Imagine if college gymnastics had a bracket, one that ended with four teams competing for a national championship. This may sound corny, but the last round could be called Four on the Floor. It’d be one insane meet.
Well, in 2019, that actually will be the new reality.
“We took the current rankings and were playing around with, well, what it would look like this year,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “Then I see on social media a couple of people have tried to do this March Madness (bracket), and then you realize at that moment, that’s way too big.
NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional
When: Saturday at 4 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Teams: Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, Missouri, Illinois, Central Michigan
“I have no idea what it’s going to look like. They don’t even know what it’s going to look like.”
But they’re rolling with it. The NCAA signed off on the changes back in October. This season’s postseason will be the last of its format.
The way it works now and has since 1993 is there are six regional sites across the country – Alabama hosts the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum – and six teams compete at each. It’s one day of competition.
Of those six teams, only two advance to the NCAA Championships, which is two days. There are semifinals and then Super Six, where six teams battle for the ultimate title.
“I can’t really imagine only having four teams at the final, and I’ve tried to understand it,” senior Kiana Winston said. “Once I can finally understand it, it seems like a pretty cool concept.”
It is, but it’s very different.
First, regionals are completely revamped. There will be just four sites. Each will host three rounds of competition, spanning the same amount of days, and nine teams.
The first round will be a play-in dual meet between No. 8 and 9 seed teams only. Whoever wins advances to the second round, where eight teams compete in two sessions of four. The first- and second-place teams then have the final round – super regionals.
That will be another quad meet. Four compete. Then, like now, two go to the NCAA Championships.
“Oh, I’m glad I’m getting out in time because regionals is already a nerve-wracking meet,” senior Nickie Guerrero said. “That is almost like, oh my gosh, this is pretty intense. It’s interesting to have two meets at regionals because it’s something I’ve never had to do besides nationals.”
The NCAA Championships will stay relatively the same.
Instead of 12 teams competing in two sessions during semifinals, it will be eight teams. The top two from each session then make up the Four on the Floor.
“I think it’s neat how there’s only going to be four teams,” junior Ari Guerra said. “It’s going to be like SECs where it’s fast-paced.”
Since there will never be more than four teams competing in a single session or meet with the new format, no need for byes. It’ll be non-stop competition for every team. This will shorten the length postseason meets drastically.
Everything considered, it’s a lot.
“That’s why I want the regional championship to mean something to our community,” Duckworth said. “This is the last six-team regional we’re going to see until the rules ever change again.”