January 31, 2014

Friday Live Blogs - Oklahoma v. Florida, UCLA v. Cal

Friday – 1/31/14
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [2] Florida (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan State @ [4] Michigan (Scores) (Video - all-access)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [7] Alabama @ [3] LSU (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [12] Auburn @ [10] Arkansas (Video - school subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Iowa @ [17] Illinois (Scores)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [9] UCLA @ [22] Cal
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [16] Boise State @ Southern Utah (Scores)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [18] Denver @ BYU (Scores)

Current top 10:

January 30, 2014

The Weekend Ahead – January 31st-February 2nd

Let's get right to it, shall we? This weekend is all about the clash between Oklahoma and Florida. It's always exciting when the top two teams in the country go head to head, but especially coming off the events of last weekend, this meet is all the juicier. We're going to see a remarkable back-and-forth of gymnastics.

This meet is an exceptionally important one for Oklahoma because "upsetting" Florida is an attainable goal. I put upset in quotes because Oklahoma is technically the higher ranked team so it wouldn't be an upset, but given everything about Florida (being at home, defending champs, coming off a 198), the Gators are certainly the favorites in this meet. At the same time, there's so little between these teams overall. Oklahoma has been stronger on vault so far, Florida stronger on floor, and bars and beam have been very even. Last weekend, we saw Georgia keep pace with Florida until the final rotation, and Oklahoma is quite capable of doing the same thing or better, but then nailing beam at the end. 

The scoring will also be quite interesting to watch, so we'll need to keep all eyes on it. Even that eye in the back of your head. You'll need to turn around so it can get a load of the scoring page as well. How will the judges approach this meet compared to last week? Will we see lower scores for higher quality routines this time? Will the ceiling keep getting higher? For those who can't watch, I'll be live blogging the hell out of it.

January 29, 2014

2014 vs. 2013

Numbers! We've got 'em! More specifically, scoring comparisons! We've got 'em!

This week, I'm looking at the average scores the top 15 teams have achieved so far this season versus their scores from the same point last season (January 28, 2014 rankings vs. January 27, 2013 rankings), broken down by team and event to see where these teams are improving compared to the beginning of last year and where they have fallen off. We often view scoring in terms of overall rank, but this is more of an opportunity to compare a team with itself and our expectations of for that team on each event.

Blue equals YAY! and red equals BOO! That probably didn't need to be explained.

Vault: +0.279
Bars: +0.111
Beam: -0.013
Floor: +0.002
Total: +0.379

The beam and floor results are basically identical to last year, but the vault increase is the one that really stands out. Oklahoma started out slower on vault last year, not having Kanewa at the beginning and throwing in some early 9.6s and 9.7s. That has surely not been the case this year.

Vault: -0.180
Bars: -0.063
Beam: +0.244
Floor: +0.231
Total: +0.232

We know the deal with floor. Beam has also seen an improvement, whereas last season Florida started out surprisingly wobbly with some early Sloan and King falls before finding their way. As I have mentioned before, Florida's vault hasn't been all that impressive so far. That's the event I'm most interested in this weekend.

Vault: +0.061
Bars: +0.314
Beam: +0.292
Floor: +0.023
Total: +0.690

It's a land of blue for LSU. While LSU did get into the 197s by February last season (scoring quite similarly to how they have started this season), the beginning of 2013 was marked by counting bars and beam falls and some low team scores, which accounts for the increase this year. They've started about a month faster this season. 

Vault: +0.225
Bars: +0.467
Beam: -0.266
Floor: +0.175
Total: +0.601

Yep. I think anyone would have called this breakdown. Vault has been the most impressive event for Utah this year (currently #1 in the country), and that's reflected in the increase, but the Utes started miserably on bars last year, so the security we've seen so far there has been the biggest relative accomplishment.

Vault: +0.125
Bars: -0.013
Beam: -0.169
Floor: +0.039
Total: -0.018

As noted in the rankings post, Michigan has started 2014 much the same way as 2013, so there is little remarkable change in the scores. The beam decrease may be a bit troublesome, but the Wolverines are mostly on the exact same track.

