With only 50 days to go until the start of the 2018 NCAA gymnastics season, we’ve decided to look at all the great matchups on the slate for the coming year. Gymnastics fans are in for an exciting 16 weeks, so let’s get started.
The action kicks off with Alabama at Michigan on the first day of the regular season, vaulting off at 7 p.m. ET on January 5. The NorCal Classic gets things started on the west coast the following Monday night with California, Stanford, Sacramento State, San Jose State and UC Davis squaring off in Palo Alto, California.
While there are some good matchups to start the season, most teams don’t begin until a week later, most notably with LSU at Florida on January 12. The defending SEC champions will travel to Gainesville with the razor thin edge likely going to Florida merely because of home floor advantage. Gym fans are hit with a double whammy that Friday night as Kupets’s Georgia travels to Alabama for the first time since the Gymdogs’ head coaching turnover.
January 14 sees the first Elevate the Stage meet of the season, and it’s a good one with four Pac-12 foes matching up in Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington—three of which qualified to nationals and the fourth coming in with one of the best freshman classes the team’s seen in years. The extended weekend gives gym fans an extra taste of excitement as Oklahoma duels Georgia in Athens on MLK Monday.
Auburn at Georgia will give SEC fans a taste of what could be the first step in solidifying a position in the night session of the conference championship later in the season while Alabama will travel to LSU as the Tigers’ home win streak is put to the test against a fierce SEC foe.
Saturday features one of the first big Pac-12 matchups of the season with similar implications to the Auburn-Georgia meet the previous night in that the winner of the Bears and Huskies meet could be a factor in conference championship seeding in the future.
January comes to a close with what should be an incredibly exciting matchup when Oklahoma makes the trip to Gainesville to take on Florida for a dual with big postseason implications despite it occurring in just the fourth week of the season—not to mention the fact that the SEC Network is even choosing to broadcast the competition despite it including an out-of-conference team, something it hasn’t yet done in its gymnastics coverage until this season.
Despite not being in one of the Big 4 conferences, Boise State at Southern Utah should also be an exciting meet for those interested in nationals bubble teams. The Broncos barely missed out on an NCAA berth in 2017 while the Thunderbirds will have a big freshman class ready to show off.
Saturday features Michigan at Nebraska—two Big 10 teams with equal opportunity to land at the top of the conference standings come March. Plus, all the cheese burgers on beam, blondies and mansions along the way. That meet is followed up by Stanford at Oregon State and a can’t-miss Metroplex, featuring LSU, UCLA, Washington and N.C. State in the Lone Star state.
Things slow down a big once February hits with a number of semi-lopsided conference matchups taking center stage, including Kentucky at LSU, Florida at Auburn and Arkansas at Alabama. But the highlight will be Iowa at Illinois, where fans can see how the Hawkeyes are dealing without some of their 2017 stars as well as how Illinois is getting along with new head coach Nadalie Walsh. Minnesota at Nebraska highlights Saturday while the weekend ends with a bang with Oklahoma at UCLA for the first regular season collegiate gymnastics competition broadcast on ESPN.
Alabama travels to Florida for week six as Peyton Ernst and Bailie Key head to the school they were previously a part of. UCLA and California also face off for a meet of pretty while Oregon State heads north to Washington for a middle-tier Pac-12 standoff while Nebraska takes on Iowa in the Big 10. Saturday comes to a close with George Washington and West Virginia heading to the mountains to take on Denver for what could be an interesting showdown between middle-of-the-pack regionals teams and the Pioneers, who are coming off a trip to nationals in 2017.
The Gators head to Georgia for a Friday Night Heights special, followed by the Perfect 10 Challenge featuring Nebraska and Oklahoma. Arkansas, George Washington, LSU and Missouri close out the night at the Mardi Gras Invitational, held at the same site as the 2018 NCAA championships.
Saturday’s big showdown is the second meeting of California and Stanford in Palo Alto while Sunday is highlighted by the conference’s biggest rivalry in Utah at UCLA. We don’t have to remind you of the drama that went down in Salt Lake City in 2017.
Jay Clark and LSU head to Athens to start off week eight in the first time the former Gymdog coach will return since Kupets and Yoculan took over the program. Missouri and Kentucky also face off in a meet between the SEC’s two teams on the rise. Rivals Alabama and Auburn dual in Auburn, the site of the Tiger’s upset win over the Tide two years ago, while Iowa travels to Southern Utah for what could be an exciting competition.
George Washington heads to a revitalized Penn State on Saturday, followed by Stanford at Washington later that day. The weekend wraps up with Utah at California and Oregon State at UCLA.
Augusta’s Elevate the Stage competition highlights week nine action, featuring Georgia, Nebraska, Stanford and Illinois in a potential anyone-can-win matchup. Arizona also heads to Arkansas, Auburn is at LSU and Florida is at Missouri. Meanwhile Washington faces off against Southern Utah in Cedar City and Arizona State takes on Minnesota. But the one to watch will be Oklahoma at Michigan. Southern Utah and Denver wrap up the weekend on Monday in Colorado.
The regular season begins to wind down in week 10 but gets no less exciting at Nebraska is at Florida as the Gators’ say goodbye to Alex McMurtry and Kennedy Baker on senior night. Arizona State, Arkansas and Denver also face off at Oklahoma while Alabama and Auburn head down to Huntsville to put the rivalry to the test one more time. Utah is at Michigan to close out the Saturday slate, and UCLA at Stanford wraps up the weekend on the Farm.
Oklahoma heads to Alabama for yet another tough dual between 2017 Super Six opponents. Georgia also faces off against Utah in Salt Lake City for what is guaranteed to be a highly anticipated showdown between historically great teams. Saturday sees Boise State and BYU square off against Washington in Seattle while Arizona travels to LSU and the pair of Big 10 Big Five meets unfold to determine seeding for the following week’s conference championship. The final day of the regular season comes to a close with Oklahoma’s annual trip to Denton, Texas, to take on Texas Woman’s.
Conference championship weekend features a slate of exciting meets. Prepare your devices, plan our your screen organization and pack your snacks for an exciting weekend of competition, starting Friday with the MIC and NCGA National Championship, followed by the bulk of the madness on Saturday with competitions from noon to nearly midnight.
Fans will get a much needed break between conference champs to prepare for regionals. Hosts include Alabama, Minnesota, N.C. State, Ohio State, Penn State and Utah. And appreciate the relatively calm regionals weekend while it lasts because 2019 will see the shift to the super regionals format.
While the top Division I teams will get a break before heading to St. Louis for nationals. USAG nationals kicks off in Denton, Texas, featuring teams with fewer than seven scholarship athletes. With defending champions TWU as hosts, it should shape up to be an exciting competition.
NCAA nationals marks the end of the 2018 season as the top 12 teams in the nation, as well as standout individuals, square off in the hopes of becoming the next national champion. Friday will feature two semifinal sessions while Super Six Saturday closes out NCAA gym for another year.
It’s an exciting lineup of competitions for 2018, and it can’t get here soon enough. To see the full schedule, click here. Which matchups are you most excited for?
Article by Elizabeth Grimsley