March 31, 2014

Baton Rouge, LA Regional Preview

The LSU Tigers will have the luxury of staying at home for their regional for the first time since 2008, though this year they would be the favorite in any location. There were some other years in there when they really could have used the home advantage. LSU and their faithful will be playing host to another of our close contests for the second advancing spot, with Stanford and Auburn coming to town with significant work to do. The meet begins at 5 ET/2 PT.

Competing teams (starting event)
[3] LSU (bye before bars)
[10] Stanford (bye before floor)
[13] Auburn (vault)
[21] Arizona (floor)
[27] Kent State (bars)
[36] Iowa State (beam)

Individual competitors are from Michigan State (Alina Cartwright, Lisa Burt, Elena Logoski - floor), Bowling Green (Alyssa Nocella, Gina Locigno, Megan Harrison), Western Michigan (Jessi Buis - vault, Shelby MacDonald - bars), and Eastern Michigan (Anna Willette - beam). 

The Favorite

Even though LSU is the clear favorite to advance and should have no trouble winning this home regional, I'm a bit more interested in exactly how LSU fares than I am for some of the other locks because I think the performance (not so much the score, but the performance) will tell us a lot about whether LSU will head to nationals as a true contender for the title on the same level as the Florida and Alabama crowd, or if they will be taking on more of the identity of the prime spoiler who lurks in that position of fourth favorite, ready to pounce on a team making mistakes - sort of the identity Oklahoma has had for the last several seasons.

This 2014 LSU team has the credentials to make a weighty argument as a true contender: ranked in the top 3 all season, spent some time at #1, is the only team never to drop below 197, has defeated Alabama and Oklahoma already - that's legitimate. At the same time, we saw a team at SECs that looked perfectly good but also a clear notch behind Alabama and Florida. Regionals will be an opportunity to learn what our expectations should be. Right now, I think LSU is the fourth-best team in the nation, and on the one hand, finishing fourth would be a tremendous accomplishment and the best for the program since 1988 (they've never finished higher than fourth), but at the same time, they've been in the top three all season, so that result would still be sort of a letdown.  

It should come as no surprise that the main dictator in this true contender vs. spoiler issue will be how well LSU performs on bars and beam. As it has always been. We didn't get to see all that many of the LSU routines during the broadcast of SECs, but while we saw some exceptional vaults (Jessie Jordan's vault is such an asset because the other contenders can't match that early 9.950) and Hall's hit floor, most of the bars and beam routines that we saw looked middle-of-the-pack, with enough deductions to justify 9.850s. LSU had two 9.9s on bars and beam, compared to Alabama's eight and Florida's six. Tremendous strides have been made on beam, but the fall from Jordan meant they had to count Dickson's 9.725, which exposed that beam is still a tenuous experience where one error can knock them out of contention. At regionals, let's watch for those stuck bars landings and a few more early-rotation beam routines where the competitors don't looked utterly, completely, just-left-the-DMV relieved to stay on the beam.

March 30, 2014

Minneapolis, MN Regional Preview

The #2 team in the country, Oklahoma, will have to trek north to Minnesota for a regional that looks like it will be a tight battle between Illinois and Minnesota for the second spot to advance to nationals. This meet is one of the later starts (7 ET/4 PT), so the Illinois/Minnesota storyline will probably finish out the day be the very last nationals spot decided.

Competing teams (starting event)
[2] Oklahoma (bye before bars)
[11] Illinois (bye before floor)
[14] Minnesota (vault)
[19] California (floor)
[26] Southern Utah (bars)
[31] San Jose State (beam)

Competing individuals are from Iowa (Alie Glover, Angel Metcalf, Sydney Hoerr, Jordyn Doherty - vault, Mollie Drenth - floor), Air Force (Linnaea Hance, Katie Hawthorne - bars, Shannen Kelly - beam), and Wisconsin-Whitewater (Katie Fiorilli).

The Favorite

We're falling into a few ruts when it comes to rankings. Florida enters regionals as the #1 team for the fourth straight year, and Oklahoma is the #2 team for the third straight year. And much like Florida, Oklahoma should advance with ease. Minnesota's season high of 197.250, top among the other teams, would be considered a bad meet for the Sooners, who haven't put up a score below that level since February. For these top few seeds, regionals are about what we want to see heading into nationals.

It's interesting that we have this collective sense of Oklahoma as a bars and beam, and it comes because visually and anecdotally, that's where they have excelled. Those routines have been the more memorable and more exciting ones. However, Oklahoma has ranked consistently well on vault and floor over the past five years, claiming the #1 ranking on both events from time to time, so to see them in the top 3 on all the events this year is not unusual and, in terms of basic results, isn't really a change. What would be a change would be seeing them score more competitively at nationals on those events, which they have not always done (5th on vault and floor at Super Six 2013). We won't really get an answer to how competitive this Oklahoma team is on those events until nationals, but there is still a sense that they have progressed, with underclassmen like Scaman, Kanewa, and Capps providing a boost of power - Capps with that extra distance on vault, Kanewa with that extra big E pass on floor to support Scaman's excellent DLO - that makes them somewhat less reliant on sticking to get the scores. Though the early lineup routines will still have to be very precise to stay in range of everyone. A few of those early floor routines looked distinctly 9.800 at Big 12s.

But for all the competitive scoring on vault and floor that we have seen this year from Oklahoma, I still think it's going to take winning bars and beam for them to win a national championship. For the time being, that's still this roster's bread and butter. They may be competitive on vault and floor, but bars and beam - especially beam - is where they will have a chance to separate themselves from any other team. That's what I want to see at regionals. A team that can win bars and beam at nationals.

March 29, 2014

University Park, PA Regional Preview

This marks our first weekend without gymnastics since December. What are we even supposed to do with ourselves? Socialize with people? About things? Address responsibilities? Guh. Incorrect. Instead, let's emotionally prepare ourselves for next Saturday, my favorite day of the gymnastics year, by breaking down each regional. Good idea? I think so. I'll begin with the #1 seed Florida Gators and the Penn State Regional beginning at 4ET/1PT.

Competing teams (starting event)
[1] Florida (bye before bars)
[12] Oregon State (bye before floor)
[15] Penn State (vault)
[23] New Hampshire (floor)
[29] Kentucky (bars)
[35] Maryland (beam)

Competing individuals are from Brown (Diana Walters, Caroline Morant, Michelle Schnayder), Pittsburgh (Brittney Harris, Maebelle Pacheco - vault, Katie O'Rourke - beam and floor), Bridgeport (Lissette La Fex), and Cornell (Melanie Jorgensen - bars).

The Favorite

Another year, another #1 Florida team. The 2014 season marks the fourth consecutive time Florida has entered regionals as the #1 overall team in the country. Aside from the near-disaster beamtastrophe in 2011 after which the team just barely squeaked through by .025, Florida has worn the #1 crown comfortably at regionals, and this competition should be no exception. Sure, I could try to concoct possible scenarios where Florida counts 11 beam falls and gets into trouble, but that's a waste. The Gators should advance by a hefty margin and probably won't garner that much attention on the day. We'll all be too focused on the legitimate, clawing fights for nationals spots.