January 27, 2014

Week 3 Rankings and Notes


Week 3 Rankings (GymInfo)
1. Oklahoma - 197.317
Week 3: 197.575
Week 3 leaders: AA - None; VT - Kmieciak 9.925; UB - Spears 9.925; BB - Spears 9.950; FX - Albright 9.900

It appeared as though the Sooners would be passed by Florida in the rankings this week after the events of that fateful Friday, but a 197.575 on Saturday saw them leap back into the lead, still boasting two of the top three scores recorded by any team this season. The bars rotation was beautiful this past weekend, with such satisfyingly clean handstands. For the last couple weeks, floor has been lagging a bit behind the other events, but if Oklahoma is going to have any hope of pulling off the upset in the mega-anticipated clash against Florida next weekend, they can't give the judges any excuse to give them 9.800s because they'll fall behind by a million tenths.

2. Florida - 197.258
Week 3: 198.050
Week 3 leaders: AA - Sloan, Hunter 39.700; VT - Sloan 9.925; UB - B Caquatto 9.950; BB - M Caquatto 9.950; FX - Sloan, Hunter 10.000

The 198 barrier has already fallen this year, courtesy of Florida. Remember way back in 2011 when a 198 would have been a shock? The Gators have been climbing the rankings one spot at a time since the opening mid-196 against UCLA, and now they are in striking distance of #1 with a home meet coming up next. Don't be surprised if they jump another spot next time the rankings come out. Enough has been said about that floor rotation, and I have nothing to add at this point, but it's interesting that the hoopla over that score is covering up some of the other gymnastics from that meet. Vault has been just OK all month with a bunch of uncharacteristically average performances, so keep an eye on that in the coming weeks.
3. LSU - 197.083
Week 3: 197.175
Week 3 leaders: AA - Courville 39.600; VT - Courville 9.925; UB - Courville 9.875; BB - Jordan 9.925; FX - Courville 9.950

The Tigers aren't getting the humongous team scores so far this year relative to their top peers, but they are right in that 197.000 area every week, which is enough to hold onto #3. We all know floor is going to be an asset, so it was important that they recover from the poor showing against Georgia on that event to break 49.5 this week for the first time this season. It will be the first time of many. Given the strong vault and floor showings, the team score this past weekend could have been higher, but they're feeling the lack of Wyrick on bars. With just two big scorers, if Morrison has an off day (and by her standards, a 9.850 is an off day) the score is nowhere. The same goes for Courville getting a 9.850 on beam. If they aren't leading the charge, it's tough to get out of the 49.1s. 

January 25, 2014

[8] UCLA @ [4] Utah Live Blog

This week, Sam talks to Danusia. Now, I love hearing from Danusia. I'm a human being, after all. But honestly, the point of these videos is for us to hear from Miss Val. I want her to tell me that she doesn't want to talk about beam because she's not worried about beam.

The meet will be shown on the Pac-12 Network, and hopefully we won't have any interminable women's basketball to deal with, but you never know. We've already had quite the eventful little weekend for people who like having strong opinions on things (so, all gymnastics fans), and don't expect it to end yet. These two teams helped invent being outraged about scoring.

Dear judges, please don't treat Florida's 49.875 on floor as a challenge.

January 24, 2014

Friday Meets – Georgia @ Florida Live Blog

A quick programming note: because of preposterous weather, the Auburn and LSU meet has been moved to tomorrow at 1pm CT.

Friday – 1/24/14
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Brown @ [18] Rutgers
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [6] Georgia @ [3] Florida (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [22] Kent State @ Western Michigan
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Cal @ [23] Arizona State (Scores) (Video)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [20] Kentucky @ Missouri (Scores) (Video - all-access)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [9] Nebraska @ Iowa (Video - all-access)
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [10] Arkansas @ [7] Alabama (Scores) (Video)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Southern Utah @ [15] Boise State (Scores)
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [21] Washington @ Seattle Pacific (Scores) (Video)

Current top 10:

Check in beginning at 7:00 ET/4:00 PT for the anticipated Georgia and Florida clash.

