April 25, 2013

Event Finals or All-Star Game?

Championships weekend is now behind us, and with the benefit of a few days to reflect on the event finals from Sunday, I've come to the following conclusion: meh.

This conclusion isn't specific to this year. It's always the case, and to a large degree, it's a function of the nature of the sport and the format of championships. All season, every week, to the point of ridiculousness, we're told that this sport is all about the team. All competitors have only the team goal in mind, and even if they want to think differently, they aren't allowed to. It's all about the team. Grit your teeth and repeat. It's all about the team.

It's incongruous, then, to have an entire season that's all about the team end on an individual note. The season is forced to trickle to a finish with a final day that is counter to the spirit the coaches work so hard to cultivate. The disconnect is palpable during the competition because no one is taught to value an individual accomplishment. Championships is a bit like a floor routine that mounts with a pike full in, has a back 2.5+punch front middle pass, and then dismounts with a crossed-footed rudi. Oh. That.

To a large degree, that's always going to be the case because Super Six is the crown jewel, as it should be (even if it should be four teams, but that's another post). Sunday is just the bonus day, the after party, and the competition needs to begin embracing that. The gymnasts already do. No one stopped dancing through the whole competition this year. They had a flash mob at the end. A flash mob. They don't take it too seriously, so the format shouldn't be too serious either. Instead of these staid, kind of repetitive event finals that mimic international elite competition structure but without the urgency, we need a final competition with a little more of a wink and a little more embracing of the team focus that so saturates this sport.

I propose that we consider turning Sunday from an event final into a true all-star game. This isn't a new idea, and there are certainly pros and cons to it, but it is worth discussing.

April 21, 2013

Event Finals Live Blog

Event finals should be renamed "Oh . . . right. Event finals." The forgotten step-third cousin of nationals, the event finals are mostly an afterthought, a competition barely even considered until the morning of the event. That's what makes it fun and super silly.

Today, some have an opportunity to salvage a degree of positivity after a disappointing competition, but mostly, today's events are an opportunity to put on one last show. Hopefully, the gymnasts will approach their routines with that same attitude. The best event finals performances aren't the clean, regular-season routines that we've already seen over a dozen times. They are the attempts to do something memorably light-hearted, difficult, or interesting, like Anna Li's chucked Yurchenko 1.5 Tiptoe Parade after she unexpectedly made vault finals her senior year.

It's going to be a long afternoon with twenty-three vaulters in three separate warm-up groups. Make sure your survival supplies are in order (I have the trail mix and the beef jerky, you bring the water), and make sure to be really, really critical. This is event finals after all. I want to see those toes pointed and those legs not twisted.

The competitors are as follows:
Vault: Everyone who lives. Seriously. I think I saw Vera Caslavska on the start list.   
Bars: Dabritz, Damianova, Morrison, Sloan, Brewer, Caquatto, Johnson, Davis, Wyrick, Clark
Beam: Williams, Nordquist, Caquatto, Shealy, Zurales, Brewer, Sloan, King, Francis
Floor: King, Sloan, Jacob, Milliner, Wong, Grable, Mable, Sampson, Damianova, Courville, Weinstein, Courtney 

April 20, 2013

Super Six Live Blog

It's a little wistful, isn't it? The end of another season. But of course, we still have the little business of the team title to take care of before it's all over. The meet will begin at 7 ET, 4 PT.

Officially banned today are any discussions of "wanting it more," "heart," or "guts." You won because you wanted it more? Good thing that none of the other teams wanted to win, then. They didn't care, but you, you wanted it. Give me a break.

In terms of scoring, my hope is that the judges recover from their overvaluing of landings during the second half of the second semifinal yesterday. If you had a complaint about the scoring from that part of the meet, it was because sticks (and lack thereof) dictated the entire score. Note that the judges will switch events and will not judge the same events they did yesterday. Vault and floor switch and bars and beam switch. 

Oklahoma's twitter again provides us with the lineups for today. Shisler is in for Wang on floor, so that could become a big rotation. Oklahoma has shifted the beam lineup.  

