March 31, 2012

SEC Championships Broadcast

Here we go. Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne were on hand as always to bring us the SEC Championships. I'm really impressed with how Suzanne has come along as a commentator. She always has insightful things to say, but she seems much more comfortable on camera now and less nervous than she used to. It's definitely an acquired skill.

Reports are the everyone was just a little tight and wobbly across all the teams, so I'm interested to see how that played out in the competition itself. We had tennis run over into the original broadcast, so my DVR didn't catch all of it. I may have to catch up with the end of the competition at some later point, but at least we know what happened.

Rotation 1:

We start with Florida on beam. Stageberg is a little tentative with a wobble on a switch split, but it was by no means a problematic routine. Alaina Johnson is much the same. There is no wow factor in this routine, but only minor deductions as well. These routines would all be getting a tenth higher at Pac-12s. Dickerson has a pretty significant wobble on her series, which accounts for her score. Not her most confident performance. Hunter would have been better on beam as an elite had she not needed to add in difficult dance elements that she was ill-prepared to complete, but she's much better in NCAA. Good lift on her acro. Suzanne agrees with me. The switch side is not strong and emphasizes the weakness in dance elements. King anchors the rotation with an extremely solid performance. Based on the scores, this seemed like a weak rotation, but I was perfectly fine with the showing. It's not nearly the disaster from last year.

March 30, 2012

Pac-12 Championships - Definitely Not a Live Blog

So, I'm just now getting around to watching the broadcast of Pac-12 Championships. I'm going to record my thoughts as I watch as if it were a live blog. I will be paying special attention to deciding just how insane the scoring was, which I will then compare to SECs when I watch that (tomorrow?).

Not in HD. I feel like I'm watching it through a sandstorm.

Our hosts are Amanda Borden and Some Guy #12. We're starting with a recap of session #1 with some random routines from the four teams.

Aubree Cristello was by far the best scoring gymnast from the early session, but there are a number of deductions in her routine, namely a large lunge back on the double arabian mount, but her amplitude sets her apart from most of the other second-tier teams. She got a 9.850, which was too high given the deductions on the mount and the piking on the second pass.

March 26, 2012

Regionals Draw and Final Rankings

This year, the NCAA decided to hold a selection show to announce the draw for Regionals. This would make sense if there were any kind of suspense involved in the draw (or any kind of draw at all instead of just a guy reading out what a committee decided), but since we already knew the placements of seeds 1-18, there was little reason for it to exist. Our 2012 Regionals are as follows:

NC State Regional
1. Florida
2. Ohio State
3. Penn State
4. NC State
5. Kent State
6. North Carolina

Illinois Regional
1. Oklahoma
2. Stanford
3. Denver
4. Illinois
5. Kentucky
6. Illinois-Chicago

Arkansas Regional
2. Arkansas
3. Boise State
4. Missouri
5. New Hampshire
6. Maryland

Washington Regional
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Arizona
4. Washington
5. Iowa
6. Central Michigan

Utah Regional
1. Nebraska
2. Utah
3. Minnesota
4. Iowa State
5. Arizona State
6. San Jose State

Auburn Regional
1. Georgia
2. Oregon State
3. Auburn
4. Michigan
5. West Virginia
6. Michigan State

So there's that. Thoughts on these placements? Is it possible to be excited about any of them? In the two weeks we have to wait, I'll be putting together previews of each individual Regional, and I'll probably try to convince myself there's a greater chance for an upset than there actually is so that it will be more exciting.

Final rankings after the jump.

March 24, 2012

Live Blog – Conference Championships

Our first day of nonstop postseason gymnastics has arrived. We'll probably have set a land speed record for Yurchenko fulls by the end of the Pac-12 Championships tonight.

