Welcome to the SEC Invitational, Take Two. Thanks to a quirk of scheduling and bracketing, every SEC team to qualify for the national semifinals is in the same side of the bracket. Therefore, at nationals, LSU faces a bunch of familiar foes: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, and Michigan.
Meanwhile, the other side of the bracket has four Pac-12 team squaring off, along with Oklahoma and Denver. LSU needs to beat a bunch of teams it has spent the season beating, and then hopefully square off with Oklahoma for the national title in the Super Six.
Every team at this point is terrific, and there are no easy marks, but from LSU’s perspective, this is a two-team meet: LSU versus Oklahoma. LSU needs to reenact its regular season dominance to earn a shot at the best team in the country.
One major hurdle is the rotation schedule. LSU starts on a bye, and then goes to the floor and vault, finishing up on the bars and then the beam. This means LSU needs to build a lead early because the lower scoring rotations come near the end, as well as LSU’s weakest rotation of the uneven bars.
LSU is fully capable of setting the tone early, but the Tigers are in the unfortunate position of needing a big start on their highest scoring events to build a lead. You don’t want to go into the beam needing a big score to come back.
Let’s look at our contenders…
LSU’s team RQS has significant distance from the field, but it’s also a good step behind Oklahoma. When you look at the peak performance, it’s the same story. LSU and Oklahoma are the only two schools to top a 198.000 this season, except for the boom-or-bust UCLA Bruins.
The Tigers’ average score is nearly three tenths of a point higher than the third-ranked Gators, and it is a full six tenths of a point ahead of fourth-ranked Utah. By all rights, this should be a two-team meet. The thing is, the other schools aren’t going to just stand by and watch. Last year, LSU wasn’t supposed to be a factor, and they held the lead in the final rotation.
The biggest worry is current form. LSU had been killing it recently, getting better and better right in time for Nationals, only to take a small step backwards in Lincoln. It wasn’t a bad score, but LSU wobbled a bit and didn’t put the hammer down. Meanwhile, Oklahoma looks like they are in peak form.
Here’s the sad truth: Oklahoma is better than LSU. They rate higher on three of four rotations, trailing only on the vault. LSU is runner up to Oklahoma’s first place score elsewhere. Oklahoma hits higher peaks, has a higher average, and is on better form right now. If both teams come out and have their best meet, Oklahoma wins.
That doesn’t mean this is an unwinnable meet. It doesn’t even make it a huge upset for LSU to win. There’s a gap there, but it is not insurmountable. But the key here is that LSU must be perfect. There can be no missteps, no wobbles, no nothing. Oklahoma has near metronome-like efficiency. They will not leave the door open most likely.
LSU needs to kick it in. Just like dragons do. #DrgnSzn
ESPN’s coverage of the Gymnastics championship weekend is already underway right now on ESPN2. LSU’s semifinal will start on ESPNU at 7pm CT. If the Tigers advance, they’ll turn right around and compete in the Super Six at 8pm on Saturday. As with the SEC Championship and some SEC meets this year, ESPN is supplementing the TV feed with WatchESPN:
“Both days of coverage from St. Louis will once again be surrounded with a customized second-screen experience available on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Viewers are able to stream each individual apparatus or a quad-box view called “All-Around”. The “All-Around” channel presents a streaming view of every apparatus live, at the same time, on one screen. The second-screen experience allows fans to stream their preferred gymnast or team live on one device while watching comprehensive coverage of the overall meet on their television.
Each apparatus feed also provides real-time data and scores from the athletes and teams.”