Florida enters as the favorite. We haven't had a true, clear favorite of this level since probably UCLA in 2010. I do believe this is in Florida's hands, but nothing has been decided yet. If Alabama and Oklahoma pull things up from their lackluster semifinals performances, they can challenge a slightly missing Florida.

The rotation order is as follows:
Oklahoma (vault)
LSU (bye before bars)
UCLA (bars)
Florida (beam)
Alabama (bye before floor)
Georgia (floor)

Live scores
Today's score sheet.

April 19, 2013

National Semifinals Live Blog: Nothing If Not a Show

This season has seen some of the more preposterously scored meets in recent years, and through each of those 10s given out for non-sticks, the watchword has been that everything evens out at nationals. Everyone will be evaluated by the same judges on the same day. Noisy arguments about bias no longer stand.

Here is the scoring link for the first semifinal. And, of course, the live stream. It will go quickly. Make sure you have your best paying-attention eyes on. This slate won't be blank for long. (Also, have we already eliminated Illinois from contention? Hilarious.)

Our helpful Gymdogs have posted the complete lineups for the first semifinal.

It's very important for Georgia to have Couch back on both vault and floor. As long as she has had enough training time, she increases their consistency potential. It's much less likely they'll have a 9.7 that must be dropped on vault and floor now.

LSU has also switched Jordan and Ranzy on bars and put Mathis in for Lau on vault.

I still maintain that this first session should be straightforward, but I certainly wouldn't complain if it isn't.

April 18, 2013

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

One day until everything begins. It will all be over before you can say, "Did that routine even have a same-bar release?" and then we'll be forced to pay attention to elite again and say things like, "She moves her legs during this routine. I appreciate her artistry."

Both semifinal sessions will be held tomorrow and streamed here.
(NB: Even though the semifinal times of 12:00 and 6:00 are listed as ET on the streaming page, the semifinals will be held as 12:00 and 6:00 Pacific time. I don't want anyone missing by three hours.)

                                                                                                                               For visual learners, this is wrong ↓

If you're interesting in following along with scoresheets, here they are for both semifinals. Listed lineups are from regionals (so watch out for changes), and listed scores are regional scores for the sake of comparison.
Semifinal #1 Scoresheet
Semifinal #2 Scoresheet

In the news of the day, UCLA's twitter is reporting that Vanessa Zamarripa won the AAI Award. No surprise and very well deserved. 

Podium training is today, and Gymcastic is all over the quick hits.
Don't put too much value on podium training struggles unless the same issues have previously manifested in competition. PT is first and foremost about adjusting to the podium. In general, I take a very Russian approach to NCAA podium training. Hitting is for lame non-divas.

If you have patience and are looking to prepare for semifinals, check out the session previews in the previous posts:
Oklahoma, Alabama, UCLA
Florida, Georgia, LSU
Michigan, Utah, Arkansas
Minnesota, Stanford, Illinois

If you have no patience, just be sure to count the 9.9s as the rotations play out tomorrow. They will point you the direction of success every time. Last year in semifinals, Alabama had eleven 9.9s, Florida had ten, and UCLA had nine. Wow, that exactly reflects the ultimate Super Six standings.

The regional 9.9 totals this year were as follows:   
Florida - 16
Alabama - 11
LSU - 10
Oklahoma - 7
Georgia - 7
UCLA - 6
Stanford - 5
Utah - 4
Arkansas - 4
Minnesota - 4
Michigan - 3
Illinois - 3

April 17, 2013

Nationals Individual Capsules – It's None about the Team

Any list of the top five NCAA gymnastics cliches must include "It's all about the team," otherwise either you're not trying hard enough or you're trying too hard to be unique. I see right through that. For now, let's spend a moment making it not about the team. I hope you can handle it.

The main event of semifinals day is always the actual qualification to Super Six, but tracking the individual all-around standings can be a fun little side story. The 2012 AA competition was rather unique in how many legitimate contenders there were, with what felt like a million at least fairly realistic title pursuers. While there are a bunch hanging around again this year, I don't see this competition as quite so inclusive. There are just a couple clear frontrunners this season, and I have broken them down (emotionally) below.

