March 31, 2016

Michigan Regional Preview

Here it is. The big one. Are you excited? I'm excited. Ever since it became clear that Stanford's ranking would not emerge from the pitiful category before the end of the season, we've all been waiting to see which of the poor souls that bothered to get good scores all year long would suffer the punishment of being placed with Stanford. The winners are Auburn and Michigan. It's funny because the 6-7-18 regional is usually the boring one, the one where the top two teams have more than a fall of margin over anyone else, but this year, it's the one everyone is anticipating the most. Yes, I just decided which regional you're anticipating the most. It's this. The end.

Of course, that means it will end up being super boring. Without a doubt. It always happens. All of the other regionals will be intensely close throughout, and then this one will be decided in the first rotation. You know it.

Competing teams (starting event) 
[6] Auburn (bye before bars)
[7] Michigan (beam)
[18] Stanford (floor)
[24] Eastern Michigan (bye before floor)
[25] Penn State (bars)
[33] New Hampshire (vault)

Competing individuals
Pittsburgh (Lindsay Offutt – AA; Tracey Pearson – AA; Miya Dotson – UB)
Rutgers (Libby Groden – AA; Nicolette Wilson – VT; Michelle Amoresano – VT)
Bridgeport (Brianna Comport – BB, FX; Christine Liautaud – UB; Randi Cutolo – FX)
West Chester (Majesta Valentine – AA)
Cornell (Kaitlin Green – BB)

The fight – Auburn v. Michigan v. Stanford

No favorites here. There can't be because someone very capable of a 197 will miss out on nationals, and any one of these three teams could be eliminated even with a hit meet.

Still, Stanford must be considered the challenger to the throne rather than the reigning monarch because of a few more clear weaknesses than the others and the lack of consistently competitive scores during the season. In spite of Stanford's definite potential to hit 197 and reputation for suddenly turning great once the elimination meets roll around, there's a reason Stanford is 18th and not 6th or 7th. The scores haven't been there the way they have for Auburn and Michigan, and Stanford really will have to put together a season-best performance to make it out of this competition. Normal won't be good enough. It has to be a Price/Hong 9.950, Rice/McNair 9.850 kind of day to pull out the 197+ score it will take to advance. 

Auburn and Michigan are separated by essentially nothing. Auburn is a wisp ahead of Michigan in overall RQS, while Michigan is a wisp ahead of Auburn on each specific-event RQS. That indicates that Michigan has slightly higher peaks on each event but that Auburn has put it all together in the same meet slightly more often. It's all slight. The advantage of being at home may tip the balance to Michigan, which is why (in addition to Michigan's season high being the best in the competition) I see Auburn as more vulnerable than Michigan if both hit their meets. Really, there should only be a tenth or two between them either way.

Ergo...landings, landings, landings. On vault, for instance, Michigan has more difficulty, and the Olivia Karas grand finale has scored higher than the Caitlin Atkinson grand finale, but we have seen multiple meets this year in which Auburn has earned a very competitive vault score because of high-level landing control. Since Michigan's peak scoring potential has been higher this year, those landings are all the more important for Auburn to close any scoring potential gap.  

For both teams, the vulnerability is beam. In fact, it has been a vulnerability for Stanford at times as this year well (but will be absolutely critical if Stanford is to stay in this), all of which is made evident by New Hampshire being ranked as the #2 beam team in this regional.  Each of these top seeds has the potential for multiple 9.9s. Atkinson, Milliet, Demers, Artz, Chiarelli, Price, Hong. There's no shortage of impressive beamers in this meet, but Auburn has a tendency to throw a 9.7 or two out there early in the lineup, and Michigan has been a sudden fall-fest in the second half of the season. Beam will be the most telling indicator about whether Stanford is in this meet because secure hits from both Michigan and Auburn (in rotations one and three) would take away the primary area in which Stanford is looking to pick up tenths (in rotation five).

March 30, 2016

Utah Regional Preview

Welcome to Pac-12s Part Deux: Megan's Revenge, the thrilling summer blockbuster in which Utah will try to beat UCLA for the first time in 2016 following two consecutive losses in what feels like their fifteenth meeting of the season.

Repetitive matchups are one of the problems I have with creating a bracket for the postseason, in addition to the fact that it's not a true knockout event and doesn't have enough rounds for a bracket to be all that necessary. (It should be a true knockout event, but it isn't. The meets are best 2 out of 6, or 3 out of 6, which isn't the same thing and is fundamentally less dramatic. You don't get a bracket until you institute a format that lends itself to a bracket. You don't get dessert until you eat your vegetables.) You might as well just list all the teams at the beginning of the season in two columns, put a box in the middle for the winner, and say, "It's a bracket!" It's not a bracket.  

This will be the third meeting of the season between Utah and UCLA (and their third each against Washington, though at least they were in different sessions at Pac-12s). If they both do qualify, the semifinals will be their 4th meeting and the third consecutive meet day in which they've faced off. We get it. By contrast, Utah and Auburn would have been an interesting comparison, and they probably won't meet at all.

Competing teams (starting event)
[5] Utah (bye before bars)
[8] UCLA (beam)
[17] Washington (floor)
[23] Southern Utah (bye before floor)
[29] Illinois (bars)
[32] Utah State (vault)

Competing individuals 
Sacramento State (Kalliah McCartney – AA; Lauren Rice – AA; Cassie Benning – UB, FX; Julia Konner – VT)
UC Davis (Alexis Brown – UB, BB; Stephanie Stamates – BB, FX; Katy Nogaki – VT)
Seattle Pacific (Maria Hundley – AA)
Alaska (M'rcy Matsunami – AA)

The favorites – Utah and UCLA

Unlike in the regionals previewed so far, this one features two teams that really should go through barring disaster. Disasters are always possible, and always the most fun, but if Utah and UCLA hit five-for-six on each event, they'll advance. The other teams are hoping for a mistake.

The clash between Utah and UCLA should still be quite interesting and telling about both teams' potential to do some damage in the postseason. UCLA's position is bolstered by the two wins over Utah this year, while Utah's position is bolstered by finishing only .325 behind UCLA at Pac-12s in spite of counting a fall. And by being at home this time. The Bruins would counter that they also had some mistakes at Pac-12s that brought down their score, like Cipra's floor fall and Preston's not-in-the-face vault. And we could go on. It should be a close-fought affair. With the home advantage and the stronger scoring pedigree over the whole season (a higher RQS on three of four events), Utah should come in as the favorite between the two, though far from a prohibitive one.

Neither team has a ton of difficulty on vault and both may struggle to compete with the three-1.5 lineups of the SEC once we get to nationals, but Utah's landings were significantly stronger than UCLA's at Pac-12s with a couple vaulters showing season-best sticks. Even without a difficulty edge, Utah's vault beat UCLA's by nearly three tenths because of landings (and direction, and knees), which would be a massive boon if that were repeated at regionals.

UCLA's edge comes on beam, with a lineup that is quite smooth in rhythm, precise in split elements, and varied in skill selection and difficulty. Utah, meanwhile, showed the signs of the Stover-ectomy in counting a beam fall at Pac-12s. It's clear the team needs her back as soon as possible not just to prevent using a fall but to provide a much-needed 9.9.

Interestingly, UCLA beat Utah on bars at Pac-12s, even though bars is supposed to be a weakness for UCLA that compromises postseason hopes while it has been a strength for Utah. If UCLA is able to continue minimizing the bars deficit compared to a team like Utah, perhaps aided by a mysterious secret-weapon appearance of Peng or Ohashi, that would eliminate one major obstacle to postseason success. I'm not convinced yet, but it will be worth watching.  

As for the rotation order, UCLA begins on its two best events, which I don't love. It means the Bruins must get a bunch of big scores early and absolutely need a lead at the halfway point, and a pretty significant one, to have a shot at winning this thing. They'll want a solid 98.800 after beam and floor, which is doable. The Utes will gain ground in the second half of the meet, particularly when they turn to floor as UCLA is turning to vault. As long as Utah is anywhere over 98.500 after bars and beam, even if still trailing, I would consider that on track to put up a competitive total/win. 

March 29, 2016

Alabama Regional Preview

While several of the regionals this year could produce an unexpected nationals qualifier that we will pretend signals the beginning of a new era until next season when everything returns to normal, the most exciting changing of the guard will happen in Alabama. Though some of the challengers elsewhere, like Denver and Minnesota, haven't qualified to nationals for a few years, the teams in this regional have been stranded in the desert for much, much longer. Cal has been absent from the national championship since 1992, and Boise State and Kentucky have been absent since always. In fact, with three all-time nationals appearances, #5 seed West Virginia is the second-most accomplished team in the competition.

