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LSU Gym Heads to Dallas for the National Championship

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We’re here, and Florida isn’t

NCAA Gymnastics: Women’s Championships
Finnegan is redonkulous
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the hoopla of getting a shiny new Athletic Director is the fact that the best team on campus is preparing to compete for the national title this weekend. The LSU gymnastics team has become a regular at nationals, even with the field shrunk down to eight teams from twelve, but DD Breaux is yet to get over the hump.

Could this be the year? Well, LSU isn’t favored to win, but they are one of the major contenders for the title. Oklahoma and UCLA have spent all year being the virtual 1A and 1B of the gymnastics rankings, and LSU has climbed the rankings to settle in as a strong #3 seed.

The fourth major contender isn’t here. Florida shockingly failed to qualify, opening up a slot for the 15th ranked Oregon St Beavers to sneak into the more crowded field. It means that the two sessions are disproportionately difficult and since only three of the four major contenders made it to Nationals, pretty much by necessity LSU had to be in the more difficult session. Only the top two from each session advance to the finals on Saturday.

NCAA Gym Nationals

Session I RQS High All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Session I RQS High All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
UCLA 198.010 198.400 2 3 1 2 1
Utah 197.535 198.025 6 2 5 9 5
LSU 197.810 198.175 3 4 4 4 4
Michigan 197.320 197.750 7 6 10 6 8
Session II RQS High All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Oklahoma 198.115 198.325 1 1 2 1 2
Oregon St 296.625 197.450 15 15 20 16 10
Denver 197.545 197.775 5 7 5 5 6
Georgia 197.315 197.525 8 4 11 9 9

Yeah, that’s not even close. Session I is loaded. Not only does it have UCLA and LSU, the other two squads finished the season ranked 6th and 7th in the nation (Utah and Michigan, respectively). Both of those squads are ranked higher than the bottom two seeds in Session II, where OU should cakewalk to the Finals. But the real winner is 5th ranked Denver, who avoids Florida as well as the #6 and #7 teams. The other squads are #8 Georgia and #15 Oregon St.

Given our longtime gym friendship with the guys over at DawgSports, we will be pulling for the red and black. Not out of any sort of SEC loyalty, as I’m cackling with glee that Florida lost, but because VineyardDawg has spent plenty of time on twitter teaching me about the sport. Pay it forward, man. And Georgia has a pretty good draw, and could sneak into the Finals.

The good news for LSU is, that despite its difficult draw, it’s a team they are quite familiar with at this point. LSU has faced Utah twice this season, and beaten the Utes both times. The Tigers know that Utah can put up big scores so there’s no chance of taking them lightly, but they also know that they can beat Utah. Concentrate on yourself, stick those landings, and things should be fine.

LSU will start on the beam, which is a blessing and a curse. Unlike a lot of teams, LSU can put up big scores on the beam, so the Tigers can keep pace with the overall score while also putting pressure on the next team to come to Satan’s Apparatus and match their performance.

The problem is that, unlike recent LSU teams, the Tigers have difficulties putting up those monster scores on the bigger scoring apparatus, the floor and the vault. LSU has got to find their best performances of the season to compete for the title.

The Tigers are well-positioned to advance, despite their draw, but will go into the Finals as a decided underdog to UCLA and Oklahoma. There’s not a single discipline in which LSU has a higher average score than either of those schools, and we can expect both of them to be putting up their biggest scores of the season in an effort to best the other. LSU will have no wiggle room if it is fortunate enough to make it to Saturday night.

LSU’s strength lies in its consistency. There’s not a single part of the rotation where LSU can’t put up a big score, and the lineup is stacked from one to six. There’s no one who is going to put their feet on the mat that you’re mentally going to write off a possible high score. Everyone can put up those 9.90’s that LSU is going to need on Saturday if it is going to win the title. The Tigers also have the not-so-secret weapon of the AAI Award winner, Sarah Finnegan. Or as Ruby Harrold put it…

We’ve got the best gymnast in the country. We’ve got the Stick Crown. And we got a picture of the team with a cow. Your argument is invalid. Let’s bring back the title to Baton Rouge.

LSU competes on Friday in the afternoon session at noon on ESPN2. The Finals are Saturday at 7 PM, on ESPNU. Or you can watch on the ESPN app. Or buy a ticket! It’s in Fort Worth, so root on the Tigers in person, and then come by and say hi to your friendly ATVS blogger, who will be covering the event live and in person. We’re big time, y’all. But not as big time as Sarah Finnegan and the cow.