The pride of winning the conference championship will be on the minds of our competitors, but as fans we also know how important this day is in foreshadowing the postseason. If there are cracks, we're going to see them today. Last year, this was the day we saw Florida start to crumble on the beam. If a team wants to win National Championships, performing well today is a must. The last time a team won Nationals without having placed in the Top 2 at the conference championships was 1989. Pay special attention to which gymnasts underperform today. Those who let the pressure get to them today will be on nail-biting watch come Regionals and Nationals.

Primary attention will be paid to our big four conferences, with Oklahoma the clear favorite to take the Big 12, Nebraska the clear favorite to take the Big 10, UCLA and Utah battling for the Pac-12, and Alabama, Florida, and (maybe) Georgia battling for the SEC. These teams will get all the focus today, and could legitimately sweep all of the individual titles, so let's take a minute and root for Jamie Pisani to take some titles so that it's not a complete rout for the big 7.

Remember that we will also have four judges starting today. This usually has little effect other than to regularize the scoring. We see fewer .075 and .025 scores because the outliers (usually the more charitable judges) will get thrown out.

As mentioned before, no streams today for Pac-12s or SECs, so it's all about our meager live scoring. I'll be around beginning at 3:30 ET / 12:30 PT for all kinds of jibber jabber. In the meantime, feel free to pay attention to the first session of the Big 10s, which begins at 2:00 ET / 11:00 PT.

March 23, 2012

SEC Championships Preview

While the Pac-12 Championships will be exciting for the battle between UCLA and Utah, tomorrow's main event is really the SEC Championships. We have a great contest shaping up between Florida and Alabama, which I expect to be very close and will probably come down to a few tenths either way. Unfortunately, the draw has been revealed and Alabama ends on a bye, which takes some of the drama out of it, but try not to let that spoil things. Let's just hope neither team has to count a fall.

Not to be totally overlooked, Georgia is also the "host" team, and it wouldn't be inconceivable for them to challenge. However, in a realistic scenario, I don't see them scoring higher than Florida or Alabama unless we do start counting falls. We could see both Alabama and Florida pushing the 49.500 territory on a few events, and Georgia just doesn't have the scores throughout the lineup to be able to do that. They can very well go 197.300 this weekend, but I expect the winning total to be higher than that.

Another compelling story at the SEC Championships will be the likely fourth place battle between Arkansas and LSU. Arkansas's performance will largely depend on whether Grable is available (and on how many events). Unlike some of the deeper teams, the Razorbacks don't have 9.8s sitting in the wings to come in and replace Grable and Salsberg, so they have been counting a lot of falls and 9.7s the last few weeks. LSU won't have to do that and will easily outscore a less than ideal Arkansas. In fact, if Georgia doesn't hit exceptionally, they should watch their backs for LSU. The Tigers are peaking right on time.

In the Pac-12, even though Utah has an excellent chance of winning (and is probably the logical choice), UCLA is the better team if everyone hits to potential, but we don't have that kind of clear difference between Alabama and Florida. If both teams hit to potential, it could still come down to a tenth, which is, of course, what will make tomorrow so much fun. I think I know which way I'm leaning, but let's take a look at each event to help confirm the decision. (As with before, these are not official rankings and are instead based on my own opinions and perceptions.)

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Georgia
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky

This is the event with the clearest difference between the top few teams. While Alabama usually gets a .050 boost per vault at home (See: Diandra Milliner's 10), they're still capable of at least four solid 9.900s, and I would consider anything less than a 49.500 tomorrow to be an underperformance based on the way the scoring has gone this season.  

Florida is also obviously extremely adept on vault, and on paper they would appear to be able to hit right with Alabama (the lineup of Johnson, King, Dickerson, and Hunter is comparable to Sledge, Gutierrez, Stack-Eaton, and Milliner). However, Florida's group hasn't hit those 9.900s nearly as consistently, with far too many scores in the 9.8s coming from those late positions. Also, the leadoffs Spicer and Ellis are not as capable of sticking for an early big score as Clark/Williams/Priess are.

