January 31, 2013

The Weekend Ahead — February 1-3


Florida comes into the weekend as the top-ranked team with a 197.025 average. The only problem with that kind of average is that the Gators will have to go mid-197s again (this week on the road) in order to increase the average meaningfully. If Florida scores around that 197 and stays the same, Oklahoma and Michigan will have the best chances to jump ahead, Oklahoma with a 197.400 and Michigan with a 197.550. It's possible, but Florida is probably going to have to drop tenths to lose #1 after this week. While that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, Florida has just four road meets remaining and still needs three big road scores for RQS, so those road meets are starting to become more important.

I'll be around through the early half of Friday for the usual action, most notably LSU @ Kentucky, but the big day is Saturday. Be sure to get your provisions beforehand because it starts with Alabama @ Georgia in the afternoon (Iowa/Michigan is another fine choice in the same time slot) and runs right into UCLA @ Stanford on pac-12.com. I'll be blogging both, and it should be a grand old time. Alabama/Georgia is always the most fun meet of the year, and don't expect Alabama to tolerate dropping tenths the way they have been. Danna Durante seems like the level-headed and polite type, but it would be a good investment in all of our futures if she were to decide to hate Sarah Patterson at least once a year.

Every once in a while the teams try to make the UCLA/Stanford rivalry happen, but no one's heart is in it. It's just another meet, but one between two teams that are precise, refined, and always on the verge of collapse, which should provide great entertainment.

Top 25 Schedule

January 30, 2013

2013 v. 2012 - Event Scores

Last week I compared scoring as a whole between this season and last season. Now, it's time to break it down by team and event. Where have teams improved? Where have they fallen off? Score comparisons are based on average score at the same point last season.

Vault: +0.269 
Bars: +0.138
Beam: -0.075
Floor: +0.131
Total: +0.463

The Gators have improved the most on vault, where a few of the then-freshmen struggled in the first few weeks of last year and earned some low scores. There have been no such 9.7s from the front of the lineup this year.

Vault: -0.043
Bars: +0.112
Beam: +0.244
Floor: +0.181
Total: +0.494

The big expectation for this season was that vault and floor scoring would increase with the influx of gymnasts strong on those events. The floor numbers look good, but vault can get better. It should also be encouraging to see such improvement for the Sooners on what was already their best event.

Vault: +0.008
Bars: +0.413
Beam: +1.161
Floor: +1.027
Total: +2.609

No surprise here that Michigan is all kinds of MGoBlue given the dramatic improvement in depth and quality over last season and the scarcity of falls so far this year. I still think vault can get better, but it was the Wolverines' best event last season, so the increase will never be what we're seeing on beam. 

Vault: -0.264
Bars: +0.211
Beam: +0.150
Floor: +0.323
Total: +0.420

I'm actually a bit surprised that UCLA has increased scoring on three out of four events. Vault was never going to be better because the Bruins were so good from the start last year and are accepting a few too many 9.8s this year. The big bump on floor is the most interesting to me, but it remains to be seen if that is just a home thing or an all-the-time thing.

Vault: -0.166
Bars: +0.366
Beam: -0.058
Floor: +0.066
Total: +0.208

Similarly to UCLA, Alabama has not started as quickly on vault as it did last season, but dissimilarly to UCLA there should be no depth concerns. Bars was a struggle at the beginning last year and has shown the most improvement this season. Even beam, which hasn't been great so far, is not significantly different.

January 27, 2013

Week 4 Rankings and Notes

The Florida Gators won week 4 with a 197.650, the highest score recorded so far this season. Expect the home 198s to start coming for the Gators before too long. Florida was followed by a couple of the significant totals recorded at Metroplex, Oklahoma's 197.275 and LSU's 197.100.

1. Florida - 197.025
The Gators move up to #1 in the nation this week, a post they seem primed to occupy for many weeks to come. This week marked the highest-scoring vault performance for Florida along with another 49.5+ bars rotation, made more impressive by the fact that Alaina Johnson didn't even compete. Dancose-Giambattisto came in on bars for a 9.925, providing yet another option for 9.9+. Florida on bars looks to be the most difficult lineup to make in the country this year. Looking ahead, there are still a couple question marks on beam and a couple people underperforming on floor, which is the difference between the current level and a home 198.