Competing teams (starting event)
[4] Alabama (bye before bars)
[10] Cal (beam)
[15] Boise State (floor)
[21] Kentucky (bye before floor)
[26] West Virginia (bars)
[34] Bowling Green (vault)

Competing individuals
SEMO (Alexis Brawner – AA; Lauren Israel – AA; McKinzie Jones – FX)
Northern Illinois (Andie Van Voorhis – VT; Jamyra Carter – UB; Lauren Africano – UB; Megan Greenfield – BB)
Arizona State (Allie Salas – AA; Taylor Allex – VT, FX)
Illinois-Chicago (Mikailla Northern – AA)
Illinois State (Amanda Mohler – BB)

The favorite – Alabama

Alabama is Alabama. Competing at home against a relatively unheralded squadron of challengers and coming off an impressive second-place showing at SECs should really be all we need to know about Alabama's qualification outlook. Coleman may no longer the impenetrable home fortress it once was, now the site of previously unheard of losses to LSU and Arkansas, but the idea of Alabama getting upset at home by two whole teams in this meet is difficult to fathom. 

Unsurprisingly, Alabama had its best meet of the season at SECs, which happened to coincide with actually getting all the good people in the lineups simultaneously for the first time. Amazing how that works out. Winston returned on three events, all the top-scoring floor workers competed, and Bresette was able to show her Omelianchik, which is a higher-scoring option than her full. All of this combined to make Alabama look like a peer of Oklahoma, Florida, and LSU in the title race rather than the leader of the challenging pack. These lineups still don't look fully finalized (you can't quit depth exploration cold turkey), as I'd still perhaps like to see Winston vaulting and, critically, that was not the highest-scoring beam lineup Alabama could put out. Sanders did an excellent job of suddenly being a gymnast now, but hit routines from Beers and Bailey are going to score higher than what she (and potentially Brannan) can bring. 

It's an issue of hitting (both Bailey and Beers fell the week before), but if the coaches feel comfortable putting Bailey and Beers in the lineup, this team looks more formidable and closer to 198. If not, Alabama may be giving up a crucial tenth or two on beam, the rotation that knocked them down below Florida's at SECs.

The fight – Cal v. Boise State

This meet represents a brand new phenomenon for Cal. We've seen Cal perform well in significant meets against strong teams over the last three seasons, but for the first time I can remember, Cal will enter a significant meet not as an upstart, or an underdog, or a spoiler, or a sentimental favorite but as a favorite. Cal should finish second here and should qualify along with Alabama. Not doing so would be a disappointing result given the wonderful opportunity to make nationals presented before them. Welcome to expectations, Cal. It's nice to have you here. 

That's not to say it's going to be a walk. Boise State has been in many ways the surprise of the season (after being the punchline of the preseason when one coach voted BSU #1), scoring a 197.025 at conference championships—at home—which bested the 196.725 Cal put up at Pac-12s. Boise State does, however, remain the least proven entity among the contending teams, having gone the whole season without facing any school seeded 1-3 in any of the regionals. We don't really know how these routines are going to be evaluated when Boise State is suddenly not the biggest and the best in the arena for the first time. The Broncos' last challenging road meet also came at Alabama, in 2015, when they did prove quite competitive through three events and were on high-196 pace until a floor meltdown.

March 28, 2016

Georgia Regional Preview

A quick glance at Saturday's schedule reveals that regionals have been planned even more horrifically than usual this year. There will be a point during the day at which five of the six competitions will be occurring simultaneously, mostly because they hate us and want us to miss everything. And by they, I mean the people. The people who do the things. Spread the regionals throughout the day, is all I ask. The silver lining to all of this is that Georgia's regional begins an hour before all the others, and Georgia starts on beam. That means we can watch that entire emotional roller coaster unfold without distraction. Thank you, Georgia, for your time zone.

Competing teams (starting event)
[3] LSU (bye before bars)
[9] Georgia (beam)
[14] Oregon State (floor)
[22] Arizona (bye before floor)
[27] George Washington (bars)
[36] Michigan State (vault)

Competing individuals
NC State (Brittni Watkins – AA; Chelsea Knight – VT; Nicole Wild – BB)
Maryland (Kathy Tang – VT, FX; Abbie Epperson – UB; Macey Roberts – FX)
North Carolina (Morgan Lane – AA; Kaitlynn Hedelund – UB)
Towson (Tyra McKellar – AA; Mary Elle Arduino – BB)
William & Mary (Brittany Stover – AA)

The favorite – LSU

LSU should join Oklahoma and Florida at the same level of heavy, heavy, super favorites to advance from regionals, though the Tigers may feel a little more pressure in this one given the quality of the opposition and the scoring pedigree shown by Georgia and Oregon State, both historically and lately. This competition features the second-deepest collection of 1-2-3 seeds (behind the Michigan regional), so LSU will not be able to afford any mind-losing on beam. These other teams are too capable of taking advantage. Sans any mind-losing and fall-counting, however, LSU will slide through to nationals without forcing DD to punishment-sequin anyone.

The Tigers should have been right in the hunt for the SEC title this year but ended up a step behind Florida and Alabama entirely because of their performance on bars in the first rotation. In fact, if you take the scores from just vault, beam, and floor, LSU wins the competition. Lucky, lucky LSU, they'll be starting on bars at regionals. You're welcome. This LSU bars lineup should be quite strong, but as we saw at SECs, it has emerged as the team's weak event and is still too reliant on Finnegan saving Earth through the medium of toe point for a 9.950. Wyrick hasn't shown a great deal consistency since returning, Zamardi can often dismount herself down to 9.850, and Priessman has a couple built-in errors on the pak and a DLO that can look troublingly Shades of Shayla sometimes. All of them could score quite well, but they're walking a fine line between greatness and getting stuck in the 9.800s, as happened at SECs. As we learned, that's not going to cut it when trying to beat Florida.

The fight – Georgia v. Oregon State

I considered throwing Georgia up into the favorite category with LSU as I do think Georgia should be able to 197 its way through this one, especially at home, but Oregon State proved with its performance at Pac-12s to be among the most dangerous and compelling upset challengers in the country. The Beavs simply suffered the (bad) luck of the draw in getting placed with Home Georgia since the original, non-host-adjusted draw would have seen them placed with Road Denver, where they would have been favorites to qualify. This job is much more challenging. The Beavs will take some confidence that the 196.925 at Pac-12s beat the 196.850 Georgia put up at SECs. Not equivalent meets, no host advantage, etc, but certainly a complication to this regional. On the other hand, Oregon State has not hit 197 yet all year, and in spite of all of the Gymdogs' problems, they have done so in three of the last four meets and really should at regionals.

March 27, 2016

The Great Candle Ceremony of Deva

A weekend without NCAA gymnastics. What's a person to do? Sorry, that's a silly question. Obviously, the answer is curl up and enjoy a moving bedtime story about how not having a father figure makes you fall on beam at the Olympics, starring our esteemed host with the least, Traut Alwig, and his dearest confidant, the oboe of aggressive narrative.

Grab your paper cup cathedral candles and your daddy issues because we've got a lot to get through.

The year was 2000. Everything was terrible, including probably your hair. Bela Karolyi had been commissioned to crush the US gymnasts into tiny cubes so as to save space on the flight to Sydney, Ragan Smith was literally one month old, Maria "Her?" Olaru reigned as defending world champion, and Russia was single-mindedly bent on erasing the shame those caterwauling American chicken buckets brought upon their country's honor four years previously. Oops. Never mind. I'm sure you'll win another team gold soon. Well, at least there's still the all-around final. Nothing scandalous or painfully unjust will happen here and then be remembered forever.

The fluff before the storm. We were so innocent. It was a different era. We had to churn our own butter and make our own scandals out of nothing more than popsicle sticks, an old boot, and a shot of a couple Russian gymnasts stepping off a bus completely unremarkably.

We kick things off with a breaking news update from Trautbot. Mission control has dialed his vocal pitch matrix all the way down to Implied Russian Cheating Bass (one notch below This American Score Seems Too Low Baritone) to inform us that in an all-around final, only three gymnasts per nation may compete (so few!), but the Russians are such diva rebel divas that they brought four to the arena. Those bitches. They're totally trying to cheat and put a pair of Groucho glasses on Zamo and sneak her into the all-around final as Fakeryna Shutupskaya from Tumblestan. BUT YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED! YOU'RE NOT ALLO...oh, you mean Prod is injured and this is normal because no one cares how many gymnasts arrive at the arena? 

Really, the bigger scandal here is that Svetlana Khorkina was riding a bus. A BUS. Svetlana Khorkina does not ride buses. Not now, not ever. Would you make the moon ride a bus? Or the stars?

All is not well in the Russian team, but like...more than usual. This is symbolized by the wistful fading sunlight of dashed dreams and stolen glory near something Kremliny.

Wait a MINUTE. That's the exact same wistful fading sunlight of Russian sadness they used during Atlanta when it symbolized the decline of the Soviet machine intermingled with the aching internal pain of Leeeeeeeeetle Roza Galieva four years after getting personally victimized by Tatiana Gutsu! But which is it?!?!? What does it really mean?!?!?! I don't know what to think!