Vault is LSU's best event, and they have a few 9.900 possibilities in that lineup, with Courville capable of 9.950. The consistency of 9.875 scores puts them just above Georgia in my opinion, since the Gym Dogs are too reliant on Hires and Ding, with everyone else likely to go around 9.825. Georgia has to get at least 9.850s from Couch and Earls if they are going to keep within a reasonable distance of the top two.

March 21, 2012

Pac-12 Championships Preview

This year, the Pac-12 will be our guinea pig conference (along with the Big 10) for the eight-team, two-session championship format. I'm very much in favor of this format because it gets rid of those insufferable byes and allows us to pay less attention to, for instance, the first session because it will be going on at the same time as SECs. Not everyone loves this format. Jay Clark would prefer a two-day format similar to National Championships. That seems entirely unnecessary and exhausting.

In the Pac-12 this year, the winner will most likely be Utah or UCLA. Oregon State has an outside chance to repeat, but I think they will need some counting falls for that to happen. If everyone hits, then the winner will start with a U. Which U it will be is anyone's guess right now, which will make for a fun duel coming down to the final rotation (with no byes!).

And yet, picking how the teams will stack up is a tough prospect, so let's look at what we have, event by event. On event rankings, I'm not going by the actual rankings, just my own perceptions of quality and potential.


2. Utah
3. Stanford
4. Oregon State
5. Arizona
6. Washington
7. Arizona State
8. Cal

This is the easy one. UCLA has the big edge over the other teams in the conference and will need to ride an advantage on this event if they are to take the title. Tauny Frattone is coming off a 10 on senior day, but she can usually go 9.925-9.950 under normal circumstances with a stick, which she has been doing the last few weeks. Frattone is also in an advantageous position since UCLA directly follows Utah on vault. If the judges go big for a Robarts stick on the Omelianchik, they have to do the same for a Frattone stick. UCLA also sports Olivia Courtney, who has the amplitude and distance to score 9.9 for a non-stick, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who has been vaulting poorly for 9.9s for weeks now. If she actually finds her landing, the score will be huge.

In addition to the aforementioned Robarts, Utah also has clean vaults Kailah Delaney and Georgia Dabritz that can go 9.900. This will be enough to keep them ahead of any of the rest of the teams, but the earlier workers don't quite have the dynamics to challenge UCLA. Peszek and Larson will very likely outscore Lothrop and McAllister. Utah will probably top out around 49.400 on a good day, while that would be a weak score for UCLA.

Down the list, there's not so much impressive vaulting. I put Oregon State below Stanford because OSU just doesn't have much amplitude on this event, and Ivana Hong is really starting to find her form on the FTY for Stanford, which could make the difference. It's close between the two, though.

March 20, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (March 24th)

Well, here we are again. Conference Championships, aka the most frustrating day in college gym. Because of TV deals, we don't get live streaming of any crucial competitions. Those who get the Big 10 Network will be able to watch those championships live on TV, but the rest of the world is left to feast on the scraps of live scoring and audio feeds like the miserable peasants we are. Both the Pac-12s and SECs will not be broadcast on TV until the 29th.

I'll be here popping in throughout the day on Saturday with all sorts of opinions, potentially even judgmental and unfounded ones. It'll be a great day. A lot of the action is happening at the same time, so we'll have to create a situation room with all the live scoring windows. The SEC always seems to suddenly forget how the internet works when championships come around, so we'll have to keep on top of that scoring and make sure it's working before the meet starts. Get Kevin Copp on it.