I considered previewing the event finals alongside the AA, but the event qualification is such a crapshoot that I'm holding off until we know who has advanced. I could go through all the favorites for each event, and then none of them could qualify to finals. This is especially true for vault where I can count literally thirty people who could advance to finals. As discussed last December, gymnasts will perform only one vault in event finals instead of the usual two. This will serve to eliminate the Yurchenko layout parade, but it also probably ensures that the most boring Yfull will win over vaults with more difficulty and originality. One hundred points to any gymnast that goes for difficulty (safely) even if it costs her the title. 

In the all-around, Kytra Hunter won the title last year with a 39.725. I think it is going to take at least that and probably higher to win this year, so gymnasts should be evaluated on their potential to reach that level. While there are many strong AAers, there are far fewer who can realistically break into the 39.650-39.700 plateau.

Session 1:

The most dangerous competitors in the first session will be from (shock!) Florida, and defending champion Kytra Hunter is the best bet. On vault and floor, she has gone beyond being 9.950-capable to being 9.950-likely. This season, she has also improved her form and landing consistency on bars to make that event less of a weakness. Beam is still a little susceptible to wobbles, but if she hits it, she will be in the 39.7s again. Her 39.800 is the highest AA score recorded in this season. I wouldn't bet against her to repeat.

April 16, 2013

Nationals Capsules Pt. 4 – Circus of the Seeds

What's the good of being a top seed if it doesn't feel like it? This session is anarchy, and a seeding in the top three means almost nothing. Could the top three still advance? Of course, you imbecile, but that is no more likely than a number of other scenarios.

We're nearly there now. Just hold on a few more days. It's about to get very good.

[2] Oklahoma

It has been a good long while since a top seed in a semifinal failed to advance to Super Six, and while the path for the Sooners looks strong, they by no means enjoy the same level of comfort and self-determination that the Gators do. If we look at the Sooners' road performances this season, just once have they broken that crucial 197.500 barrier that teams will have to reach to begin to feel a degree of comfort in this session.

April 15, 2013

Nationals Capsules Pt. 3 – A Little Night Trouble

You can smell it, can't you? The session of weird. The fact that I deeming the night semifinal the session of weird probably confirms that it will be everything but weird, yet what makes this semifinal so interesting is that it has no normal, no expectation. In the first semifinal, it's quite possible that the bottom three seeds will fall away early on and Florida, Georgia, and LSU will slide through by heaps of tenths, but if the top three seeds advance from the second session, that would still be strange and interesting. What happened to Michigan, then?

There is much less order and safety in this session, so previewing the action is less about what one certain team needs to do to pass one other certain team. They could all fall in so many different arrangements that, for every team, it will come down to getting those borderline 9.9 routines up into the secure 9.9s and avoiding counting any 9.7s. All six teams have at least a couple concerns in both of those categories.

[7] Michigan 

The Wolverines, perhaps alone among the title non-favorites, have not suffered a meltdown this year. Tellingly, they would be the #4 seed at these nationals if we were going solely by season average because they have so consistently hovered around 197 this year. And yet without huge 198s propping them up, they have continued to drop slowly down the actual rankings to this lowly 7th position. It seems a strange place since this team is too mid-197 capable to be considered an underdog.

April 14, 2013

Nationals Capsules Pt. 2 – Operation Soaring Opportunity

If the 4, 5, and 6 seeds in the first semifinal have to manage the pressure of producing a season-best performance while also hoping for a little bit of help, the 1, 2, and 3 seeds have to manage the pressure of a sparkling Super Six opportunity, which may be even more difficult. For these three seeds, given this draw and what they have done so far, anything less than Super Six will make this a disappointing season.

Viewing the twelve nationals competitors as a whole, Georgia and LSU would not necessarily have seemed destined to make Super Six or have had their names associated with the word "lock," but the draw has thrust both into the position of being top teams, and it has been several years since either has confidently claimed that status. Georgia found itself in a similar position last year, a clear favorite to advance out of the softer semifinal, and crumbled on beam. This semifinal this year will largely hinge on how well Georgia and LSU avoid the crumble. 