There will be plenty of time to talk about Florida in the weeks leading up to nationals, but I still have an area or two I want to keep an eye on as we gauge whether the Gators can repeat as champions, especially coming off the loss at SECs. Florida didn't have huge problems in that competition, but they showed some ragged qualities and uncharacteristic mistakes here and there that indicated a step down in quality from the stellar performances they had leading up to SECs. Claire Boyce falling on a rudi, Bridgey going OOB in the deciding routine, a couple lackluster landings on beam dismounts, these were unexpected errors, but not trends. It's not really a thing until it happens again. But, if there's one area I do want to watch for Florida at regionals, it's vault and the progression of those landings. They're still missing sticks and giving away tenths in most of those routines, and that's been happening fairly frequently.

Now, we saw the exact same thing last year, with Florida looking predominately blah in the vault landing department at SECs and then bringing themselves into line after that. By Super Six, Florida had far and away the best vault landings of any team. They should pull things together again this year, but this Florida vault team is not as strong as last year's group, so it will be interesting to see if they can progress in the same way. They can't be in a position of giving up multiple tenths to Alabama and LSU on vault like they did at SECs. 

But really, let's get to the main story of this regional.

March 26, 2014

Regionals Scoring Comparison

If you just can't wait for the broadcast of SECs, Elizabeth Grimsley has provided us all with a handy dandy highlight video of some key routines:

Now, before I get to the full, way overthought breakdowns of each Regional in the next week or so, it's time to talk scores. It's good to have the evidence before beginning to make unfounded arguments, I think. That way, they might as least be imbued with the essence of fact. Below is a comparison of various relevant scores and averages for the teams in each Regional (using home averages for host teams and road averages for everyone else). Each score is followed by the team's ranking in that category within its Regional. Scores in red indicate that a team is underperforming its ranking in that category, while scores in blue indicate that a team is overperforming its ranking, so this should provide a quick glance at some of the key areas for each team entering the competitions–highlighting where teams have a chance to make up some ground in potential upset bids, or where they need to improve to avoid such upset bids.

University Park, Pennsylvania Regional:

[1] Florida
RQS: 197.895 [1]
Season high: 198.325 [1]
Season average: 197.645 [1]
Road average: 197.367 [1]
VT average: 49.377 [1]
Road VT average: 49.317 [1]
UB average: 49.488 [1]
Road UB average: 49.421 [1]
BB average: 49.345 [1]
Road BB average: 49.304 [1]
FX average: 49.475 [1]
Road FX average: 49.325 [1] 

[2] Oregon State
RQS: 196.615 [2]
Season high: 197.100 [3]
Season average: 196.368 [2]
Road average: 196.142 [3]
VT average: 49.063 [2]
Road VT average: 49.067 [3]
UB average: 49.160 [2]
Road UB average: 49.129 [3]
BB average: 49.110 [2]
Road BB average: 49.058 [2]
FX average: 49.035 [3]
Road FX average: 48.888 [4]

[3] Penn State
RQS: 196.475 [3]
Season high: 197.200 [2]
Season average: 195.858 [3]
Home average: 196.385 [2]
VT average: 49.052 [3]
Home VT average: 49.160 [2]
UB average: 48.944 [3]
Home UB average: 49.150 [2]
BB average: 48.754 [3]
Home BB average: 48.830 [3]
FX average: 49.108 [2]
Home FX average: 49.245 [2]

[4] New Hampshire
RQS: 195.880 [4]
Season high: 196.675 [4]
Season average: 194.867 [5]
Road average: 194.088 [6]
VT average: 48.860 [5]

Road VT average: 48.754 [5]
UB average: 48.358 [6]

Road UB average: 48.025 [6]
BB average: 48.694 [4]
Road BB average: 48.438 [4]
FX average: 48.954 [5]
Road FX average: 48.871 [5]

[5] Kentucky
RQS: 195.585 [5]
Season high: 196.275 [5]
Season average: 194.977 [4]
Road average: 194.606 [4]
VT average: 48.975 [4]

Road VT average: 48.953 [4]
UB average: 48.748 [4]

Road UB average: 48.666 [5]
BB average: 48.221 [5]
Road BB average: 48.069 [5]
FX average: 49.033 [4]
Road FX average: 48.919 [3]

[6] Maryland
RQS: 195.175 [6]
Season high: 195.700 [6]
Season average: 194.410 [6]
Road average: 194.129 [5]
VT average: 48.688 [6]
Road VT average: 48.739 [6]
UB average: 48.735 [5]
Road UB average: 48.671 [4]
BB average: 48.142 [6]
Road BB average: 48.007 [6]
FX average: 48.846 [6]
Road FX average: 48.711 [6]

March 24, 2014

Regionals Selection and Conference Championship Notes

We have a selection show to announce the various Regionals assignments, which I have enjoyed making fun of since its inception, but this time it actually produced some interesting information. We knew some of the seeds would have to be rearranged from the rankings because of host conflicts, but rather than bumping everyone up a slot to avoid the LSU/Penn State conflict (which would have seen [14] Minnesota jump into the same Regional as Florida) the conflicting team, Penn State, was simply moved into that first-seed Regional instead.

Also, our host informed us that the teams advancing from the Minnesota, Georgia, and LSU Regionals will compete in one semifinal, while the teams coming from Penn State, Arkansas, and Washington will go to the other semifinal. Was I supposed to know this? Am I just out of the loop? This is a major change. Oh NCAA, you and your not distributing any kind of information to fans in a helpful or systematic way. I don't care for this. We could end up with something really unbalanced depending on who happens to advance from Regionals. The semifinals shouldn't be decided until we know who the competitors are to produce the highest quality possible Super Six. 

Penn State Regional:
[1] Florida
[12] Oregon State
[15] Penn State
New Hampshire

Arkansas Regional:
[5] Utah (featuring "Georgia Burritz"? Is that like a burrito that doesn't wear any grips?)
[8] UCLA
[17] Arkansas
Arizona State
Utah State
UC Davis
[Rachel Updike will be representing Missouri on vault here as well]

Washington Regional:
[4] Alabama
[9] Nebraska
[16] Boise State

Minnesota Regional:
[2] Oklahoma
[11] Illinois
[14] Minnesota
Southern Utah
San Jose State
(Iowa just missed out on Regionals, but will have a host of individuals at this one)

Georgia Regional:
[6] Georgia
[7] Michigan
[18] Central Michigan
Ohio State
NC State
(This is where West Virginia's individuals will be competing)

LSU Regional:
[3] LSU
[10] Stanford
[13] Auburn
Kent State
Iowa State

Regionals thoughts:

 -What ended up the most significant result from last Saturday was Michigan's ability to put in a strong performance in the afternoon session at Big Tens compared to UCLA inability to do the same thing at Pac 12s. UCLA had to be merely good to get that 7th seed (I think they would have needed a 197.2, which they should be getting at this point in the season), but in the end, Michigan ended up with a much more comfortable Regionals placement. Sure, Central Michigan and Ohio State can do a mid 196, but sans meltdown, Michigan and Georgia are looking solid to advance. UCLA, meanwhile, has that tough spot of being the second seed in the Arkansas Regional that we have been pointing to all season long as a challenging position.

March 20, 2014

The Conference Championships Ahead – March 22nd

We have arrived at conference championships weekend, aka the last time you're still technically allowed to be bad. After this, quality is a requirement instead of just a recommendation.