Championships Schedule:
Friday – 3/23/12
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – BYU @ [14] Boise State

Saturday – 3/24/12
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – Big 10 Championships Session 1 – [21] Michigan, [23] Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State

2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – EAGL Championships – [20] NC State, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, George Washington Rutgers

3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – MAC Championships – Kent State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Ball State

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – SEC Championships – [1] Florida, [3] Alabama, [5] Georgia, [8] LSU, [10] Arkansas, [15] Auburn, [24] Kentucky

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 1 – [17] Arizona, [22] Washington, Arizona State, Cal

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Big 12 Championships – [2] Oklahoma, [19] Missouri, [25] Iowa State

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Big 10 Championships Session 2 – [6] Nebraska, [12] Penn State, [13] Ohio State, [16] Minnesota

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 2 – [4] UCLA, [7] Utah, [8] Oregon State, [11] Stanford

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – WAC Championships – [18] Denver, San Jose State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah, Utah State

March 19, 2012

Monday Rankings

National Rankings for March 19, 2012
1. Florida – 197.395
2. Oklahoma – 197.310
3. Alabama – 197.155
4. UCLA – 197.140
5. Georgia – 196.995
6. Nebraska – 196.960
7. Utah – 196.705
8. LSU  – 196.550
8. Oregon State – 196.550
10. Arkansas – 196.545
11. Stanford – 196.315
12. Penn State – 196.230
13. Ohio State – 196.115
14. Boise State – 195.990
15. Auburn – 195.965
16. Minnesota – 195.880
17. Arizona – 195.870
18. Denver – 195.865
19. Missouri – 195.825
20. NC State – 195.715
21. Michigan – 195.710
22. Washington – 195.595
23. Illinois – 195.545
24. Kentucky – 195.490
25. Iowa State – 195.275


March 18, 2012

Thoughts on a Regular Season

The regular season is hereby complete, and we have depressingly few meet days remaining until another season has passed us by. While the events that are yet to unfold in the postseason will go a long way toward determining how this season will be remembered, it's time to take a step back and analyze what we've seen so far.

Overall, I'm pleased. The level of gymnastics, especially among the top teams, has been noticeably stronger than it was last year. Certainly, the scores have been much higher than they were in 2011 (and we'll get to that in a minute), but more importantly the routine quality and difficulty has been stronger across the board. Utah is a prime exemplar of this improvement. The additions of Delaney and Dabritz have given this team a refinement and scoring potential that they lacked a year ago. And yet, they made Super Six last year, which is no guarantee for them in 2012. We have enough parity at the top this year that I honestly think we won't see a team making Super Six while counting a fall in Semifinals, which is always the ideal.

Everyone expected Florida, Alabama, and UCLA to have great seasons, so while the (primarily) strong gymnastics they have given us this season should not be overlooked, all three of these teams have largely met expectations without necessarily exceeding them. Instead, I give a lot of credit for the excitement we are soon to see (legitimate, high-quality fights for places in Finals!) to the strength of Oklahoma, Georgia, and Nebraska.

First, our #2 Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma was the preseason #4, which should indicate that their presence in the title race is no surprise. However, after the loss of Natasha Kelley, everyone (and by everyone, I usually mean just me, but in this case I really mean everyone) believed that this team would fall well behind. We said the same thing after Hollie Vise graduated. I give K.J. Kindler a lot of credit on that front. Over the last few years, her teams' performances have been incredibly consistent regardless of the changing rosters. One gets the sense that she could take a group of Level 9s and have them competing for the NCAA title after a year with her.

In Georgia's third year under Jay Clark, we have seen by far the most cohesive team of his tenure. While the 2010 team was probably more talented (with McCool, Taylor, etc.), this team seems both healthy and totally bought in to Jay as their head coach. Georgia was the preseason #9, the lowest preseason ranking ever for a Georgia team, but they have proved an ability far beyond that ranking, led by Kat Ding's emergence as one of the country's top all-arounders. Likewise, Nebraska was a bit of a surprise entrant in Super Six last year, and it seemed completely unlikely that it would happen again. Yet, this team has ridden it's two and a half gymnasts all the way to #6. I mentioned at the beginning of the year that the lack of depth was unsustainable, but this team has sustained it.

March 17, 2012

2012 Pacific Rims – (It Used To Be a) Live Blog

Wow! That Pac Rims commercial had all my favorites: Aly Raisman, Shawn Johnson, AND Nastia Liukin. I can't wait to see how they perform today!

