LSU gymnast Erin Macadaeg performs on beam at the 2018 National Championship.

Data Deep Dive: Dropping Scores in the Postseason

With every passing season, the field of 36 teams that make the NCAA postseason grows more and more competitive, brewing a fierce fight to advance past each stage of the regional and national competitions. These fierce fights ultimately end in close misses and bitter endings, with worthy teams narrowly missing out on taking the next step. Unsurprisingly, the cutthroat nature of these competitions ends in speculation over scoring and structure, leaving fans wondering if a different geographical assignment or postseason format would have favored their team. This article aims to address one of those “What Ifs?” that commonly pops up in the aftermath of the college gymnastics season: the all-scores-count format. Counting every score puts a twist on the traditional scoring format by rewarding consistency and putting teams that can’t consistently go 24 for 24 at an advantage. However, this format doesn’t come without questions. Does it drastically change the outcomes of postseason competitions? Which teams fall victim to the severity of this format most often? And most importantly: Does this make postseason more competitive?

To gather this data, scores were collected from a decade’s worth of postseason competitions (2013-22), and scores were calculated for each round of postseason competition by summing the score of every routine completed by a team. A few instances occurred where a team opted not to put up six on each event, denoted by an asterisk when necessary in this analysis. Play-in rounds, introduced to the postseason format in 2019, were disregarded. 

Overwhelmingly, an all-scores-count format does drastically change the outcomes of postseason competition. Every single season in the past decade had multiple qualifier changes when an all-scores-count format was applied, including four seasons where a different national champion would have been crowned.

Did you love UCLA’s epic comeback at the 2018 national championships to clinch the win by 0.0375 over Oklahoma? The all-scores-count format didn’t, with LSU crushing both of them to win the championship if all 24 of its routines counted. LSU would actually have two national championships under its belt if every single one of its routines counted, and Utah would have finally nabbed a win in 2015. Schools like Eastern Michigan and Boise State would’ve shattered school records by qualifying to a national semifinal, crushing perennial powers in their path. All in all, this format’s effects tend to apply pretty equally to different competitive seasons.

Interestingly, the all-scores-count format tended to favor certain teams while hurting others. Teams in the green column below advanced to a further round of competition in a six-up-six-count format in the past decade, or even won a championship like LSU and Utah. Teams in the red lost out. Notice that only a few teams overlap here: Oregon State, LSU, California and Illinois, suggesting that the six-up-six-count format tended to either favor or hurt specific teams over the past decade of competition.

Negatively Affected TeamsPositively Affected Teams
UCLA (x2)Arkansas
Florida (x4)Penn State
AuburnOregon State
Stanford (x2)Nebraska
California (x3)Michigan (x2)
Oregon StateUtah
LSUBoise State
OklahomaEastern Michigan

This raises yet another question: Where is the blame placed for a team’s weaknesses in this format? Are misses that typically get dropped the final nail in the coffin? Or can we shift responsibility to a team having a stronger lineup all around and dropping a stronger score? This ultimately boils down to how consistency is defined within this realm; putting up six generally strong routines or simply not falling. Of course, counting every miss or every strong lineup over a decade’s worth of postseason competition won’t provide much of a solid answer due to the sheer amount of data. So one major postseason upset over the past decade was chosen and analyzed for the amount of misses (scores under 9.700) and the amount of strong lineups (an average lineup score of greater than 9.775). 

YearMeetWinnerLoserMeet Decider
2013National ChampionshipOklahomaFloridaMissed Routines
2014University Park RegionalPenn StateFloridaMissed Routines
2015National ChampionshipUtahFloridaAverage Lineup Score
2016Tuscaloosa RegionalBoise StateCaliforniaAverage Lineup Score
2017Champaign RegionalIllinoisOregon StateAverage Lineup Score
2018National ChampionshipLSUUCLAMissed Routines
2019National ChampionshipLSUOklahomaAverage Lineup Score
2021Athens Regional FinalCaliforniaFloridaMissed Routines
2022Raleigh Regional FinalUCLAMissouriAverage Lineup Score

All in all, the driving force behind competition changes in a six-up-six-count format can’t be identified. Even though changes in national championship outcomes were mainly driven by missed routines, there was no meet-deciding factor that clearly accounted for upsets within postseason competition.

Although we can’t account for a clear pitfall or strength for teams under this format, the data overwhelmingly proves that it does make postseason more competitive. The pressure is clearly there for teams to perform well in every single routine, proven by consistent changes in qualifiers over the past decade when an all-scores-count format is retroactively applied, with top teams consistently being knocked out of further contention. Luckily for them, an all-scores-count format is unlikely to replace the current method anytime soon, but for a NCAA committee daring enough to add vault lines, who knows what the future holds?

READ THIS NEXT: New NCAA Gymnastics Rules, Modifications and What They All Mean

Article by Emma Hammerstrom

Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year!

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.