January 23, 2014

The Weekend Ahead – January 24th-26th

The Oklahoma Sooners remain #1 in the country for a second week but bled much of their lead with a mid-196 at the last meet, so the top spot is in a moderate amount of jeopardy entering this weekend. LSU is the closest contender, and if the Tigers outscore the Sooners by .325 or more this weekend, they will jump ahead. Other teams also have outside shots at #1, but LSU's margin the most attainable. That #3-#9 section with Florida, Utah, Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, UCLA, and Nebraska is so tightly packed so early in the season that these teams could end up in any order come Monday.

Be sure to be on point with the punctuality tomorrow because the showcase meet, Georgia visiting Florida, begins at 7:00 ET. There's no dawdling around refreshing scores from some ratty little tri-meet meet to start the day this week; it's action-packed, right from the start. I expect this home opener to be Florida's breakout meet where the big scores begin flying for the whole team at the same time, and while Georgia is just coming off the second-highest team score in the country, beating Florida in Florida is another issue. If the Gym Dogs are going to keep things interesting, they'll need to do it through the landings (sticking more vaults, controlling more floor passes) and deliver the same ridiculous bars rotation from Monday.    

Later in the day, LSU is hosting Auburn and looking for the kind of score that could push them past Oklahoma. To do that, the control of the floor tumbling will have to be far stronger than it was last week. At the same time, Alabama will be trying to rebound from last week's flatline of 9.7s and will hope to have full lineups out there that can recapture some of the controlled power we saw in their season opener. 

Disappointing realization of the week: Kelly Garrison's married name is not, in fact, Kelly Garrison-Thunderbird. That's a shame.

January 22, 2014

The Land of 9.9s

It's all about the 9.9s. To win a national title, it usually takes about 50% of routines receiving 9.900 or greater. Last year in Super Six, Florida scored 9.9+ in 58% of routines, and they needed every bit of it after beam. We're quite some distance from Nationals right now, but many teams appear well on their way to vacationing in the land of 9.9s already. 

In fact, over the first two real weekends of the season, the 9.9s have been flying. So, for this week's quick look at statistics, I checked out some of the destinations of those 9.9 flights. Which teams are getting the most 9.9s, how many are they getting, and how does that compare with precedent? 

I limited this to the current top fourteen teams because they are the ones that have been putting up a measurable number of 9.9s. After that it's more like . . . one. For each team, I took the number of routines scoring at least 9.900 as a percentage of the total routines competed.

% of routines scoring 9.900 or greater
1. UCLA [8] - 31%
2. Oklahoma [1] - 29%
3. Florida [3] - 25%
3. Utah [4] - 25%
5. Georgia [6] - 24%
6. LSU [2] - 23%
7. Minnesota [13] - 17%
7. Michigan [5] - 17%
9. Alabama [7] - 15%
10. Nebraska [9] - 13%  
10. Auburn [14] - 13%
12. Stanford [12] - 11%
13. Arkansas [10] - 8%
13. Illinois [11] - 8%

It's worth noting that both of the top two teams in this table have yet to compete away, which is clearly a significant factor in the results. UCLA and Minnesota have noticeably outperformed their current rankings in the 9.9 table, and usually when a team does that it means they are on track to improve that ranking soon as they get rid of the nasty little low numbers bringing the team score down for the time being.

January 20, 2014

Week 2 Rankings and Notes

Top 25 Rankings - (GymInfo)
1. Oklahoma - 197.188
Week 2: 196.675
Week 2 leaders: AA - Brewer 39.425; VT - Scaman, Kmieciak 9.900; UB - Spears, Scaman, Wofford 9.850; BB - Brewer 9.825; FX - Albright 9.900

The Sooners fell back to the pack rather significantly after the quick start in Week 1, this week putting together a strong vault score before seeing a Kmieciak calamity leading off on bars followed by a tepid final three events. It's the lowest team score for Oklahoma since the opening meet of last season against Georgia, but the 197.700 from last week still gives them a fairly comfortable advantage going into Week 3. 

2. LSU - 197.038
Week 2: 196.875
Week 2 leaders: AA - Courville, Jordan 39.375; VT - Morrison 9.925; UB - Courville 9.900; BB - Courville 9.875; FX - Savona 9.900

LSU also dropped off in scoring somewhat from last week, but like Oklahoma, their ranking remains intact because no other team did well enough to leap ahead of them. There were flashes of strength for the Tigers throughout this week's meet with one or two strong performances per event, but a wobbly beam and uncharacteristically insecure series of floor mounts put them under 197 and under Georgia. 