In the final showdown for the #1 ranking before the Regionals are assigned, Florida controls its own destiny, able to secure the regular-season #1 position with a 197.300, which I certainly expect them to get. The more interesting ranking maneuvering will come lower down the table, particularly in how the Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon State, Auburn, Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State, and Arkansas group plays out in terms of Regionals pairing and hosts. The match-ups between these schools will be the most fun to follow on Regionals day because we'll have significant upset potential in two or three of those competitions. We also have Cal trying to get a big score at home at Pac 12s to jump into a seeded position, along with a number of teams vying for the final couple spots in the top 36. Full analysis of each team's scoring going into the weekend is here.

I won't have a live blog for the conference championships, so if you have any pressing comments to make about the meets, especially regarding judges and their various crack-smoking tendencies, feel free to leave them here. I did previews for SECs and Pac 12s already, but in the Big Ten, expect Michigan to win the first session by well over a point. Then, we'll have to wait and see how the scores from the first session compare to the second to see how much foul crying will ensue after the meet. Nebraska has the benefit of competing in the night group, and if they bring the vault landings and hit beam, they should win the session, but at the Big Ten quads last weekend, the difference between Nebraska and the rest was minor, so any mistake from either Michigan or Nebraska will bring in all of the next three seeds in a potential five-way mid-196 battle. That would be great to follow, but if Michigan and Nebraska hit hit, they should have enough of a margin to make it a two-team race rather than a five-team race. They're just a step above, with more 9.9s than the teams in the teens can expect to get even on a great day. As for Michigan and Nebraska, the session scoring comparison will be fascinating.

March 19, 2014

SEC Championship Preview

When Missouri joined the SEC and the conference championship switched from a one-session, seven-team behemoth to a two-session meet, there was some push back from a few coaches. (I think Jay Clark wanted it to be contested over two days with several rounds, or something wildly unnecessary.) Flash forward two years, and it has worked out splendidly. With four legitimate title contenders for the last two seasons, the second session of SECs has been equivalent to the lamely named "Four on the Floor" that several of the coaches have long advocated instead of Super Six. Florida, Alabama, LSU, and Georgia will be lobbing 9.950s at each other all meet long in what Bart Connor will inevitably call a "four-ring circus," and it's going to take maintaining an exceptional level across all four events to even consider winning this meet. One 49.250 rotation will be enough to bump any team out of it. Having to count a couple 9.825s on bars last year was enough to keep Alabama below Florida, and I have to think that multiple 9.825s will be similarly poisonous this year. "Fine routine" = "Enjoy 4th place."

And believe it or not, in the SEC the top four seeds are actually competing at the end of the competition, after the bottom four seeds. You know, like at a sporting event. At the risk of turning into too much of a Sarah-Patterson-at-Nationals in my SEC praise (if there were a pull-string doll of Sarah Patterson, it would just say, "It's great to be here with all these wonderful SEC teams" over and over again), the Pac 12 can still boast that its event is actually broadcast live on TV, which may be the trump card.

Each of the four teams in the final session can manage a couple 49.500 rotations, so it's going to take at least a very high 197 to win the title, if not a 198. Florida, Alabama, and LSU have all reached 198 this year, and I would actually be mildly surprised if none of the three teams manage it at SECs the way the scoring has been going. If the judges maintain the same standard they have used during the regular season, they will be pushed high on every event right from the start and will have to stay there all meet.

Of the big four, Georgia has the toughest battle for the title because there are still some questions about floor and possibly beam. Questions won't cut it in a session this competitive, and they're probably going to need season highs on both beam and floor to stay with everyone else. Based on what we've seen lately, if Florida nails four events, I think they're the best team in the country, but the margin is small enough that they'll have to nail all four events without any kind of a landing lull. Alabama being in Birmingham may have an influence on the performance (they'll have the crowd certainly), but I'm not expecting some kind of huge or noticeable home-scoring advantage, mostly because all the scores are going to be high for everyone. There's no room for a home boost in this field in a 10-capped system. That said, if Alabama wins would I be surprised? Not even slightly. LSU? A little. Georgia? Yes. 

Let's get into it. The rotation order is as follows:
Session 1: Auburn - VT; Arkansas - UB; Kentucky - BB; Missouri - FX
Session 2: Florida - VT; LSU - UB; Alabama - BB; Georgia - FX


Each of the teams in the second group has recorded several fantastic numbers on vault, and vault has probably been the most consistently high-scoring event of the four, which is traditional but also means that we could see rather even scoring here without one team taking a major advantage. I don't anticipate the meet being decided on vault unless one team really forgets to pack its sticks. We should see several 49.5s here that basically keep everyone in sight of each other for the other events.

It's an interesting dynamic on vault because Florida probably has the best final duo in Sloan and Hunter (I'll allow debate on the matter, but that's my assessment), but they have not been the best team on vault this season because they can be beat in the beginning of the lineup. LSU lays claim to being the strongest vaulting team because they can realistically get a 9.9 from every spot in the lineup, while Florida, Alabama, and Georgia are much more likely to start with a couple 9.850s, which makes the difference. For LSU, the lowest score often ends up being for Ashleigh Gnat's gargantuan 1.5 in the fourth position, solely because it's so much harder to stick that one. If LSU is going to win (which is certainly possible but I would still consider it an upset if they did), they'll need to take advantage of the 1-6 depth they possess and get those big scores from Dickson and Jordan right from the start. The first three or four vault scores for each team will be a telling comparison as we go through the meet. 

March 18, 2014

Pac-12 Championship Preview

It's time for the Pac-12 Championship once again, that annual clash of teams who are really proud of their floor choreography and probably won't peak until June, and as has been the case for the last couple seasons, we enter the competition without a dominant favorite. Utah comes in as the top seed, with UCLA close behind, and Stanford and Oregon State nipping at them a few places back in the rankings. This event has featured some upsets in recent years, and it's easy to envision a back-and-forth affair with multiple lead changes where all four top teams at least pretend to be in the hunt for a while. Utah and UCLA have been the bigger scorers this season and therefore seem the likely favorites, but I don't expect the competition to be as clear cut as that. We have seen Oregon State save its best gymnastics for Pac-12s several times in the last few years, and Stanford often makes a sudden, late, unexpected charge during the postseason. It's going to be a competitive session.

But here's something dumb: This year, because Cal is hosting the event and elected to be in the evening session, these four favorite teams will be competing in the afternoon session, while the bottom four teams (Cal, Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington) will be competing in the evening session. Yes, this is counter-intuitive and bizarre. Or, as Greg Marsden said, "It’s complete lunacy. It’s just really stupid." Correct. Hole in one, Marsden.

I'll be at the meet, and I expect it to be exceptionally anticlimactic in that second session when the title has already been decided hours before and everyone is just waiting around for these 9.750s to finish, like in a marathon when the stragglers finally stumble across the finish line well after night has fallen. Good for them for finishing, but everyone already tuned out after the medals were awarded.

It's one of those short-sighted decisions that tends to occur a lot in NCAA gymnastics that are made solely with the immediate arena in mind (the hope of dragging in 11 more Cal fans in the evening session) at the expense of being broadcast-friendly or running a serious sporting event in a sane and exciting way.

Still, regardless of when the top seeds compete, it should be a close one. I was going to say "good one." We hope it's a good one. It could also be a mess. But I don't expect a runaway regardless, so let's break this thing down by event.


