Back home to celebrate Mardi Gras without major traffic issues.
#5 LSU is back in the friendly confines and on the familiar equipment of the PMAC tonight. Last week, LSU dropped a winnable meet at #9 Missouri 197.325-197.225. Tonight, they face one of the biggest surprises of the 2024 season: #7 Arkansas. The meet will not be televised, but it will be streamed on SEC Network+ at 7:30 p.m. Sign into the ESPN App or Watch ESPN with your TV provider. Lyn Rollins and Kaleigh Dickson Abboud will be calling tonight’s meet. For those going to the meet, doors open at 6:00 p.m. The first 2,000 fans will receive a Mardi Gras cup. Introductions will begin at 7:19 p.m. and the first vault will be at 7:32 p.m. All rankings are as of Week 4 according to Road to Nationals.
Match-up history for LSU and Arkansas
LSU is 44-6-1 in all competitions against Arkansas and is 9-1 at home. That loss came on 2/11/11. The last time these two teams met on the same floor was on 1/27/2023 when Arkansas beat the Tigers and set a program record score in front of a sold out Barnhill Arena 197.475-197.250. The last time these two teams met in the PMAC was on 1/8/2021 in which LSU won 196.550-196.350.
About #7 Arkansas
Arkansas was ranked #15 in the preseason poll after an okay 2023 season. The Razorbacks finished 7th at SECs and 17th in the country, the highest among teams who failed to reach the regional finals. I said that this year’s team was the one in which I had the least faith coming into 2024. You’ll see how much that’s changed when I release my post-January power rankings Monday, but I was very wrong.
The Razorbacks lost five members of their 2023 roster who combined for 8 routines that had an NQS and one person who had an NQS in the all-around. They added four freshmen and graduate transfer Sirena Linton from Arizona, a beam specialist who qualified to nationals on the event in 2022. They are the only team in the SEC who didn’t keep any seniors from their 2023 team. Linton is one person worth watching, but the main stars are Leah Smith and Frankie Price for their floor performances. The entire floor team is so much fun to watch.
Arkansas is 2-0-1 on the season and 2-0-1 in the SEC after last week’s 197.225-196.675 win over Auburn. Arkansas tied Alabama 197.525-197.525 on the road to set a new program score record the week prior. The Hogs rank 7th on vault [49.292], 8th on bars [49.342], 7th on beam [49.183] and 2nd on floor [49.483]. Beam and vault are their weaknesses for now because they’ve been the least consistent, but they haven’t shown major problems anywhere yet. This is not the Arkansas of old. This is a legit threat that will beat or tie teams that don’t show up.
Jordyn Wieber is in her fifth season as head coach of Arkansas. She is assisted by assistant coach Chris Brooks, the bars coach also in his fifth season, assistant coach Kyla Ross, a coach in her second season, and assistant coach Kyla Bryant, a coach in her first season.
About #5 LSU
LSU comes in ranked 4th on vault [49.363], 4th on bars [49.469], tied for 18th with Oregon State on beam [49.056] and 3rd on floor [49.481]. In Monday’s media availability, head coach Jay Clark noted that several members of the team had been out of the gym with an illness. He didn’t name anybody, but that’s something to keep in mind.
There hasn’t been any official word on lineups, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens there. One thing to note about tonight’s meet is that there will be exhibition routines. Jay said that Amari Drayton is likely going to exhibition on bars and said Livvy Dunne could do one there, too. This is possible because the meet is being streamed and not broadcast on TV.
LSU had a disappointing meet at Missouri last week. If the team can channel that disappointment properly, they can get things back on track. The main thing I’m looking for is two clean vault sticks, meaning no balance issues or momentum carrying through the landing. LSU’s on a 22-vault drought without one, and this needs to be the place to end that. After all, one of the best ways to roast a bunch of hogs requires a bunch of big sticks.