It's time for another NBC gymnastics experience. By all accounts, this competition was a bit of a mess last night, so I'm especially excited for the broadcast. Make a special note of how they handle the Gabby Douglas hype situation, whether they bother to show any other countries, and whether Tim claims that Russia barely sent a team because they were mad about Jordyn Wieber or because they don't understand how "prestigious" this competition is. What are we going for today, "Most Important Biennial International Gymnastics Event Sometimes Held on American Soil"? Sounds good to me.

Here we go from 1:00 ET / 10:00 PT

March 16, 2012

Final Friday – Florida, Utah, Alabama, Pac Rims

It's our last Friday of regular season competition. Shed a fake tear.

Of note:
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [7] Utah @ [1] Florida
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [9] Arkansas @ [16] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Iowa State @ [6] Nebraska
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – West Virginia @ [10] LSU
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – North Carolina @ [4] Alabama
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – New Hampshire, Seattle Pacific @ [8] Oregon State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – Pac Rim Women's Subdivision 2 (USA Session)

Lots of scores to follow, plus the live feed from Alabama. Full discussion after the jump from 7:00 ET / 4:00 PT.

March 15, 2012

Florida, But . . .

Memories still fresh.

It must be difficult to know that everyone is sitting around waiting to see if you'll screw up or not.

And yet, every single member of the Florida team is aware of the reputation. They know that we always have an asterisk next to their #1 ranking because the narrative that they can't peak at the right time has become so entrenched with the very thought of the team. The team might as well be called "Florida But" because every time someone is asked who should win National Championships, the answer starts with "Florida, but . . ."

Like most trends in sports, the perception and the reality don't always line up. There have certainly been years (recently too) where peaking has not been Florida's problem, but that will hardly matter to the team. Sometimes, reputation is stronger than truth.

And so, Florida will enter into their final performances of 2012 once again as the #1 team and with more to prove than ever. Every year they have a team this talented and fail to win the title, the pressure, narrative, and perception all grow even larger. And the larger something gets, the harder it is to overcome. Florida has to prove that this team will rise above the narrative, not bow down to it. They have to show us they can hit for the title before anyone will start to believe it.

All signs seem to indicate that they can do it this year . . . but we said that last year, too. And the competition is even stronger this year. In 2011, Florida had a mandate. No one doubted they were the best team in the country. That's not the case this year. Florida could solve the peaking problem, hit amazingly in Finals, and still lose the title.

And so the pressure grows.

March 14, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (March 16th-18th)

Top 25 Schedule (and other events)
Friday – 3/16/12
4:30 ET / 1:30 PT – Pac Rim Women's Subdivision 1
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Michigan State @ [21] Michigan
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [7] Utah @ [1] Florida
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [9] Arkansas @ [16] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Iowa State @ [6] Nebraska
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – West Virginia @ [10] LSU
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – BYU @ [14] Auburn
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – North Carolina @ [4] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [15] Boise State @ Southern Utah
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Air Force, Bridgeport @ [18] Arizona
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – New Hampshire, Seattle Pacific @ [8] Oregon State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – Pac Rim Women's Subdivision 2 (USA Session)

Saturday – 3/17/12
1:00 ET / 10:00 PT – NBC Pac Rim Broadcast (Women's Event)
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma @ [13] Ohio State
4:30 ET / 1:30 PT – Pac Rim Men's Subdivision 1
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – State of Illinois Classic ([22] Illinois)
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Maryland @ [12] Penn State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – William & Mary @ [20] NC State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [23] Kentucky @ Centenary
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [19] Minnesota, [25] Arizona State, Iowa @ [17] Denver
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – Pac Rim Men's Subdivision 2 (USA Session)

Sunday – 3/18/12
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – Pac Rim Junior Event Finals
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [24] Washington @ Cal
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Pac Rim Senior Event Finals

We have some more elite action this weekend, and it will be fun to follow the scores on Friday so that we can devote our time on Saturday solely to the broadcast, asking the tough, important questions like, "Huh?" and "Really?" Pac Rims will provide a crucial look at how Kyla Ross fits into the Olympic question.