If Utah is going to win the Pac-12 Championship for the first time, it will be achieved on the strength of vault. There is no other team in the Pac-12 within two tenths of the Utes in RQS on this event, and they have recorded each of the top five vault rotation scores in the conference this season. Because the other events will be less cut and dry, Utah will want to fulfill the prophecy of RQS and build up something in the vicinity of a two-tenth advantage here, which is doable. None of the other teams have three vaulters as strong as Delaney, Wilson, and Dabritz, so if Utah is to take that big advantage on vault, they're going to need 9.950s from their final three, which we have seen from time of time this season. But, to get those scores at Pac-12s, they're going to need a couple more sticks than they have shown the past few weeks. You can never expect a 9.950 for a non-stick, especially in a postseason scenario. It happens, but you can't expect it if you're bouncing back on the landing.

Dabritz has downgraded back to the Yfull, which was expected. I'm actually surprised we saw as much of the 1.5 as we did, but Utah tends to revert back to safety in routine composition (which is also why we never see the Dabritz comaneci). It's kind of disappointing because I like to see the 1.5, but on the other hand she's more likely to stick the full. Though the decision really only pays off if she does stick, otherwise it's quite hard for her full to score higher than Delaney's and Wilson's and build the scores to the end of the rotation. (If it were me, I'd have Dabritz doing the Y1.5 in the fourth position in the lineup, ready to bump up the scores for the cleaner landings from Wilson and Delaney to follow. I always like difficulty building to cleanliness as a lineup strategy.) 

The rest of vault is a bit of a mixed bag. UCLA has the biggest scorers of the rest of the group in Peszek and Courtney, who can both get 9.950 and will need it to make up for some of the landings we've seen at the beginning of this lineup. If UCLA can manage some 9.825s or 9.850s from Pinches and Mossett along with a hit from Bynum, who has been up and down, they should be in good shape. When the Bruins beat Utah on vault two weeks ago in Ann Arbor, the Bynum hit was a huge factor in that, but then she went and fell last weekend. Cameo performances from Michigan Sadiqua and January Sawa wouldn't go amiss in keeping the Bruins competitive.

March 17, 2014

Week 10 Rankings and Final RQS Scenarios

The regular season is done and spent and wafting behind us in a cloud of 9.925-laden smoke. We have now entered championships season. Because we've had so many 10s this year (22 by my count so far, the most since the 10 explosions in the early 2000s when there were 11,000 each year), this has become a weekly rundown of the most recent 10s as well as the rankings, and this week we had five more entrants. Kytra on floor, obviously, but also some newbies: Scaman on vault, Clark and Francis on beam, and Damianova on floor. I'll give you negative three guesses as to which was my favorite.

Now, onto the rankings. With just the conference championships remaining to change the RQS landscape before we head into Regionals, we now have a fairly reliably picture of how things will play out. First, note that the rankings below are adjusted from those currently seen on troester to reflect the most recent scores. Troester has Minnesota in 16th, but taking into account their results from the Big Ten quad meet, they are in 14th, so that's where I have them.

For each team below, in addition to the RQS breakdown, I have included the team's maximum possible RQS as a reference point to see what is possible for each team, along with a few notes about the scores they would need to move up or retain the current position. For the teams currently outside the top 36 (and therefore out of Regionals), I have included the score they would need to have any chance to move into that top 36 group. Because we can expect many teams to increase their RQSs over the weekend, these teams will likely have to score higher than the minimum number included here in order to stand a chance of advancing.  

Also for reference, the current Regionals placements if today's rankings hold (and adjusting for hosts), would be as follows:

Regional 1: [1] Florida, [12] Auburn, [14] Minnesota (host - 7ET/4PT)
Regional 2: [2] LSU (host - 5ET/2PT), [11] Oregon State, [13] Illinois
Regional 3: [3] Oklahoma, [10] Stanford, [15] Penn State (host - 4ET/1PT)
Regional 4: [4] Alabama, [9] Nebraska, [16] Arkansas (host - 5ET/2PT)
Regional 5: [5] Utah, [8] Michigan, [17] Boise State (Washington host - 7ET/4PT)
Regional 6: [6] Georgia (host - 4ET/1PT), [7] UCLA, [18] Central Michigan

Week 10 Rankings
1. Florida – 197.790
Week 10: 198.200
Week 10 leaders: AA - Sloan 39.825; VT - Sloan, Hunter 9.950; UB - Sloan 9.975; BB - Sloan 9.950; FX - Hunter 10.000

Road Score 1: 198.200
Road Score 2: 197.400
Road Score 3: 197.175
Road/Home Score 1: 198.325
Road/Home Score 2: 198.125
Road/Home Score 3: 198.050

Maximum RQS: 198.020

It has been a road score challenge for Florida for much of the year, but it just took one big number to erase all of that and suddenly make them the top-scoring road team on the season with a 198.200. Florida is now in the clear driver's seat when it comes to most things, including the season-ending #1 ranking. Their four scores in the 198s are basically unassailable at this point, and with a 197.175 still hanging around, the Gators will need just a 197.300 at SECs to sew up #1. Given the way things have been going, they would probably have to count a mistake even to get down as low as 197.300. The Gators will just miss out on a chance to pass UCLA's record RQS of 198.055, but they can eclipse last year's RQS total of 197.840 by scoring a 197.425 at SECs, and can break the 198 RQS barrier with a 198.225 at SECs.

2. LSU – 197.720
Week 10: 197.800
Week 10 leaders: AA - Courville 39.625; VT - Courville, Dickson 9.925; UB - Courville 9.950; BB - Gnat 9.950; FX - Hall 9.925

Road Score 1: 197.875
Road Score 2: 197.650
Road Score 3: 197.625
Road/Home Score 1: 198.050
Road/Home Score 2: 197.800
Road/Home Score 3: 197.650

Maximum RQS: 197.805

Florida had accrued enough huge home scores that it was going to take just one big road number for the Gators to jump to #1, and that's just what happened, even though LSU put up a very strong 197.800 over the weekend with a consistent stretch of 49.4+ rotations. SECs is going to get fascinating because we could see three teams break 198 in that second session, and it wouldn't even be that surprising. Another meet featuring strong 49.4 rotations for a high 197 would be a respectable outcome, but it's quite possible to do just that finish 3rd. It's going to take rotations of 9.9s, 49.5s and 49.6s, to win SECs the way things have been going so far this year. As mentioned, Florida basically has a stranglehold on #1 right now. LSU has put up consistently great scores all year, but the scores are all fairly close together, which means there's not too much room for them to move up in RQS, even with a season high at SECs. They'll need a 197.975 to have a shot at passing Florida if the Gators have a poor meet, but things get more interesting in the LSU/Oklahoma race.

3. Oklahoma – 197.660
Week 10: 197.425
Week 10 leaders: AA - None; VT - Scaman 10.000; UB - Kmieciak 9.850; BB - Spears 9.950; FX - Scaman 9.950

Road Score 1: 198.175
Road Score 2: 198.150
Road Score 3: 197.575
Road/Home Score 1: 197.700
Road/Home Score 2: 197.450
Road/Home Score 3: 197.425

Maximum RQS: 197.810

We're living in a year where mid 197s are just average scores for the very top teams, and a recent flood of mid-197s has seen Oklahoma fall from first to third. These mid 197s are usually the result of a lower bars score, which I would not have called going into the year, or even early in the season when the Sooners looked exceptional on bars against Arizona. There's just a lot of 9.850ing going around. (Even so, they're still third in the nation on the event, but there have been way too many 49.1s lately.) Like LSU, Oklahoma has a slim, slim chance to pass Florida, but they would need a 198.100 at Big 12s along with some help to do it. But, Oklahoma does have a realistic shot at passing LSU this weekend. If both teams manage to score well and increase their RQSs, Oklahoma can move ahead of LSU by outscoring them by .125. The race between these two teams will be something to watch, especially for those 10-15 ranked schools.