January 26, 2013

Saturday Meets

I won't be live blogging (or watching) any of the meets today, but here are the relevant links:

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [1] Michigan, [20] Central Michigan, Iowa State @ [12] Minnesota
Video (paid)

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – North Carolina @ [14] Maryland
Video (paid)

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [22] Pittsburgh, Iowa, Rutgers @ Penn State
Video (paid)

8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Metroplex Challenge - [2] Oklahoma, [7] LSU, [9] Georgia, [16] Oregon State, Washington
Video (paid)

9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [17] Boise State @ BYU

10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [10] Stanford @ [21] California

Some of the scoring links aren't working yet, but they should be eventually.

January 25, 2013

The Friday Swarm Live Blog – Florida, Nebraska, Alabama, UCLA, Utah

Val wants us to guess her anchors. Hmm, UCLA on the road at the end of January against a beatable opponent? Sadiqua Bynum will anchor bars. That's my pick.

As the top home teams, expect Florida and Alabama to set the scoring pace for the night. Now that Florida has broken 197, anything less than that at home is a disappointing score. Alabama should be in prime position to match those lowish-midish 197s as long as everyone hits. 

It's already easy to forget about Arkansas because the team dropped out of the top 25, but with Grable returning this week from her "absence," the scoring should increase. Also keep an eye on some of the surprisingly ranked teams like Denver and Kentucky to see if they can maintain a mid-195 pace or even show signs of improvement. They are currently in line for those sought-after #3 Regional seeds from which most upsets arise.

Later, Utah and UCLA will both want to prove proficiency at scoring away from home. UCLA has yet to compete away, and Utah had a disaster in their only attempt so far. UCLA's lineup will be interesting because normally this meet, the easiest away opponent of the year, would be the "exploring depth" meet where Tauny Frattone would do bars and MDLT would do floor, but I wonder whether the lack of total numbers this year will keep the lineups closer to what we've already seen.

January 24, 2013

The Weekend Ahead — January 25–27

First things first. In case you haven't seen it, here is Mackenzie Caquatto's 10 from last weekend:

As with most 10s for gymnasts that have been knocking on the door of the 10 for a while, it is not categorically the best bars routine she has performed as a Gator. She's done the exact same thing several times for 9.950s. The position in the lineup is what changed.

Michigan comes into the weekend as #1, but it's a loose hold on the top spot. The Wolverines will require a 197 away score to improve at all on their current average. That's a feat that has not been accomplished yet this season, but I do expect at least one team to end that streak this weekend. I'm interested to see if any team can reach that 197 average mark, which is an accomplishment we almost never see in January (2013 is the new 2004). To reach a 197 average, Michigan would need 197.175, UCLA would need 197.425, Oklahoma would need 197.525, and Florida would need 197.550. Difficult, but I wouldn't say unlikely.

I'll be around on Friday for the usual busy meet business. Early in the day we'll see if Florida can improve on the 197.300 from last weekend and if Nebraska can improve on #7 in the country. Later, in a flurry of free streams for those of you who don't subscribe to anything, Alabama will host Kentucky (where it's time for Alabama to start scoring with Florida, UCLA, and Oklahoma, this being the third meet and at home), UCLA will visit Arizona State, and Utah will visit Arizona. 

The feature on Saturday is the Metroplex Challenge, and gymnastike will be providing coverage of the event that evening for their subscribers. I think we're going to see some absolute monster scores at Metroplex, so I'm going with Oklahoma as my pick for high score of the weekend.

Top 25 Schedule

January 23, 2013

2013 vs. 2012

In this week's edition of the number factory, I started out by comparing how each of the current top 25 teams are scoring after three weeks of competition this year versus last year, and a few interesting things came out of that. First, let's look at the numbers.