But first, the team everyone agrees should make it out of the first day rather comfortably.


For the Gators, perhaps alone in this semifinal, the focus must be on winning the title instead of simply advancing. Making Super Six should be routine for this team and would not be considered an accomplishment. As with any team, the possibility of missing still remains, but it would take an implosion, not just an off meet. This Gator team has little recent precedent for implosion, so "what Florida must do to advance" is not a topic interesting enough to be worth addressing. 

April 12, 2013

Nationals Capsules Pt. 1: What to Expect When You're Expecting (to Lose to Florida)

Over the next week, I'll be providing hearty little capsules about each of the teams heading to National Championships, covering their strengths and weaknesses and their overall outlooks for the competition. Let's begin with the lower three seeds from the first semifinal.

Today, Val did an interview with Sam Peszek (whose interviewing skills have skyrocketed this season) where she said there are no straightforward semifinals anymore. You mean except for the first one? Of course, anything can happen. That's always true. However, this semifinal is in the hands of the top seeds, and I firmly believe that if Florida, Georgia, and LSU hit 24-for-24, they will advance to Super Six regardless of the other performances. Actually, Florida probably doesn't even have to hit that well to be comfortable.

To change that presumed outcome, it will take a season best from Minnesota or Stanford mixed with an off meet from Georgia or LSU. This is quite possible, but it will take a confluence of events. It won't be all on one team. The lower seeds will need help in the form of a sub-49 rotation or, more likely, a counting fall. This semifinal is still deep enough that Georgia and LSU should not be able to count falls and advance, at least hopefully. I never like to see a missed meet provide a ticket to Super Six. If the Gators are on 49.5s track again, they can probably count a 9.300 and be OK.

It wouldn't be National Championships without a few crazy falls, though, so don't take this session completely for granted. Assuming no falls, however, it should take a score into the lowish-midish 197s to advance to Super Six, so that is the standard on which we must evaluate all of the teams.  

[8] Minnesota

Since remaining a thing at such a late point in the season isn't exactly the norm for the Gophers, they are free to take a moment to have some "Wheee! Nationals!" time, but only a moment. While I wouldn't call it a likely outcome, this team has the potential to continue past semifinals and should not be content with simply making it to the big city full of big dreams.

April 10, 2013

Nationals Scoring Comparison

As I did with regionals, here is a comparison of several (lots) of relevant scores and averages for the teams in each semifinal. Road averages are used for all the teams except UCLA, the home team. Each score is followed by that team's ranking within the semifinal in that category.

Afternoon Session:

[1] Florida
NQS: 396.240 [1]
Regional score: 198.400 [1]
RQS: 197.840 [1]
Regular season high: 198.425 [1]
Regular season average: 197.486 [1]
Road average: 197.465 [1]
Road VT average: 49.415 [1]
Regional VT score: 49.600 [1]
Road UB average: 49.425 [1]
Regional UB score: 49.600 [1]
Road BB average: 49.305 [1]
Regional BB score: 49.550 [1]
Road FX average: 49.320 [2]
Regional FX score: 49.650 [1]
Highest scores per event from regionals: VT - 9.950; UB - 9.975; BB - 9.950; FX - 9.950; TOT - 39.825 [1]
Lowest counting scores per event from regionals: VT - 9.875; UB - 9.875; BB - 9.875; FX - 9.900; TOT - 39.525 [1]

[4] Georgia
NQS: 394.685 [2]
Regional score: 197.425 [2]
RQS: 197.260 [2]
Regular season high: 197.800 [3]
Regular season average: 196.721 [3]
Road average: 196.875 [2]
Road VT average: 49.253 [3]
Regional VT score: 49.250 [5]
Road UB average: 49.322 [2]
Regional UB score: 49.275 [2]
Road BB average: 49.172 [2]
Regional BB score: 49.475 [2]
Road FX average: 49.128 [2]
Regional FX score: 49.425 [3]
Highest scores per event from regionals: VT - 9.875; UB - 9.900; BB - 9.925; FX - 9.950; TOT - 39.650 [3]
Lowest counting scores per event from regionals: VT - 9.825; UB - 9.825; BB - 9.875; FX - 9.825; TOT - 39.350 [2]

