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Denver Regional Final Preview

LSU gym attempts to survive a bloodbath

LSU gym looks to climb out of Denver with a nationals berth.

The Tigers earned their way into the Denver Regional final Friday with a 197.375 that tied Oregon State for first place at the first Denver Regional semifinal. Today, they look to advance to nationals for the first time since 2021 alongside one of either Oregon State, Denver or Michigan. This is one of the toughest regional finals since there’s no guarantee that any team will advance because all four teams have great potentials. You don’t even have to worry about missing any of the meet because of the women’s basketball game since the meet starts at 6:00 p.m. As was the case on Friday, it will be streamed on ESPN+.

LSU’s history against Michigan and Denver:

LSU is 10-2 all-time against Denver and lost their only meeting in Magness Arena 196.050-195.825 on 2/16/2002. The last time these two teams met on the same floor was at 2019 Four on the Floor where LSU won 197.8250-197.0000. LSU is 14-13 all-time against Michigan and 10-7 on neutral floors. The last time these two teams met on the same floor was at the first semifinal of nationals in 2019 where LSU won 197.5125-197.2000.

#14 Denver (197.445 NQS, host, 19-5 overall, finished 2nd at Big 12s, begins on floor)

Semifinal scores: 197.450, 49.100 VT, 49.250 UB, 49.500 BB, 49.600 FX

Program overview: 0 team titles, best finish ever: 4th (’19) (note: won 1983 NCAA D2 natty), 4 conference championships (1 WGC, 1 WAC, 1 MRGC, 1 Big 12, last in ’21), 2 individual NCAA titles (last was Lynnzee Brown in ’19), 5 nationals appearances (last in ’19), 0 Super 6 appearances, 1 Four on the Floor appearance (’19)

Event rankings: 9th on vault (49.375), 7th on bars (49.455), t-8th with Alabama on beam (49.445), t-26th with Stanford and Western Michigan on floor (49.340).

Preview: The Pioneers are a better team than their seed. They should be the 13th overall seed based on their NQS, but they got forced into this regional because they are its host. Denver’s typical scores are in the 197.300-197.500 range, but they have the potential to score extremely well. They’ve had 12 rotations of at least 49.500 and have done so multiple times on each event, but they haven’t had a meet in which all four rotations scored at least 49.300 all season. It may be a massive outlier compared to the rest of their season, but they went 198.150 despite a 49.075 on vault. If Denver wants to advance, they need to feed off their home crowd and hit all four events. If they manage that, they can do a ton of damage.

#11 Oregon State (197.490 NQS, 17-7-3 overall, finished 4th at Pac-12s, begins on beam)

Semifinal scores: 197.375, 49.250 VT, 49.125 UB, 49.450 BB, 49.550 FX

Event rankings: 16th on vault (49.285), 21st on bars (49.300), 4th on beam (49.565), 8th on floor (49.510).

Preview: Oregon State got a precarious draw for this regional final. They are another solid team that scores in the 197.200-197.500 range. They also have outlier scores that showcased what the team’s potential is: a 198.075 at Stanford and a 197.950 vs Utah. They’re a very good beam team in a regional that’s had some loose beam scoring over the semifinals. They have Jade Carey. What they don’t have is a rotation order that plays to their strengths. There are those that will make the argument that the event on which a team starts should not matter by the postseason. My counter to that argument is that Oregon State is the only team in this meet finishing on their worst event. In fact, they’re the only team finishing on an event that is not at least tied for their best event. If the Beavers are going to advance, they have to build up a solid cushion on the first three events and nail bars while hoping for some help.

#3 Michigan (198.080 NQS, 28-2 overall, Big 10 meet champions, begins on bars)

Semifinal scores: 198.025, 49.525 VT, 49.425 UB, 49.375 BB, 49.700 FX

Program overview: 1 team title (’21), 27 Big 10 titles, 9 individual NCAA titles (last was Natalie Wojcik on beam in ’19), 26 nationals appearances (last in ’22), 10 Super 6 appearances (last in ’11), 1 Four on the Floor appearance (’21)

Event rankings: 2nd on vault (49.530), 3rd on bars (49.585), 7th on beam (49.495), t-3rd with Oklahoma and LSU on floor (49.595).

Preview: Michigan has been on a roll this season and has showed no sign of slowing down yet. The Wolverines have scored two consecutive 198s and four in their last five meets. They could’ve had five in a row had the scoring at the Georgia meet been a bit more consistent, too. Michigan’s got the talent to make it to nationals, they have the experience to make it to nationals, they have the consistency to make it to nationals, they have the will to win to make it to nationals. The only thing that can keep Michigan out of nationals is themselves. They’ve had a couple rough meets this year in the Michigan State dual meet and their session of Big 5, and that kind of roughness will knock them out if it happens again. Their normal is more than enough to advance to Fort Worth.

#6 LSU (197.840 NQS, 15-7-1 overall, finished 3rd at SECs, begins on vault)

Semifinal scores: 197.375, 49.250 VT, 49.275 UB, 49.325 BB, 49.525 FX

Event rankings: 3rd on vault (49.500), 9th on bars (49.420), 10th on beam (49.415), t-3rd with Oklahoma and Michigan on floor (49.595).

Preview: Let’s get the lineups out of the way real quick. Haleigh Bryant, Aleah Finnegan and Alyona Shchennikova are expected to be in the all-around as usual.

On vault, the probable lineup is Elena Arenas, Alyona, Chase Brock, Aleah, Bryce Wilson, Haleigh with Alexis Jeffrey listed as alternate. On bars, the probable lineup begins with Alexis, then will see either Livvy Dunne or Ashley Cowan, then Tori Tatum, Aleah, Alyona, Haleigh with Elena listed as alternate. Livvy earned the spot on Friday, but she scored a 9.650 the team ended up dropping. On beam, the probable lineup is Elena, Alyona, Alexis, Sierra Ballard, Haleigh, Aleah with Bryce listed as alternate. On floor, the probable lineup is Sierra, Alyona, Chase, Elena, Aleah, Haleigh with Livvy listed as alternate.

Despite all the hardships, the adversity, the injuries, the doubts, everything, LSU is one step from making it back to nationals. They’ll advance if they improve upon everything they did on Friday and clean up their mistakes. They have to stick landings on every event, hit their handstands on bars, avoid the checks on beam and remain in control on floor. Normally, a 197.700 would be enough to advance, but Ohio State scored a 197.725 yesterday and missed nationals. This team’s normal can be enough, but if they reach down and find what drove them against Alabama and Florida, they can book their trip to nationals. If you’ve watched this team all season, you know that they have the fight to advance that few teams can match. This group of athletes has shown more courage in the face of adversity than the vast majority of LSU sports teams I’ve seen. They don’t back down from a challenge, they rise above it. All they need are 24 solid routines. 24 routines separate this team from a spot in Fort Worth. The climb has reached its highest point yet; they must survive the avalanche and advance.