Difference in average score after three weeks - 2013 vs. 2012
1. Eastern Michigan +3.425 (Ranking difference: +23)
2. Pittsburgh +2.912 (+20)
3. Michigan +2.617 (+18)
4. California +2.400 (+17)
5. Kentucky +1.925 (+14)
6. Minnesota +1.913 (+16)
7. Central Michigan +1.758 (+14)
8. LSU +1.541 (+10)
9. Maryland +1.480 (+10)
10. Kent State +1.425 (+9)
11. Denver +1.200 (+7)
12. Arizona +0.729 (+2)
13. Florida +0.659 (+5)
14. Oklahoma +0.392 (+3)
15. Stanford +0.312 (+2)
16. NC State +0.192 (-4)
17. Alabama +0.188 (+1)
18. Auburn +0.133 (-2) 
19. UCLA +0.013 (-3) 
20. Nebraska -0.075 (-2)
21. Georgia -0.383 (-2)
22. Boise State -0.413 (-4)
23. Utah -0.588 (-5)
24. Ohio State -0.641 (-8)
25. Oregon State -0.700 (-6)

First, I was surprised at how many new teams we currently have in the top 25 that almost never spend any time there, with seven new entries that were out of the top 25 last season. That's a sizable number for a sport that traditionally sees little variation in the top teams. While I do expect the upstarts to fall, being the surprising early entrant in the top 25 was exactly how Kent State began the 2011 season. 

Also interesting to me was that just six of the top 25 currently have lower averages than they did at this point last season. Granted, some of that is because the teams that have fallen significantly from last year (Hello down there, Arkansas!) have dropped out of the top 25 completely, but another reflector of higher overall scores is that we have a few teams with higher averages that have actually dropped in the rankings. To illustrate the overall shift, last year a 194.000 average after three weeks of competition was good for #25. This year, it gets you #31. In fact, the current average score of all the top 25 teams is historically high. 

Average score of top 25 teams after three weeks
2013 - 195.639
2012 - 195.301
2011 - 194.998
2010 - 195.071
2009 - 195.121
2008 - 194.866
2007 - 194.710
2006 - 193.972
2005 - 194.570
2004 - 195.761

Note of slight inconsistency: In a couple of these years I actually took the numbers from the fourth week of competition instead of the third because so few teams competed in the first week (well under half) that it hardly could count as a week of competition. That ended up making the numbers higher than they might otherwise have been since the averages usually increase as the weeks go on. And yet, they were still well lower than the 2013 average.

It appeared last season that judging was starting to move concertedly back toward those 2004 levels where everyone got a 9.975 for a fall, and while the sample size is currently too small for this season to make any kind of sweeping statement, the increase we're seeing is not insignificant. Happy 2004.

Is increased scoring a bad thing? Not necessarily, but it is notable. The separation is much more important than the total, and it's something to watch as we go on. 

January 21, 2013

[10] Stanford @ [9] Georgia Notes

Both Georgia and Stanford are currently languishing at the very bottom of the cool teams table, just above the also-rans. The top teams have now established a pace well into the 197s, so the highs for both of these teams (196.200 for Georgia and 196.025 for Stanford) are beginning to seem shabby by comparison. Stanford will be pleased by having better start than the team did last season, but Georgia will start to feel the pull of being left behind without a bigger score this weekend.

I wouldn't characterize the situation for either team as anything nearing urgency, especially for a Stanford team that probably won't peak until 11 minutes before Super Six again, but this will be the fourth meet for Georgia already, which means early-season kinks like beam composition credit and 9.5s and 9.6s on floor need to go away. We're now starting to move out of "It's early in the season" territory.

January 20, 2013

Week 3 Rankings and Notes

The Michigan Wolverines won the week with a 197.350, followed closely by Oklahoma's 197.325, Florida's 197.300, and Utah's 196.950. It was a good week to be a home team. No road team broke 196 this weekend, with the highest visiting score being Maryland's 195.975.

The Gym Info rankings are not yet out, so treat these rankings as unofficial.

1. Michigan - 196.942
The Wolverines were super happy to proclaim their #1 ranking after the first week of competition even though it didn't count because there weren't rankings that week, but now they get to do it for realsies. Michigan has now recorded two big scores in a row at home, so one of the story lines to watch this season will be whether Michigan scoring is still a thing. Crucially, vault appears to have caught up with the other events (49.300), and Natalie Beilstein returned to that lineup, an anchor routine that will be crucial if Michigan is to have a shot at competing with the 49.500 sisters. The Zurales, Sampson, Sugiyama, Beilstein caucus is nationally competitive.