March 25, 2016

Minnesota Regional Preview

Onward! Following the cue of the wildly circuitous Road to Rio we've been hearing about for the past year (I feel like there might be more efficient ways to get to Rio, like a plane or something), we move along the Road to Lovely Metropolitan Fort Worth from our first stop in Iowa to Minnesota. Wait, are we going the right direction? This feels wrong. Who's navigating this trip? TRAUTWIG!!!???

Competing teams (starting event)
[2] Florida (bye before bars)
[11] Denver (beam)
[16] Minnesota (floor)
[20] Missouri (bye before floor)
[28] Ohio State (bars)
[31] BYU (vault)

Competing individuals
Iowa State (Haylee Young – AA; Meagan Sievers – AA; Sydney Converse – VT, BB; Briana Ledesma – VT, FX; Hilary Green – UB; Alex Marasco – BB; Kelsey Paz – FX)
Air Force (Kara Witgen – AA; Jamie Lewis – AA)
UW-Whitewater (Mackenzie Smith – UB)

The favorite – Florida

Much like Oklahoma, the Florida Gators enter regionals as the heavy favorite and should win comfortably, pretty much running away with it after the first rotation, even though they'll be on a bye. The win at SECs helps reinforce Florida's status as a comfortable pick to win a fourth-straight title, though the sheer competitiveness of that meet, along with getting outscored by Oklahoma by multiple tenths that day, indicate that it's far from a safe proposition. Florida was challenged by multiple other teams during a well-hit meet. Mostly well-hit. 

That brings us to the Sloan problem. You're the one who's not supposed to be a problem! What is happening? For regionals, Florida does have the leeway to make a couple errors or count a fall and still advance, but it's imperative that Sloan work out whatever is happening on beam and why. She has fallen on three of her last five beam routines, and while one of the other two hits was a 10.000, that's not a very Sloan-like record at all. At nationals, the Gators don't just need a hit from her. They need a 9.950. That's how close and high-scoring this thing is going to be. We know Sloan can pull it together, as she mas many times before. As an elite, she had a bit of a Mikulaky reputation for falling on beam on the first day and then hitting on the second day, and even two seasons ago, Bridget was a beam disaster heading into the final Saturday and then got a 20 at Super Six. She needs to Sloan it out again. Our main focus in this meet will be lower down the standings, but Sloan's beam routine in rotation three is a must-watch.

The fight – Denver v. Minnesota
This regional contest is among the more delectable because, aside from providing a potentially close race right down to the end, it guarantees a somewhat unexpected qualifier to nationals. While all three of the contenders here have advanced to nationals in the recent past (Minnesota in 2013, Missouri in 2010, Denver in 2007, 2008), none are what would be considered perennial qualifiers. Someone is going to be spoiling the old party. Also, the Jessica Lopez era was EIGHT years ago?   

Denver and Minnesota have both hit tremendous highs this season marked by historically significant scores, but some of those scores have been a little...creative, particularly that weekend of meets during which these two teams squared off twice and split the series.

For instance, this Julia Ross bars routine got a 9.900, which I use to illustrate high scores and because it's one of the key routines for Denver that isn't Nina McGee's floor. They have others.

March 24, 2016

Iowa Regional Preview

Thus, the insanity begins. Last year, we were subjected to the relative letdown of all twelve #1 and #2 seeds advancing to nationals, but this season has been marked by uprooting of the traditional order of things, with teams like Cal and Denver breaking into the top 12 and shoving out some more established powers. The heavy parity among most of the teams ranked 10-18 should be cause for hope that we'll see some real upsets this year, but even if we don't and all the #1 and #2 seeds go through, that would still mean that less-traditional qualifiers like Cal and Denver are heading to nationals. 

Before we go to therapy for our anticipation problems by dissecting the regional championships one by one, the news of the day is the announcement of the six finalists for the AAI Award, a.k.a. the Best Senior Award: Caitlin Atkinson, Ivana Hong, Lindsay Mable, Nina McGee, Haley Scaman, and Bridget Sloan. Snubs include Brandie Jay, Brittany Rogers, Danusia Francis, Lauren Beers, among others. I wonder who's going to win...

Anyway, to the regionals! Let's begin with the top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners and their visit to the land of that butter statue of Shawn Johnson, the great state of Iowa.
Competing teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (bye before bars)
[12] Nebraska (beam)
[13] Arkansas (floor)
[19] Iowa (bye before floor)
[30] Kent State (bars)
[35] Central Michigan (vault)

Competing individuals
Western Michigan (Anna Corbett – AA; Kelsey Hood – AA; Jessie Peszek – UB, BB; Rachel Underwood – BB, FX; Jessi Buis – VT; Jessica Juncaj – UB) 
Ball State (Denaisha Christian – VT, FX; Sarah Ebeyer – VT, FX; Jordyn Penny – UB; Baylee Bell – BB)
Centenary (Ashley White – AA)

The favorite — Oklahoma

The Sooners should sail through this competition for all of the reasons, of particular note being that their season average is greater than the season high of any other team in the meet and that they've spent the month of March looking even more postseasony than usual. It would be a massive disaster if Oklahoma were not to qualify out of this session, so I'll spend more time addressing the Sooners later once we head toward nationals and start evaluating the title chances of the various top contenders.

If things go to plan and Oklahoma is up by, you know, seven tenths halfway through the meet, everyone's attention will probably be directed at the exciting qualification fight for the second spot in this session, but there are still a few areas to look out for in Oklahoma's performance with eyes toward nationals. As with pretty much all the teams, refining landings will be a major focus of the next month. Vault is the only event on which Oklahoma doesn't own the world, currently sitting in 3rd place behind LSU and Florida, often a result of the lineup peaking around 9.875 when Scaman and Jackson have larger steps on their 1.5s at the end. They need some more consistently controlled landings on those 1.5s to keep pace with the Gnats and the Bakers. (Should Oklahoma mimic what Florida does with McMurtry and throw a sticker like Kmieciak or Capps in the anchor spot after the 1.5s to ensure they get 9.9s instead of potentially being kept down earlier in the lineup?) I'm also interested to see how the routines are being evaluated as a whole since we'll get both Oklahoma and Florida as away teams at (hopefully) non-cuckoo-scoring venues at the same time for comparison. 

The fight — Nebraska v. Arkansas

This year, the #3 seeds are ending on a bye, which isn't great for the excitement of the competition but does mean that we should know exactly what Nebraska needs to do on bars heading into the final rotation since Arkansas will already be done. We have reason to hope it'll be close because there's very little to separate these teams right now, as it should be when the #12 and #13 face off. It would be hard to consider either team advancing much of an upset. In fact, while Nebraska's overall RQS is a touch higher than Arkansas's, their four event RQSs total exactly identically.

March 23, 2016

Which Teams Can Pull Off the Upset at Regionals?

Like vicious bullies who don't understand that we won't know what to do with ourselves in a weekend without gymnastics, college gymnastics is taking a week off before regionals on April 2nd in order to do dumb things like rest and heal and train and be students. So overrated.

That does, however, provide plenty of time for previews of each regional competition, so I'll be breaking those down over the next week or so to make aggressively confident proclamations about what to look for. Helpful in making such prognoses are previous scores and results, so I have compiled a batch a vaguely relevant averages and RQSs, which should provide a clearer look at which teams have the advantage on which events, where teams need to capitalize in order to advance, and which teams are at least in the running for a spot at nationals.

For the host teams, I have included home-meet averages, and for visiting teams, I have included road-meet averages, hopefully to account for any boost a team might receive at a home regional (or eliminate any boost a visiting team might have been receiving during regular-season home meets), even though there are many factors that combine to account for home blah blah blah blah blah.

Each number is followed by the team's rank within that regional, with a top-two ranking in the regional (i.e., a qualifying spot) highlighted in blue. BECAUSE COLORS. 