April 8, 2013

Setting the Nationals Scene

After a brief recovery from the coastal eddy that was regionals day, it's time to refocus on what's to come. I realize I never mentioned the individual qualifiers, so here they are:

Sharaya Musser, Penn State; Lauren Rogers, Washington; Aubree Cristello, Arizona; Melanie Shaffer, Ohio State; Bri Guy, Auburn; Caitlin Atkinson, Auburn; Emily Wong, Nebraska; Jessie DeZiel, Nebraska; Moriah Martin, Denver, Michelle Shealy, Iowa State; Chelsea Tang, Oregon State; Brittany Harris, Oregon State

VT - Brittany Skinner, Nebraska; BB - Sarah Miller, Ohio State; FX - Makayla Stambaugh, Oregon State

There are some serious contenders in that all-around group, especially Wong, DeZiel, and Musser. However, it is very difficult to score well in the AA without a team to build the numbers, and all three are competing in the first session, which makes it very unlikely that they will challenge. Last year, the top six AA finishers all came from the evening session. I'll preview the AA at some point next week, but with Florida also in the first session, things are setting up quite well for a Zamarripa AA title at home as long as she performs better than she did at regionals.

But enough of that, on to the teams. After regionals, teams were ranked by National Qualifying Score (RQS + Regional score) and divided into semifinals with the 1,4,5,8,9,12 teams going into one session and the 2,3,6,7,10,11 teams going into the second session. It has resulted in a hilariously ill-balanced semifinal field.

The afternoon session, aka The SEC Silver Platter of Dreams and Unicorns:
[1] Florida, [4] Georgia, [5] LSU, [8] Minnesota, [9] Stanford, [12] Illinois

Florida, Georgia, and LSU will be heavily favored to advance. Of the bottom three, Stanford is the most dangerous. Much like the rest of the Pac-12, they are depleted to the point of scraping the bottom of the depth barrel, but if they can drop the substitute routines they need to drop, they have the most 9.9s of the bottom three teams and can get into the 197s.

The evening session, aka Run:
[2] Oklahoma, [3] Alabama, [6] UCLA, [7] Michigan, [10] Utah, [11] Arkansas

It's anyone's guess. Obviously, this will be a crazy exciting meet. I'll preview it in depth soon, but the general consensus seems to be that Oklahoma, Alabama, and Michigan will be favored to advance. I'm not discounting the importance of UCLA's home score or Michigan's beam rotation yet, nor am I convinced that Oklahoma and Alabama are home free. When you get this many good teams together in the same place, it goes anywhere but normal. I smell a weird one. 

Rotation orders:
Session 1: Illinois (VT), Georgia (Bye), Minnesota (UB), LSU (BB), Stanford (Bye), Florida (FX)
Session 2: Arkansas (VT), Alabama (Bye), Michigan (UB), UCLA (BB), Utah (Bye), Oklahoma (FX)

-The Utes probably have it the roughest on the rotations because they may be forced to rely on a Georgia Dabritz beam hit if they are still in it going to the final routine. 
-I'm OK that the top seeds are ending on a bye because presumably (at least in the case of Florida) they should be qualifying and won't be the most interesting team at the end.
-I actually like both LSU and UCLA starting on the beam. Ending on beam is way harder than starting there, and both teams probably need a scoring boost on bars that they might get by ending there.
-Ending on vault is a very good rotation for all the teams doing so (Georgia, Alabama, Minnesota, Michigan). All 49.500 capable.

April 6, 2013

Regionals Live Blog: The Day That Matters

Watch the bubble teams like Stanford today. They need a little more of this and a little less "Why are we getting a 9.675?"

After a whole regular season of "We just have to focus on ourselves" and "Results don't matter" and "We might as well be competing in a uni-meet, and let's pretend that's not insane," it's very refreshing to arrive at the day when hitting is finally a thing that people need to do. Today, they are consequences. Today, individual narratives about personal improvement and stepping up to help the team fall away in favor of actual competition between programs where it doesn't matter if you've improved by a tenth over last season if you can't turn it into a victory.