4. Alabama – 197.405
Week 10: 197.925
Week 10 leaders: AA - Jacob 39.625; VT - Milliner 9.950; UB - Sims 9.900; BB - Clark 10.000; FX - Milliner 9.950

Road Score 1: 197.500
Road Score 2: 197.100
Road Score 3: 196.825
Road/Home Score 1: 198.250
Road/Home Score 2: 197.925
Road/Home Score 3: 197.675

Maximum RQS: 197.690

For most of the season, Florida, LSU, and Oklahoma have maintained an edge over the rest of the teams, but that discussion must be expanded to include four favorites because Alabama is scoring right with these other teams, as we would always expect from them coming to the postseason. I still have some questions, most of them regarding realistic bars scores, but at this point, Alabama appears at least in the same vicinity as the current top 3. This #4 ranking looks fairly comfortable for Alabama going into SECs, with some threat from Utah below. Alabama would need a 197.775 to guarantee staying ahead of Utah, which is certainly attainable given what we have seen the past couple weeks, but it probably won't take quite that much. Utah would have to get a 198 at Pac-12s for that to be a realistic scenario. Also in the less realistic scenario department, Alabama could move ahead of Oklahoma with a 198.125 as long as Oklahoma doesn't increase RQS at all.

March 15, 2014

[6] Georgia @ [5] Utah Live Blog

We're down to the final top-ten clash of the regular season before the teams run off to begin preparing their postseason assaults on our expectations. The meet will begin at 9:00 ET/6:00 PT on the Pac-12 Network.

But before we get to tonight's main event, a few thoughts, one of which is a complaint! Yay!
Last night, Arkansas didn't have a working scoring page for the meet against Oklahoma (and I already expressed my scowl at that technological regression), which meant that we were forced to rely on twitter updates for the scores. This reinforced a very strange team twitter phenomenon I've noticed over the past couple seasons. Many teams tweet the scores as the meet progresses, but only the good scores while ignoring the falls and pretending they don't exist.
Aside from being unhelpful to fans who are left wondering how many people have competed so far, who was in the lineup, and how the rotation is going overall, it also comes across like the team is ashamed of the fall. As if, unless you get a good score, your routine is not to be acknowledged as part of the team's performance. I'm not expecting any kind of criticism on the team's twitter account, but just a statement of fact. "Unfortunately, Mykaylie had a fall on her jaeger. 9.150." That's not hard to say. I don't understand the reasoning behind ignoring the falls and not acknowledging that they occurred. It's just a fall. It happens. Identify and move on. It becomes more of a thing if you overtly decide not to mention it.        

I'm going to spare you any further rant on the tyranny of positivity at the expense of reality and instead move on to talking about today's Big Ten quad meets. In one of the more unexpected results of the season, Michigan finished third out of four teams in its home quad. Michigan was going relatively strong and 197y for three events but had a collapse on the beam with a 48.075 after two multi-fall performances from Gies and Sheppard, which resulted in counting a 8.625 (or, as many team twitter accounts would say, nothing). The low 196 won't hurt the Wolverines' ranking, but it does raise more questions about beam - Casanova was also out of the lineup, which hurt - and puts them in a little more danger of being passed by Nebraska after the Big Ten Championships next weekend. For most of the other major players in the Big Ten, the day produced a solid result. Nebraska won its meet by breaking 197 for the second time this year, Illinois posted an impressive 196.875, Minnesota won the Michigan meet with 196.700 (and broke 49 on both bars and beam!), and Penn State also hit the mid 196s. Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State are all bunched together very close in the rankings now.

March 14, 2014

Feeling Kinda Friday Live Blog – Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri

Friday – 3/14/14
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [3] Florida @ Missouri (Scores) (Video - all-access subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [1] LSU (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma @ [16] Arkansas (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [11] Auburn @ [4] Alabama (Scores) (Video - free)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [24] Southern Utah @ Utah State (Scores) (Video)
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [12] Oregon State, Seattle Pacific @ Washington (Scores) (Video - free)
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ [22] Arizona State (Scores) (Video - free)

Current rankings:

We'll get started a 7:30 ET/4:30 PT with Florida and Missouri facing off in the great battle for scores. Here are Florida's averages on each event both home and away for reference during the meet as to whether they are being more home or more away in this meet:

Vault: Home - 49.450, Away - 49.256
Bars: Home - 49.480, Away - 49.319
Beam: Home - 49.395, Away - 49.250
Floor: Home - 49.655, Away - 49.250

Floor is the big one, so those will be the scores to watch. It's not so much about Kytra, she can be worthy of a 10 anywhere, but how high the judges are willing to go for those early routines. Are they starting out 9.875-9.900, or more like 9.825? 

March 13, 2014

The Weekend Ahead – March 14-16

Don't be alarmed, but it's the final weekend of the regular season. How did we get here? This season is negative 16 seconds old. Unacceptable. We've barely had time to decide which beam lineups are the least acceptable, and now it's almost over.

The anticipated confrontation between Georgia and Utah on Saturday night will be the showcase meet of the weekend, but we have plenty to attend to before that.

This week, the #1 ranking is open for business and ready to be taken by several different teams. It gets around town, this #1 ranking. LSU, Oklahoma, and Florida all could end up with it by the conclusion of shenanigans on Friday, and with all three of those teams competing at the same time, it will be another thrilling day of multiple scoreboard windows and ctrl+R-ing. Ctrl+R is the national pastime of the NCAA gymnastics fan. Well, that and assigning 9.825s to everyday objects and mild acquaintances.

The three contenders for #1, along with Alabama, will headline the action on Friday with a number of different agendas and storylines. Florida is up first, visiting Missouri in a meet they should win comfortably. Even though the result is not interesting, the scores will be significant for both teams. Missouri is currently stuck in a three-way tie for the final Regionals spot with Utah State and West Virginia (so keep an eye on those teams as well). Making the top 36 will be a challenge for Missouri since Utah State has an extra meet remaining and Iowa, just a spot behind, still has a 193 to get rid of to move up. Missouri is hanging onto a 194.525 as a low score right now, so they'll probably need a mid-195 at this meet to feel anything resembling comfort going into SECs. For the Gators, it's all about the road scores right now. With a 197.075 to drop, they have the most room to improve of the top three teams and can put some serious pressure on LSU and Oklahoma with a high 197+.

The remaining top teams competing on Friday are heavily favored as well, though we can expect Arkansas and Auburn to give their opponents (Oklahoma and Alabama, respectively) a bit more of a challenge. It will be very tough at this point for Arkansas to move into the coveted top 12, but the Razorbacks are coming off a big road victory and their second-highest score of the season, so they should still improve somewhat on that #16 ranking. This is Arkansas's last home meet of the season, and it will be a preview of how dangerous a Regionals host the Razorbacks are going to be, or not be. Auburn has several stronger scores than Arkansas does, so they are in a more comfortable ranking position but could still move into the top 10 with a 196.600. Oregon State, however, may have something to say about that in later action.

