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.

-There are some really juicy battles in the top-seeded Regionals. We can expect Florida, Oklahoma, and LSU to go through, but the second spot is totally unreserved in all three of those Regionals. Based on what we saw at conference championships, I think Stanford is rounding into strong enough form to advance, but Penn State and Minnesota will look like good upset bets as third-seed hosts. I'll have full previews of each Regional in the coming weeks as we wait for the big day, April 5th.

Quick, but extensive, Pac 12 thoughts:

-I made a comment before Pac 12s that I thought the second session would be anticlimactic with the bottom four teams competing, but actually the first session ended up the anticlimactic one because it became clear very early on that Utah was the one team that showed up and would win comfortably (they probably even could have counted a beam fall and won). The meet began energetically enough, but once Utah started pulling ahead in the scores without UCLA coming close to matching, things got pretty subdued. That also may have had something to do with the fact that the arena air conditioning was clearly pumping chloroform into the crowd. I barely made it to the arena in time for the first routine (but I got there!), but by the middle of the second rotation, I was ready for a nap. I think UCLA should blame its performance on the chloroform air conditioning as well. Also, the area where I was sitting smelled like stale barf and poisoned hot dogs. See, I'm bringing you the important updates from the meet.

-The crowd at the second session was less enthusiastic because there weren't those big team booster sections, but I appreciated the largely relaxed atmosphere. I tend to enjoy night gymnastics more  anyway. It was still odd to have the lower seeds competing later, though. The day didn't build. It started with excitement, and then just sort of petered out for hours. 

-UCLA was my main contender to challenge Utah, and they kept that status for exactly one routine. Danusia started out fine on bars, but then Mossett couldn't complete her goddamn stalder (that must be removed from her routine for next season), and after that, it was kind of a disaster. Miss Val stopped doing the two-step immediately at that point, and the team never truly recovered. Beam looked fine in a couple places, which I was pleased to see, but bars was so, so tight after Mossett and the landings were nowhere on floor and vault. When Sam Peszek is landing her Yfull short with a lunge, you know it's a bad day.

-Stanford also impressed me. They were not going to be able to catch Utah because floor is such a disadvantage for this team, but they looked like the strongest team to me on both bars and beam. That beam rotation to start off the meet was excellent, and I thought they looked better than Utah on bars. Bars scoring was a bit screwy and way overvalued stuck landings (Exhibit A: how Georgia Dabritz got a 10 when she missed a handstand). Judge #2 on bars and I were more in agreement.

-Speaking of judging, in the first session, I thought the ranking was appropriate and obvious but the margins were a little out of whack. Floor ended up being a the biggest decider in the team margins because, until the end of the session, it was unclear what kind of attitude the judges had. Utah finally proved they were willing to go really high for hit routines, but none of the other teams were able to take advantage of that by nailing their landings, so Utah amassed a tremendous margin on that one event and everyone else was sort of poor. Missed opportunity for 9.9s there, because the judges had a whole mess of them in their pockets.

-The big surprise was Cal finishing ahead of UCLA, and my thoughts are these: At a neutral venue, competing at the same time and giving the exact same performances, UCLA would have finished ahead. The margin was small, and there wasn't enough scoring consistency between the two sessions to make an accurate comparison. It's like mashing together the scores from two different meets. For (delicious) instance, Judge #2 on beam gave the same score to Sam Peszek and Crystal Paz, which is just crazy based on the quality of those routines. Peszek's routine was easily two tenths better. I pick out those routines and that judge specifically because that's the judge that gave Peszek's beam a 9.850, and I think I missed a few routines after that score because I was too busy watching Miss Val's reaction and subsequent icy prowling. It was great. Honestly, the title of the meet (and every UCLA meet) was "Look at Miss Val now." 

-That said, Cal finished ahead of UCLA not only because of the timing circumstances of the meet but because they competed much closer to their potential. It was a great, hit meet for Cal–strong vaulting, several really convincing beam routines. It was a confident, exceptional performance the likes of which we're not accustomed to seeing from Cal teams. UCLA's potential scoring is much greater, but they also competed far below that potential at this meet. Cal competed at maybe 85%, while UCLA was more like 50%. Ask lay fans who was better, and they will all say Cal.  