In NCAA this weekend, all of the lower-ranked teams will be trying to position themselves for the postseason, getting into the all important top 12 or top 18. However, the main focus will be on Utah and Florida. The biggest question for Utah is whether the home Utes can show up on the road, and the biggest question for Florida is whether the old, collapse-y Gators will show up at all. Caquatto will not be competing, and King is coming back from a pec aggravation (though will compete) so we'll have to keep an eye on that bars lineup.

Oklahoma and Alabama will also be hoping to position themselves with a big score while showing what their postseason lineups are capable of. Oklahoma had to move things around a little last weekend to disastrous effect, and I still have some questions about Alabama's beam and floor lineups. This is the week for the big guns. The time for accepting anything less than a 9.8 has passed.

Oregon State also has to prove that they are part of a Top 8, not a Next 4. They haven't made the jump to consistent 197s with the rest of the best teams, and they are falling back along with multi-injured Arkansas.

March 12, 2012

Monday Rankings

National Rankings for March 12, 2012
1. Florida – 197.330
2. Oklahoma – 197.310
3. UCLA – 197.140
4. Alabama – 197.065
5. Georgia – 196.995
6. Nebraska – 196.960
7. Utah – 196.615
8. Oregon State – 196.550
9. Arkansas – 196.545
10. LSU – 196.440
11. Stanford – 196.315
12. Penn State – 196.120
13. Ohio State – 196.000
14. Auburn – 195.965
15. Boise State – 195.830
16. Missouri – 195.790
17. Denver – 195.755
18. Arizona – 195.750
19. Minnesota – 195.665
20. NC State – 195.665
21. Michigan – 195.475
22. Illinois – 195.425
23. Kentucky – 195.255
24. Washington – 195.175
25. Arizona State – 195.145


Oklahoma was not able to take the top spot over the weekend because of a poor performance at UCLA where we saw exactly what happens when Oklahoma fails to stick landings - a lot of 49.200 rotations. For a team that has been so excellent on the road, I was surprised at how much trouble they appeared to have adjusting to the UCLA floor. They'll have another opportunity to become #1 this weekend, but Florida is also in action at home against Utah and scores are expected to be very high.

The other notable change at the top is the fall of Arkansas. They competed without Salsberg (out for the season) and Grable (should be back), and it was a disaster. They don't have the depth to withstand losing either, but the return of Grable should help stabilize the heart rate.

Some number crunching after the jump:

March 11, 2012

Senior Sunday – Oklahoma @ UCLA Live Blog

2:30 ET / 11:30 PT – NC State @ Georgia
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Oklahoma @ UCLA

It's Senior Day for the gymnasts from Georgia and UCLA, so a little nostalgic look at highlights for these seniors before we get to the day's action. Along with Alabama, these teams are going to have the biggest shoes to fill next year.

Probably not even the best beam she's done at UCLA, but she'll always have that 10. Through all the UCLA beam troubles, she's been the unifying force. EHH fixes things.

Our dynamic duo on bars for Georgia. That's how you land. Never a moment's doubt. They're the last Suzanne gymnasts on this Georgia team, and to me, they are this Georgia team.

The most graceful gymnast UCLA has had in a number of years, carrying on her Tousek legacy. Imagine how many big scores she would have had if she hadn't been leading off the last two seasons. 

Tauny Frattone. Coming alive. 
The best vault and floor she's ever done have come in her senior season. No easy feat.

The walk-on with the bad legs who gets a 9.925 on floor.

Written off by everyone (ahem . . . me) and having an important season for the Bruins.

Comments on scores and routines after the jump when the action begins.

