There’s nothing like a brand new playoff format to mess with your head. Gone is the Super Six, and in its place is the new Four on the Floor. So what does that mean?
First off, 36 teams qualified for the postseason, divided up into four regionals. Baton Rouge is fortunate enough to be one of the regional hosts, alongside Ann Arbor, Athens, and Corvallis. Now, if you’ve done the math in your head, you know that means there are nine teams in a regional, and that’s not going to work.
Yesterday was play-in day at the regionals across the country. George Washington and Linderwood (Mo) competed with GW advancing to the second day of the regional. Today, there will be two four-team sessions with the top two from each session advancing to Day Three.
The third day of the regionals will take place on Saturday, with again the top two teams advancing to the semifinals in Fort Worth. The semifinals will now have eight teams instead of twelve, with four teams advancing to the finals session, instead of the six, previously.
Let’s take a look at the Baton Rouge regional field:
What we have here are the teams’ qualifying scores, their high score, and the national ranks in each of the four rotations. The thing that jumps out is that Utah and LSU tower over the field. They are the only two programs which rank in the top ten in every rotation and beyond, the only two which rank in the top ten in more than one.
LSU’s RQS crushes every team’s high score save Utah. It’s as simple as this, if LSU takes care of business, the Tigers should advance. What really helps the Tigers is their overall consistency. Unlike previous teams, they don’t excel at one discipline and hope to hang on elsewhere. LSU instead simply smothers you with quality scores on every apparatus.
Even Utah has some major variance when looking at their exceptional vault scores and their relatively low beam scores. Utah can lose this meet with a poor beam performance, or they can blow the field away with a stellar vault performance. Or even both.
This regional is also a chance for LSU to exact a measure of revenge against Auburn. Early in the year, when LSU was still scuffling along, LSU traveled to Auburn and lost 196.700 – 196.275. It was one of the worst LSU gym performances in several years and lead a lot of fans to doubt the potential of this team.*
*See how I did that? Projected my terrible opinions on to the rest of y’all? You’re welcome. OK, it caused me to doubt this team which I’m sorry, ok? I was wrong.
LSU has beaten both Utah and Arkansas this year, though neither with vintage LSU performances. LSU scored a 197.250 and 197.125, respectively, against the two. That was good enough to win February, but it won’t be enough this weekend, most likely.
LSU is a heavy favorite to advance, as it is hard to identify the team which could take advantage of a poor performance by LSU. If LSU leaves the door open a crack, that might not be enough for Auburn or Minnesota to kick it open. However, as always, you can be your own worst enemy. If LSU can’t put up quality scores and misses its landings, then anyone can beat them (ok, probably not George Washington).
There are seven other teams in this field, but LSU is really competing against themselves. Show consistency, stick those landings, don’t show nerves, and LSU should advance. A failure to make the semifinals would likely be due to an LSU collapse rather than a huge performance from Minnesota or Auburn.
LSU is a favorite, but in the postseason, one bad rotation can send you home. It’s go time.
Friday’s sessions will air live on SECN+ at 2 and 7pm CT, LSU is in the night session. Saturday’s Regional Final will be at 7pm CT, also on SECN+