Previewing the 2022 National Championship Team Contenders

It’s finally time for the NCAA national championships once again! We know our eight teams, our four all arounders and our 15 individual event specialists, and over the next two days we’ll be breaking down all the title contenders.

First up are the teams. Friday’s first semifinal features Alabama, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah while the evening session will include Auburn, Florida, Michigan and Missouri. Two teams from each of these Friday competitions will advance to the national final on Saturday. There are also individuals that will compete on Thursday with individual titles and All-America honors on the line, but we’ll get to that in a separate preview.

For a more in-depth explanation on the postseason format, check out our NCAA postseason guide.

Semifinal One

Date: Thursday, April 14 at 1 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN2

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 1 Oklahoma 396.390 197.827 198.475 Vault
No. 4 Utah 396.120 197.679 198.575 Floor
No. 5 Alabama 395.965 197.448 198.175 Bars
No. 7 Minnesota 395.165 197.243 198.025 Beam

Background: After earning the highest-ever regular season NQS, the Sooners enter the national championships on a hot streak after also posting repeat 198s to win their home regional, secure their spot and maintain their status as a title favorite. Oklahoma outpaced Minnesota at that regional, but the Gophers also posted two competitive scores to qualify relatively easily. Utah, one of the most decorated programs in the sport’s history, is coming off back-to-back 10s on beam that sealed the Seattle regional title and barely edged out the Crimson Tide, who did best the Utes’ total in the previous round of the regional.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: In the regional final, Oklahoma, Utah and Alabama all posted scores within a tenth of each other, creating a fascinating battle in this semifinal for the two advancing spots. The Utes have been below average on vault lately while making up ground on beam, which could spell disaster in a national final. The Crimson Tide and Sooners grappled with some bouts of inconsistency early in the season. Minnesota isn’t out of contention either but will need to be exceptional on beam where it hasn’t eclipsed the 49.500 barrier yet this season.

Pivotal Routines to Keep an Eye on: Don’t only keep an eye out for the Gophers’ big three of Lexy Ramler, Ona Loper and Mya Hooten because it’s the other three members of each lineup whose scores need to rise to keep them in the mix. Utah’s Maile O’Keefe has returned to the vault lineup for a shot at the all-around title, and having earned 10s on bars and beam this year could give everyone a run for their money. Oklahoma and Alabama both have great depth but Olivia Trautman and Luisa Blanco, respectively, are gymnasts working their ways back from injury for each squad. Whatever events each are able to compete can be difference makers.

Semifinal Two

Date: Thursday, April 14 at 6 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN2

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 2 Florida 396.910 197.841 198.775 Vault
No. 3 Michigan 395.815 197.841 198.525 Floor
No. 6 Auburn 395.425 197.444 198.575 Beam
No. 8 Missouri 394.620 197.015 197.675 Bars

Background: Despite the No. 2 ranking, Florida enters as the arguable favorite, having posted the third-highest score in NCAA history to capture the Auburn Regional title, which was also the highest total of any program this season. Michigan, who was ranked first for most of the season, also fancies itself in the title favorites conversation after taking the Raleigh Regional crown and having already bested top challenger Auburn in 2022. Both Tigers squads find themselves as underdogs, but Auburn did match Florida and Utah in posting the regular season’s top team total, and Missouri is carrying momentum after upsetting LSU and edging out UCLA by the smallest margin possible to earn its spot in this semifinal.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance: While the Gators easily outpaced the field in their regional final, Auburn did tie Florida in the regular season matchup to showcase the potential that these Tigers have when they’re bringing their A-game. Missouri has been the queen of upsets this season, including a season sweep over sixth-seeded LSU, and could be just a bit of momentum away from the ultimate upset and a program-defining national final berth. Michigan, like Florida, is in control of its own destiny as a favorite but has struggled on beam at times this season and was the only regional winner not to hit 198 that weekend.

Pivotal Routines to Keep an Eye on: Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee is a major factor in why Auburn has ascended to nationals status this season and will need to continue to shine for it to punch its ticket to Saturday’s final. She’ll have competition in the all-around from Michigan’s contingent, primarily Natalie Wojcik and Sierra Brooks (if healthy), as well as Gators Leanne Wong and Trinity Thomas—who notched a quartet of 10s at regionals. Freshman Amari Celestine upped her game (and her heel on floor) in the regional final to push Missouri to this point and will need another fantastic three events to extend the Tigers’ season.

National Finals

Date: Saturday, April 16 at 1 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ABC

Event Team
Vault Semifinal 2, First-place team
Bars Semifinal 2, Second-place team
Beam Semifinal 1, Second-place team
Floor Semifinal 1, First-place team

READ THIS NEXT: Data Deep Dive: Simulating 2022 Nationals

Article by Brandis Heffner and Emily Minehart

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