February 18, 2016

The Weekend Plans – February 19-22

We've already hit the point in the season when teams begin having senior night/day. What is happening? This weekend marks the final home meet for Stanford and Iowa, among others.

Top 25 schedule
Friday, February 19
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Western Michigan @ [21] Eastern Michigan 
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [2] Florida @ [19] Missouri
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Illinois @ Michigan State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – New Hampshire, North Carolina, William & Mary @ [17] George Washington
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [11] Arkansas @ Maryland
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [18] Minnesota, Air Force @ Iowa State
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [8] Auburn @ [6] LSU
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [3] Michigan, UC Davis @ [23] Southern Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Ohio State @ [9] Boise State

Saturday, February 20
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [10] Georgia
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [4] Alabama, [13] Denver, Cornell @ Penn State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [5] Utah @ [12] Stanford
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [15] Cal @ [16] Oregon State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Towson @ [24] Iowa

Sunday, February 21 
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [22] Kentucky @ West Virginia
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [14] Nebraska, NC State, UW-La Crosse @ Iowa State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [7] UCLA @ Washington

Monday, February 22
9:00 ET/6:00 PT –[20] Arizona @ Arizona State

Live blogging
Friday and Saturday, as is becoming the norm. Friday's headline meet is Auburn and LSU, but Michigan and Florida will be worth keeping an eye on as well. Once again, Saturday totally beats Friday, with a whole heap of overlapping afternoon meets. It'll be another Gymnastics Situation Room kind of day, so prepare your eyes, devices, and attention spans.

We move onto RQS Island starting on Monday, which means we'll have a more defined sense of exactly what teams need in order to move up now. Oklahoma is guaranteed to retain the #1 ranking for at least another week. Alabama and Florida are neck-and-neck for the #2 spot right now with both teams heading out for what should be comfortable road wins. A slight advantage goes to Florida because the Gators have a 196.350 to get rid of while Alabama is trying to drop a 196.775. Florida is more likely to increase RQS even with an average result. 

Michigan is almost surely safe at #4, with only UCLA having an outside chance to overtake (though it would take a season-high for UCLA and a season-low for Michigan to get it done). UCLA is currently at #7 but has a 195.175 road score to drop this weekend and with a big result, can leapfrog both #5 Utah and #6 LSU regardless of what either team does.

Stanford and Georgia are two other teams with high increase potential, with Georgia looking to drop a 195.700 and Stanford looking to drop that nasty wretch of a 194.800. Also, don't lose track of Iowa. Iowa is currently at #24, but with a fifth consecutive 196, it would not be surprising to see Iowa jump right up into the mid teens.

-Most of the results on Friday seem relatively predestined, except perhaps for Auburn and LSU, the annual instance of Tiger on Tiger crime. Auburn is coming off that huge upset of Alabama and, more importantly, a return to the type of scores we saw last season. Winning away against LSU, however, is more challenging prospect. LSU is the stronger team overall and so tough to beat at home, but LSU has managed a 197 just once so far this season, not displaying enough consistency yet to earn the mantle of prohibitive favorites. LSU didn't count a fall last weekend but still came in below Auburn's mark by half a point because of way too many minor errors across every event. 

Until last weekend, vault would have seemed a major advantage for LSU, and while LSU still should have the edge primarily because of the Gnat Factor, Auburn can keep the meet close early, or event get a lead, if the vault landings are similar to last week. The halfway lead may be possible because bars, particularly dismount control on bars, is one area where Auburn has looked stronger than LSU. It's necessary because once we get to the second half of the meet, LSU has more 9.9 potential on beam, meaning that if LSU actually hits real routines (hasn't always happened/hasn't usually happened), Auburn will drop tenths in spite of Demers/Atkinson greatness. Those tenths will be tough to make up against LSU on home floor.

-Florida's mission this weekend is a big road score, which has so far eluded the team. This Gator roster is far too capable to be maxing out at a low 197 on the road, even in February. Last weekend's result was perfectly solid, but a little misleading in the vault and floor scores because essential routines from Sloan and Baker were missing, which made those rotations look a little more flaccid than they are. Yes, I used the word flaccid. Florida doesn't have enough depth on vault and floor to rest people and still maintain Florida-esque scoring potential, but with full lineups, this team should be able to do mid-197s regardless of venue. We do still need to be on floor watch/Bridgey watch, though.

-Another up-for-grabs result should be New Hampshire (and company)'s visit to George Washington. Both teams have scored 196 this year. Both teams have scored 194 this year. George Washington is more consistent and less likely to throw up a stinker on vault and floor, which primarily accounts for the difference in ranking as New Hampshire has the ability to score quite well on bars and beam while counting 9.1s on vault and floor. I'll be keeping an eye on those scores.

-Did you guys hear that Georgia's, like, good now? Starting recently. That should make Saturday's showcase meet against Oklahoma a much more interesting prospect. If Georgia is able to continue getting home mid-197s, Oklahoma will actually have to pay attention and try this time. Oklahoma probably has the edge on each event, but Georgia shows a touch more difficulty on vault, which could be an advantage if the landings are there. Keep that Brittany Rogers DTY. I think she proved last week that it's comfortable enough to be worth it. In general, Georgia will be aiming to replicate last week's performance and wait for Oklahoma to suddenly have more errors than we've seen in this recent run of 197.9s. Both teams are pretty exciting to watch (sometimes even for good reasons), and I'm eager to see their routines back-to-back.

Oklahoma has not been completely impervious this season. We've seen some strange things, like the unexpected regression of Kara Lovan, who is currently not making any lineups and falling all over the place. My fantasy gym team is not happy about it. The Sooners have enough depth to afford that, but Lovan got two 9.900s in Super Six last year, and those are 9.900s the team would have been counting on this year. There are plenty of 9.850s waiting to take those spots, but that's still a .050 loss that could be significant later on.

-Utah goes to Stanford in a meet that is much, much more important for the Cardinal than the Utes. Utah could certainly use a big road score right about now, but there's time. This is Stanford's final home meet and one of just four remaining regular-season competitions, all of which need to be at least mid-196 if Stanford is going to feel comfortable staying in the top 12. It's still sort of early for Stanford, but it's starting to become crunch time when the real routines need to show up, instead of just being Ebee and the 9.750s.

-Cal has starting pouring on the scores like no one's business over the last two weeks, so this will be a delectable showdown against Oregon State to see if the balance of power really is shifting in the Pac-12. Ever since Utah joined the conference, it has been the A Team: UCLA, Utah, Stanford, and Oregon State, and the B Team: Cal, Arizona, Washington, and Arizona State. Cal has been knocking on the door for a few seasons and had that great showing a couple years ago when hosting Pac-12s, but is this the year the power dynamic truly switches and a new top four is born?

-Team Broken Sternum visits Washington on Sunday in search of a witch doctor who can bring Katelyn Ohashi back to life and show us what this team is truly capable of. And also a much-needed road score, what with this being the team's final road meet before Pac-12s. If Peng doesn't hit beam...
...we won't do anything. She's Peng.

Also, this is a thing that happened in real life.

"The Hip Hop Gymnast" was on Ellen. Please note that she will be known as "the Hip Hop Gymnast" in all future live blogs. Sonya Meraz is becoming a household name...

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