3. Florida - 196.863
Week 2: 197.075
Week 2 leaders: AA - Sloan 39.700; VT - Sloan 9.950; UB - Sloan 9.925; BB - M Caquatto 9.950; FX - Sloan, Hunter 9.900

Florida jumped a spot from last week on the strength of joining the 197 club, led primarily by Bridget Sloan's 39.700, the highest AA score in the nation so far this year and already the fifth time in her career already she has broken the 39.7 plateau, which is sufficiently ridiculous. Lots of 9.7s in the meet for Florida, but Macko and Sloan were the class of the team, as they will need to be, for no sub-9.9 scores across 7 routines.

January 19, 2014

[14] Oregon State @ [6] UCLA Live Blog

UCLA home meets used to be on Sundays at 2, but now with the advantage of live TV broadcasts, we have to get accustomed to Saturday and Sunday night meets. I'm absolutely in favor. The meets feel like more of an event this way, bookending the weekend. In the past, meet weekends would start with a bang with all the competitions on Friday night, and then sort of putter to a finish with a smattering of occasional live streams. Now, there's a second bang.

Plus, it seems to be helping UCLA's attendance. Last season's one live Saturday night meet brought by far the Bruins' highest attendance of the year, and last weekend's night meet against Florida had 5265 fans, a significant improvement on last year's season average of just over 4000.

It has been an interesting/strange weekend so far. After Oklahoma's opening 197.700 heard round the gymternet, it seemed inevitable that scores would continue to skyrocket, but all the top teams have struggled to put together four complete events this weekend. Even Georgia, the Week 2 leader with 197.175, had a ragged beam rotation. Florida also broke 197, but Alaina Johnson got a 9.725 on bars, so what are we even supposed to do with that? Utah was well on the way to the best score of the weekend until a beam fall in the final routine brought them back to the 196s, and Alabama was a walking 9.7 yesterday. None of the top teams have managed a complete meet so far this weekend. January.

Let's see what UCLA and Oregon State can do about that. The meet begins at 9 ET, 6 PT on the Pac-12 Network. Or, if you don't get the Pac-12 Network, you can always just get out some crayons and parchment and draw a picture of what you think might have happened. Or a dragon. Whatever.

January 17, 2014

A Fine Friday Frenzy – LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan

Friday – 1/17/14
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [8] Michigan, North Carolina, Towson @ NC State (Video - free) (Scores)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [16] Rutgers, Eastern Michigan, George Washington @ [21] Kent State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – William & Mary @ [22] Central Michigan (Scores)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [2] LSU @ [9] Georgia (Video - all access) (Scores)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [10] Arkansas @ Missouri (Video - all access) (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Iowa State @ [1] Oklahoma (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [4] Florida @ [18] Auburn (Video - all access) (Scores)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [14] Denver, [23] BYU @ [11] Boise State
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [4] Utah @ Cal (Scores)

The top 10 entering the weekend: 

We have seven of our top ten teams in action today, beginning with Michigan and company visiting NC State at 7:00 ET/4:00 PT, and turning immediately to the LSU and Georgia clash.

January 16, 2014

The Weekend Ahead – January 17th-20th

Oklahoma enters the weekend as the nation's top-ranked team, and with a comfortable .500 advantage over everyone else, the Sooners look like a strong bet to stay #1. To make it competitive, they would probably have to drop back into the 196s this weekend to give LSU or Alabama a chance to pass, and even then it would large a huge score from either of those teams to do it. Oklahoma has a second-straight home meet this weekend against Iowa State, and all eyes will be on the score to see if they can keep up the pace set last Friday.

The headline meet this Friday, however, will be LSU visiting Georgia. That's the one I'll be watching most intently, and given the rosters these two teams have put together this year, the Tigers enter as the favorite. LSU beat Georgia about 160 times last season and look to continue the streak as Jay Clark returns to Stegeman for the first time since being loudly removed from Georgia's head coach position in 2012. Bars is the one area where Georgia appears to hold an advantage over LSU, so if the Gym Dogs are going to win this one and avoid starting the year 0-3, they'll need to build up a multi-tenth edge on bars and probably win beam as well because we can expect LSU to be quite a bit stronger on floor.