[1] Oklahoma
RQS: 197.920 [1]
Season high: 198.075 [1]
Season average: 197.588 [1]
Road average: 197.538 [1]

VT RQS: 49.415 [1]
VT average: 49.356 [1]
Road VT average: 49.369 [1]

UB RQS: 49.575 [1] 
UB average: 49.467 [1]
Road UB average: 49.428 [1]

BB RQS: 49.445 [1]
BB average: 49.362 [1] 
Road BB average: 49.344 [1]

FX RQS: 49.575 [1] 
FX average: 49.404 [1]
Road FX average: 49.369 [1]

[2] Nebraska
RQS: 196.635 [2]
Season high: 197.350 [2]
Season average: 196.205 [3]
Road average: 195.780 [3]

VT RQS: 49.105 [3]  
VT average: 48.991 [3] 
Road VT average: 48.865 [3]

UB RQS: 49.180 [2] 
UB average: 49.016 [3] 
Road UB average: 48.885 [5] 

BB RQS:49.255 [2]
BB average: 49.068 [3] 
Road BB average: 48.990 [2] 

FX RQS: 49.260 [3] 
FX average: 49.130 [2]
Road FX average: 49.040 [3] 

[3] Arkansas
RQS: 196.575 [3]
Season high: 197.225 [3]
Season average: 196.335 [2]
Road average: 196.118 [2]

VT RQS: 49.160 [2]
VT average: 49.104 [2] 
Road VT average: 49.139 [2] 

UB RQS: 49.165 [3] 
UB average: 49.08 [2] 
Road UB average: 49.004 [2] 

BB RQS: 49.195 [3]
BB average: 49.069 [2] 
Road BB average: 48.971 [3] 

FX RQS: 49.280 [2] 
FX average: 49.079 [4] 
Road FX average: 49.004 [4]

[4] Iowa
RQS: 196.330 [4]
Season high: 196.650 [4]
Season average: 195.456 [4]
Home average: 195.280 [4]

VT RQS: 49.095 [4] 
VT average: 48.933 [4] 
Home VT average: 48.765 [4] 

UB RQS: 49.160 [4] 
UB average: 48.846 [5] 
Home UB average: 48.895 [4]

BB RQS: 49.095 [4] 
BB average: 48.702 [4]
Home BB average: 48.605 [5] 

FX RQS: 49.115 [5] 
FX average: 48.975 [5] 
Home FX average: 49.015 [5] 

[5] Kent State
RQS: 195.595 [5]
Season high: 196.125 [5]
Season average: 195.102 [5]
Road average: 194.629 [6]

VT RQS: 48.675 [6] 
VT average: 48.600 [5] 
Road VT average: 48.508 [6] 

UB RQS: 48.940 [6] 
UB average: 48.73 [6] 
Road UB average: 48.536 [6]  

BB RQS: 48.915 [6] 
BB average: 48.643 [6]
Road BB average: 48.538 [6]

FX RQS: 49.205 [4] 
FX average: 49.123 [3] 
Road FX average: 49.046 [2]

[6] Central Michigan
RQS: 195.440 [6]
Season high: 196.125 [5]
Season average: 194.910 [6]
Road average: 194.982 [5]

VT RQS: 48.795 [5]
VT average: 48.594 [6] 
Road VT average: 48.596 [5] 

UB RQS: 49.045 [5] 
UB average: 48.910 [4]
Road UB average: 48.946 [3] 

BB RQS: 48.945 [5]
BB average: 48.692 [5] 
Road BB average: 48.861 [4] 

FX RQS: 48.995 [6] 
FX average: 48.715 [6] 
Road FX average: 48.579 [6] 

-As expected the #2 rankings are pretty much split between Nebraska and Arkansas, but Arkansas does take nine to Nebraska's six with Nebraska succeeding in RQS/season-high categories while Arkansas succeeds in season average. This reflects their season trajectories, with Nebraska struggling early but coming on strong toward the end and Arkansas remaining steadier throughout the compaign. It should be quite close between the two, so which do you value more? Are you Team RQS or Team Season Average? Team Peaking or Team Consistency?

-Nebraska has not performed particularly well on the road this year, but most of those road meets came early in the season. The somewhat paltry road averages may be more to do with timing than with location.

-Interestingly, Iowa does not get much of a boost from using home averages instead of road averages since the Hawkeyes were worse at home this year than on the road. Maybe not so much of a host bonus?

-Kent State is ranked higher than Central Michigan, almost entirely because of excellence on floor. Central Michigan is stronger on three events (significantly so when we look only at road meets), so I wouldn't be surprised if CMU finishes 5th here.


[1] Florida
RQS: 197.795 [1]
Season high: 198.175 [1]
Season average: 197.502 [1]
Road average: 197.217 [1]

VT RQS: 49.420 [1] 
VT average: 49.341 [1] 
Road VT average: 49.283 [1] 

UB RQS: 49.500 [1]
UB average: 49.439 [1] 
Road UB average: 49.388 [1] 

BB RQS: 49.430 [1] 
BB average: 49.318 [1]
Road BB average: 49.217 [1] 

FX RQS: 49.505 [1]
FX average: 49.405 [1] 
Road FX average: 49.329 [1] 

[2] Denver
RQS: 196.725 [2]
Season high: 197.525 [2]
Season average: 196.377 [2]
Road average: 196.355 [2]

VT RQS: 49.110 [4] 
VT average: 49.035 [2] 
Road VT average: 48.971 [3]  

UB RQS: 49.270 [2] 
UB average: 49.171 [2]
Road UB average: 49.155 [2] 

BB RQS: 49.115 [3]
BB average: 48.940 [3] 
Road BB average: 49.029 [2] 

FX RQS: 49.360 [2] 
FX average: 49.231 [2] 
Road FX average: 49.200 [2]

[3] Minnesota
RQS: 196.495 [3]
Season high: 197.425 [3]
Season average: 196.090 [3]
Home average: 195.555 [4]

VT RQS: 49.120 [2] 
VT average: 48.975 [4] 
Home VT average: 48.810 [4] 

UB RQS: 49.180 [3] 
UB average: 48.963 [4] 
Home UB average: 48.770 [6] 

BB RQS: 49.185 [2] 
BB average: 49.021 [2] 
Home BB average: 48.955 [3] 

FX RQS: 49.270 [3] 
FX average: 49.131 [3] 
Home FX average: 49.020 [3] 

[4] Missouri
RQS: 196.235 [4]
Season high: 196.650 [4]
Season average: 195.867 [4]
Road average: 195.696 [3]

VT RQS: 49.120 [2] 
VT average: 48.990 [3] 
Road VT average: 49.071 [2] 

UB RQS: 49.120 [4] 
UB average: 48.983 [3]
Road UB average: 48.989 [3] 

BB RQS: 49.070 [4] 
BB average: 48.883 [4] 
Road BB average: 48.810 [4]

FX RQS: 49.180 [4] 
FX average: 49.010 [4] 
Road FX average: 48.839 [5] 

[5] Ohio State
RQS: 195.885 [5]
Season high: 196.350 [5]
Season average: 195.448 [5]
Road average: 195.350 [5]

VT RQS: 48.985 [5]
VT average: 48.889 [5] 
Road VT average: 48.936 [5] 

UB RQS: 49.020 [5] 
UB average: 48.875 [5] 
Road UB average: 48.832 [4] 

BB RQS: 48.955 [5] 
BB average: 48.764 [5] 
Road BB average: 48.729 [5]

FX RQS: 49.075 [5] 
FX average: 48.920 [5] 
Road FX average: 48.854 [4]

[6] BYU
RQS: 195.550 [6]
Season high: 196.100 [6]
Season average: 195.048 [6]
Road average: 194.894 [6]

VT RQS: 48.950 [6] 
VT average: 48.755 [6]
Road VT average: 48.709 [6] 

UB RQS: 48.980 [6]  
UB average: 48.841 [6] 
Road UB average: 48.800 [5] 

BB RQS: 48.870 [6] 
BB average: 48.623 [6]
Road BB average: 48.606 [6] 

FX RQS: 49.065 [6] 
FX average: 48.830 [6] 
Road FX average: 48.784 [6]  

-Minnesota is in the same boat as Iowa in terms of performing much worse at home this year than on the road, so the Gophers get little help from those home averages. But, Minnesota is the #3 team instead of the #4 team here, so it may not take as much of a home nudge to flip things around from the current situation, which has Denver taking the lion's share of the #2 spots. Actually, it's a surprisingly dominant statistical showing from Denver, perhaps more of a favorite than it might seem, but Minnesota was adjusted up two seeding places in the allocation so is not as close to Denver as a normal #14 would be. Minnesota has beam, but may also need a little stronger scent of home in this one.

-Then there's the matter of Missouri, sliding into the #2s on vault and reminding us of 2010.

March 21, 2016

Regional Championships Selection

It's all set now. With (a little too) much house music and bugle interludes, the NCAA has announced which teams have been sorted into which regionals. The setup is the one I listed as Option #4 yesterday based on my reading of the rules, but I'm more than OK with it because I think it's a pretty sane decision and among the more logical of the four placement possibilities. Georgia was moved one spot while Minnesota was moved two, which makes sense since Georgia is the higher ranked team, and the teams that were affected by the two-spot Minnesota move were each adjusted downward one spot rather than "exchanged," which is more fair overall.

Weirdly, I'm actually happy with what the committee came up with and think it was the right call given the rankings and hosts. That's out of character, so I'll let you know when I have something to complain about. It will happen in time.

I am disappointed that there weren't any really terrible pronunciations coming from our selection show host this year to add to the pantheon of Georgia Burritz (a burrito that doesn't wear grips?) and Lymeenis Hall ( He did say Danuzza Francis, but that's not even that bad.



IOWA (5:00 ET/2:00 PT)
Kent State
Central Michigan

Just three AAers join this section because there were only three ranked AAers in this region that weren't already going with a team. That's why there's an extra individual event specialist on each event.

