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Gym: Session I National Championship Preview, 1PM, ESPNU

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No excuses. Make the Super Six.

All for one. One for all.
All for one. One for all.
@lsugym

Win the beam, win the meet.

It's DD Breaux's mantra, but if that is true, so is the inverse: lose the beam, lose the meet. And all season, last year's epic collapse in Fort Worth due to several falls on the beam has hung over this team. Last year was supposed to be The Year. Instead, it was the first time LSU missed the Super Six in three years.

There's no way around it, last year's loss in Fort Worth was a crushing disappointment. Now, the team returns to the scene of the crime, though with a rebuilt roster. Ashleigh Gnat and Jesse Savona were contributors but not stars on that team, behind the more vaunted senior class. Well, this is their team, and their time now.

At 1 p.m. today (LIVE on ESPNU, with multicam coverage available on ESPN3) , LSU can officially put the past behind them. You do that, of course, the only way there is: by winning. Really, all LSU needs to do is finish top three in Session I to reach the Super Six for this season to be a rousing success, but there is still that pressure: this is the biggest day of the season. It all comes down to this. Luckily, it's a pretty favorable draw.

ALL AROUND

Seed

Team

RQS

High

2

Florida

197.655

198.175

3

LSU

197.555

197.925

6

Auburn

197.120

197.325

10

Georgia

196.990

197.525

14

Minnesota

196.395

197.425

18

Stanford

196.305

197.400

Welcome to the SEC Invitational. We have three teams who are seeded to make the Super Six, including last year's villain, Auburn (well, they are every year's villain, but they advanced to the Super Six in our stead last year). The other two teams are playing out the role of Just Happy to Be Here, as both Minnesota and Stanford pulled upsets to qualify from their regionals.

What truly strikes me is the gap in scoring between LSU and Auburn. Auburn's RQS is 0.435 lower than LSU's, which is a pretty big gap. Additionally, look how consistent Auburn is. Their season high score is only about two-tenths of a point higher than their RQS. That speaks to a team that lacks a big scoring top end, but will absolutely punish you if you make mistakes... because they won't. You can almost pencil Auburn in for a score in the low 197's, which should be enough to advance to the Super Six while never threatening to win the meet. Even Stanford has a higher top score on the year than Auburn.

Georgia actually has the highest top end, but even that 197.525 is lower than LSU's qualifying score. We know that Georgia can beat LSU, we saw it happen this year, but if LSU stays within themselves and scores the way they should, their standard performance should be enough to beat any team not named Florida at their best.

If LSU hopes to win the national title, the Tigers must figure out a way to beat Florida, who ranks second on three rotations and third on the floor. However, that is (hopefully) a Saturday problem. Florida is not a Friday problem. Right now, the goal is getting to the Super Six. Beating Florida and Oklahoma is the issue a day from now.

LSU's rotation is the same as it was in Athens: bye, bars, beam, bye, floor, and vault. Get the low scores out of the way first, then finish up strong on the floor and vault, the two higher scoring rotations, on average.

BARS

Rank

Team

RQS

High

2

Florida

49.500

49.650

5

LSU

49.370

49.475

8

Auburn

49.295

49.375

9

Georgia

49.280

49.400

14

Minnesota

49.180

49.425

13

Stanford

49.230

49.525

There's the beam, Satan's Apparatus, waiting on deck, but there is no rotation that scares me more than the bars. First off, this is LSU's weakest rotation and it's how the Tigers will open the meet. Instead of going out and kicking ass on the vault like a normal meet, LSU has to muddle through the bars, and then likely come back from their score. It's a psychological disadvantage.

The good news is that the teams are all pretty packed together in their scoring on the bars... well, except for Florida. But like I said, we're not worrying about Florida today. The bad news is the same thing: everyone is usually pretty tightly packed together. Carrying a fall in your scores on the bars would be a disaster. Everyone worries about the beam torpedoing your chances, and forgets the very real possibility that the bars could do the same.

Everyone is a threat. LSU just wants to survive its opening rotation, scoring near its RQS.

BEAM

Rank

Team

RQS

High

2

Florida

49.430

49.525

3

LSU

49.355

49.575

12

Auburn

49.215

49.300

18

Georgia

49.180

49.425

17

Minnesota

49.185

49.675

14

Stanford

49.195

49.375

Here's the dirty secret about beam: the beam is LSU's greatest ally this season. After cruelly seeing their title hopes dashed on the beam, Breaux's charges have attacked this rotation with ferocity this season, as if to get revenge for last year's disappointments. LSU should welcome the beam because it is a rotation at which LSU excels and every team chasing them does not.

For Georgia, in particularly, this has been a rotation of horrors. The Dawgs had a good performance in Athens, but that doesn't exorcise a season's worth of demons. Minnesota has one of the lowest RQS's on this rotation, but the single highest score of any team in Session I. Their variance on this event is massive, and could tell the story of the meet.

Not only are Florida and LSU the only teams in the top five on this event nationally, they are the only two teams in Session I who rank in the top 10 on beam. This, right here, is the chance to put the meet away right at the midpoint for LSU. Win the beam, well, you know the rest.

FLOOR

Rank

Team

RQS

High

3

Florida

49.505

49.675

2

LSU

49.545

49.700

6

Auburn

49.445

49.600

9

Georgia

49.385

49.625

13

Minnesota

49.270

49.375

36

Stanford

49.050

49.250

What the hell, Stanford? Talk about a team praying for a miracle. LSU really needs Stanford to have that prayer go unanswered, to eliminate one threat for the Super Six. But the Cardinal really are a cut below the other team here on this rotation.

LSU, as we know, excels at the floor event. However, it will be a bit different trying to repeat some of those big scores from the regular season in front of a neutral crowd. LSU feeds off of crowd energy, and I'm not sure if the crowd is going to give it to them. Still, this is another big opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the non-SEC squads.

Also, this is what I mean by finishing up strong. LSU ranks higher than Florida on the floor and the vault, so the Tigers get the chance to close the meet not only on two traditionally higher scoring rotations, but on rotations at which LSU is better than Florida, on average. Though, again, that's a Saturday concern, not so much a Friday concern.

VAULT

Rank

Team

RQS

High

2

Florida

49.420

49.500

1

LSU

49.445

49.550

8

Auburn

49.250

49.375

3

Georgia

49.415

49.525

12

Minnesota

49.120

49.275

12

Stanford

49.120

49.250

Georgia finds itself up there with the big girls on this event. LSU, Florida, and Georgia rank 1-2-3 on the vault, and have an RQS about two tenths of a point better than Auburn. Auburn's season high score is lower than all three schools' RQS for the year. This is a huge event for Georgia and Auburn, who should be competing for that final slot in the Super Six.

However, if things are going poorly for LSU, this is the perfect event to finish the meet on. LSU will have a last chance to make the Super Six, if need be, on their single best rotation. And if the meet is going well, it should be a coronation instead of a stress-induced clinging to position.

Looking at the rotations, LSU should advance to the Super Six. However, LSU was the strongest team in the nation on paper last year, and that didn't turn out so well. This is all about facing those demons down, and slaying them. And maybe, as an added bonus, sending Auburn home, too.

No more waiting, it's go time. Time to find out what this team is really made of.