March 9, 2012

Friday Scores Central – Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Utah

Today's important action: 
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [5] Georgia @ [20] Michigan
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [9] LSU @ Iowa
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – [14] Missouri @ [4] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [6] Nebraska @ [7] Utah

We'll start with Georgia, where word comes today that Shayla Worley is battling an injury, making my post from yesterday essentially moot. Awesome. Gina Nuccio is also out for this meet, and Kat Ding is limited to bars. After all the discussion about how healthy this team was this year, they've been bitten at the worst possible time. And now they have a two-meet weekend. Fun fun fun fun. The 4,5,6 performers on floor now are Box, Tanella, and Couch. Not what one would be looking for.

This meet is obviously about making do for Georgia, but our other top teams competing today will be looking to show finalized lineups in preparation for the postseason, which will give us an excellent opportunity to compare quality. Alabama is the most naturally talented of the teams competing today, but they have hit their potential only twice this season. Even though the score last week was fine, blowing the lead was not, so there is still something to prove today.

Follow along after the jump for all the nonsense from 7:00 ET / 4:00 PT

March 8, 2012

The Benching Conundrum

It's March now. Spring is just around the corner. And you know what that means? It's time to start talking about whether Shayla Worley should be pulled from lineups. It has become an annual tradition. You'll miss it when she's gone.

2012 was supposed to be Shayla's Renaissance, but it hasn't worked out because of performances like this:

Add that to a whole bunch of scores in the 9.7s, and the calls for her to be benched (at least on bars and floor) have intensified over the last few weeks. In particular, Shayla's inability to perform a clean bars dismount has caught everyone's attention.

[Tangent] A disturbing recent trend in NCAA gymnastics is former elites who cannot perform UB dismounts. This is an unfortunate side effect of the current elite code. These gymnasts on the elite track will learn a single D dismount (elite code) that they can land, usually with major deductions and poor technique which are accepted because it's elite and cleanliness is not the major concern (see Shayla's double front). Then, they get to NCAA where those same dismounts would be deduction factories and cannot be used. Now, these extremely talented elites are at a disadvantage because they have to start from scratch on the dismount and are suddenly well behind less talented JO gymnasts who were compelled to learn competent technique because of their code. [/Tangent]    

A situation like Shayla's creates a difficult conundrum for a coach.

March 7, 2012

The Weekend Agenda (March 9th-11th)

Top 25 Schedule
Friday – 3/9/12
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [5] Georgia @ [20] Michigan
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [16] Auburn @ Southeast Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [9] LSU @ Iowa
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – [14] Missouri @ [4] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [6] Nebraska @ [7] Utah
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [11] Stanford @ [23] Arizona State
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Cal @ [15] Boise State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – San Jose State @ [24] Washington

Saturday – 3/10/12
1:00 ET / 10:00 PT – [13] Ohio State @ North Carolina
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – [8] Arkansas @ West Virginia
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Iowa State @ [18] Minnesota
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [9] Oregon State @ [22] Denver

Sunday – 3/11/12
1:00 ET / 10:00 PT – [17] Arizona @ New Hampshire
1:00 ET / 10:00 PT – [19] Illinois @ Western Michigan
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – George Washington, Ball State @ [25] Kentucky
2:30 ET / 11:30 PT – [21] NC State @ [5] Georgia
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma @ [3] UCLA
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – [12] Penn State @ Pittsburgh

Just two more weeks left in the regular season, and UCLA, Georgia, and Stanford all finish their seasons this weekend. The most important meeting of the weekend is Oklahoma @ UCLA, and I will be live blogging that meet on Sunday. Both of those teams will probably be feeling pretty 198 about themselves going into that clash. UCLA will have Sam Peszek back in the all-around.

On Friday, Georgia visits Michigan, so we'll obviously be watching the scores closely (Couch and Tanella, in particular). Remember the last time Georgia visited Michigan and they got all upset about the low scores? Ah, the good old days. [Applause for gymnastike's easily accessible archives].

"Robbed" in unison. Excellent.

