SUPER SIX: Florida, LSU, UCLA, Alabama, Stanford
I still really feel like this is just going to be Oklahoma’s year. They’re still coming off of last season, where they dominated all spring and then crumbled when it counted, which isn’t easy to get over. Their narrow loss in 2013 is what propelled them to their co-champion win a year later, so I really think last year’s Super Six drama is exactly what they needed to push forward. They’re also ranked first in the preseason coaches poll, with 29 first-place votes, and they’re looking incredible in everything I’ve seen this fall, so I say they’ll easily get a spot in the Super Six and should be the team to beat when it comes down to the title.
Losing Rhonda Faehn shouldn’t be a huge obstacle for the Gators thanks to the building blocks she put in place, and the capable hands of Jenny Rowlands taking over. Bridget Sloan has already accomplished everything under the sun, and now as the team leader I think she’s still not done blowing our minds.
I’m just slowly chanting “Sarah Finnegan” to myself repeatedly because she looked incredible at this team’s Gymnastics 101 intrasquad, especially because we haven’t seen her really and truly compete in over three years. While the loss of last year’s seniors was a HUGE blow, the incoming freshman class has even more potential to eventually bring this program to its first national title, and like Oklahoma, the Tigers have the disappointment of 2015 championships to motivate them. A Super Six spot should be a given if they hit.
This team kills me slowly each year, and I think each year I say, “This is it! They’re back!” and I’m always wrong. But no, for real, I am FEELING IT for 2016. Their senior class is 50 shades of fabulous (how do Danusia Francis, Sadiqua Bynum, and Sophina DeJesus exist on the same planet, let alone same team?!) and Katelyn Ohashi is going to kill it. I think they might start out slow, but can totally see them ramping up for a Super Six spot as they get closer to postseason.
The Crimson Tide is definitely in transition mode, with two-thirds of their current team made up of freshmen and sophomores. Like LSU, they lost a hell of a senior class last season, but I still think they are one of the strongest in the nation when it comes down to hitting when it counts, and I would be shocked to see them not go all the way.
I chose Stanford over Utah because the Cardinal could come in with the worst regular season ever and still somehow make it to the Super Six. It’s magic. Never doubt Stanford. And Utah without Dabritz, Lothrop, Tutka, Wilson, AND coach Greg Marsden, the man who built this program from scratch?! It’s not going to be easy, even with solid replacements. Stanford, meanwhile, now has Elizabeth Price with a season of experience under her belt in addition to seniors Taylor Rice and Ivana Hong running the show. I trust this team more than my own mother and will eat my hat if they don’t get a Super Six bid.
SUPER SIX: Alabama, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah
I’m holding steady with my preseason Super Six teams and not allowing myself to be swayed by the beguiling ghoulish illusion of December form that tricks us all into thinking things that won’t be true in three months. We’ve been burned too many times before.
Although, Utah and LSU did provide some assurance through their lineups in preseason showcases that they both still have enough quality routines to avoid falling directly into a pit of quicksand this season after losing so many essential contributors. The Utes showed enough 9.850-style routine options to make picking them to return to Super Six a more comfortable prospect, while LSU coupled its display of competitive lineups with the welcome news that Lexie Priessman and McKenna Kelley should both return in January. The lure of that whole roster actually competing and being relatively healthy at the same time this year (it’s a Christmas miracle!) seriously helps LSU’s position in the preseason horse race.
SUPER SIX: Alabama, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA, Utah
Ok, so bare with me here. In an effort to not have the same exact predictions as last time, I’m making an unconventional change to my Super Six. I still think Oklahoma will take the title, based off videos from its intrasquad and other social media posts.
Meanwhile, I’ve taken a “you can’t sit with us” approach with Michigan. They had a rough intersquad against Eastern Michigan. Yes, I know it was preseason and lots of girls were sick and even more were fighting nagging injuries, but the performance was just… I don’t even know. They wouldn’t have beaten EMU even with five people on floor. Just sayin’. I’ll consider adding them back in to my six once they prove that mess was a fluke.
As for the others, Alabama, Florida and LSU are givens. Alabama always seems to get in even if it’s not the best season in the entire world or even the best competition in the entire world for that matter. I mean, very few non-Alabama fans thought it would win the SEC titles in 2014 or 2015 and it did just that. Seriously. I’m slowly learning to not doubt the Tide.
LSU looked good on beam at its Gymnastics 101. And that was one of the main things that kept the Tigers from the Super Six in 2015. So building upon that great start and developing the rockstar freshman class into something amazing is something that needs to happen to ensure a more successful ending. Let’s just hope the Tigers are set up to peek too soon.
Utah also looked solid despite losing the equivalent of NCAA gymnastics royalty in their senior class and Greg Marsden’s retirement. And who ever knows with UCLA, but I’m going to take a gamble on it because those floor routines are hot. The pieces are there. The Bruins just need the endurance and full-body casts to survive through the season and make it back to the Super Six for the first time in way too long.
SUPER SIX: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA
Oklahoma still looks awesome, and I think it’s going to keep looking awesome until it wins the national championship in April. The beam routines posted on social media looks like a beam rotation that is worthy of a national title. I don’t have any reasoning more profound than that. I just think they look like national champions.
Florida could challenge the Sooners thanks to all the big names on its roster, but I still think the Gators will come up short. I was a bit wary about putting LSU in my Super Six because of the seniors it lost, but the intrasquad last week was enough to sway my opinion. I could even see LSU finishing in the top three.
Georgia is in my Super Six until they prove otherwise (as in a beamplosion or anything that hints at the fact it will take 11 meets to break 197 again). I think this year will be good for Georgia. But who knows? Alabama and UCLA are in because it seems right. I realized I left out Utah, which probably isn’t smart. But I feel like Utah could very likely do well all year, not have major mistakes in semifinals and barely miss Super Six.