AA: Corbett, Western Michigan; Hood, Western Michigan; White, Centenary
VT: Christian, Ball State; Buis, Western Michigan; Ebeyer, Ball State
UB: Penny, Ball State, Peszek, Western Michigan; Juncaj, Western Michigan
BB: Underwood, Western Michigan; Peszek, Western Michigan; Bell, Ball State
FX: Christian, Ball State; Underwood, Western Michigan, Ebeyer, Ball State

Should be an exciting race for that second spot because Nebraska and Arkansas have displayed very similar scoring potential this year, with Arkansas more consistent but with Nebraska probably having the higher peak on a great day. Wouldn't want to pick it. Plus, there's Iowa as a host, having scored mid-196s often at home this season. Shouldn't be more than a few tenths separating those three.

UTAH (8:00 ET/5:00 PT)
Southern Utah
Utah State

AA: McCartney, Sacramento State; Rice, Sacramento State; Hundley, Seattle Pacific; Matsunami, Alaska
VT: Konner, Sacramento State; Nogaki, Davis
UB: Brown, Davis; Benning, Sacramento State
BB: Stamates, Davis; Nogaki, Davis
FX: Stamates, Davis; Benning, Sacramento State

Utah and UCLA will be expected to come through this regional given hit meets, but Washington and Southern Utah are both mid-196 capable groups, and Illinois is still Illinois in spite of being so depleted. Utah has two losses to UCLA already this year. The fans will be aware of this.

March 20, 2016

Regionals Be Cray

Now, more than ever.

With the conference championships out of the way, NCAA gymnastics will hope that we all quickly move on to focusing on regionals so that we don't spend any more time talking about SEC Championships and the 88-minute scoring calculation delay it took to get all the abacuses out of storage (apparently) and figure out that Florida got exactly the score needed to win.

So, we'll oblige. Regionals!

Tomorrow at 4:00 ET, streamed on, we'll learn the exact regional placements during the definitely-necessary-and-not-at-all-silly REGIONALS SELECTION SHOW EXTRAVAGANZA, but this year, there's a little more reason for an actual regionals announcement than usual because we don't know exactly how the regional placements will be adjusted to account for hosting conflicts.

Here are the 36 teams advancing to regionals:

NC State needed just a 194.775 at EAGLs to take that final spot away from Michigan State but was not able to do it, finishing just a hair short of a spot in spite of coming into yesterday ranked #33. The big disappointment of the day.

As dictated by the NCAA Official Terrible Seeding Procedure, the top-18 teams are supposed to be distributed in the following format:

Thankfully, this distribution will have to be adjusted this year because of host conflicts, which is good news because the seeding setup continues to make exactly zero sense as a procedure. If we were to arrange the seeds by the normal standard, we would end up with these groups (Note: there is currently a tie for 13th between Arkansas and Oregon State, which is broken by looking at the highest score not already being used as one of the six for RQS, which means the tiebreak goes to Arkansas, 196.500 to 196.225). Whether you can say that Arkansas "wins" the tiebreak, I'm not sure.

Oklahoma - Nebraska - Arkansas
Florida - Denver - Oregon State
LSU - Cal - Boise State
Alabama (host) - Georgia (host) - Minnesota (host)
Utah (host) - UCLA - Washington
Auburn - Michigan (host) - Stanford

The remaining host is #19 Iowa, and if Iowa had finished 18th, things would have been even crazier. Lots of arguments have been going around about how the committee will elect to resort these teams, but there are some vague guidelines given in the rules to provide some sense of how this will be resolved. When host conflicts emerge, the lower-seeds are adjusted, while the higher seeds receive precedent to remain in place if possible. Teams cannot be moved more than two places out of seeding, and should be moved only one (higher or lower) when possible. That's not going to be possible in this case, so we will have some two-spot moving.

March 19, 2016

Conference Championships Live Blog

 Saturday, March 19
11:00 ET/8:00 PT – Jesolo Senior Team and AA 
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 1 - SCORES - Big Ten Network
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – ECAC DI Championship - SCORES
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – ECAC DII Championship 
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 1 - SCORES - SECN
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – MAC Championship - SCORES - ESPN3
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – EAGL Championship- SCORES - ESPN3
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Division III Individual Championship - Stream
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Pac-12 Championship Session 1 - SCORES - Pac-12
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 2 - SCORES - Big Ten Network
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big 12 Championship - SCORES - TV: Fox Sports affiliates
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – MIC Championship - SCORES
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 2 - SCORES - SECN
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Mountain Rim Championship - SCORES - Stream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Pac-12 Championship Session 2 - SCORES - Pac-12
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Mountain Pacific Championship- SCORES - Aunt Flo($)

The fourth-most exciting day of the college gymnastics season has finally arrived! I know you've had it circled on your calendars for months. It is a big one, with some important elite action thrown in, so I prepared a schedule. Everything is better with a chart. 


Also, keep an eye on the rankings coming into the day, the final chance for teams to change their lot. The full breakdown of what teams need is here.  

March 18, 2016

SEC Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Afternoon session 2:00 ET/11:00 PT
Evening session 6:00 ET/3:00 PT

It's tomorrow! Everything starts very early, with Jesolo getting underway even before the first session of Big Tens. It'll be a huge day of live blogging and gymnastics watching, so we'll have to pace ourselves early. Don't waste your energy before the big-girl sessions begin.

Finally. After years of watching poky live score spreadsheet templates that didn't even update, followed by the recent generous bestowing of an internet stream, the SEC Championship will at last be broadcast live on actual televisions this year. Happy 1968, everyone!

In an attempt to make up for doing such a terrible job at this for so long, the SEC Network is whipping out all the bells and whistles this season, with a TV broadcast accompanied by each individual event streaming online, meaning we can make sure to watch all of Georgia's beam routines from behind our fingers while still getting the competition done in a cool two hours. I'm on board. The SEC Network is also really talking up the hip new quad-meet scoring interface it will debut (to the point where it better physically shoot candy and cheeseburgers out of the TV to live up to this), so I'm eager to see what that looks like. The SEC Net has done a very good job of displaying the scores and running totals in an unobtrusive manner so far, so there's reason for optimism.

NBC really needs to take notes on what the SEC Network does with live scoring heading into the Olympics. With an easy way to update live scores at the bottom of the screen, you don't need to watch Gabby do her grips for 25 minutes while waiting for the score. You can move on to other routines, and then display the score and real-time rankings as they come in. You know, actual development and innovation, not just MEANINGLESS TRIANGLES.

Florida, LSU, Alabama, Auburn

While we all roll our eyes every time an SEC coach says that winning the SEC Championship is harder than winning the national championship (it objectively isn't to anyone who thinks about it for literally one second), this is still a hell of a competition with a solid five teams realistically capable of a hearty 197. Given the scores we've seen this season, however, winning this title really should take a high 197, which probably precludes Auburn and Georgia unless it's a splatfest and they slide on through. Once again, we're looking at Florida, LSU, and Alabama.

Alabama won last season, taking advantage of a beam catastrophe from Florida and beam foreshadowing wobbles from LSU to dance to the top spot with a 197.5, and Alabama's totals so far this year indicate the need for something similar. Alabama has peaked at 197.5s while LSU has gone into the 197.9s and Florida into the 198s. But, if we correct for some silly scoring and for Alabama's epic depth exploration in every meet, there's probably not actually a whole fall worth of difference between these teams. While it will be tough for Alabama to match an ideal meet from LSU or Florida based on what we've seen, I'm not willing to write off the Tide quite yet. But between Florida and LSU? Take your pick. It will be close. Let's get into it.

Rotation 1: Florida vault, LSU bars, Alabama beam, Auburn floor  

Event RQS for rotation 1
Auburn 49.435
Florida 49.390
LSU 49.370
Alabama 49.300

You'll notice something a bit unexpected in those RQSs in that they tell us Auburn should be leading after the first rotation. It could happen because of floor reasons, but I wouldn't bet on it. Although for Auburn, it's absolutely necessary if a title challenge is in play. While Atkinson's is a definite 9.9+ routine (along with occasionally Rott, Demers, and Hlawek), the high floor RQSs across the conference and country reflect loose end-of-meet scoring rather than significant supremacy over the quality of other teams on other events. It will be tough to replicate in this context, and Auburn taking a first-rotation lead would also require a couple other teams under-performing early.

This first event is also critical for LSU to establish a high-scoring pace since bars is their weakest event (the RQS is lower on beam, but beam). Finnegan is obviously a star, and the return of Priessman ups the scoring potential, but a couple 9.800s with form breaks and lower amplitude at the beginning of the lineup put LSU's bars behind those of Florida. If LSU can get Zamardi, Finnegan, Priessman, Wyrick, and Hambrick all in the lineup at the same time, however, that should minimize counting any low scores and bolster what could be a flat event, but those five have not actually been in the same lineup yet this season. Judging by a high 197 standard, LSU must go into the 49.4s on bars to avoid falling off the pace.