January 15, 2014

The Week in Videos

The meets of Week 2 will soon be upon us, so now is the time to get caught up on some of the major highlights from last weekend's action.

UCLA - Interviews and highlights

Oklahoma - Highlights

Florida - Highlights

January 13, 2014

Week 1 Rankings

Top 25 Rankings - (GymInfo)

1. Oklahoma - 197.700
It was a statement meet for the Sooners last weekend, opening up a big lead over the rest of the country. A team receiving a score like 197.700, especially in first meet, is always going to be cause for chatter and skepticism, especially when Haley Scaman goes "Full Zamarripa" and gets a 9.950 for a Yfull with a hop back. Congratulations, Sooners. You've arrived! Don't be surprised if this seems like just a medium score for Oklahoma by the end of the year, though, because they have a very high-scoring schedule including road meets like the Bart and Nadia Challenge, Metroplex, and Florida.  

2. LSU - 197.200
Much like Oklahoma, LSU is eager to be part of the top conversation, and every score in the 197s helps keep them there. Unsurprisingly, the big numbers came from vault and floor, even taking into account an off floor performance from Hall, so they didn't even meet scoring expectations there. Courville and Jordan delivered on beam as expected, but we're still waiting who else will emerge to help that rotation be competitive. Ashleigh Gnat's 9.850 was a very important start.

3. Alabama - 197.150
The loss of Kayla Williams soured an otherwise strong opening to the season. A couple of routines in each rotation were a bit of a struggle, which would have been expected regardless, but I do wonder how the vault lineup is going to fare without her. It will still be competitive because there are more than enough vaulters on this team, but losing a potential 9.950 is always tough to endure. There may be a couple more 9.850s than we are used to there. 

January 11, 2014

[1] Florida @ [4] UCLA Live Blog

We arrive at UCLA vs. Florida after what has already been a weekend of big. Any notion that we might have a slow, modest start to the season was obliterated when Oklahoma recorded a 197.700 yesterday, and LSU and Alabama weren't far behind with a 197.200 and 197.150 respectively. Last year, across the first two weekends of the season, we saw just one team score in the 197s. That was a 197.425 from UCLA at home in a Saturday night meet, so keep an eye on what happens tonight because we probably aren't done with the weekend's high-flying scores.

Of course, the theme for this meet should have been "1992 Throwback" because . . .
but I understand that's unrealistic. Still, let's just think about it for a second.

For UCLA, the 2014 debut was always going to be interesting because they will be introducing a ton of new blood into these lineups and have a lot of scores to replace, but this was compounded by the Mattie departure. While I believe it will still be some time before we see Pinches because of her toe injury, how Hallie Mossett and Angi Cipra fare in their debuts is vital for UCLA. It will be tough for the Bruins to win the meet without a Florida mistake, but in terms of being on the right track, watch those two.

For Florida, as I mentioned in the weekend preview, we're basically aware of what to expect from this team because the big scoring core of Sloan, Hunter, Johnson, and Macko are known entities, but Bridgey Caquatto will need to be the 5th member of that coven on three-four events to make up for some routines lost after last year. She'll be expected to record fairly large scores on some events she hasn't featured on in college, so she's the Gator I'm watching most closely tonight.

The meet begins promptly at 10:00 ET/7:00 PT on the Pac-12 Network.

January 10, 2014

All the Friday Meets – Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, LSU

Friday – 1/10/14
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [15] Penn State, West Virginia, Ball State @ [21] Kentucky (Scores) (Video-all access)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [16] Illinois @ Michigan State (Scores)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [24] Maryland @ Central Michigan (Scores)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [7] Michigan, Illinois State @ Iowa State (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [8] Georgia @ [3] Oklahoma (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Centenary @ [5] LSU (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Western Michigan, Bridgeport @ [11] Arkansas
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Texas Woman's @ [13] Auburn (Scores) (Video-all access)
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Missouri @ [2] Alabama (Video-free now)


I'm all live blog giddy. Five of the top 10 teams are in action today. Meets begin from 7:00 ET/4:00 PT, including the Kentucky meet which is available on all-access, so check back starting then for all the commentary you can handle.

