Yesterday I previewed UCLA's opponents in the second session, and also expressed my concerns about UCLA making it to the Super Six. In case the Bruins do make it to the Super Six, here is a preview of the other six teams in the competition and the three I feel will move on. I can't say if this session is stronger or easier for advancing purposes compared to UCLA's session - both are actually very competitive, but I feel like UCLA would have had a better chance coming out of this one. They put up one of their best scores of the season, and Georgia falters a smidge, and Michigan is not in this session, I think we would have had a legit shot. (here's the bracket if you're interested.) (you can see why I was really hoping we'd move up to that seven ranking in the RQS, we would have been on the other side. Sigh.)
The first session begins at 1pm Alabama time, or 11am UCLA time. The session will be streamed live on NCAA.com. Competing in the first session is #2 Oklahoma, #11 Illinois, #7 Michigan, #6 Georgia, #3 LSU, and #10 Stanford. Let's take a look at the teams.
(But first, the SEC puts some faith in their gymnastics teams (their meets outdraw our basketball games) and they have great websites. UCLA's gymnastics website... is so... boring...)
Oklahoma, final ranking #2
RQS: 197.775, Average Score: 197.513, Season High: 198.175
Vault Rank: 2nd, Uneven Bars Rank: 3rd, Balance Beam Rank: 1st, Floor Rank: 3rd
How they got here: First in Big-12 Championships, Placed 1st in their regional
Oklahoma, for all their success (although gymnastics wise, they are in a not so strong conference), has never won a NCAA Championship. They will be a serious competitor to Florida this year if they even make a small wobble on any apparatus, as they are ranked in the top three on EVER SINGLE APPARATUS. But you know what makes Oklahoma ridiculous good? They do not compete a single gymnast in the all-around - they are a true team. The Lady Sooners are led by Haley Scaman, who is ridiculously good on vault and floor.
LSU, final ranking #3
RQS: 197.720, Average Score: 197.496, Season High: 198.050
Vault Rank: 1st, Uneven Bars Rank: 5th, Balance Beam Rank: 4th, Floor Rank: 4th
How they got here: 3rd in SEC Championships, Won their regional with a school best 198.325
LSU is having a nice season, but somehow I don't see them as a true contender. They'll make the Super Six, but I cannot picture them winning the national title. They're great on vault, junior Rheagan Courville is a fantastic all-around gymnast (2nd in the country in the all-around), Llominicia Hall is a force to be reckoned with on the floor (tied for third in the country) but I can't see them competing head to head with Florida or even Alabama (and it showed at the SEC championships, they came in third.) They'll make the Super Six, but I predict a third or fourth place finish for them.
Georgia, final ranking #6
RQS: 197.265, Average Score: 197.029, Season High: 197.650
Vault Rank: 6th, Uneven Bars Rank: 1st, Balance Beam Rank: 6th, Floor Rank: 10th
How they got here: 4th in SEC Championships, Placed 2nd in their regional behind Michigan.
The poor GymDogs. They have been a pillar of the NCAA Gymnastics world, but they have fallen off lately. If you look at their event rankings, they're a top-ish tier school but they won't threaten the top schools even in the SEC or the top schools in the Pac-12. Their RQS is high because they compete in the SEC so they have to do what they can to get their scores up, but it just isn't enough to take down Alabama, Florida or LSU. Their top gymnast is 11th ranked Brittany Rogers, who has recovered from an injury that held her out of the SEC championships.
Michigan, final ranking #7
RQS: 197.105, Average Score: 196.791, Season High: 197.825
Vault Rank: 7th, Uneven Bars Rank: 8th, Balance Beam Rank: 17th, Floor Rank: 4th
How they got here: 1st in Big-10 Championships, won their regional
The team that I feel will grab the third spot in this session, and the team that UCLA CAN beat (they didn't earlier this year but I feel it's possible with a good all-around performance) if we were in this regional. Oh well. Michigan has done well this season, but cannot beat the top teams in the SEC (they already lost once to Alabama and Oklahoma this year.) Their weakness is the balance beam, and that's what did them in in that meet vs Alabama and Oklahoma, and why I thought UCLA could take them down, as we have a solid beam group anchored by Peszek and Francis. Oh well. Watch senior (finally... senior) Joanna Simpson from Michigan and Big-10 Freshman of the year Nicole Artz.
Stanford, final ranking #10
RQS: 196.815, Average Score: 196.400, Season High: 197.275
Vault Rank: 9th, Uneven Bars Rank: 9th, Balance Beam Rank: 5th, Floor Rank: 23rd
How they got here: 2nd in Pac-12 Championships, Placed 2nd in their regional
Hey, a Pac-12 School with a men's program! Staying on topic here, Stanford is working on their 7th appearance in the Super Six. Apparently it's a big deal for them because it's splashed on the front of their women's gym home page... Stanford has no shot here. Their floor ranking is atrocious and that's the event where you can really pump up your scores. If they make it to the Super Six, it's because everyone before them fell all over the place, and I'm really going to be even more upset UCLA couldn't push themselves into that final #7 ranking to get into this side of the bracket. Nicolette McNair was the Pac-12 freshman of the year, and watch Shona Morgan. Also next year (I think) Elizabeth Price MIGHT enroll (she's working for Rio in 2016 which may delay her college plans) and she's one of the top gymnasts in the world at the moment (just won another international meet), so I'm here hoping that either A. she turns pro, or B. Kyla Ross picks UCLA because Price is going to Stanford. Fingers crossed, everyone.
Illinois, final ranking #11
RQS: 196.650, Average Score: 196.204, Season High: 197.100
Vault Rank: 19th, Uneven Bars Rank: 13th, Balance Beam Rank: 9th, Floor Rank: 13th
How they got here: 4th in Big-10 Championships, Placed 2nd in their regional
They're the fighting Illini, but they'll be fighting to stay out of 12th place. They are doing well as a program, and will certainly improve, but they are just not at the level of a Michigan, which is where they need to be to have a shot of moving on. A season high of 197.100 is not going to cut it. Sunny Kato and Sarah Fiedler are Illinois best individual gymnasts, along with all-arounder Giana O'Connor.
Coming out of this session will most likely be Oklahoma, LSU and Michigan.