March 17, 2016

Pac-12 Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Afternoon session 4:00 ET/1:00 PT
Evening session 9:00 ET/6:00 PT

The Pac-12 should take pride this season in winning the award for the weirdest conference championship scenario. Stanford is the #6 seed and competing in the "who even are you?" afternoon relegation session in spite of being quite a realistic title contender and possible winner, which if nothing else, will serve to make sure we all pay more attention to the afternoon session instead of getting distracted by the simultaneous Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC action. Fun fact: there will be at least 30 minutes during which all four of those championships are going on at the same time. Well, we've had a good life.

Stanford's last meet featured a relative crushing of Georgia and UCLA, so if that's any indication, Stanford is currently in the midst of pulling a Stanford once again this year. But, let's begin with the ones who were good all season long and qualified for the coveted evening session.  

Utah, UCLA, Cal, Oregon State

Once again, Utah has earned the top seed in the conference on the back of resolutely having the fewest meltdowns. Hooray! Seven straight weeks of 197s coupled with breaking the 197.5 barrier in the last two outings has given the Utes a fairly comfortable ranking lead over the remaining Pac-12 teams, meaning they'll be favorites heading in. Given what UCLA and Stanford can do, however, there shouldn't more than a few tenths in this either way with hit meets all around (ahahahahahaha), so we have at least some reason to hope for excitement. UCLA is capable of busting out a massive day, and after Stanford goes, we'll have the benefit of a legitimate pace standard through which to gauge Utah and UCLA's performances. So, let's break this thing down.

Rotation 1: UCLA vault, Cal bars, Utah beam, Oregon State floor

Event RQS for rotation 1:
Utah 49.290
UCLA 49.165
Oregon State 49.165
Cal 49.110

Of course UCLA is the team that drew its arch-nemesis, Olympic order, meaning the Bruins already have a four-tenth deficit, and the competition is two days away. It actually is probably beneficial to the Bruins as they make their money on beam and floor and would rather end there than begin there, hoping to squeeze out some home-meet level scoring as Cipra and Bynum on floor will be the last routines of the competition, at the end of a long day, once the judges are already halfway through the whiskey bottle. I know. That's not right of me to say. They'll obviously have finished the whiskey by that point and be on to the cooking sherry and rubbing alcohol.

As for vault, UCLA has lacked the required landing control and difficulty (having to rely on Bynum's arabian and Pua's roller coaster 1.5), often bouncing back on fulls and hoping to get a 9.825 out of them. The sticking shoes showed up just once a couple weeks ago to earn UCLA a 49.375, but more often the score has been about 49.1. It wouldn't be the end of the world, but the Bruins will hope to go over 49.2 to keep pace early. None of the teams are starting on particularly strong events, so don't expect anyone to run away with this thing at the beginning.

Utah's beam will be among the key rotations to keep every eye on because of Stover Watch 2016. She may be able to compete beam at Pac-12s after all, and if she's back in form, that bolsters Utah's scoring potential by a solid tenth, maybe more, and seriously reduces the Fall Terror Index. It was rising considerably depending on who was going to have to come into the lineup. Utah has had its share of falls this season, but this isn't among the most terrifying beam lineups in the conference. Lopez is currently doing the best beam work of her career, and if Utah can get at least 9.875s from her, Rowe, and Stover (?), along with two other hits, breaking into 49.300+ range seems doable, at least depending on how some of those early-lineup short splits are being evaluated. If the Utes emerge from beam in the first rotation with a true lead, that significantly fuels their chances because they'll be heading off to higher-scoring, lower-risk events from here. If it's 49.1 or lower, ring all the bells because it's feeding time for the vultures. 

March 16, 2016

Big Ten Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Morning session 12:00 ET/9:00 PT
Afternoon session 5:00 ET/2:00 PT
Championship Central

Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State

Dating from time immemorial (so, 2012 when Nebraska joined the Big Ten), the quest for conference supremacy has been a fight between the Wolverines and the Huskers, attempting to answer the age-old question of which is better, a weird tiny skunk-bear or an ear of corn. The big two. This year, I don't see much reason to change the world order.

That would have been an easier proclamation to make before the underwater hallucination circus that was that Big Five meet at Penn State, suddenly won by Minnesota and a bucket of cracky judging, but other than ensuring that we don't ignore Minnesota's 197 potential in the postseason, that meet shouldn't really change the statuses of Michigan as favorite, Nebraska as next-best-favorite, Minnesota as also-almost-next-best-favorite, and Iowa as hey-you're-a-team-this-year.  

In spite of losing to Nebraska earlier in the season, Michigan's scoring potential remains the highest among the teams in this competition, and there's a solid argument to be made that Michigan is the strongest team in the conference on all four apparatuses. At least, that's what the rankings tell us. Really, Michigan is the top team on all four apparatuses***, and *** means AHHHBEAM. As it always does.

Three of Michigan's last four beam scores have been under 49, each including at least two falls, and the team has not hit 6-for-6 on beam since February 14th. So that's not ideal. Of significant concern, the falls are coming from everyone at various times, most recently their two best beamers in Artz and Chiarelli. At this point in the season, with nine or ten realistic Super Six contenders, we're looking for any reason to doubt a team, and a month of beam falls is a reason to doubt a team. The Wolverines have still managed scores in the high 196s and low 197s with these beam mistakes, but it should take more than a 197.0 to win a major conference title in the current scoring climate, so it's quite hard to see Michigan winning while also counting a fall. Beam is up in the fourth rotation for them, so we won't truly know where the competition stands until then.

The positive we can draw from the high 196s-low 197s with beam falls is that if Michigan does hit five beam routines, we'll see a mid-197, which really should be enough to sweep up the title. Michigan has a vault difficulty edge, featuring the highest score in the country in Karas, and three floor workers in Artz, Chiarelli, and Karas who should all be going 9.900+. It will be tough for the other teams in the country to match both of those assets.

Coming off two straight 197s, however, Nebraska looks the most likely team to do it, having regained the potential to challenge a hit meet from Michigan by restoring a modicum of depth in the last couple weeks. This long-awaited return to the 197 club has been marked by a sudden and somewhat unexpected influx of floor 9.9s, particularly from gymnasts who had not been floor stars in previous seasons like Breen and Laeng. The Huskers are still forced to use some backup routines they would rather not be, particularly on bars, which means a higher potential for 9.700-9.750s. Danger-zone scores. The situation on bars has been exacerbated by Jennie Laeng's elbow injury. She's by far their best bars worker, but in spite of returning on the other three events, she has remained out on bars, which depresses the scoring potential.

March 14, 2016

Week 10 Rankings + Final RQS Scenarios

The final weekend of the regular season has come and gone, with all its senior nights, and crying festivals, and craziest 10s you'll ever see. We couldn't have asked for anything more. Hanna Nordquist getting a 10 for a wobble. Nicole Artz struggling through a beam routine, ending with a fall, and still scoring 9.450. Janay Honest and McKenzie Wofford getting the same bars score. We'll always have these memories.

This was actually one of the more normal ones.

What are you talking about? Bridget Sloan doesn't hop on final-pass landings during her last floor routine on senior night. Shut up.

Now, we sit on the cusp of the conference championships, just one week remaining for teams to resolve their horrible RQSs and make a push for a not-horrible regionals spot. Normally at this point, I would do the temporary regionals outlook if the season ended today, but if the standings truly do end this way, it's going to take some fancy figuring and rearranging to sort out the host placements. Based on current seeding, Alabama and Minnesota would be placed together (both hosts), Utah and Georgia would go together (both hosts), and Michigan and Iowa would go together (both hosts). So, that won't work. Unless things dramatically resort themselves after the conference championships, be ready for the seedings to get a little weird for regionals and depart from the traditional 1/12/13, 2/11/14, 3/10/15, 4/9/16, 5/8/17, 6/7/18. 

I sort of wish they didn't have to change because right now we have some really juicy pairings set up, like Nebraska/Arkansas fighting for a spot and Cal/Oregon State fighting for a spot. And then there's the Stanford wildcard. Bring it on. 

Anyway, let's get to the rankings. This week, I've included the maximum RQS for each team in order to provide a look at how high each team can potentially climb after the final meet. Toward the bottom, I have included the score each of the bubble teams needs to clinch a spot at regionals, if that's possible.

Week 10 rankings
1. Oklahoma – 197.845

Road Score 1: 197.950
Road Score 2: 197.925
Road Score 3: 197.675
Road/Home Score 1: 198.075
Road/Home Score 2: 197.900
Road/Home Score 3: 197.775

Maximum RQS: 197.925

With another gigantic performance over the weekend at UCLA, Oklahoma widens its lead over Florida, but while the season-ending #1 ranking looks likely at this point, it is not yet guaranteed. The Sooners can clinch the spot with a 197.850 at Big 12s, a difficult score but one that is clearly attainable. The other entirely cosmetic but fun benchmark to watch out for is Oklahoma's school RQS record of 197.895 (tied for second-best all time), which can be broken this year with a 197.950 at Big 12s.