January 9, 2014

The Weekend Ahead – January 10th-12th

The real season is here at last. We're about to be thrown into a sea of simultaneous meets tomorrow, and I can't wait.  I'll be live blogging the whole thing, so be sure to stop by at least 50 times.

There will be a ton of simultaneous action as Friday gets going with the likes of Michigan and LSU, but the standout meet of the day is Georgia @ Oklahoma. The meet will be broadcast on TV but on some nonsense network 16 people get, so the rest of us are out of luck. Still, that doesn't mean we can't be interested in the scores we're seeing, and keep an eye on what's going on early because vault will be the key event for both teams, tomorrow and for the whole season. It should be Georgia's best event this year, with three possible 9.9+ vaults, so a strong showing on that apparatus is critical if the Gymdogs have any shot at an upset. Both teams should be strong on bars this year, and Oklahoma looks better on beam and floor, so vault is Georgia's possible asset event. If Oklahoma looks stronger than Georgia on vault tomorrow (regardless of score, it's more about look at this point), that would be a vital sign for the Sooners in their ability to challenge with the best on all four events in 2014.

January 8, 2014

First Meet - Last Meet

Are you ready for meets? In two days, you'll need to be all about it because there are a bunch. Tomorrow, I'll do the rundown of the weekend to get prepared, but for now, I've been thinking about the first meet of the season and how much it can tell us about what will happen at the end of the season. Rare is the team that ends up using the score from the first meet for RQS, but I was curious about lineups. We sometimes see lineups at the beginning of the season that seem awfully weaker than what we would hope to see in April, but how much change is there really? And are some teams more likely to change around the lineups than others?

I took the current top 10 teams, and over the last five years, compared the lineups from the first meet to the lineups from the last meet to see what proportion of routines from that first meet were still in the lineup at the end of the season. Here we go. (Championship seasons in bold.)

I added the ranking positions to the list because rankings make things more exciting, but there's not necessarily a good or a bad to this list, a winner or a loser. It's just what is. In fact, the teams that have won championships in this span are all on the lower half with less lineup retention, so is that the better end? Of course, a lot depends on whether lineups have changed because people returned from injury or because people were lost to injury.

1. Nebraska - 88% (2013 - 75%; 2012 - 87%; 2011 - 87%; 2010 - 91%; 2009 - 100%)

2. Oklahoma - 84% (2013 - 83%; 2012 - 75%; 2011 - 92%; 2010 - 88%; 2009 - 83%)

3. Utah - 83% (2013 - 79%; 2012 - 96%; 2011 - 79%; 2010 - 83%; 2009 - 75%)

4. LSU - 82% (2013 - 79%; 2012 - 71%; 2011 - 79%; 2010 - 78%; 2009 - 100%)

T5. Michigan - 80% (2013 - 83%; 2012 - 75%; 2011 - 75%; 2010 - 92%; 2009 - 75%)

T5. Georgia - 80% (2013 - 79%; 2012 - 83%; 2011 - 83%; 2010 - 71%; 2009 - 83%)

7. Florida - 79% (2013 - 71%; 2012 - 88%; 2011 - 79%; 2010 - 88%; 2009 - 71%)

T8. Alabama - 78% (2013 - 79%; 2012 - 83%; 2011 - 75%; 2010 - 88%; 2009 - 63%)

T8. UCLA - 78% (2013 - 83%; 2012 - 79%; 2011 - 75%; 2010 - 83%; 2009 - 67%)

10. Stanford - 72% (2013 - 58%; 2012 - 63%; 2011 - 83%; 2010 - 83%; 2009 - 75%)

A few thoughts:

January 5, 2014

The Day It Kind of Began

It's here! It's here a little bit! Three whole meets were conducted today, and in conclusion, we should have just waited until next weekend. Let's call this a false start. Don't fret, it's only five more days until the season really starts. Here's a quick rundown of what happened today.

Stanford 194.825 - Cal 194.650 - Sacramento State 194.400 - UC Davis 193.450 - San Jose State 193.325
For a while it looked like Cal was going to win, which would have been an important symbolic moment for the team, then for a second it looked like Sacramento State was going to win (could have done it with a 48.775 on floor), but Stanford pulled it out in the end while being very Stanford in January throughout.