Do any of the seeds have a strong chance of going down? Absolutely, but I feel less confident about that than I did in February. Early in the season, it appeared certain that there was enough depth throughout the country to ensure that a clear twelve would not emerge. Now, with the exception of the 12/13 fight, it will take a mistake for the top seeds to go away, but mistakes are what today is all about. They make everything more interesting, and things often get crazy at regionals. We can only hope.

All the links you could ever need are available in the previous post

Regional Championships - Links and Scoresheets

I'll have the blog for the regionals themselves up a bit later, but for now, might I interest you in a series of vaguely discolored, underlined words for you to click on?

For each regional below, you will find links to the live scoring, live video, and scoresheets of my own creation. If you're a certain type of person (the best type), you may enjoy having a scoresheet to print out or reference during the meet with presumed lineups and easy RQS comparison.

Every year (but this year seemingly more than most) guessing lineups is based on little more than tea-leaf reading, and they will certainly differ from the actual lineups. I usually used the most recent competition lineup except in cases where teams have new injuries/are trying to get people back, like Florida. With Johnson coming back on an indeterminate number of events and Stageberg out with a dislocated shoulder, there will be some changes, and your guess is as good as mine as to where the new people come in.

5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Norman Regional 
[2] Oklahoma, [11] Stanford, [14] Penn State, [22] Washington, [27] Iowa, [34] Southern Utah
Live scores (Ooh, a fancy new look. Maybe it will update more than once an hour this time since this is a special occasion.)
Live video

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Columbus Regional
[6] UCLA, [7] LSU, [18] Arizona, [20] Ohio State, [24] Central Michigan, [31] NC State
Live scores
Live vault video
Live bars video
Live beam video
Live floor video (On a scale of 1 to 10, how embarrassing is it that they've used the Oklahoma logo on these video links for Ohio State?)

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Gainesville Regional
[1] Florida, [12] Minnesota, [13] Auburn, [24] Maryland, [29] Bridgeport, [36] Pittsburgh
Live scores
Live video

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Morgantown Regional
[5] Michigan, [8] Nebraska, [17] Illinois, [19] Kentucky, [26] West Virginia, [35] North Carolina
Live scores
Live vault/floor video
Live bars/beam video

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Tuscaloosa Regional
[3] Alabama, [9] Utah, [15] Denver, [23] Kent State, [30] BYU, [35] Iowa State
Live scores
Live video

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Corvallis Regional
[4] Georgia, [10] Oregon State, [16] Arkansas, [21] Boise State, [28] Arizona State, [32] California
Live scores
Live video

April 5, 2013

Columbus Regional Preview

We're nearly there. During a frantic five-hour period tomorrow, everything we need to know about nationals will be decided. I'll be there for every moment, of course, and since it will be impossible to keep and eye on everything at the same time, I hope you all will help keep everyone updated. One final regional to preview before the chatter ends and things start getting good.

Competing teams (starting event):
[6] UCLA (vault)
[7] LSU (bye before bars)
[18] Arizona (bye before floor)
[20] Ohio State (floor)
[24] Central Michigan (bars)
[31] NC State (beam)

The Favorites
By all logic, this should be a straightforward meet in which UCLA and LSU advance to nationals as the indisputably strongest teams, but of all the regionals, I feel the least confident about how this one will play out. It smells dangerous.

UCLA enters as the higher seed, but it could very well go either way between the two. If they both hit to capability, the meet will come down to minor details, but if that's the case, it won't matter because they will both be swimming through to the next round. This year's Bruins are rather more well-rounded than teams of recent years, while LSU is a terror on vault and floor and quite a degree more nerve-wracking and 9.7ish on bars and beam. In that way, this is similar to the Minnesota/Auburn contest in Gainesville but on a larger scale. I trust UCLA more to hit (it's an odd sentence, I know), but LSU will have the bigger rotations.

