May 21, 2014

2014 NCAA Team Scoring: It's Comfy at the Top

For the last few seasons, I've been particularly interested in the trend of rising scores in NCAA, which is a relevant issue considering that the average team score for the top 36 teams in the country increased four tenths from 2012 to 2013 (from 195.406 in 2012 to 195.802 in 2013). That's almost a fall worth of increase per team per meet, which is fairly insane. Were teams really a fall better in 2013 than in 2012? No. The evaluation of routines is clearly getting more lenient across the board. Now that the 2014 season is over, it's time to revisit the topic following a year in which scores appeared to increase another notch with all the 10s and 198s we saw. Here are the average scores for the NCAA top 36 from 1999-2014:

And here's the same information, but limited to just the span from 2006-2014 to zero in on recent trends.

The results are somewhat interesting for 2014 because while the scores did increase over last season, just as anyone who watched this year would have guessed, the overall increase is not particularly large. Now, those of us who have been following the scores closely would certainly argue that the mega-scoring we saw this season is only part of a trend that began in earnest last season, which is reinforced by the numbers, with 2014 seeing another jump over 2013 and coming in as the second-highest scoring season in NCAA history behind 2004.

But, the increase is perhaps surprising in its smallness. In fact, the increase from 195.802 in 2013 to 195.861 in 2014 comes out to only .059, or just a little bit more than one step per meet per team, which is notable but not exceptionally significant in the grand scheme of meet scoring. It's certainly not the full four tenths leap we saw the previous year. So, why is that? We saw more 198s in 2014 than in 2013, and way more 197s, and the general perception is that scores skyrocketed this season and showed a clear departure even over the high scores of the previous season. What's the deal? Well, the deal becomes somewhat more clear if we break down the top 36 into manageable chunks. Here are the average scores for only the top 12 teams from 1999-2014:

Compare this to the average scores for the teams ranked 13-36 over the same years.

We see something closer to the expected, anecdotal increase when it comes to the top 12 teams. For those teams, 2014 marked the highest-scoring year ever, with an increase of another .153 over last season, while for the teams ranked 13-36, the scoring was remarkably consistent with last season, an increase of just .013 (or basically nothing). So, the scores this season did increase, but they did not increase consistently across the NCAA. They increased specifically for the very best teams while the rest remained the same.  

It's interesting to compare 2014 with 2004, the year notorious for crazy scoring and everyone getting a 12 on every event at every meet, because in 2004, the scores were crazy high and crazy high for everyone. As we see from the last graph, that year had unprecedented scoring for the lower-ranked teams as well as the higher-ranked teams, but the increase was most significant for the lower-ranked teams. In 2014, the scores for the lower-ranked teams stayed constant (and much lower than that 2004 level), while the scores for the top teams bested that 2004 level and continued their ascent.

We all know that the Parity Parrots like to pat themselves on the back for their work to increase parity in NCAA, but there are different types of parity. This year, we certainly saw evidence of parity at the very top of the sport manifested in our most competitive Super Six, but beyond that, the gap between the very best teams and everyone else actually increased in 2014 rather than decreased. The "others" were farther away from being able to challenge the best teams this season than in 2013.

Is it talent? Are the top few teams just taking all the best gymnasts and best coaches and extending a lead over the rest? Is it reputation scoring? Are they getting a boost that the other teams aren't based on name? Different people will argue different reasons, but it's interesting to break down this information to know where the scores are going and who is getting them. And that's not to say this 2014 phenomenon will necessarily continue next season, but it's something to keep an eye on and helps provide evidence to either support or undermine some of the assumptions we had about the scoring during the 2014 season.

I think everyone had a sense that the scores ballooned in 2014, mostly because of all the 10s we saw—so many more than in 2013—but we had that sense because we pay the most attention to the top-ranked teams. For them, the scores did continue to increase at a noticeable rate with more 10s, more rotation scores in the 49.6+ range, and more 198s, but across the country and down the rankings, that was not the case.

  • Also, in non-numerical news, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez is transferring from Florida to Oregon State for the upcoming season, which is exciting news for the Beavs. They've had a rough couple years, and she could contribute on as many as four events for them with some 9.8s. Conversely, she wasn't making any lineups at Florida, and given the quality of the incoming classes, didn't look to be making many lineups in the future. Also, as it has been discussed that Alex McMurtry is planning to come early, something was going to have to give in the scholarship-count department. Silvia's sister, Mariana, will also be joining Oregon State the following season. Now Tanya, put that transverse aerial back in her beam routine. You know you want to.


  1. Interesting analyses, thanks! I wonder whether the trend would look similar for the top 5 or 6 teams, or would the increase in average score be even greater for the very top teams? always a pleasure...

  2. I think some of the 10's were given needlessly. For example Llomencia Hall received some 10's that were clearly not 10's..due to a little over exuberance for the crowd pleasing LSU fans (I know ..I have been to the LSU meets for about 8 years and I am one of their fans too). There were definite times Llomenica did deserve a 10 but not then you have her in a meet with someone like Haley Scamen who definitely hit a 10's floor routine if you compare it to the 10 of Llomencia.. so what to do..if you give it to have to do the same for Scamen..snowballing..of course both did not receive a 10 at the NCAA finals (again I was of OU now over LSU)..LLomencia had a definite problem with her last pass..Haley Scamen would have probably received a 10 if it was regular season..just saying..I am not here to dispute who deserved a 10 or not....