The Sooners did a little lineup fiddling against UCLA with Kmieciak coming out of the six on vault, beam, and floor. It didn't end up mattering too much in the final score, but her replacements (Jackson on beam and Marks on floor) both had errors, and their scores had to be dropped. They're probably not routines Oklahoma will want to use when things count, putting a little more pressure on the good lineups to be present and accounted for. 

2. Florida – 197.655

Road Score 1: 197.750
Road Score 2: 197.525
Road Score 3: 197.075
Road/Home Score 1: 198.175
Road/Home Score 2: 198.050
Road/Home Score 3: 197.875

Maximum RQS: 197.875

With the senior-night scoring parade, Florida won the 198-race for the regular season, which is a thing now I guess. Florida could theoretically pass Oklahoma for the #1 national seed, but that would take at least a 198.050 at SECs coupled with Oklahoma not increasing its RQS at all. It's possible, but not likely.

Beam was Florida's weak event on Friday in spite of marking the team's first 6-for-6 showing in quite a while. Peyton Ernst was out injured, putting yet more strain on a group that has been somewhat shaky lately, pretty much all except for McMurtry.

3. LSU – 197.555

Road Score 1: 197.900
Road Score 2: 197.825
Road Score 3: 196.800
Road/Home Score 1: 197.925
Road/Home Score 2: 197.825
Road/Home Score 3: 197.425

Maximum RQS: 197.780

LSU has made a late run and is suddenly within striking distance of Florida for that #2 spot. It will take at minimum 197.325 at SECs, but both teams should be eclipsing that mark quite comfortably at this point. If both teams do go big and LSU beats Florida by a couple tenths, LSU could move ahead.

Priessman returned on bars for 9.925 last weekend, shoring up a somewhat questionable lineup. There are still a couple clear 9.800s that will pale against the top teams, but it's starting to look more competitive. In fact, the biggest question for LSU this year is once again whether beam, the team's most enjoyable and beautiful event, is non-terrifying enough to warrant a national championship.

4. Alabama – 197.325

Road Score 1: 197.525
Road Score 2: 197.300
Road Score 3: 197.250
Road/Home Score 1: 197.550
Road/Home Score 2: 197.375
Road/Home Score 3: 197.175

Maximum RQS: 197.400

Out of action, Alabama was forced to concede a step to the other big girls, and heading into conference championships, the Tide look like a clear #3 in the SEC. But don't sleep on Alabama. We learned that last year in pretty much the exact same scenario. And many times before that. The concern about Alabama right now is one of scoring potential. Alabama's high is 197.550 this year, a score we'd expect both Florida and LSU to sail past at SECs. Then again, Alabama is sort of secret-weaponing it this year. Have we even seen the final lineups? Even in the last meet of the regular season, those were not the lineups that should be going out at SECs unless there are serious injury problems.

March 13, 2016

Oklahoma @ UCLA Live Blog

Sunday, March 13
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Kent State, Yale @ George Washington - SCORES
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – West Virginia @ Pittsburgh - SCORES - ESPN3
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Utah State @ Illinois-Chicago - SCORES
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – William & Mary @ Towson - SCORES - Stream
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Oklahoma @ UCLA - SCORES - TV: Pac-12
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Air Force @ Alaska - SCORES

In case you weren't excited already, @badbebop on Twitter made this for the meet:

I know, right? People are super talented. 

Now, back to resenting all of humanity...

In the early action today, George Washington was in line for a score well into the 196s but counting an 8.8 on bars drops the total down to 195.400, which is squarely in their unusable range. GW's ranking is already sort of fine, so today's meet was much more important for Kent State. The 195.275 isn't a score that will stand out, but it replaces a 193.725 road score and will shoot Kent State all the way up to a temporary ranking of #30. Exceptionally important performance. That knocks Bowling Green back down to 37th for the moment in spite of the big score yesterday. It will get interesting.

March 12, 2016

Saturday Live Blog – Georgia @ Utah; Big Five

Saturday, March 12
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Cornell @ West Chester
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Big Five Meet #1: Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Rutgers @ Penn State - SCORES - TV: Big Ten Network
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Bridgeport @ Pennsylvania
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big Five Meet #2: Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland @ Ohio State - SCORES - BTN2Go (login)
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ Bowling Green - SCORES 
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Temple, S. Connecticut, Rhode Island @ Brown
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Georgia @ Utah - SCORES - TV: Pac-12 Network
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – LSU, Oregon State, New Hampshire @ Texas Woman’s - SCORES - Flog($)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ NC State - SCORES - Stream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Denver, Seattle Pacific @ Washington - SCORES - Stream

Getting started early today with the first of two Big Five qualifying meets. The one that's on TV. The other one isn't. Earlier, I said BTN was dumb. Turns out, I'm dumb. I thought BTN was showing an old meet between Nebraska and Penn State after this instead of the second Big Five meet, but they're actually showing a men's meet between Nebraska and Penn State. Which is also tape delayed. So not better. And in my defense...

March 11, 2016

Friday Live Blog – Senior Night in the Land of 10s

Friday, March 11
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – North Carolina @ Florida - SCORES - SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Iowa State @ Kentucky - SCORES - SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Pittsburgh @ West Virginia - SCORES - Stream
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Missouri @ Western Michigan- SCORES - ESPN3
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Centenary @ Lindenwood - SCORES - Stream
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arizona State @ Auburn - SCORES - SECN
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Utah State @ Arkansas - SCORES
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ Arizona - SCORES - Stream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Southern Utah, San Jose State @ Boise State - SCORES - Stream
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Cal, Sacramento State @ UC Davis - SCORES - Stream
11:00 ET/8:00 PT – Air Force @ Alaska - SCORES 

Week 9 rankings

Welp, the final weekend of the regular season means a whole heap of senior nights/days, which in turn means a whole heap of 10s. Let's all admit that 90% of the reason we're watching Florida/North Carolina is to see how crazy the scores are and whether Bridgey gets a 10 on floor. 

While thinking about 10s, I just spruced up the Hall of 10s a little bit, adding videos for this season's 10s (thanks NastiaFan101!), making sure all the home/away/location designations were there, and adding a couple more years through the diligent work of my garbage brain and scouring RTN. If you notice omissions, of which there are definitely plenty, please let me know. Ideally, I'll keep going back and adding more years. Probably until 2004, because it would take a whole year just to write up all the 2004 10s.

March 10, 2016

The Weekend Plans – March 11-13

The last weekend before championship season. The last weekend of only two judges. The absolute last weekend of "exploring depth." We hope. Some teams are still "exploring depth" in May. This weekend can be interesting to watch in terms of lineups, which teams decide to use it as an opportunity to rest gymnasts versus which teams feel it's necessary to solidify final lineups this week before the various championships begin. Most teams fall into the latter category and have been using the past couple meets to throw in some rest weeks for various elites and fragiles, but we'll see.

For many teams that are eager to solidify lineups, this weekend becomes the final chance to try to squeeze their 90%-injured athletes into the lineup and make sure they're good to go for the postseason. LSU will hope to get Priessman back into action on Saturday, and if she's actually back with the good and hitting, she could be LSU's secret weapon for a title run. If not, they'll want know that before SECs. UCLA has also been sans about a million crucial routines in recent weeks, with Peng out, no Dejesus/Cipra/Francis on floor last week, and with the deus ex machina that's suddenly going to make bars better somehow still waiting to appear. Um...we need you? 

Top 25 schedule 
Friday, March 11
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – North Carolina @ [2] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Iowa State @ [21] Kentucky
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Pittsburgh @ [25] West Virginia
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [15] Missouri @ Western Michigan
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arizona State @ [7] Auburn
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Utah State @ [11] Arkansas
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ [20] Arizona
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Southern Utah, San Jose State @ [12] Boise State
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [14] Cal, Sacramento State @ UC Davis

Saturday, March 12
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Big Five Meet #1: [6] Michigan, [18] Iowa, [19] Minnesota, Rutgers @ Penn State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big Five Meet #2: [16] Nebraska, [23] Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland @ Ohio State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [9] Georgia @ [5] Utah
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [3] LSU, [16] Oregon State, New Hampshire @ Texas Woman’s
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [10] Denver, Seattle Pacific @ [24] Washington

Sunday, March 13
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Kent State, Yale @ [22] George Washington
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [25] West Virginia @ Pittsburgh
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [8] UCLA

Live blogging
ALL. THREE. DAYS. It's a bit of a weird one on Friday. We're used to the big Friday night SEC clashes (or FRIDAY NIGHT HEIGHTS, as the cool kids call it), but this Friday sees exactly no meetings between top-25 schools. I'll certainly keep an eye on the big guns like Florida and Auburn, but the absence of significant dual meets also means that this should be a worthwhile chance to check in on non-famous teams we need to see, like Boise State.

