2021 Tuscaloosa Regional Preview

After nearly two years, it’s almost time for NCAA gymnastics postseason again! We know where each of the top 36 teams in the country will travel to compete for a chance at advancing to nationals, and in the days leading up to the championships, we’ll preview and analyze each of the four regionals, discussing which teams have a chance of moving on each day and which individuals could qualify as well.

First up is the Tuscaloosa regional. Thursday will feature No. 31 Eastern Michigan and No. 32 Maryland in round one. Friday we jump into round two action with No. 7 Alabama, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 19 Iowa and No. 20 Iowa State competing in the afternoon session and No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 15 Auburn, No. 23 Missouri and the winner of round one in the evening session. Two teams from each of these Friday competitions will advance to round three on Saturday where the top two from that meet make it to nationals.

There’s also a handful of individuals that will compete on Friday in both of the round two meets. Simply put, the top all arounder and event specialists qualify to nationals. To determine those gymnasts, combine Friday’s individual event and all around results, wait until Saturday’s meet concludes, take out all the gymnasts from the two qualifying teams and take the top individual on each event and in the all around.

Easy enough, right?

For a more in-depth explanation, including how the tie-breaking procedure works (it’s complicated), how the whole format is structured and even how judges are selected, check out our NCAA postseason resource guide.

Finally, don’t forget to enter your postseason predictions in the 2021 bracket challenge! The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, March 31 at 7 p.m. ET. Once you enter, you can follow your progress here. Note that when you submit your picks, it will take a few hours to see your submission appear in the standings spreadsheet.

Round One

Date: Thursday, April 1 at 4 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN3

Teams: No. 31 Eastern Michigan and No. 32 Maryland

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 31 Eastern Michigan 195.950 195.127 196.100 Vault
No. 32. Maryland 195.913 195.410 196.275 Bars


In theory (and despite the lower ranking), Maryland will most likely be the victor of this play-in round. The Terps’ ceiling is higher, their average is higher and they have scored higher more consistently throughout the season. That being said, they’ve struggled a bit in the wake of losing sophomore Emma Silberman to injury while Eastern Michigan has steadily improved. This could come down to how the teams do on their best events: Maryland on vault, where it is ranked 16th in the country, and Eastern Michigan on beam, where it is ranked 22nd. 

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

If both teams perform to the best of their ability, the win should go to Maryland. But Eastern Michigan is more than capable of fully capitalizing on any mistakes. Don’t count the Eagles out of this one.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Keep your eye on Audrey Barber for Maryland and Haydn Crossen for Eastern Michigan; both gymnasts qualified in the all around as individuals and are strong across all four events. Jada Rondeau is a key performer on beam for the Eagles as well; you absolutely won’t want to miss her routine there.

Round Two

Session One

Date: Friday, April 2 at 2 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN3

Teams: No. 7 Alabama, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 19 Iowa and No. 20 Iowa State

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 7 Alabama 197.538 197.053 197.875 Beam
No. 10 Arkansas 197.225 196.794 197.425 Bars
No. 19 Iowa 196.756 196.475 196.825 Floor
No. 20 Iowa State 196.706 196.475 197.050 Vault


Alabama was somewhat of a dark horse this season, taking anyone who wasn’t paying attention by surprise when it won the SEC championship last weekend. The Crimson Tide has been quietly good all year, though,  demonstrating what it is capable of week in and week out—while everyone’s eyes have been locked in on teams like Florida and Oklahoma. While this regional will certainly not be a walk in the park, Alabama should have no problem advancing out of this session. The rest of these teams, though…oof.

Despite Arkansas being the second-highest ranked team here, its consistency could become a big issue—one that both Iowa and Iowa State will be more than capable of taking advantage of should the opportunity arise. The Hawkeyes were on their way to a huge score at the Big Ten championship before a less-than-stellar beam rotation threw them off course; if they can keep that positive momentum going and fix their beam issues, there is a big chance they advance.