2. Oklahoma - 196.825
The home debut for Oklahoma was a pleasant one for 197.325. It's a vital score because the Sooners won't be returning home until early 2018 or something, so it may be harder for them to score high early in the season. The counterargument to that is their ability to go 197.400 all over the place on the road last year. Brie Olson returned to the vault lineup and scored well, which will be necessary every week because there is far less depth on vault (Oklahoma and UCLA should start a club). The Sooners recorded no low scores in this meet (just one 9.775, and it was from Olson on bars, which is unusual) and did the typical 9.875ing opponents to death, which has to be the strategy this year. I don't see those consistent eleven or twelve 9.9+ routines in their future this season, so they have to make up any potentially lost ground to Florida and Alabama with 9.875s in the first two positions.

January 18, 2013

All Friday's Disasters (and Successes or Whatever)

Friday's live feeds:
7E/4P Missouri @ Florida (free)
7E/4P Arkansas @ Kentucky (paid)
7:30E/4:30P Auburn @ Georgia (paid)
8:30E/5:30P LSU @ Alabama (free)
10E/7P Cal, UIC, UCD @ Washington (free)

It's a busy Friday of SEC action with lots of opportunities for movement at the top of the rankings. I will be interested to see if Rhonda has changed Florida's beam lineup after counting a fall at LSU (putting in Ashanee?) or if it remains the same. Georgia's first two meets have been marked by too many 9.6s (meaning that they've been getting 9.6s), and those will need to disappear, especially at home. I expect a big-scoring meet between LSU and Alabama, and it will be vital to watch how LSU's home scores compare to road scores.

January 17, 2013

The Weekend Ahead — January 18-21

Our #1 team, UCLA, has a bye this weekend, so the #1 ranking will be up for grabs for any top team that feels like 197ing. Now that the barrier for 197s has been broken for the season, I expect those scores to begin flowing. I would not be surprised to see three or four this weekend. To take the #1 ranking (or at least pass UCLA), Michigan would need another 196.900, Alabama would need 197.150, Oklahoma and Florida would need 197.225, Nebraska would need 197.300, and LSU would need 197.425.

We have a wonderful Friday hodgepodge featuring six of the top ten teams. I'll be around and blogging for the majority of the earlier meets. There are so many options (including multiple streams) that I probably won't stay on one meet for too long, but we'll all bop around and help each other keep apprised of the goings on.

Michigan has another Saturday afternoon meet, and Utah host Oregon State among others that evening. Even though it's early in the season, Oregon State already seems in urgent need of a 196. It wouldn't hurt the Utes to show they can hit bars either.

Monday is a holiday, and what better way to spend it than with gymnastics? I will hopefully be live blogging that Stanford/Georgia meet as well. We'll see.

I picked Florida for the highest score last weekend and totally missed, which means the Gators will definitely record the highest score this week, but I'm not picking them on principle. I think we're going to see a performance from Alabama similar to what we saw from UCLA last Saturday, so I'm going with the Tide.  

Top 25 Schedule

January 16, 2013

Routines under/over 9.800

As teams move into February and March, the discussion will turn to finding 9.9s and how to turn 9.8s into 9.9s. The conventional wisdom is that it takes around twelve 9.9s (three per event) to have a strong shot to win a championship. At this point in the season, that is an unrealistic expectation. The expectation right now is that the top teams will begin to eliminate those scores under 9.800, the ones that have no place in a March or April lineup and that are unlikely to ever become those reliable postseason scores. 

Looking at the proportion of scores that top teams are recording under 9.800 gives a good sense right now of how much work needs to be done in terms of both eliminating falls and finding the competitors with the highest scoring potential. Whether it's a 9.775 or a 9.300, that score cannot be accepted later in the season by the best teams. 

Because there is so much inconsistency in the first few weeks of a season, teams recording 9.750 after 9.750 can be ranked fairly well, but that team is unlikely to feature in the postseason and that will be reflected in these percentages as opposed to teams who counted disasters but are soon to improve.