As for the four top-ranked favorites on Friday (Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and LSU), they all have plenty of high scores already and have secured strong rankings regardless of the order they end up, so while we do have an exciting race for the regular-season #1 going on right now, that's a fairly cosmetic topic. Being ranked #1 or #4 going into the postseason doesn't make it more or less likely that one of these teams will win the championship. For these top teams, the score this weekend is almost entirely a matter of bragging rights, so it will be interesting to see how that factors into their lineup decisions. Will some teams use this relatively unnecessary occasion as a final opportunity to rest important contributors, or will they want to ensure their lineups are set and comfortable going into the stuff that really matters? That's a story to watch. There are arguments either way, and it just depends on the style of coach. But, if there are people who still need to get into lineups because of injury or what have you, that needs to happen immediately. 

March 12, 2014

2014 Regionals Outlook

Let's talk Regionals. It's about time. While nothing official will be decided until after conference championships on March 22nd, we're close enough to the postseason now that we can begin to put together a reliable view of how things might play out. As a quick refresher, here is how the top 18 seeds will be divided into the six regional championships to be contested on April 5th, with the top two teams advancing to Nationals from each competition:

Regional 1: Seeds 1, 12, 13
Regional 2: Seeds 2, 11, 14
Regional 3: Seeds 3, 10, 15
Regional 4: Seeds 4, 9, 16
Regional 5: Seeds 5, 8, 17
Regional 6: Seeds 6, 7, 18

This year, the hosts are LSU, Georgia, Minnesota, Arkansas, Penn State, and Washington, so adjusting the rankings slightly to make sure that no two hosts would be placed in the same Regional, we would see the following Regional placements if the season ended today:

Regional 1: [1] LSU (host), [12] Oregon State [14] Illinois
Regional 2: [2] Oklahoma, [11] Auburn, [13] Minnesota (host)
Regional 3: [3] Florida, [10] Stanford, [15] Penn State (host)
Regional 4: [4] Alabama, [9] Nebraska, [16] Arkansas (host)
Regional 5: [5] Utah, [8] Michigan, [17] Boise State (this would be the Washington Regional)
Regional 6: [6] Georgia (host), [7] UCLA, [18] Central Michigan

Are you excited by this? I'm getting excited. This would be a pretty competitive slate if it ends this way or relatively close to it. We'll have some changes, of course, but the overall impression of the Regionals will be something close to this. Usually, we're glad to have one Regional with a potential delicious upset, but this setup gives us several up-in-the-air contests because the most dangerous thing in a Regional is a third-seeded host. Third seeds often haven't showing the consistent scores to contend with the second seeds, but give them that little boost of home advantage, and suddenly they're competitors or even favorites. That's how Missouri was able to knock out Georgia in 2010. Georgia had a couple gymnasts out, and Missouri swooped in with a mid-196 at home and said thank you very much and packed for Nationals. 

More often, when a seeded team fails to advance to Nationals, it's the result of a total implosion rather than a close-fought struggle against a slightly inflated host, but as we develop more teams outside of that top 12 group that are capable of scoring in the 197s, it becomes more likely that smaller issues will decide which teams advance. An implosion won't be necessary to cause upsets this year, and we only need to compare current #11 Auburn to current #16 Arkansas to see that. Both have a season high of 197.100, and Arkansas's season average of 196.247 is actually nearly a tenth higher than Auburn's. There's enough parity in that second- and third-seeded group to render many of these Regionals very open and many of those spots interchangeable.

Let's take a deeper look at what we have here.

March 10, 2014

Week 9 Rankings and RQS Update

We added four new 10s to the family this weekend with Hunter, Scaman, and Dabritz on floor and Milliner on vault. Hunter and Scaman have received 10s on floor already this year, and Milliner got a 10 on vault in 2012, so Dabritz's floor is the one new entrant to the pantheon.
This season, we've had 10 scores of 10.000 on floor, compared to 3 in 2013, 0 in 2012, 0 in 2011, and 0 in 2010. It's a different season.

Honestly, where would you rank this among her floor routines for the year? Sixth best? Sometimes, a 10 ends up being an accumulation thing (which is not to endorse it, but to acknowledge it), kind of like a career Oscar.

Week 9 Rankings - (GymInfo)
1. LSU – 197.660
Week 9: 197.500
Week 9 leaders: AA - Courville 39.500; VT - Courville, Hall 9.925; UB - Courville, Morrison 9.900; BB - Jordan 9.975; FX - Hall 9.950

Road Score 1: 197.875
Road Score 2: 197.650
Road Score 3: 197.625
Road/Home Score 1: 198.050
Road/Home Score 2: 197.650
Road/Home Score 3: 197.500

LSU's 197.500 is not a high score compared to what they have been receiving lately (it is, in fact, the team's lowest score in a month), but it did end up being enough to fend off Oklahoma's Sunday surge, at least for the moment. The most important thing about LSU's performance this season is that they have yet to receive a score under 49 on beam (compared to six beam scores under 49 last year) and the 9.975 from Jordan and 9.950 from Gnat this weekend underline that. They can get a solid beam score even without Courville carrying the load.

The #1 ranking is in a fairly large amount of danger this weekend since LSU no longer has that low-ish score they're trying to get rid of in the way that Florida does. There's not a lot of room to improve their RQS. Even with a season-high this weekend, they would max out at 197.770, while both Oklahoma and Florida can theoretically get into the 197.8s - though it would take colossal scores to do so. I still have to adjust my thinking on what constitutes an attainable score. Usually, when seeing that a team would need a 198 to move up, I'd dismiss it, but of course all three of these teams could score 198 this weekend and it wouldn't be surprising.

2. Oklahoma – 197.640
Week 9 A: 197.450
Week 9 A leaders: AA - None; VT - Kanewa 9.900; UB - Scaman 9.975; BB - Spears 9.975; FX - Scaman 10.000

Week 9 B: 198.150
Week 9 B leaders: AA - None; VT - Kanewa, Scaman 9.950; UB - Spears 9.975; BB - Capps 9.925; FX - Scaman, Kanewa 9.950

Road Score 1: 198.175
Road Score 2: 198.150
Road Score 3: 197.575
Road/Home Score 1: 197.700
Road/Home Score 2: 197.450
Road/Home Score 3: 197.325

The Sooners very nearly sneaked into #1 after a big 198.150 on Sunday, marking their return to the land of the big scores (especially on bars) after a vacation of several weeks. The improvement in scoring potential on vault and floor has been vital this year in ensuring Oklahoma can realistically win a national championship (they're now ranked #1 on floor, which I wouldn't have called), but that doesn't mean as much without the usual bars and beam dominance to go with it. The Sooners can be the best team on both those events, and when we come down to Super Six, I think they'll need to be to take the title. 

Even though Oklahoma didn't quite get to the top spot, LSU's lead has all but disappeared, and it's going to be an excellent fight this weekend, as well as during conference championships, to see who ends up on top. The Sooners' biggest RQS asset is having the best road scores in the country, and with a 197.325 to get rid of, they currently find themselves in the driver's seat over LSU and can move ahead with a stronger score this weekend. 