-Also, Oregon State competed its whole bars rotation with a "Go UTES!" sign on its fenced-in area. Attention to detail. Related note: Having the gymnasts in corrals is not my favorite thing, but at least don't make the corrals look like actual fences. It has a very "ode to the domestication of livestock" feel to it, like after the meet we're driving the team to the abattoir.

-One of the struggles of gymnastics meets, especially college gymnastics meets, it setting the situation. Sports fans love to savor situations: the tension is rising, what does this person/team need to do to right at this moment to win? This meet had a really exciting ending, with Cal needing a 9.850 in its final floor routine to pass UCLA (a score they got exactly), but no one in the arena who wasn't doing the rotation scores in their head like me knew the exact situation, the exact score Cal needed at that moment for this major accomplishment. The general format impedes the appreciation of that exciting moment because no one is telling people that Crystal Paz just needs a 9.850 for Cal to finish third. I'll also say that the score reporting in the arena in general was unhelpful, with just those little JO scoreboards at one end and only the individual event rankings being shown on the big screens. No one had any idea what the team scoring situation was.

-I'm sure I had a lot more thoughts, but this seems like plenty. If they occur to me, I'll pepper them in throughout the coming posts.

-I'll hold off my thoughts about SECs until after the competition airs and I've actually seen the gymnastics, but that's a huge result for Alabama. It must have been another really exciting ending with it all coming down to Bridgey Caquatto's floor routine. I was all praiseworthy about that lineup decision in the preview because I think it bumps her score up, but it didn't work out this time. There were big bars scores for most of the top teams, so I'm eager to see how all those routines actually looked.


  1. The only top team this is bad news for is Georgia, since they're guaranteed to be with LSU, Michigan and Oklahoma in semifinals apparently, barring the unlikelihood that one of those teams doesn't get out of regionals. That's dangerous for them if Michigan hits. On the other hand, if I'm Utah, I'm feeling pretty great right now.

  2. This Regional is the worst one UCLA could' have asked for. This isn't same Arkansas team that we've seen in some years, but if they compete lights out, they could certainly beat UCLA if they put up a similar performance to Pac 12s. I don't think Utah can afford to have a bad meet or a beam fall either.

    1. Unless Arkansas clones Katherine Grable, or has some ridiculous home scoring, I think Utah will be fine. #5 is a long way away from #17. I'd love to watch them duke it out with UCLA though!

  3. OK before the conference championship weekend who predicted that:

    SEC event champs would be – Lauren Johnson, UGA on Vault; Kaitlyn Clark, Alabama on Bars; Kytra Hunter, Florida on Beam
    Or that, Kentucky would hit three strong events but falter on floor (typically their best event) which cost them fifth place

    Perfect 10s:
    Did anyone think there would be no 10s at the SEC meet and THREE perfect scores at the Big 10 meet?

    Really tempted to drive to Seattle for the April 5 regional – Anyone know if the meet usually sells out or if tickets are available for walk up the day of the meet?


  4. UCLA is so toast right now.

    1. I wouldn't go that far. Out of the top teams, they're certainly the most vulnerable to not advance out of regionals. But, they have such a long track record of inconsistency during the regular season and then pulling out their best performances at the very end. I would never count them out.

    2. In January I described UCLA as being an underdog this season – seemed weird given their history, but I just had a hunch it would be a difficult, rebuilding year for the Bruins who lost five key seniors last year (plus Mattie Larson's retirement).

      I wouldn't consider Arkansas beating UCLA to claim the second spot an upset. This year both teams are about the same. Arkansas can and should be a lot better then they were at SECs (being at home will help some) and if they hit they can score high 196s or low 197s. They don't have a lot of difficulty, but if they're clean... UCLA will need to step up its performance at regionals to beat them.

      The intriguing regionals appear to be at Minnesota and Penn State for the second seed – multiple teams have a chance to claim it. Barring disaster Florida and Oklahoma should cruise through to nationals.

      Minnesota, Illinois and California should all battle for the second spot.
      And at Penn: the host Penn State, Oregon St. and Kentucky ( I actually think Kentucky, if they hit like at SECs and hit floor like they usually do, have a good chance to be the surprise team at nationals.) Penn St. looked really good, until beam, at Big 10s while Oregon was just average at Pac 12s.