Later on Friday, we should all follow Alabama hosting Missouri and Utah hosting Nebraska. This is an important opportunity for Utah to make the argument that the last few weeks have been a aberration instead of an indication. They will certainly feel displeased that Nebraska is ranked ahead of them and will be looking to prove they are the better team. This could be an interesting preview of a clash between these two at Nationals because I don't necessarily see both of these teams advancing to finals. I'd love to see them in the same prelim. My ideal prelims would have an SEC session and a Pac-12 session just to provide the best possible drama. [So,  Session 1) Oklahoma, UCLA, Nebraska, Utah, Oregon State, Stanford. Session 2) Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, LSU, Whoever gets the last spot]. Admit it, it would be fun. (And it's kind of possible.)  

March 5, 2012

Monday Rankings

National Rankings for March 5, 2012
1. Florida – 197.330
2. Oklahoma – 197.310
3. UCLA – 197.085
4. Alabama – 196.925
5. Georgia – 196.915
6. Nebraska – 196.795
7. Utah – 196.555
8. Arkansas – 196.545
9. Oregon State – 196.405
9. LSU – 196.405
11. Stanford – 196.205
12. Penn State – 195.995
13. Ohio State – 195.940
14. Missouri – 195.790
15. Boise State – 195.750
16. Auburn – 195.735
17. Arizona – 195.525
18. Minnesota – 195.470
19. Illinois – 195.360
20. Michigan – 195.345
21. NC State – 195.335
22. Denver – 195.270
23. Arizona State – 195.145
24. Washington – 195.025
25. Kentucky – 194.930

Thoughts after the jump:

March 3, 2012

One Big Cup of America – Live Blog

The Olympic year is officially here. You will be able to note immediately the change in tone from our broadcasters, who will spend their time talking about legacy and honor and glory (even more than usual). Obviously, I live for it. Last night, Nastia was very diligent about mentioning that the college scholarship is the real, achievable goal for so many gymnasts. Starting today, that's out the window. It's the Olympics, or you're a failure. There is no next year.

The broadcast will begin at 11:30 ET / 8:30 PT on Universal Sports (with the men's competition), then will change to NBC at 1:00 ET / 10:00 PT, because nothing says "fan-friendly" like switching networks in the middle of a live broadcast. But I'm glad at least some of it is on NBC because Universal doesn't broadcast in HD. What are we, Amish? Every Universal Sports broadcast looks like someone spilled coffee on a WNBA game.

For those without our gracious American networks, you can watch the broadcast HERE.

What you won't be seeing today:

Gabby Douglas was the talk of podium training because of how much she has improved since last year. I love reading Blythe at the Examiner when she gets excited about things because she actually sounds like she's about to spill over in the press area. Unfortunately, Douglas is just an exhibition competitor, so we will have to focus on the rest of the field. Hopefully we still get to see Douglas's scores from somewhere, because they could get very high. 

Aly Raisman has also upgraded to what looked to be a pretty solid Amanar, and Jordyn Wieber was training a bunch of strange connections on beam that shouldn't really ever get credit. Wieber had the weakest podium training of the three Americans but should still run away with the competition.

Oodles of chatter after the jump. 

March 2, 2012

Bushel of Friday Scores - UCLA, UGA, Bama, OU, Nastia Cup

Lots to care about in the gymnastics world this weekend. Today, we've got some great NCAA matchups between top teams and an important look at future competitors:

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
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [9] Oregon State @ [7] Utah

First things first, UCLA @ UGA. Lineups tell us that Shayla is back on three events this week, Moffatt will be going on beam, and Box will be going on floor (no Nuccio on floor). Hit routines from this group will be paramount to complement our expected hits from the likes of Ding and Couch. We've also been given the UCLA lineups, but they always change, so it's barely relevant. Of note is that Sam Peszek is still limited to just beam and that Kaelie Baer will remain in the lineup on vault and beam (change - no longer on beam). So basically it's the same lineup as last weekend.

Follow along (preferably schizophrenically) with all the competing action after the jump from 7:30 ET / 4:30 PT