Stanford is not a team that comes out blazing. Strong performances in the first meet have happened from time to time, but 194s have happened more. We did see a bunch of routines from freshmen, 9 of 24 including 4 of 6 on vault, which is crucial. These freshmen will need to do a lot of scoring work, especially while Hong is not around. None of them had strong first showings, but the potential is still encouraging. It's going to be more of a March thing. Nicolette McNair's 9.850 was the one highish score from the newbies, and it was bested only by Kristina Vaculik's 9.875 on bars, the top score of the meet. So at least some things in the world make sense. Stanford dropped a fall on bars from Rice and on beam from N McNair but had to count one from the floor lineup, which featured a number of people I don't expect to see competing later on. It's like a practice. Stanford's next meet is at home against Georgia next Sunday, and we can assume that winning with a 194 will not be a thing then. 

Cal hit a little bit, but it was an extremely 9.725 meet. That's OK (two years ago they would have been over the moon about that score), but we're going to start having higher expectations for this team. There is 9.800 talent throughout these lineups. Alicia Asturias was the standout performer because obviously. Her 9.850s on beam and floor led the team. She also took the AA title. Jessica Howe came in on beam and floor for 9.7s, and Charlie Owens did the same in the AA. Both will have to be major contributors this season.

[15] Penn State 193.925 - Iowa State 193.550
So, this was a meet of 193s. It's the first meet of the season, and we always see 193s in the opening weeks, but Penn State is over-ranked in the coaches poll at #15. PSU finished last season at #15, and after losing Musser and Merriam, there is no reason to expect the same quality this year. Regression is quite likely, and we already saw the lack of big savior routines in this meet. That a 193 was recorded without counting a fall is troubling. It wasn't like they were going to score higher but for an unfortunate January-type falling moment. Randi Lau was the only one to break 9.8 with a 9.825 on vault, and that routine will be vital this year. She made the vault lineup for LSU, so she'll be the star vaulter for Penn State.

Central Michigan 194.450 - Wisconsin-Eau Claire 180.200
This was also a meet. Of significance, Halle Moraw's 9.875 on floor tied for the highest score recorded this weekend was the top floor mark for any team. Temporarily #1 in the country! 

January 4, 2014

#1 Florida Preview

What have you done for me lately? In April, Florida finally, finally broke through, climbing back from consecutive beam falls in Super Six to become the fifth team to win a national title with all the tears and confetti and celebrations that come with it, but that was eight months ago. The glory of 2013 is the past, the stuff of banners and trophy cases. Now, it's a new season, and the Gators are in the exact same position as every other team, a heap of potential trying to live up to its capabilities, starting at zero. 

The 2013 team was the most talented group of gymnasts Florida has ever put together at one time, and one of the biggest challenges Florida faces in 2014 is that the statement is still true. The 2013 Gators remain Florida's best, and the 2014 Gators will certainly and deeply feel the absences of Marissa King, Ashanee Dickerson, and Randy Stageberg in their lineups. The gymnastics will not be as big this year as last year, and there are places where we can expect a loss in scoring potential (places named vault and floor). However, as we learned at Super Six, Florida was a fall better than any other team in the country last season, so this team can afford to lose some big scores and still remain the atop the rankings and still be better than the rest of the teams. The margin does appear to be tighter than it was last year, though, which should make for a true postseason battle that doesn't need a fall in order to get exciting.

In making up for those lost routines, Florida will be getting some important routines back from returning gymnasts, with Alaina Johnson and Bridgey Caquatto both available in the all-around this year. The freshmen Silvia Colussi-Pelaez and Claire Boyce should also aid in this endeavor, and we can expect them to appear in a couple competition lineups and provide acceptable backup routines on every event. Let the event exploration begin. 


Of primary importance, we are all poorer for not having Marissa King's Tsuk 1.5 with us anymore. Civilization continues to crumble, and everything is just the worst. As a result, Florida's vault rotation will be 64% more drab this year, but on the bright side of life, the fact that King's vault was often woefully undervalued means that the Gators are not in as much of a hole scoring-wise as we might expect for a team losing such an excellent piece of gymnastics. Can they find a new 9.875-9.900 to slot in? Probably, or at least something close in the 9.850-9.875 area. It won't be nearly as impressive as King's vault, but the net scoring loss should be smallish, even if the net emotional loss is incalculable. Have I mentioned that I liked that vault? 

