NCAA Preview: Week 9
The countdown to post season continues! In the final weeks of the regular season, teams are putting the finishing touches on their routines and hoping some of their best performances are still ahead of them. Now that the national rankings are determined by National Qualifying Score (NQS), regional berths are beginning to take shape and conversations about potential national qualifiers are becoming more pertinent. This week, it is all about making a statement and boosting the team NQS score with a big performance.
Here are a few meets for this weekend you won’t want to miss!
No. 11 BYU at No. 2 Oklahoma – Friday, March 5
Thanks to the national rankings switching to NQS, Oklahoma is now able to forget about some of their lower scoring performances from the beginning of the season and will hope to build as postseason approaches. To drop the 197.450 they are currently counting, the Sooners will want to go big on Senior Night and minimize deductions wherever possible. That number is feasible for the Sooners, despite two of their star athletes, Ragan Smith and Olivia Trautman, being limited to just bars. Freshman Audrey Davis and Kate Levasseur have stepped up in a big way on their respective events, as well as Anastasia Webb, who sits 3rd in the All-Around rankings. The BYU Cougars, who are coming off a three-meet winning streak, will have their work cut out for them if they want to fend off Oklahoma at home, but it’s not impossible. The Cougars are having one of their best scoring seasons in program history and are consistently hitting in the mid-high 196 range. The Cougars would love a big performance like they had last week when they posted a 49.600 on floor. They accomplished this with the help of their senior Abby Miner-Alder who posted a 9.975 and junior Brittney Vitkauskas who brought in a 9.95.
Watch: Fox Sports Oklahoma at 8:00 p.m. ET
No. 1 Florida at No. 6 Alabama – Friday, March 5
The Gators have been on fire this season and show no signs of slowing down. They are the No. 1 ranked team on every event for a reason! The Gators clinched at least a share of the regular season SEC title last weekend against Auburn but must get the win against Alabama to win it outright. If the Gators can do it, it will be their first SEC regular-season title. The sky is the limit when you have an athlete like Trinity Thomas on your team, who is coming off a pair of 10s her last time out. The Gators also have Leah Clapper who is coming off back-to-back beam performances of 10.0 and 9.975, and Ellie Lazzari who secured a 9.975 of her own on the event. The Crimson Tide should not be overlooked though. Their best performance was a 197.725, which could easily take down the Gators if they faltered in the slightest. Luisa Blanco, who sits 4th in the All-Around rankings, can post huge numbers on all four events and has been the Crimson Tide’s most consistent athlete this season. Sophomore Mati Waligora is also coming off her season best performance with a 9.825 on vault, 9.9 on bars, and 9.925 on beam.
Watch: SEC Network+ at 8:30 p.m. ET
No. 10 UCLA at No. 9 Cal – Saturday, March 6
This just may be the meet of the week. The Pac-12 foes are back-to-back in the national rankings and either team could pull through at the end of the day. UCLA is coming off it’s second straight 197+ performance of the season with Margzetta Frazier tying her career best all-around score (39.550), while Cal is coming off it’s third straight 197+ score and the second-best beam score in program history (49.450). Cal will be looking to erase that 196.075 from the second meet of the season—which could catapult them in the rankings. That task should be no match for the Bears with a crop of talented All-Arounders in Kyana George, Nevaeh DeSouza, and Maya Bordas. To top the Bears, the Bruins will need strong performances from not just Frazier, but Nia Dennis and Chae Campbell as well.
Watch: Cal Live Stream 5 p.m. ET
On the men’s side…
No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 3 Nebraska – Saturday, March 6
A match up with two top five teams is almost guaranteed to be a close one. Ohio State is looking to maintain their 3-meet win streak after posting a season high against Minnesota and winning every event title. Meanwhile Nebraska is trying to regain its momentum after a loss against Michigan and Illinois in a tri-meet. The good news for the Cornhuskers is that they are led by a sensational freshman Taylor Christopulos. Christopulos is coming off his second consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor and is currently the top vaulter in the NCAA with an average of 14.733. The Buckeyes will look to Jesse Tyndall, who is the biggest top ranked All-Around gymnast and ranks 4th on floor.
Watch: BTN+ at 4:00 p.m.
No. 7 Iowa @ No. 2 Michigan – Sunday
This meet will be an exciting one for Michigan as it will be the first in-person home meet of their season. The Wolverines are having a strong season and are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation on high bar. The team will be lead by senior Cameron Bock, who is fresh off an All-Around win at Winter Cup and sophomore Paul Juda who is the top All-Around gymnast in the country as well as first on the pommel horse, still rings, and high bar. The Iowa Hawkeyes come in 3-0 on the season and are tied with Michigan at the top of the Big Ten standings. To pull off an upset, Iowa will need big performances from senior Bennet Huang and junior Evan Davis, who are both ranked in the top 10 in the All-Around nationally.
Watch: BTN+ at 1:00 p.m.
Photo credits Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics
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