There are six gymnastics teams competing in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.
Alabama, obviously the host, is the No. 1 seed. It’s ranked sixth nationally, boasting a 197.165 Regional Qualifying Score and a 197.525 season high, and most recently placed second at the SEC Championships. The Crimson Tide is fifth nationally on the uneven bars (49.415), sixth on the vault (49.285) and balance beam (49.36) and then 11th on the floor exercise (49.315).
Michigan and Georgia are the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively. Missouri, Illinois and Central Michigan were also chosen for Tuscaloosa’s meet.
“I don’t spend a lot of time looking at other teams partly because there’s no defense in gymnastics, so it’s not like I have to do play-by-play stuff like other sports,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “I think, for us, we focus on Alabama.”
Allow me then.
Of all the teams, the Wolverines present the strongest threat to the Crimson Tide. These two teams have already faced off. They were each other’s respective season openers way back in January. Michigan won, 196.2 to 195.675.
Oh, how things have changed since that first meet. Alabama’s season high is the 197.525. Michigan’s is a 197.55.
Yes, Michigan’s is technically higher. But the Crimson Tide has been one spot above the Wolverines in rankings for the past six weeks – sixth vs. seventh. They switched spots in Week 8.
The difference between Alabama and Michigan is minimal. Alabama’s RQS is just 0.005 stronger than Michigan’s 197.16. No other top-10 teams are that close.
Last weekend, Michigan earned its fifth consecutive Big Ten Championships title. The Wolverines enter regionals ranked fifth on beam (49.39), seventh on vault (49.28) and eighth on both bars (49.325) and floor (49.37).
Michigan won its regional last year – topping Alabama actually – and finished 10th at NCAAs (did not make Super Six).
Welcome back, Bulldogs. Georgia was Alabama’s home opener, also way back in January. The Crimson Tide won, 196.525 to 194.525.
The Bulldogs never cracked the top 10 during the regular season. The closest they came was 11th during Week 3. Entering regionals, UGA is 18th with a 196.515 RQS and a season-high 197.525.
At the SEC Championships, Georgia competed in the afternoon session, while Alabama was in the evening portion. UGA ended up second there but sixth overall.
The Bulldogs come ranked 13th on beam (49.21), 18th on bars (49.215) and floor (49.29) and then 19th on vault (49.125).
Georgia placed second at its regional last year and finished 12th at NCAAs (did not make Super Six).
Another SEC opponent, another familiar foe. Alabama and Missouri met, just like the previous two, in January. The Crimson Tide won, 195.85 to 194.525.
The Tigers have been chilling outside the top 10 all year, peaking at 17 very early on in the season for just a week. Right now, they’re 22nd with a 196.39 RQS and a 196.925 high.
Part of the SEC Championships’ afternoon session, Missouri closed out the night seventh overall. It heads into regionals ranked 20th on beam (49.155), 22nd on vault (49.09), 24th on floor (49.24) and 27th on bars (49.14).
Missouri was third at its regional last year and did not advance to NCAAs.
Alabama fans should recognize one of Illinois’ assistant coaches: Ashley Priess. She competed for the Crimson Tide from 2009-13 (five seasons is correct; she was the second fifth-year senior in UA gymnastics history) and is remembered as a 10-time All-American who helped Alabama win back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2011 and 2012. The three-year captain also won the Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete award.
Back to the Fighting Illini, though: Ranked 23rd with a 196.265 RQS and a season-high 196.85, Illinois is new competitor for Alabama this year. The Big Ten team placed third at its conference championship. It’s currently ranked 15th on beam (49.2), 19th on bars (49.21), 30th on floor (49.165) and 35th on vault (48.935).
Illinois was fourth at its regional last year, which it hosted, and did not advance to NCAAs.
Cutting straight to the chase here, Central Michigan barely made it to regionals. It’s ranked 36th overall, which is the cutoff for this round of postseason. It has a 195.75 RQS and a 197.025 high.
The Chippewas won the Mid-American Conference Championships. They’re ranked 28th on bars (49.14), 38th on vault (48.92), 39th on floor (49.075) and 42nd on beam (48.845).
Central Michigan came in last at its regional last year and did not advance to NCAAs.
How it works
Six compete. The top two advance to the NCAA Championships at the Chaifetz Arena on April 20-21 in St. Louis. It’s the same venue as last year, where Alabama finished sixth after a second-place regional performance on the road.