% of routines scored under 9.800 for top 25 teams
1. UCLA [1] - 25.00%
2. Michigan [2] - 27.08%
2. LSU [5] - 27.08%
2. Florida [3] - 27.08%
5. Oklahoma [3] - 31.25%
6. Alabama [6] - 37.50%
6. Georgia [8]  - 37.50%
6. Utah [15] - 37.50%
9. Auburn [24] - 52.08%
10. Nebraska [7] - 54.16%
10. Arkansas [9] - 54.16%
10. Arizona [13] - 54.16%
13. Stanford [10] - 57.45%
14. Denver [11] - 58.33%
14. Minnesota [12] - 58.33%
16. California [17] - 60.42%
17. Maryland [17] - 62.50%
18. Kentucky [14] - 66.66%
18. Central Michigan [16] - 66.67%
18. Ohio State [21] - 66.67%
18. Oregon State [23] - 66.67%
22. NC State [19] - 70.83%
23. West Virginia [22] - 79.17%
24. BYU [25] - 81.25%
25. Southern Utah [20] - 83.33%

Utah and Auburn (in particular) are strong examples of teams that outperformed their rankings and are likely to move up soon based on the proportion of 9.800+ routines.  

January 14, 2013

Monday Rankings and Notes

With a fine Saturday night showing, UCLA emerges from the weekend with the highest score by a wide margin. Congratulations in particular to the people who voted for UCLA in the poll after all the meets had already finished. Well done, you. That's some awesome prognosticating.

Rankings for January 14th, 2013 (Full rankings)

1. UCLA - 196.788
Zamarripa (AA) and Courtney (VT, FX) are currently performing in mid- to late-season form. Combined, these two have been worth about .500 over replacement level (i.e., 9.800, 196.000) per meet. Courtney appears to be emerging as the reliable #2 that Peszek would have been and that Larson should have been. The 197.425, while impressive for week 2, masks some deficiencies, such as the sixth routine on UB, BB, and FX (Francis, Courtney, and Bynum respectively are not yet the solutions). VT still exposes a big gap between the best and the rest, and the 9.875s from McDonald and Baer cannot be expected every week.

2. Michigan - 196.738
A phenomenal start to the season has been earned through stellar work on multiple events, but bars is clearly the farthest along and deserves the top national mark of 49.350. The single biggest difference between Michigan and Nebraska last weekend was the proficiency in bars dismounts, which alone accounted for a significant chunk of the margin of victory. Though the Wolverines are currently ranked #3 on beam, they do not have a sure-hit lineup. I'd like to see some experimentation if the depth allows. In both meets so far, vault was the tightest-scored event, but the potential does graduall need to stop being potential over the next two to three weeks.

3. Oklahoma - 196.575
The Sooners have been strong through both meets but have suffered weaker moments in each one that have kept the scores in the range of perfectly acceptable. Importantly, the problem areas have not been repeats, so they will likely smooth themselves out through continued training and competition. Erica Brewer's return is a major boost, but the vault rotation still needs to be resolved (translation: Brie Olson needs to be in and hitting). As usual, this is not a team of stars, and Oklahoma's best route to 197s in the early part of the season will require Spears, Scaman, Brewer, Olson, Mooring, and Kmieciak each earning consistent 9.875s.

3. Florida - 196.575
The surprise loss at LSU is not cause for alarm. The score would have been well into the 197s if not for the two falls on beam, a normal flaw for January. I'm sure Sloan will get 9.9s on beam this season, but do I wonder about her ability to be a Sturdy Susan every week. Balancing scoring potential with consistency will be a theme this year. I'm pleased that Rhonda is going to be more experimental this year with her beam lineup. They'll be hitting soon. By February, Sloan will need to come in on floor, and the bars stars will need to start being just that.

5. LSU - 196.475
It has been a humongous start for a team with high hopes. No one is surprised that the power events are a major strength, and the Tigers are competitive with anyone in the country on those two pieces. I'm interested to see how true that statement remains during a road meet. The consistency is a concern (three falls in the last meet even though all were dropped), as is the national competitiveness of the bars rotation and the ability for anyone in the beam rotation to post 9.9s. Right now, this is a high 196s team that still has to prove its 197 ability.

January 12, 2013

Utah @ UCLA Live Blog

Wait, college gymnastics live on television? What is this glamorous life I'm leading? Am I a movie star?

