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.
Oh, and Oklahoma will obviously win Big 12s. The end.
The EAGL looks completely up for grabs, and will be providing a free live stream, so if you're looking to whet your competition appetite, keep an eye on that one because it could go anywhere and everywhere. New Hampshire is probably the smart bet–top-ranked and competing at home–but the majority of those teams should be right in it because they're fairly closely packed in the rankings and rarely show a major difference in their weekly scores. NC State is always dangerous and has a couple people who can bring in high 9.8s on multiple events in Ouellette, Watkins, and Ham. Rutgers started off the year very well but has fallen back since those early scores. Still, do we see a big Rutgers upset in the cards?
The independent schools that put together the Mountain Rim Championship this year have also had a very competitive season, with all six teams already guaranteed to make Regionals. Even the lowest-ranked team in the group, Utah State, impressed me in their recent meet with UCLA. All six of these teams can reach 196, so it should be another very competitive one with one tenth margins on events (and, as always, who can hit beam) deciding the places 1 through 6. Boise State's asset is bars, but can they score well enough on beam to make that advantage hold up over Denver?
Saturday – 3/22/14
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 1:  Michigan,  Ohio State,  Iowa,  Michigan State
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – ECAC Championship:  William & Mary,  Brown,  Cornell,  Temple,  Penn,  Yale
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – ECAC Division II Championship:  Bridgeport,  West Chester,  Southern Connecticut
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – EAGL Championship:  New Hampshire,  NC State,  Rutgers,  Maryland,  Pittsburgh,  George Washington,  North Carolina,  Towson
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – MAC Championship:  Central Michigan,  Kent State,  Bowling Green,  Eastern Michigan,  Western Michigan,  Northern Illinois,  Ball State
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 1:  Auburn,  Arkansas,  Kentucky,  Missouri
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big 12 Championship:  Oklahoma,  West Virginia,  Iowa State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Pac 12 Championship Session 1:  Utah,  UCLA,  Stanford,  Oregon State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 2:  Nebraska,  Illinois,  Minnesota,  Penn State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – MIC Championship:  Texas Woman's,  Illinois-Chicago,  SEMO,  Lindenwood,  Illinois State,  Centenary
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 2:  Florida,  LSU,  Alabama,  Georgia
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Mountain Rim Championship:  Boise State,  Denver,  BYU,  Southern Utah,  Utah State
9:30 ET/6:30 PT – Pac 12 Championship Session 2:  Cal,  Arizona,  Arizona State,  Washington
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – MPSF Championship:  San Jose State,  UC Davis,  Sacramento State,  Air Force,  Seattle Pacific,  Alaska