January 3, 2014

Week Zero

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about Florida. A preview is forthcoming.

But what's also forthcoming is the beginning of the season (kind of) (not really). The NCAA season technically begins this weekend, but there's only about an eighth of a meet happening with minimal coverage, so it doesn't really count. This is largely irritating because of impatience reasons, but at the same time it does provide a nice, calm, relaxing opening to the season during which we can all become acclimated to the new, friendless, 9.825-filled lives we will be living for the next four months without the pressure of 11 meets happening at the same time. Here's the super full schedule:

Friday – 1/3/14
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-La Crosse @ Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Saturday – 1/4/14
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Ball State @ Illinois State

Sunday – 1/5/14
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – UW-Eau Claire @ Central Michigan
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [15] Penn State @ Iowa State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Norcal Quint Meet: [9] Stanford, [22] Cal, San Jose St., Sacramento State, UC Davis  

Under other circumstances, I wouldn't watch Ball State against Illinois State, but let's be honest, I'm probably going to. It's kind of like how US Classic is always the most anticipated meet of the elite season. It's pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme, but we've gone without meets for so long that we devour it like it's Worlds. I'll be around following the scores for the Sunday meets, but I probably won't start the season's live blogging action until next weekend because there's not really enough to say yet.

We're getting so close now, but if the season is sneaking up on you suddenly and you feel you might not be ready, here's a quick checklist so you're sure you've taken care of everything before it begins for realsies. 

1) Watch Super Six from last year. Remember where we left off and what gymnastics is.

2) Make sure your subscriptions are in order. Unfortunately, watching meets nowadays requires money, money, money (or at least a cable plan including the Pac-12 Net, which costs money, money, money). Be aware of what you're getting into now. Enjoying NCAA gymnastics is not a free experience.

January 1, 2014

#2 Alabama Preview

Happy New Year, it's Alabama time, ready for a brand new season full of competing for the championship. Early last season, the Tide had just enough problems on bars for low 49s that the RQS never recovered enough to catch what Florida and Oklahoma were putting up (finishing at just some paltry 197.415), but Alabama was always right in the hunt as a realistic winner. When Florida had the beam issues in Super Six, it seemed almost guaranteed that Alabama would pounce on that for a three-peat, but lack of stuck vaults and two beam mistakes combined to dash their dreams and relegate them to the third place status at which they also finished the regular season.

The Crimson Tide looks to occupy a similar place in the hierarchy this year, always a potential title winner hanging on the cusp of being the favorite. The team has lost a number of important seniors from last season, so there's some reason to be wary about how these lineups will shape up, at least in January. However, the 2013 injuries to Gutierrez and Sledge may now end up being beneficial in a way because the absences of those two at the end of last season gave experience to competitors who wouldn't have competed otherwise but will be counted upon this year. There aren't as many unknowns in the Alabama lineups as there might have been otherwise.

The issue this year may not be so much the quantity of lost routines but the significance. Alabama was already a fairly deep team last year, especially on the Alabama-y events, and with a group of freshmen in Amanda Jetter, Katie Bailey, Aja Sims, Dominique Pegg, and company who can all be at least backups on multiple events, the team should have plenty of possible options across the apparatuses. Finding the person who can not only compete in those spots but manage some Ashley Priess 9.925s will be the story of this season.


Oddly, Alabama's vaulting last postseason was just OK. Sure, 49.350 is a great score for most teams, but not for this team. They could have and should have been in the 49.500 conversation, especially at that time of year, but the landings just disappeared into a cloud of smoke after SECs and the absence of Marissa Gutierrez really started to show.

Still, there's rarely reason to worry about Alabama on vault, so even though they're losing some significant quality, they should have a strong look at those big scores once again given the strength of the people who are returning. Diandra Milliner, Kayla Williams, Kaitlyn Clark, and Lauren Beers have all proven 9.9 capable and should score regularly in the 9.875+ realm. Those vaults alone will carry Alabama's scoring past the large majority of teams, though I would like to see Williams graduate to a higher place in the lineup this season.