It’s the biggest match of the year, and you can’t see it? Aren’t niche sports grand?
Gymnastics have come a long way in recent years, particularly at LSU where meets now regularly top 10,000 in attendance, a far cry from the few diehards who used to show up. LSU has been terrific this year in defense of last year’s runner up performance, continuing its streak of scoring at least 197.
One team stands in the way of LSU and the mountaintop: Oklahoma. In six meets this year, their lowest score was a 197.425. Oklahoma is also undefeated, ranked #1 in the nation, and oh yeah, they’ve topped a 198 two times. That’s a third of their meets this year.
Oklahoma doesn’t just rank first in the all around, the Sooners rank first on three of the four specialties. Their one weakness? They rank second in the vault, behind Florida. Oklahoma isn’t just good, they are absolutely dominant. They are better than everyone at everything, almost literally.
As great of a season LSU has been having, as great of a team as they have, LSU ranks behind Oklahoma in every single rotation. So we might as well give up, right?
Of course not.
This is a huge meet for the Tigers to find out how they measure up against the best team in the country when they participate in the same gym. Even better, this won’t be a head to head matchup, this will be a full four-team meet, much like the conditions these two teams would meet under in the postseason (ok, that would be a six-team meet, but it’s the same concept).
Let’s be honest, neither team has been pushed to their limit yet. Oklahoma is yet to compete in a meet decided by less than a full point. LSU has only done it once, a 197.575-197.100 win in Tuscaloosa against a Bama team that Oklahoma blew out of the gym.
These teams’ iron has not yet been forged into steel. This is the meet at which the team gets dumped into the hottest fire and turned into the ruthless killing machine we hope to see in the postseason. This is when the two best teams in the nation square off for the first time, feeling each other out for the eventual title matchup in April.
It sure would be nice if we got to see it. But instead, the meet will be behind a the FLOgymnastics paywall. It should be a busy night for the @lsugym twitter feed. That’s probably your best bet for following the meet.
LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Missouri will square off in a neutral site match in St. Charles, Missouri. This is the perfect conditions for LSU to test their mettle against Oklahoma. A crowded field and a likely neutral crowd. LSU likes to use the crowd to pump themselves up, and that’s a tactic that will not play in the postseason. LSU needs to learn how to win without the energy of the crowd if they want to take home the title this year.
That lesson starts now. And two days after the team learns it, they turn around and compete again at home against GW and Iowa. Those two teams are not of the same caliber of the field on Friday, but both are ranked near the periphery of the top 25.
LSU will fight in a physically and emotionally exhausting meet on Friday in Missouri, travel home, and then compete again on Sunday. That’s usually a recipe for a disappointing performance. While the meet tonight clearly looms much larger, Sunday’s meet will test DD Breaux’s skills as a motivator to keep her team still focused. We won’t learn a lot on Sunday, but we will learn about their determination.
This is the biggest weekend of the season for LSU gymnastics. It’s a shame we won’t be able to see most of it.