Iowa State is another team that has had a quietly outstanding season, and while its NQS is lower and its average is tied—yes, tied—with Iowa, it does have the higher ceiling of the two. All in all this session will absolutely be a bloodbath, and there will be two extremely disappointed teams at the end of the day.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

As mentioned, Alabama should absolutely advance out of this session, but then things get interesting. When looking at average, the separation between top-ranked Alabama and bottom-ranked Iowa and Iowa State is just over half a point. That’s not a lot of cushion should any of these teams have anything resembling an off day. Arkansas and Iowa State both have higher ceilings than Iowa, and if all teams hit to their full potential, we are likely looking at Alabama and Arkansas advancing to round three; but don’t rule out the Hawkeyes or the Cyclones. Both of those teams are good enough to challenge for that second spot, and are certainly capable of capitalizing on any mistakes made by other teams. Basically, there is no wiggle room to be anything less than great or any of these teams run the risk of not advancing to the next round. To make things even more interesting, there’s word that three-event contributor Bailey Lovett might be limited to just beam, if she’s able to compete at all, due to elbow pain.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Arkansas and Iowa are can’t-miss on floor, where they are ranked third and fourth, respectively. For the Hawkeyes, specific routines to watch are JerQuavia Henderson and Lauren Guerin, who seem to flirt with the possibility of a 10.0 every week. For the Razorbacks, the entire back half of the lineup is incredible, with Bailey Lovett, Kennedy Hambrick and Sophia Carter all particularly noteworthy.

Alabama is capable of six 10.0 starts on vault and will likely show at least five here, so the possibility to get off to an early lead is there if things go well. Luisa Blanco is great on every event, but at the very least tun in to see her on beam (where she sealed the victory for the Crimson Tide at the conference championship with her near-perfect routine last week).

Iowa State also has a strong vault rotation, with Addy DeJesus and Makayla Maxwell leading the pack; DeJesus is a strong all arounder (she scored a personal best 39.600 at the conference championship), so she is one to watch when it comes down to that title as well—although it will be difficult to catch Blanco who hasn’t scored below a 39.625 since her first meet of the season.

All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Angelica Labat, llinois State (w/ Iowa State) Cameron Topp, Illinois State (w/ Iowa State)

*Note: Individuals from both round one teams are included in the individual draw to account for one team being eliminated after Thursday’s competition. The spots from the individuals on the advancing team will not be filled.

Individuals to Keep an Eye on

There are a lot of individuals to watch depending on which teams don’t make the cut for nationals. When looking at who could qualify in the all around, Arkansas senior Kennedy Hambrick (ranked No. 8) and Iowa State junior Addy DeJesus (No. 10) are the most likely contenders; on bars, Arkansas senior Maggie O’Hara (No. 11) has a good chance if she hits to her full capability; Iowa freshman Adeline Kenlin is ranked top 10 in the country on beam, and both senior Lauren Guerin and sophomore JerQuavia Henderson are highly ranked on floor (Guerin is No. 8 while Henderson is No. 10). Illinois State sophomore Angelica Labat and senior Cameron Topp will also be competing during this session; Labat in the all around and Topp on floor, where she teased the potential to throw a double layout on Instagram last week.

Session Two

Date: Friday, April 2 at 8 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN3

Teams: No.1 Oklahoma, No. 15 Auburn, No. 23 Missouri and No. 31 Eastern Michigan or No. 32 Maryland

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 1 Oklahoma  197.944 197.288 198.225 Beam
No. 15 Auburn 196.875 196.278 197.125 Bars
No. 23 Missouri 196.444 195.783 196.850 Floor
No. 31 Eastern Michigan OR No. 32 Maryland —  Vault


Oklahoma is the No. 1 team in the country and will likely come to this meet looking for some revenge. The Sooners were defeated by Denver at the conference championship, and the Sooners will absolutely want to improve beam and floor at regionals to prove Big 12s was a fluke. The team will be able to get away with some errors in this session, though, but as the team advances, those mistakes will be more and more likely to hurt the team’s success.