More please

I don't know what to expect from this meet, which is the usual narrative for UCLA but slightly new territory for Utah. The Utes, especially without Delaney and Allex for the time being, are unusually patchy in some of these lineups. At the same time, they are still able to show more than six competition-ready routines on each event, so they are still ahead of UCLA, who put out six routines on each piece last week but really had five floor routines and 2.75 vaults. Fortunately, good, responsible Utah always gives us the lineups in advance.

UCLA lineups: (Note: UCLA lineups always change after warmups)
Vault: McDonald, Sawa, Pritchett, Courtney, Baer, Zamarripa
Bars: Francis, Courtney, De Jesus, Larson, Wong, Zamarripa
Beam: Baer, Larson, Courtney, De Jesus, Zamarripa, Francis
Floor: McDonald, Bynum, De Jesus, Pritchett, Zamarripa, Courtney

Is Bynum really any more ready to compete floor than she was last week? I'm not going to be happy with that floor lineup until Larson and Francis are in (so, never). Pritchett looked months away from being competition-ready on vault in exhibition last week, but then again so did Wong in her actual competition routine. Courtney is in on beam. Hitting is a victory. I'm disappointed to see wonderful Lichelle Wong on only one event, but she didn't exactly earn her other spots last week.

Utah lineups:
Vault: Lofgren, Damianova, Del Priore, Dabritz, Lothrop, Wilson
Bars: Lofgren, Hughes, Damianova, Hansen, Lothrop, Dabritz
Beam: Wilson, Tutka, Hughes, Dabritz, Lothrop, Lofgren
Floor: Lofgren, Damianova, Wilson, Tutka, Lothrop, Dabritz

Red alert: that beam lineup. I'll need to be proven wrong. It's nice to see Hughes in on two events, though. Are we dealing with an injury for Lopez? I would have expected her on multiple events, otherwise. The first couple vaulters will have trouble scoring well, but they can certainly hit. That's about the bars lineup I would expect except for Lopez being out. I'm pleased to see Dabritz in the AA. She needs to be there every meet and needs to be outscoring Lothrop on two to three events.

The meet begins promptly at 7:30 PT (10:30 ET), and is available on the Pac-12 network.

Live Blog - Nebraska @ Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines come into their home opener on the heels of their highest score since April 15th, 2011. Part of the impressiveness of that performance was that Michigan succeeded in spite of a less than strong score on its purported best event, vault. The teams that competed in Cancun felt that the vault scoring was inaccurate. Traditionally, Michigan has the most realistic scoring in the nation, so this meet should be more telling. Usually the rule of thumb at Michigan is to add a tenth to the team score on each event to see what the score would have been at some more charitable locales that shall remain nameless.  

Also watch for the Wolverines on beam. At Cancun, they received competent performances from some who struggled last year on that apparatus. This week should give us more information as to whether this is a trend of improvement or a one off.

For Nebraska, I think we know what to expect from DeZiel, Wong, Giblin, and Schleppenbach as the season progresses (even if they are not up to form yet), so the fifth and sixth workers on each event will be crucial. Is there at least 9.800 potential there, or is there going to be a lot of withstanding early low scores this season. The Huskers should have more depth this year; let's see if they show it today.

The meet begins at 4:00 ET/1:00 PT. Enjoy.

January 11, 2013

Friday Scoring Blog - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Arkansas

Alabama v. Missouri at 7:30 ET
Florida v. LSU and Georgia v. Arkansas at 8:00 ET.

I've missed the beginning of the meet, so I don't have the chance to set the stage or have thoughts about what I expect. Whatever. Alabama and Missouri are already underway.

Kim Jacob on bars for Alabama. Not quite there on any of her handstands yet, but otherwise this is a strong routine with a single step on the DLO dismount. It should be worth 9.850s before too long.

January 10, 2013

The Weekend Ahead — January 11th–14th

After the sparse, gradual introduction to the season last week, you should be ready for a packed weekend of meets, and that's exactly what we have.

The first stop will be the 2013 introduction of the defending champions, Alabama at 7:30 E/4:30 P. It's difficult to say what we'll see from the debuting teams like Alabama, but it will be interesting to compare the opening meets from Alabama and Florida to see which team is starting quicker.

