What Alabama gymnastics has to do to win NCAA national championship

Mikey DiLullo
The Tuscaloosa News

One year after its fifth-place finish, Alabama gymnastics is back at the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. The Crimson Tide will face off against Utah, Oklahoma, and Minnesota on Thursday at 12 p.m. CT in the first session of the semifinals.

The top two finishers from each of the two semifinal sessions advance to the national final on Saturday.

Here's what the Crimson Tide has to do to win the national championship:

Learn from the past

Alabama's session features two teams it faced earlier this season. In January, Alabama opened the season against Oklahoma, but the Crimson Tide's 195.875 turned out to be a season low.

Alabama also faced Utah in the regional final and came up short. The Crimson Tide will need to beat one, if not both, on Thursday to advance.

Continue 198 momentum

After entering the season without scoring 198 since 2014, Alabama has scored 198 in three of its last five meets. With the top teams in the country at the championship event, another 198 score – difficult as that may be – would go a long way for the Crimson Tide.

Come back from injuries

Alabama has been bit by the injury bug this season. While Makarri Doggette is likely to be limited to just bars again, Alabama coach Dana Duckworth was more confident in Luisa Blanco's possible return.

"Luisa has been able to add a few more events," Duckworth said. "We hope to see how practice goes. I think there's a potential, and I don't want to overpromise, for three events – all except floor. That's our plan as of today."

More Alabama Gymnastics:PHOTOS: SEC Gymnastics Championship

Rely on Lilly Hudson

The freshman had a career performance in the regional final, scoring a 9.9 or better on vault, bars and balance beam. While she stepped out of bounds on floor exercise, it was her only blemish. She'll need to have another great performance Thursday.

Alabama gymnast Lexi Graber lands her vault during the SEC Gymnastics Championship at Legacy Arena in Birmingham Saturday, March 19, 2022.

Have Graber defend her title

In 2021, Lexi Graber claimed a national championship on floor exercise with a 9.9625. She may not need to repeat as champion, but another high score on floor would be helpful for Alabama.

15 YEARS OF NICK SABAN:Celebrate Nick Saban's 15 epic seasons at Alabama football with our special book!