Alongside Oklahoma, two-thirds of the SEC’s Tigers teams will also be in Tuscaloosa and battling for a chance to compete on day three. Auburn was on the struggle bus at the start of the season but has since figured things out and been on an upward trend. Returning Cassie Stephens, Drew Watson and Aria Brusch to full strength helped immensely. Missouri is thin on depth with the season-ending injury to Jena Swanson a few weeks ago. However, the team has moments of greatness on beam and floor but struggles with consistency overall. The two play-in teams aren’t likely to move onto round three, but don’t underestimate their capabilities. 

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

This session is more straight-forward than others with Oklahoma and Auburn likely to advance, and while the Sooners have struggled on floor in recent weeks, continued issues aren’t likely to be big enough to prevent them from moving on. An off day for Auburn could leave Missouri and the play-in team in contention. However, those teams will likely need season-best performances or close to it, to be in contention.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Jada Rondeau puts together a beautiful and under-appreciated bar routine for Eastern Michigan that can score well when she hits. Oklahoma’s star freshman Audrey Davis has been limited in competition due to injury, but her bar routine is as 10-worthy as anyone’s in the country. Senior Anastasia Webb is stellar on all four and is a contender for the national all around title in Fort Worth. Derrian Gobourne’s tumbling and choreography on floor is some of the best in the country. The junior has scored 9.975 twice and only has two marks below 9.900 this season. Freshman Gabrielle McLaughlin has also emerged as a star on beam for Auburn. 

All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Haydn Crossen, Eastern Michigan Alexis Rubio, Maryland Courtney Bezold, Eastern Michigan Jada Rondeau, Eastern Michigan Jada Rondeau, Eastern Michigan
Audrey Barber, Maryland Reese McClure, Maryland Jada Rondeau, Eastern Michigan Caitlin Satler, Eastern Michigan Claudia Goyco, Ball State (w/ Missouri)
Collea Burgess, Maryland Grace Evans, Ball State (w/ Missouri) Shannon Gregory, Eastern Michigan
Victoria Henry, Ball State (w/ Missouri) Megan Teter, Ball State (w/ Missouri)

*Note: Individuals from both round one teams are included in the individual draw to account for one team being eliminated after Thursday’s competition. The spots from the individuals on the advancing team will not be filled.

Individuals to Keep an Eye on

Audrey Barber has a strong chance of qualifying as an all arounder. The senior can score 9.900-plus on each event and has found consistency in her performance within the last few meets for the Terps. If Auburn misses the mark, Derrian Gobourne’s floor routine is a national title contender. And don’t forget she already won the title on vault in 2019.

Round Three

Date: Saturday, April 3 at 8 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN3

Teams: top two teams from each Friday session

Starting Event Team
Vault Session 2, Team 1
Bars Session 1, Team 1
Beam Session 1, Team 2
Floor Session 2, Team 2

The Bottom Line

Alabama, Oklahoma and Auburn are expected to be competing on day three here. As for the final team, it’s really anyone’s guess with all three of Arkansas, Iowa and Iowa State all so close in potential. But it likely won’t end up mattering as both Alabama and Oklahoma are expected to be the two nationals qualifying teams out of this regional. Alabama is on a hot streak and will be competing at home while Oklahoma struggled but is unlikely to do so again, especially two meets in a row. The bigger question may end up being which of these two teams finishes on top rather than which of the four advances to nationals.

However, if either team has an off day, the other teams are fully capable of rising to the occasion and pulling off an upset. Arkansas in particular has the ceiling to contend, and Auburn has been steadily improving at every competition. If Iowa or Iowa State are the second team out of that first session of round two, both have stellar floor rotations and potential to make moves if the beam plays nice.

READ THIS NEXT: The NCAA Postseason Format, Explained

Article by Kalley Leer and Katie Walsh

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    1. Hi there! There’s actually a distinction. Oklahoma is No. 1 in the rankings but the No. 2 overall seed. Small but important difference! Thanks for reading.

      1. Right.
        OU and UFL are tied for #1 ranking but Florida wins the tie breaker, so Oklahoma is #2. That is why they were assigned this regional and not the Georgia regional.

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