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.

Beam is the only reason I have trepidation about classifying Michigan as a likely Super Six team. While many of the other teams in this general ranking vicinity have improved throughout the season, the Wolverines remain a 49.100-49.200 team on beam. They have a much better hit percentage than the surrounding teams, but that is somewhat misleading because the hitting is terrifying and always teetering on the edge of 80 falls. Since the first month of the season, it has seemed that one of these days the Wolverines are going to have a massive breakdown. I was almost rooting for it to happen at Big 10s so that they could get it out of the way and readjust before the competitions matter.

That didn't happen, which is both good and scary. No matter how many times they hit, there are still some wibbly wobblies at the beginning of that lineup that will be the death of Michigan fans until the season is over. A 49.200 is still a victory on the beam, but as has been true for a couple other seeds so far, that 49.200 isn't going to cut it in a few weeks. A bigger score should be possible. This team is physically capable of going straight 9.850s until 9.9s from Sampson and Zurales. That would be a 49.350, which is about what they should be hoping for. Do we see that happening? 

Unless something odd and home-ish happens for West Virginia or unless Michigan has a storm of multiple weak events, even a counting beam fall would be unlikely to be the end of the world here, and the team should advance comfortably regardless of the beam situation. The other rotations should be 49.500 all the way through. The slow start on floor from Big 10s looks to be just a blip that won't repeat itself. That lineup has been a slate of consistent 9.9s for weeks. I was so impressed with bars at the beginning of the season, but some inconsistency of both hitting and landing has crept in. It hasn't been a completely constant or upward trajectory. It has been more of a wave pattern, so watch for their position on the wave during regionals. I think it will be good, but it's not a guarantee.

Nebraska would have been the clear #2 team at this regional had it not been for the Big 10s performance where this team finally hit to capability on four events at the same time and proved the ability to beat Michigan. On vault, Nebraska gives away very few non-landing deductions, so when they're sticking, the judges have less to take than they might from other teams, which partially accounts for the huge score on the event from Big 10s. Those landings will need to be duplicated this weekend in order to challenge Michigan.

One of my concerns from earlier in the year was the control on the floor landings. It seemed that every pass of every routine had some form of bounce back, which led to far too many 9.7s. The Huskers do not have the big tumbling of some of the other top 10 teams, so it is that much more important that their landings be precise. The talent of Wong and DeZiel on floor is clear and exceptional, and they can pull the team out of a sloppy start if necessary. Still, watch for the competitiveness of the early floor routines. Michigan should have an edge there with Beilstein and can build up an advantage. 

No one would sneeze at a 49.335 RQS on bars, but Nebraska can be better than that. Both Wong and Giblin are potential 9.950s when hitting, but Giblin has been a little erratic this season and has an average of just 9.752. They'll need all the rest of her routines to be good ones. Nebraska has been miles better on the beam this season than last year, but it remains the weak event and is still a concern in the pressure situations. Because Michigan also struggles there, Nebraska won't have to beam all that spectacularly to win the meet, but the competition to make Super Six this year is deep enough that teams with weak events won't make it. They teetered slightly at Big 10s and need to pull it back at regionals. 

The Outsiders
It will take a mistake for either of the top two teams to end up scoring in the mid 196s, which is probably the peak for the remaining teams (with varying degrees of likelihood). If Michigan and Nebraska go 5/6 on each event, they should both go through comfortably.

Illinois did well to make it into the top 18 teams on account of several 196.4s and 196.3s, but it appears unlikely that the team can reach too much higher than that. Floor is by far the strength, and expect See and Weinstein to challenge for some of the top scores of the meet there along with the anchors for Michigan and Nebraska. Weinstein should challenge for an AA spot, but other than floor, the Illini will probably hover around the 49 mark. Vault is the weak event, and they will be giving up enough ground there to make it difficult to contend on the others.

Kentucky has very similar scoring potential to Illinois, and those teams could end up in any order, likely hinging on the minor details. Kentucky had an underwhelming performance at SECs that did not do justice to their improvements this season. They clearly miss Kenzie Hedges and had both a bars issue and a beam issue. I still say this is a good beam team. Overall, they're about a good routine or two on each event away from becoming a 14-15 team that could challenge for nationals more realistically. 

I include West Virginia in this section as well because I never count out a host. Even though the bars rotation at Big 12s was a mess and the road scores have kept the ranking down pretty low, they have broken 196 five times at home this year and managed to score within four tenths of Michigan when the Wolverines visited in February (Michigan did count a bars mistake). The Mountaineers begin on bars and beam, which are their weaknesses, but watch those scores. If they're getting several 9.850s, all bets are off. Lawrence, Richardson, and Millick are the contenders to watch, especially on the power events where they are the potential 9.9s for the team.

The Other
It seems mean to create a whole section just for North Carolina, but that's the situation here. They're not going to score in the mid 196s like the others might, and they have little chance of qualifying an individual to nationals. Durkac is the AA leader and the strongest chance for high scores.

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis. Bev Plocki says Katie Zurales "tweaked her elbow" at big tens and won't be competing bars at regionals, but they hope she'll be back on bars at nationals: www.stationcaster.com/player_skinned.php?s=901&c=4701&f=1265231