3. Florida – 197.565
Week 9: 198.325
Week 9 leaders: AA - Johnson 39.825; VT - Johnson 9.950; UB - Johnson 9.975; BB - Sloan 9.975; FX - Hunter 10.000

Road Score 1: 197.400
Road Score 2: 197.175
Road Score 3: 197.075
Road/Home Score 1: 198.325
Road/Home Score 2: 198.125
Road/Home Score 3: 198.050

The Gators find themselves the victims of their road scores once again, recording a nation-high 198.325–including Alaina Johnson's earthshaking 39.825 in the AA–and still falling in the rankings. With a home 197.875 dropping off, there was very little room for them to improve. Those home scores are unassailable, but the road scores are fairly pedestrian for a top 10 team this season. That said, I don't buy the "Florida can't score well on the road" chatter that seems to crop up this time of year and is reliably making an appearance again. They can and will score well on the road; they just haven't done it much yet. This weekend in Missouri, if we're talking about whether Florida will go closer to 197 or closer to 198, I'll take the closer to 198 side of that action.

With two road meets remaining in the next two weeks, Florida is in a prime position to move up, if not this week, then after SECs. We're in a strange situation this season where a score like 197.500 is just average for these top three teams, but if Florida were to score that this weekend, they would be right in the pack with LSU and Oklahoma's current RQSs again. Being in 3rd, they will still be at the mercy of what LSU and Oklahoma score this weekend, but they have the most room for improvement and can potentially move all the way up to #1 depending on the others.  

March 7, 2014

Friday Live Blog – Michigan, UCLA, Utah, Alabama, Stanford

Friday – 3/7/14
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – West Virginia @ [2] Florida (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [6] Utah, [8] UCLA @ [7] Michigan (Scores) (Video - all-access)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [22] California, Centenary @ Kentucky (Scores) (Video - all-access)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [25] NC State @ [1] LSU (Scores) (Video - school subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [21] Arizona State @ [3] Oklahoma (Scores)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Missouri @ [11] Auburn (Scores) (Video - all-access)
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [10] Stanford @ [4] Alabama (Scores) (Video - free)

Current rankings: 

I'll be here for Michigan/UCLA/Utah beginning at 7:00 ET/4:00 PT. It should be a good one. Head-to-head comparisons of top teams are always helpful this time of year, especially because these teams should be fighting it out for Super Six spots in just over a month's time.

March 6, 2014

The Weekend Ahead – March 7th-9th

I made a bit of an error earlier in the week by saying that LSU was guaranteed to keep the #1 ranking after this weekend. I overlooked the fact that Oklahoma has a road meet this Sunday in addition to the home meet on Friday, which means they have an opportunity, with two big scores, to move up ahead of the Tigers. It's still very likely that LSU retains #1, but depending on what the Sooners score in the first meet of the weekend, they could pass after the second meet (we're talking at least two consecutive high 197s/198s and a lowish score from LSU to do it, but it is theoretically possible).

LSU, Oklahoma, and Florida are all in action on Friday in meets they'll be expected to win comfortably, but there's still plenty to play for. Oklahoma does have that glimmer of a chance to move up in the rankings and also could use a big performance to reinvigorate. They've been scoring well every single week with no real dud meets, but aside from Metroplex, it has been since January that they've hit a big, big score. I want to see the return of those 9.9s on bars and beam. By contrast, LSU has had four straight weeks of scoring 197.6+, and with more big scores over the next few weeks, does have a chance to eclipse Florida's 2013 RQS of 197.840, the highest RQS recorded since 2004. Finishing the regular season at #1 would be a big deal for LSU. Newsflash: the final session of SECs is going to be good. If only it were broadcast live or something. What a concept.    

Those three teams may be engaged in an epic top-of-the-rankings tussle, but we also have another in teresting threesome happening on Friday night (I said it). Utah and UCLA will both visit Michigan in that rarest of tri-meets where all three teams are ranked in the top 10. It should be close and wonderful and upsetting. A convincing argument can be made for any of the three winning, and in not a surprise even a little, the event to watch will be beam. All three of these teams are capable of throwing away a meet there, and it could very well be that the team that's least terrifying on beam wins.

March 5, 2014

Home/Road Disparity 2014

In this week's quick look at the numbers inside the sport, it's time for the annual dissection of everyone's favorite topic, home and road scoring.

Below is a comparison of the difference between the top 36 teams' averages at home and averages on the road so far this season. Teams at the top of the list have received the biggest boost from competing at home (with the first couple teams averaging nearly 1.500 greater at home than on the road), and teams at the bottom of the list are scoring better on the road than at home. The disparity list is followed by a ranking of the top 36 teams by home average and by road average for reference.

This is not meant to be exclusively a look at judging or inflated home scoring because many factors contribute to a team's performing better at home, of which home scoring is one, but just one. Regardless of the reason for the scores, there are many teams that tend to score significantly better at home, and in general, the bigger the disparity between the home and road scores, the more questions we should have about realistic performance level come the postseason. What scores are you going to get when you have to travel away for Regionals?

It's not always decisive that a team with a big scoring disparity will get knocked down a peg in the postseason when competing on the road, and Florida is a good example of that. Last season, the Gators followed a similar path to this season, with big home scores and normal road scores for much of the year, but by SECs and Championships, they were getting the same big scores on the road as well, ultimately resulting in a title. Plus, when you're getting a 198.4 at home, you can afford to score quite a bit lower on the road and still be successful.

A couple comments:
-Rarely, one really bad score will have a disproportionate influence, and that is the case with Kentucky's road 190, which makes it look like they have a much bigger difference between home and road than they do otherwise.
-Also, note that the teams with the biggest differences aren't necessarily the top teams. We tend to hear a lot of complaints about only the top teams receiving a big home scoring boost, but in general, the top teams have pretty reasonable home/road splits.

Largest Home/Road Scoring Disparity - 2014
1. West Virginia +1.663
2. Penn State +1.423
3. Arizona +1.358
4. Kentucky +1.112
5. Washington +1.031
6. BYU +0.984
7. Oregon State +0.948
8. California +0.888
9. UC Davis +0.874
10. Florida +0.819
11. Georgia +0.771
12. Michigan +0.713
13. NC State +0.655
14. Alabama +0.494
15. Illinois +0.480
16. Utah +0.468
17. Arkansas +0.456
18. San Jose State +0.446
19. Utah State +0.334
20. Kent State +0.333
21. Stanford +0.315
22. Southern Utah +0.303
23. Iowa +0.235
24. Boise State +0.232
25. Missouri +0.179
26. LSU +0.069
27. UCLA +0.063
28. Auburn +0.031
29. Denver +0.008
30. Nebraska 0.000
31. Ohio State -0.075
32. Arizona State -0.105
33. Minnesota -0.150
34. Oklahoma -0.306
35. Rutgers -0.433
36. Central Michigan -0.698

March 3, 2014

Week 8 Rankings and RQS Update

We have no new members of the 10 club this week, in a shocking turnaround. Come on judges, if you're going to make this the season of the 10, at least commit (to the G . . . ).

In the absence of new 10s, we'll go with the closest:

Do you think she's being hurt by not having a ton of name recognition from a previous elite career or previous standout seasons?

