strengths?

Individual apparatus numbers after the jump:

February 6, 2012

Monday Rankings

Rankings for February 6th
1. Utah – 197.031
2. Alabama – 196.675
3. Arkansas – 196.667
4. Florida – 196.630
5. Oklahoma – 196.613
6. Georgia – 196.605
7. UCLA – 196.435
8. Nebraska – 196.113
9. Oregon State – 196.031
10. Penn State – 195.855
11. Ohio State – 195.530
12. Stanford – 195.450
13. Auburn – 195.245
14. LSU – 195.145
15. Boise State – 194.963
16. Arizona – 194.938
17. Denver – 194.920
18. Missouri – 194.915
19. Illinois – 194.800
20. Washington – 194.480
21. NC State – 194.445
22. Michigan – 194.381
23. Iowa – 194.375
24. West Virginia – 194.365
25. Arizona State – 194.144

Full Rankings: Troester

Utah has created quite a little lead there for what it's worth before RQS comes into play on February 27th.  As I've mentioned before, Utah's only road score so far is a 196.075 at UCLA.  Usually that would be fine, but in the current climate, anything under 196.500 is considered low.  With only three road meets remaining, they are under pressure to deliver the next two weeks at Arizona State and Michigan (where it is notoriously difficult to record a high score).  Counting a fall at even one of these meets will be the opening the rest of the teams need to catch up.

February 5, 2012

Top 25 Scores

Week 5
1. Alabama – 197.725
2. Oklahoma (1) – 197.425
3. UCLA – 197.250
4. Utah – 197.150
5. Georgia – 196.950
6. Florida – 196.900
7. Arkansas (1) – 196.800
8. Nebraska – 196.750
9. Oklahoma (2) – 196.475
10. Stanford – 196.450
11. Arkansas (2) – 196.175
12. LSU – 196.125
13. Oregon St. – 195.975
14. Missouri – 195.925
15. Arizona – 195.875
16. Penn St. – 195.800
16. Auburn – 195.800
18. Boise St. – 195.750
19. Illinois – 195.700
20. Denver – 195.650
21. Ohio St. – 195.575
22. NC State – 195.225
23. Iowa – 195.150
24. Washington – 194.675
25. Michigan – 194.650
26. Minnesota – 194.550
27. West Virginia – 194.000  

What's a Super Bowl? UCLA/Stanford Live Blog

Stanford @ UCLA: Watch Live

UCLA has scheduled today's meet at 12:30pm local time as a way of giving us something to enjoy before I begin my annual exercise in complaining about how the rules of football are stupid.

[tangent] Okay, so a guy gets tackled, and then he just flings the "ball" (it's a prolate spheroid, goobers) anywhere, and then the referee collects it and places it at some random spot where he assumes it landed. And then they get out those chains and measure for a first down, and he says, "Oopsie, you missed it by two millimeters," even though he just set it down where he thought it stopped using the scientific measurement of pointing to the grass with his toe.  And everyone just thinks it's fine and treats the spot like it's inarguably accurate.  That would be like us not questioning any of the cracked out scores we see in gymnastics. What is happening? [/tangent]

Through three meets, Stanford has revealed that they are truly a lackluster team without Hong and Shapiro, and I don't expect them to be relevant in the national conversation until they get both back competing regularly on many events (so...never).  UCLA needs to be in full recovery mode after last week.  I expect any "disciplinary issues" to be magically resolved so that the best possible lineup can be in on each event.  The judges will also have made note of the scoring of Alabama's vault rotation on Friday, and may view this as an "anything you can score, I can score higher" opportunity.  Watch the score on Kaelie Baer's opening vault as a helpful barometer of what we'll need to laugh about for the rest of the week.  If UCLA can manage to hit five routines on each event, I would be surprised if they don't go over 197.  Just like with Alabama's beam dismounts, we'll need to watch UCLA's bar routines to see if some of those same-bar releases are getting in.  These shaposhnikovas aren't doing it for me.

Follow along after the jump for live commentary.

February 3, 2012

Massive Friday Live Blog – Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Utah

Follow along after the jump from 8:00 ET/5:00 PT for live commentary on Florida @ Alabama and other national scores.

Florida/Alabama: Watch Live
Georgia/Utah: Watch Live

Of these four major teams competing tonight, Alabama is under the most pressure.  Remember, they are the defending champions.  Somehow, it's easy to forget that.  If any of the other three bomb out, they still have at least one big score to fall back on.  If Alabama does, they will really suffer with confidence and rankings.  The performance against Auburn exposed the need for Stack-Eaton to be in that lineup for them to be truly successful.  Priess can't carry them alone.  These freshmen need to start being more effective contributors, and the sophomores need to break out of their 9.800-9.850 range.

Utah is the #1 team in the country.  It's been a while.  In contrast to some of the other teams and gymnasts (with Kytra Hunter the notable exception), Utah stands out because their freshmen have really stepped up to contribute big scores and lead rotations.  Georgia put together a good meet last week, but they still have a few more holes in their lineups than Utah does, which, combined with the influence of home advantage, makes me favor Utah.  Georgia and Florida are in similar situations where they both need to prove that last week is the rule not the exception.

Stuff and nonsense here:

February 1, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (February 3rd-5th)

We have a huge weekend ahead of us, with a lot of interesting rivalry matchups that will go a long way toward determining the momentum of the season.  There are a few teams that need a big score this week, otherwise "slow start" begins to become "bad season."  Stanford and Alabama are two of these teams, but for different reasons.  Alabama has been strong enough, but they haven't broken out to show they can post a big score.  A meek loss to Florida at home would be disastrous.  On the other hand, Stanford has scored 194 in two of three meets.  If this is to be a year of redemption, they have to start showing talent immediately.

There are so many meets to watch (and keep an eye on Arkansas and Oklahoma, both competing twice this weekend), but I'll be paying special attention to three meets: Florida/Alabama, Georgia/Utah, and Stanford/UCLA.  Now, due to unfortunate circumstances, Florida/Alabama and Georgia/Utah are at the same time on Friday.  I think I'm going to live blog Florida/Alabama because I'm more interested in the storylines there, and I'll probably catch up with Georgia/Utah on Saturday.  Florida/Alabama could really go either way, while I'm pretty sure we know what to expect from Georgia/Utah.  It'll get interesting for Utah once they have to go on the road again.  

Then, on Sunday, I'll be back to live blog Stanford/UCLA.  Both of those teams are urgently in need of a redeeming score.  I really hope we don't see more dueling 194s.  Pick it up, everyone.  

Also, watch this video of Florida on vault and bars last weekend for Marissa King's reaction after vault (and for the crazy overscoring on bars).

Top 25 Schedule:
Friday – 2/3/12
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – [20] West Virginia @ [22] Michigan
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [23] NC State @ [17] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [13] Auburn @ [2] Arkansas
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [9] Nebraska, [25] Minnesota, Centenary @ [5] Oklahoma
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [10] Penn State @ [24] Iowa
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [14] LSU
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [18] Arizona @ Texas Women's
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – [3] Florida @ [6] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [4] Georgia @ [1] Utah
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [8] Oregon State @ [21] Washington

Saturday – 2/4/12
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – [16] Boise State @ BYU
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [11] Ohio State @ [19] Illinois
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Iowa State, Alaska @ [15] Denver

Sunday – 2/5/12
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – [5] Oklahoma @ [2] Arkansas
3:30 ET / 12:30 PT – [12] Stanford @ [7] UCLA