Not long after Alabama begins, there will be important scores to follow from Florida/LSU and Georgia/Arkansas. I'll be popping in and out to follow each of these three SEC meets throughout the evening. Georgia and Arkansas will be particularly interesting because I think the Gymdogs will be the better team this year and should win, but some of those rotations last week didn't fill me with the kind of enthusiasm I would need to feel confident about their victory. Arkansas started well last season, but do we feel a repeat? Later that evening, Ohio State visits Oregon State, which will be on the Pac-12 Network on tape delay, and I may try to catch up on that at some point. If you're looking for free streaming options on Friday, your choice will be Maryland @ NC State.

Saturday is a big day right from the start. Oklahoma visits Arizona State and Nebraska visits Michigan, both at 4 E/1 P. I've already seen Oklahoma this season, so I'll be live blogging the Nebraska/Michigan meet, but the Oklahoma meet will be streamed for free from the Pac-12 website. Later that evening, the piece de resistance is Utah @ UCLA, which will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Network, and I will be live blogging that meet as well. It should be a grand old time. I give the slight edge to Utah right now because, even though both teams appear a little sparse, I have more confidence in Utah's January preparation (and ability to have five vaulters). Unfortunately, for those who don't receive the Pac-12 Network, I don't believe you will have a way to watch that meet. 

Top 25 Schedule

January 7, 2013

The Numbers: Week 1

We have no rankings this week because some of the teams are lazy or whatever and didn't compete last weekend. This also gives the teams that performed well over the last couple of days a chance to screw it up before it counts. If there were rankings, our top 5 would have been as follows:

1. Michigan - 196.575
1. Florida - 196.575
3. Oklahoma - 196.450
4. UCLA - 196.150
5. LSU - 196.075

The first three teams should be pleased with the current course. Each had issues, but there was nothing of major concern for the first meet. The 4th and 5th teams both counted falls and still broke 196, which should seem like an accomplishment. However, the fall on bars for LSU doesn't provide a ton of optimism for depth on their worst event, and UCLA looked depleted on every event, especially vault, where they don't have a 4th routine right now, let alone the 7th and 8th options that good teams need.

Since there are no rankings, let's take a deeper look at the scores for the teams from the preseason top 25 who were in action this week. Stats include all competition routines, not just the five counting scores.

National average by apparatus - Week 1
1. Vault - 9.784
2. Bars - 9.684
3. Beam - 9.649
4. Floor - 9.645

It's no surprise that vault was by far the most successful event. Even though some high profile teams struggled or at least recorded their weakest scores there, vault sees far fewer falls than the other events, which primarily accounts for the significant advantage in score. In a bit of an upset, beam was actually higher scoring than floor for the top 25 teams, but the difference is too small to be significant.

Average routine score by team - Week 1
1. Michigan - 9.817
2. Florida - 9.775
3. Oklahoma - 9.747
4. UCLA - 9.742
5. LSU - 9.724

In spite of introducing the dropped scores into the numbers, the rankings remain identical to the top team scores. Even if we were to continue the rankings, Stanford and Georgia would be next, which also follows the results. Michigan comes out as the clear leader over Florida in these rankings because of much higher 6th scores, so I suppose Michigan wins the week in the tiebreak.

January 6, 2013

Southern Utah @ UCLA Live Blog

UCLA in January. Oh, the long, strange beam rotations we've had. Part of the fun of watching the Bruins in January is that we know one of two things will happen: they will bring the beautiful gymnastics that have won them so many fans over the years, or they will be a disaster and provoke a satisfying Val interview after the meet. Either way we win.

In spite of how many routines they've lost from EHH, Gerber, and Frattone and the injury to Sam Peszek, I'm still vaguely optimistic about UCLA's chances this season. Part of that is confidence in the coaching staff to bring along even a depleted group and the rest is confidence in the potential of the remaining gymnasts. Then, I look at this pre-Christmas intrasquad group. Take out Peszek, and there is reason for concern. It's clear why Val thinks the team will have a slower start.

The three most important gymnasts for UCLA this season will be Mattie Larson, Lichelle Wong, and Peng Peng Lee. Obviously we won't see Lee for a while, which makes Wong's performances all the more vital. She must be fully recovered from her Achilles injury and finally competing up to her talent on bars and beam to make up for the lack of Lee. Larson should be the #2 AAer on this team without Peszek. She must be more than simply a mid-lineup factor in order for UCLA to have a chance this season.   