Danusia Francis's beam (1:47) is another nominee in the "next 10" debate:

Week 8 Rankings (Gyminfo)
1. LSU 197.605
Week 8: 198.050
Week 8 leaders: AA - Jordan 39.600; VT - Morrison, Jordan, Dickson 9.925; UB - Morrison, Courville 9.925; BB - Gnat, Hall 9.875; FX - Hall 9.975

Road Score 1: 197.875
Road Score 2: 197.650
Road Score 3: 197.625
Road/Home Score 1: 198.050
Road/Home Score 2: 197.650
Road/Home Score 3: 197.225

The Tigers faced a threat from Florida at the top of the rankings over the weekend but used a program-high 198.050 to fend them off and retain their coveted throne. I mentioned last week that LSU had work to do because Florida and Oklahoma had scored 198s while they did not, so I like to think that I had a little bit to do with this score at a meet where just three routines scored under 9.850 - one being Courville's beam mistake.

Another home meet is coming up for LSU this weekend, which means another opportunity to bump up that RQS with the team looking supremely likely to obliterate that 197.225 in any kind of a hit meet. Not that they need it, actually. With both Florida and Oklahoma at home this weekend, it's not  possible for LSU to be passed in the rankings this weekend. [EDIT: Lies! Sorry. Oklahoma can pass LSU in RQS this weekend with two big scores in their two meets.] 

2. Florida 197.515
Week 8: 197.400
Week 8 leaders: AA - Sloan 39.500; VT - Sloan 9.950; UB - Sloan 9.925; BB - Boyce, M Caquatto 9.925; FX - Sloan 9.925

Road Score 1: 197.400
Road Score 2: 197.175
Road Score 3: 197.075
Road/Home Score 1: 198.125
Road/Home Score 2: 198.050
Road/Home Score 3: 197.875

Turnabout was fair play for the Gators on Friday as it was their turn to keep pace with their opponent for three events on the road before losing the meet on beam, as a number of teams have done in Gainesville already this year. With the way Alabama was scoring at the end of the floor rotation, it was unlikely Florida would catch them anyway, but the fall from Spicer followed by the mistake from Sloan makes for the second tough beam rotation in three meets for the Gators. This is still one of the teams I trust the most on beam, but this mistake phenomenon is something to watch. 

Florida has just two road meets remaining, so that 197.400 will have to count, which puts them at a serious disadvantage in the road score department in the quest for regular season #1. With their final home meet of the season up next, the Gators don't have much room to improve RQS this weekend. Their max RQS after this weekend is a 197.565, so they'll just be trying to fend off Oklahoma. 

3. Oklahoma 197.415
Week 8: 197.250
Week 8 leaders: AA - None; VT - Scaman, Capps 9.925; UB - Scaman 9.900; BB - Capps 9.900; FX - Scaman 9.975

Road Score 1: 198.175
Road Score 2: 197.575
Road Score 3: 197.225
Road/Home Score 1: 197.700
Road/Home Score 2: 197.325
Road/Home Score 3: 197.250

A second distinctly human score in a row for the Sooners has put them just a tick back of LSU and Florida in the race right now, but these things are very momentary. One week, a team looks to be falling off the pace, and the next week they are the cool choice to win again. The lack of Kmieciak and Wofford over the weekend didn't help as a couple backup performers had to come in and did not match the scoring. I still don't think there's very much if anything preventing Oklahoma getting a 198 this weekend, but it is a bit surprising how many 9.8s and how few 9.9s we've been seeing on bars and beam from the Sooners lately. Those are their events.

The Sooners have a two-meet weekend coming up, so they have a pretty significant opportunity to increase their RQS with a pair of big meets. Averaging around 197.6s between the two meets (or getting one 198) should be enough to move ahead of Florida regardless of what the Gators score. With Alabama unable to catch them this weekend, Oklahoma is sitting comfortably at #3 with a chance to pounce. 

4. Alabama 197.215
Week 8: 197.675
Week 8 leaders: AA - Jacob 39.125; VT - Beers 9.925; UB - Jacob, Jetter 9.925; BB - Clark 9.925; FX - Jacob, Milliner 9.950

Road Score 1: 197.500
Road Score 2: 197.100
Road Score 3: 196.825
Road/Home Score 1: 197.675
Road/Home Score 2: 197.500
Road/Home Score 3: 197.150 

A very big win over Florida over the weekend ushered Alabama back into the top conversation. We all know Alabama is perpetually a championship contender and never to be counted out, but they had been nibbling as the top team of the second tier for a few weeks. This win, even though it was at home (scoring was quite charitable on bars but relatively realistic elsewhere), makes it clear that they are part of the game - especially because they were able to do it with a bunch of mistakes, including three falls. (What is this Kim Jacob falling on beam business? I'm not about it.) That wasn't an ideal meet and there's room to improve, which is a good sign. 

The Tide look a fairly strong bet to remain constant in the rankings (with a possible threat from Utah), and that's probably likely to continue for the rest of the regular season. They have entrenched themselves in this position, and while there's a chance to increase their RQS by touches in the next couple weeks, they'll probably have to wait until SECs (when they can get rid of that 196.825 at fake-road Birmingham) to make an assault on the top. 

5. Georgia 197.020
Week 8: 197.650
Week 8 leaders: AA - Rogers 39.300; VT - Cheek 9.975; UB - Cheek, Rogers, Davis 9.950; BB - Cheek, Earls 9.950; FX - Box, Earls 9.900

Road Score 1: 196.875
Road Score 2: 196.825
Road Score 3: 196.700
Road/Home Score 1: 197.650
Road/Home Score 2: 197.400
Road/Home Score 3: 197.300

Georgia was able to sneak just ahead of Utah on the back of a season-high score and one of the top bars scores in team history. We all knew Lindsey Cheek was good, someone who could vault exceptionally and give you a respectable score on bars and beam, but she has emerged as the pleasant surprise of the season with just how impeccable she has been on her three events. She's a sinewy joy. The Gym Dogs are at home this weekend for the final time this season, so they will have trouble making too much improvement in RQS since they already have three consistent and usable home scores. The main focus will be the final two road meets and trying to make a dent on those 196s. It's unlikely that any of the top four will count any 196s, so remaining at #5 would be a solid final ranking for this team.

March 1, 2014

[13] Arkansas @ [6] Georgia Live Blog

The American Cup is now behind us, which means it's time to turn our attention back to NCAA, and sit back and relax with some better-executed Yurchenko fulls.

I had an enjoyable American Cup viewing experience overall, and I especially appreciated that USAG kept the original live stream going throughout the meet. I'm surprised they were able to do that. I would think NBC would have some sort of "YOU MUST WATCH OUR BROADCAST!" clause, but it was great. All the routines. No Trautwig. What more could we want? If they could that for Nationals, we would all be in heaven.

Of course, I had to have the NBC broadcast on as well, just so I could continue to keep track of the gems. The best of the day was Trautwig's statement about Ebee: "She wants the Brazilian good stuff." I can't . . .

As for the competition, Sam Mikulak did as much Sam Mikulaking as we could ever want him to, Fabian Hambuechen was a delightful little square of German chocolate who made multiple mistakes, and Elizabeth Price made the Worlds team. You know, the usual. But like most American Cups, basically everyone fell and wasn't really in form because it's March 1st.

But now, we are refreshed by being graced with the likes of Katherine Grable, Brittany Rogers, Chelsea Davis, and Lindsey Cheek. Phew.

Georgia lineups:

The meet will begin at 4:00 ET/1:00 PT and is available here with an all-access subscription.