April 4, 2013

Morgantown Regional Preview

The final few regionals don't have clear favorites for the win, but because of the seeding system, they do have clear favorites for the nationals spots. There is not yet enough parity for teams outside the top 15 to expect to challenge for nationals without a gift from a higher-ranked team.

Competing teams (starting event):
[5] Michigan (vault)
[8] Nebraska (bye before bars)
[17] Illinois (bye before floor)
[19] Kentucky (floor)
[26] West Virginia (bars)
[33] North Carolina (beam)

The Favorites

Michigan had the landings together this year well before any of the other teams, which accounted for the very high ranking at the beginning of the season. As the other teams caught up in presenting finished routines, they also caught up in RQS. As a result of both that and two consecutive average performances, the Wolverines are perhaps slightly undervalued coming into regionals. This is still a high 197 team that would potentially project into the 198s were it not for beam.

April 3, 2013

Corvallis Regional Preview

We finally arrive at a regional where the host is not the top seed. It's the second seed, which is just as effective in reducing upset potential. This is our west coast regional, so it would have been nice if they had scheduled the meet later to separate it from the other meets. Alas, no. It's at 7ET, 4PT along with the Alabama regional.

Rotation order (starting event):
[4] Georgia (vault)
[10] Oregon State (bye before bars)
[16] Arkansas (bye before floor)
[21] Boise State (floor)
[28] Arizona State (bars)
[32] California (beam)

The Favorites

Georgia enters the Corvallis Regional with its highest postseason ranking in the post-Suzanne era. No final conclusions can be drawn about the success of Durante's first year because, well, nothing has happened yet, but after a troubling first month and a half, Durante has put the team in a better position to contend with the top programs. When Clark was fired and Durante hired, I questioned the move, not from any allegiance to Clark but from the perspective that Clark's teams were improving and no one else was necessarily going to be any better. I'm big enough to admit that I might be at least 30% wrong.

April 2, 2013

Tuscaloosa Regional Preview

Alabama hosts our third regional, which begins at 6:00 CT, so it will be one of the last to finish. Unfortunately, I don't expect it to be that close, but if it is, at least it won't be overshadowed by all six meets going on at the same time.

Rotation order (starting event):
[3] Alabama (vault)
[9] Utah (bye before bars)
[15] Denver (bye before floor)
[23] Kent State (floor)
[30] BYU (bars)
[35] Iowa State (beam)

The Favorites

The tale grows a bit dull as we head into a third regional of the same, but Alabama, like Florida and Oklahoma, is about as locked as a lock can be to advance out of regionals. That's what happens when the top seeds host. It becomes that much less likely that they will even finish second let alone be upset. In the future, the NCAA should avoid selecting all the best schools to host in the same year.

Alabama has been surging and will feel quite pleased about finishing only one tenth (before penalty) behind Florida at SECs while competing without Ashley Sledge. The vaults are crazy powerful, and with the landings improving each week, the event is becoming an easy 49.500. There are individual blips here and there in the beam and floor rotations but nothing that would account for any fundamental disadvantage to Florida.

April 1, 2013

Norman Regional Preview

[Yes, I originally wrote "Normal Regional Preview" because I am amazing.]

Oklahoma hosts the second regional, which features Stanford and Penn State as the seeded contenders and Washington, Iowa, and Southern Utah as the whippersnappers. This will be first meet to begin (5 ET/2 PT), so we should all get a good look at these teams before the madness begins.

Rotation order (starting event):
[2] Oklahoma (vault)
[11] Stanford (bye before bars)
[14] Penn State (bye before floor)
[22] Washington (floor)
[27] Iowa (bars)
[34] Southern Utah (beam)

The Favorite:

The Oklahoma Sooners enter regionals as the #2 seed for the second consecutive year but boast a much healthier crop of gymnasts this time. Last year, Oklahoma was forced to hobble to the finish with a slapped together roster (I'm pretty sure at least one member of the vault lineup was just a roll of masking tape), but the harrowing injury to Kayla Nowak during preseason appears to have scared off whatever Babylonian trickster god was plaguing the team. The only major issue since has been Keeley Kmieciak's tonsillectomy, and she is expected to return shortly.