Southern Utah is also a team. Let's find out about them together.

The meet begins at 5:00 ET/2:00 PT and may be viewed here

January 5, 2013

Oklahoma @ Georgia Live Blog

As is always the case in the first week of the season, this is a meet of question marks. No question mark looms larger than Georgia's new head coach, Danna Durante. It is the nature of the Georgia gymnastics program that Durante's behavior in her first meet will be dissected to a preposterous degree. Her every bit of body language will be recorded and scrutinized, all leading to the inevitable conclusion that she is not Suzanne, and the results of this meet will be used to make sweeping, likely unfounded statements about the future path of the program. (By me? How dare you?) After Jay Clark's first meet, when Georgia scored a low 195 to sneak past Stanford, the shouts of his inadequacy began and didn't really stop until he was removed two and a half years later.

In today's meet, falls won't be conclusive or even particularly significant for me. It's early. I'm more interested in lineups and team usage. Which gymnasts are in favor? Jay Clark gave Noel Couch a significant role, including anchoring floor. Does Durante feel the same way about her? Is Brittany Rogers ready? How much is Shayla being used (and in what positions)? Regardless of concerns about Shayla's consistency, this team needs her. They won't be successful if they bury her and simply anticipate this will be another year of the same. She needs to be deep on three events. 

For Oklahoma, freshman success will be necessary on the power events, so watch for Scaman and Kmieciak and their scores on vault and floor. They will be integral in taking Oklahoma out of the era of the Yhalf. Also, keep an eye on the first three workers on bars. Who is stepping in to take those open positions, and are they up to par?

This should be a delightful meet, and even though it is the first week of the season, it's the kind of meet Oklahoma needs to be winning to raise its national standing and continue the argument that this team is title relevant.

The meets begins at 4:00 ET/1:00 PT, and follow here for live comments. If you subscribe, you can watch the meet on All-Access here.

January 4, 2013

It Begins

The first meets of the season are soon to begin, featuring Florida, Stanford, LSU, Oregon State, and Michigan.

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ [3] Florida (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [22] NC State @ [8] LSU (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Cancun Classic – [9] Oregon State, [10] Michigan, BYU
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [6] Stanford, UC Davis, Sacramento State @ San Jose State

Rhonda nearly said something honest about the level of her opponent. I suppose it's good to provide more exposure to the lower-ranked teams, but it doesn't exactly make for the most compelling meets. She says she's going to compete a lot of underclassmen, except two of the freshmen are out, one will be doing exhibition on one event, and Sloan will not be doing the all-around. So, I suppose that means a bit more Kiersten Wang in this meet than we will see later in the year.

January 3, 2013

The Weekend Ahead – January 4th–6th

Well, then. Here we are. Another season has arrived. We are a mere one day away from a piping hot cup of NCAA gymnastics. If you're looking to get in the mood on the eve of competition, might I recommend re-watching last year's Super Six?

This first weekend is a bit sparse with meets (see schedule below), but that's fine because it allows us all time to adjust to our new ways of life gradually without being bombarded by having six meets to follow at the same time. Five of the top ten teams will be in action Friday, and I'll be here with a scoring post, popping in periodically with completely unfounded reactions to scores. Feel free to join in and provide your own comments.

The showpiece of the weekend is the Saturday afternoon meet between Oklahoma and Georgia. I'll be here for my first live blog of the season for that contest, and I'm quite eager to see how this one plays out. I think the Sooners are the favorite, but are they enough of a favorite to win away at Georgia? Watch especially for the composition of the Georgia lineup. How much Tanella, how much Persinger, how much Rogers? It will be telling. I'd like to see a lot of the freshmen and sophomores.

On Sunday, I'll be back with another live blog for the Southern Utah @ UCLA meet. It shouldn't be so much a question of who wins (though it was last time they faced each other) as who competes for UCLA and whether they can hit beam in the first meet this time. Remember that UCLA's free live streams are now through the Pac-12 network site instead of all-access. For those who receive the Pac-12 network, the meet at Cal will be available on delay at some point, so look for that if you're interested.

Top 25 Schedule