Things get slightly more real on Saturday with the qualifiers to Big Tens. But here's something dumb: The first meet will be broadcast live on BTN. (Yay!) After that, instead of showing the second meet, BTN will be showing the tape-delayed Nebraska/Penn State meet from January. Yeah, uh....WTF? Anyway, I'll keep it going through Georgia/Utah and then return on Sunday for Oklahoma/UCLA. Pac-12 coming through with the good ones this week.

In the top 10, we could see some jockeying for a place or two this week. Utah, Michigan, and Auburn in 5, 6, 7 may shuffle themselves around, and Georgia and UCLA could flip-flop depending on which team is less terrifying, but the real action happens farther down the rankings. (Georgia theoretically has a shot to pass Auburn for the evening session at SECs, but it's not too, too likely. Auburn can clinch with a 196.950, and Georgia would need an Auburn miss and a 197 of its own to have a shot.) 

Utah and UCLA have secured spots in the big-girl session at Pac-12s, but their companions are still TBD with Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington all remaining in contention. Stanford and Cal currently inhabit those spots, but Stanford is out of action this week. Cal needs 195.675 to pass Stanford, while Oregon State needs 195.850, and Washington needs 196.350. All attainable, which means it may come down to which two sides pass Stanford by the most. Saturday evening just got interesting.

Nebraska's performance in the Big Five will also be critical. The Huskers are currently in 16th but have a 195.350 road score to drop and could move as high as 11th with a big result, which would drastically change the regional picture.

We'll know more about what teams need to do to make the top 12/18 after this week because there are still a ton of different scenarios at this point, but farther down the rankings, Bowling Green is developing into a story. Bowling Green currently sits in 38th, .050 out of the regional spots, but with a meet on Thursday and another on Saturday, a serious chance to move up with some mid-195s jas suddenly presented itself. Bowling Green hasn't made regionals since...quarter past ever? 

March 7, 2016

Week 9 Rankings + RQS Update

One more week of regular, normal, average action, then it's on to the conference championships, and then after that, it starts being actually important to do well. So close! With some schools taking byes this coming weekend like lazy garbage teams, we now know a few maximum RQS totals, so we can see exactly how high those teams will be able to rise. Or not rise.

The most critical ranking development came from the significant scores posted by Stanford and Nebraska on Sunday, rendering things somewhat less precarious for both teams. And more precarious for everyone else because now Nebraska and Stanford have proven 197 potential and are going to make some unlucky team very disappointed some day. No one wants a 197ing #3 seed. The problem for them is that Denver and Arkansas have also proven to be 197 teams, making it harder to move up into cozier, higher penthouse floors.

The Race for the Evening Session at SECs is also winding down, with Georgia currently on the outside looking in and trying to snatch Auburn at the last second. Oregon State also currently sits in 5th in the Pac-12, but Washington is the host of the championships this year, so this may get a little wonky. When Cal hosted two years ago, the home team's session was the evening one, even though Cal was in the B group. It didn't go well, but do we know if they've received the memo on that or if it will be more of the same? The Big Ten does things a little differently, putting six teams in the second session, with placement decided by the results at the Big Five meets this coming weekend. 

In scoring news, it's March. That's all you need to know. The judges felt like they had permission to start throwing out the 10s like candy again, to least to everyone who isn't named Elizabeth Price. Sloan got another beam 10, Gnat got another floor 10, and McGee also got another floor 10, all gymnasts who have already received 10s on those events this season. Then in UCLA's own SEC-themed carnival of insane scores, Danusia got her first beam 10 for a couple years, and Brittany Rogers got her first 10 ever, just not on the event where she was supposed to get it.

As usually happens in meets like those, the craziest scores weren't the 10s but unjustified 9.925s and 9.950s that pushed the totals up and made the 10s almost necessary. That's why it was so funny that Price didn't get a 10 from both judges this particular bars routine. (I'm not as worked up about vault because it was not a true stick, in spite of doing the DTY. You can't decide not to see it simply because of difficulty, as many times as we've seen that happen. )

Sure, Price has done this identical bars routine four or five times and never received 10.000 for it, but this time is somewhat different because it's not like the judges were keeping themselves clothed and professional, even the particular bars judge who went 9.950 (and who also gave Sophina 9.900 for one of her Evel Knievel dismounts). They were throwing panties on every event for all the teams, and then...

9.975. OK? You're choosing now to have scruples?

Anyway, to the rankings! I'm taking the rankings down much lower this week for a look at who is in regionals contention and how close the race is. (It's close.)

Week 9 rankings

1. Oklahoma – 197.765

Road Score 1: 197.925
Road Score 2: 197.675
Road Score 3: 197.550
Road/Home Score 1: 198.075
Road/Home Score 2: 197.900
Road/Home Score 3: 197.775

Oklahoma keeps putting away 197 after 197 and remains safe at #1 until at least the conference championships. It's hard to pick at a team with these scores because while there are momentary issues like weaker vault landings over the weekend, Oklahoma is hitting us in the face with solid gymnastics week after week. The real question I have is, interestingly, about the beam lineup. Now, it's interesting in part because I always pretend to have a question about the beam lineup and then it always ends up being better than fine in the postseason because it's Oklahoma and beam. But then again, I look at Kmieciak, Lehrmann, Catour, Brown, Jones, and Capps (the recent six) and I this really the team's best beam lineup?

2. Florida 197.580

Road Score 1: 197.750
Road Score 2: 197.525
Road Score 3: 197.075
Road/Home Score 1: 198.175
Road/Home Score 2: 197.875
Road/Home Score 3: 197.675

Florida gained some ground on Oklahoma this week after a crucially large road total, but it's a bit of a treadmill process when Oklahoma keeps getting just as massive or more massive scores. The Gators compete at home next weekend for senior night and will host the annual 198 party, so they cannot drop that low road score and catch Oklahoma quite yet. The real question this week is how much of a 40 Bridget Sloan is going to have on Senior Night. I mean the score. 40.000. I'm talking about gymnastics.

The #2 ranking is safe for now, and much of the potential to challenge for #1 will come down to what Florida can do at SECs to get rid of that peasant 197.075.

Fun fact: Florida has hit all six beam routines just once since January and hasn't had all beam scores reach 9.8 since January 15th. The balance beam situation vulture eyes are on all over the place this week.

3. LSU – 197.340

Road Score 1: 197.900
Road Score 2: 196.800
Road Score 3: 196.750
Road/Home Score 1: 197.925
Road/Home Score 2: 197.825
Road/Home Score 3: 197.425

The Tigers recorded a season high and used it to pass Alabama into 3rd, which is quite a solid ranking for a team that spent so much of the early half of the season significantly under-ranked. I see no reason to expect LSU's RQS ascent to stop considering that those two non-bold road scores are pretty pedestrian by LSU standards and would constitute a weak meet at this point in the year. Florida is unreachable until SECs, but there will be an opening at that point if LSU records a couple more big 197s. Traveling to TWU and then to SECs, it seems realistic.

4. Alabama – 197.325

Road Score 1: 197.525
Road Score 2: 197.300
Road Score 3: 197.250
Road/Home Score 1: 197.550
Road/Home Score 2: 197.375
Road/Home Score 3: 197.175

Maximum RQS: 197.400

That 196.200 disaster against LSU was not a good note on which to leave the regular season, but with no meet next weekend, Alabama will have to live with annihilating my fantasy team and heading into SECs with the poor taste of sub-49 scores on bars and beam still lingering. The bars problem shouldn't really be repeated, although Jetter's double front is always a case of pass-the-stabbing-knife, but beam has been a case of the beautiful disasters this year, especially disastrous when some of the beautifuls aren't competing. Winston only did one event over the weekend. What even was that?

Because LSU looks very likely to increase its RQS and Alabama is capped at 197.400, it looks like the remaining score will be more about fending off the others.

March 6, 2016

Sunday Live Blog – UCLA, Georgia, Stanford, Heart Medicine

Sunday, March 6
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Ohio State, Bowling Green @ West Virginia - SCORES - Stream
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – George Washington, Pittsburgh, Texas Woman’s, Yale @ Maryland - SCORES - BTNPlus($)
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Georgia, Stanford @ UCLA - SCORES - Pac-12
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Utah State @ Nebraska - SCORES
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Minnesota, Denver @ Air Force - Stream
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Michigan State @ Boise State - SCORES - Stream
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – UC Davis, Brown @ San Jose State - SCORES - Stream

These are the current live rankings heading into today's action, emphasizing the urgency to get a useful score for a number of the teams competing this afternoon. I've been obsessing over the potential regional excitement that will come from having some of these schools as #3 seeds, without taking too seriously the possibility that they could end up out of the top 18 and out of the seeded schools altogether. Without a meet next weekend, Stanford's situation is particularly urgent. Utah would also prefer Stanford get a big score, like now, because if Stanford does have to be "regionally allocated," then Utah's regional is by far the closest geographically.

Nebraska's RQS is being held down by a low road score, so we won't really know where the Huskers stand until after next weekend's meet at Ohio State.