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Questions, Comments, Concerns: Week 9

It’s always a transitional point in the season for me when Bubble Watch comes out. We’re in the closing stages of the regular season now, and finally we feel like we understand what pieces everyone needs to put together and what’s no longer possible. Here’s what I’m watching, anticipating, and worrying about as we brace for the postseason.

Question: What on earth is going to happen at SECs?

The SEC is ridiculously close this year and getting closer. Florida is inching nearer to LSU in the rankings, while Kentucky is only half a step behind and has proven it can put up a fight against the top two while being more consistent than either. The other teams are all clustered together in the rankings with the exception of Georgia—and the Gymdogs have one poor road score still to drop; week 10 might see Georgia slotting in right below Auburn at No. 15. 

What this adds up to is a conference championship that feels like a total crapshoot. The afternoon session could go any way at all, and in the night session, we can only hope that scoring won’t become a factor because it’s hard to compare the top teams on their own merits thus far. It’s great that the SEC is so strong overall this year, even by its own stratospheric standards, but it’s very hard to tease out narratives and projections as a result.

Bonus Questions:

Why does Alabama still seem to think it’s January? I was hoping last week’s 198.025 meant Bama had fixed itself, but malleable lineups and lukewarm landings continue to plague the Crimson Tide. This team still looks so unfinished, and there’s not a lot of time to fix that now. This roster is too good to be ranked No. 9.

Who’s going to win Cy-Hawk this year? There’s usually a clear favorite in this matchup. This year, the two are ranked No. 35 and No. 36. Momentum seems to slightly favor the Cyclones, plus they’re at home this year, but you can’t make assumptions about a meet that everyone involved takes so seriously.

Comment: It’s a great time of year to have a double-meet weekend!

Teams that scheduled doubles in this interval between the beginning of NQS rankings and regionals are looking really smart right now. There’s nothing like a double for buying yourself mobility in the standings. 

Washington, which we’ve mentioned in the past as a team that should be worried about rankings mobility due to all of its good scores being very close together, had a double this weekend and turned in its two best scores of 2024. The top-25 ranking that that weekend produced is appreciated, but more importantly, the Huskies now have a much easier road to continue improving in NQS.

Maryland, similarly, used a double last week to inch itself into regionals position and now has another one coming up. (We’ve talked to head coach Brett Nelligan about this scheduling strategy in the past; he loves to use doubles late in the season to prepare his team for the challenges of regionals.) Maryland has two low road scores to drop but has the ability to take care of both of them in one weekend and find a much stronger position in the week 10 rankings. Maryland’s rankings neighbor, No. 37 Southern Utah, has already powered itself out of the bubble with a great Monday result and has the ability to cement that or do better on senior night this Friday.

There are numerous other teams, including BYU, N.C. State, and Penn State, which have the ability to make substantial leaps in the rankings this week and in the next couple due to doubles. Cal, which has regained the No. 2 ranking but will need to fight to keep it, has a huge weapon in a home double in the last week of the regular season. It’s just such a great asset, especially in a season where rankings changes feel even more granular than usual. 

Bonus Comments:

Look at you go, Bridgeport. This weekend’s 195.025 is the Purple Knights’ best score since 2019, before the team’s brush with elimination and its subsequent depth challenges. It’s so nice to see them back as a contender.

Was it fate that Audrey Davis got her 10.000 in the weirdest way possible? It couldn’t just be straightforward and satisfying. It had to be at a tough-to-watch non-conference meet with a score change that nobody really understands. 

Concern: Can Michigan get back from here?

I was really impressed by Michigan’s bars rotation against Oklahoma on Friday. The Wolverines, some of whom were part of the Plan A bars lineup and some of whom weren’t, dug their heels in figuratively and literally in the first rotation, fighting hard to minimize every landing deduction. The fight was evident through that rotation and the whole meet. This isn’t a team that has given up.

Then they lost the meet by 1.325 without making a single major error.

This was always going to be a tight depth year, relying on existing roster depth to replace some really great routines. At this point, I think we should acknowledge the resilience of returners who have stepped up but also recognize that overall it seems like those replacement routines don’t have the upside they would need to allow Michigan to be a contender this year. The absence of Naomi Morrison has exacerbated the challenges, and while we haven’t confirmed the length of her absence, if she plans to return this year, she’d need to dial in her landings on an abbreviated timeline to make a meaningful difference.

With minimal NQS upside and substantial built-in deductions, I see Michigan as a sitting duck when it comes to nationals qualification. If the Wolverines manage to hang onto the No. 8 position, which looks like a big ask right now, they’d be very vulnerable to a team like Michigan State or UCLA that can produce under pressure to a higher degree. 

Bonus Concerns:

I’m perpetually irritated by quasi-neutral site meets that clearly aren’t. I don’t have a solution for this; I’m just complaining. LSU won’t leave the state of Louisiana again until regionals. Utah’s Maverik Center thing has gotten pretty badly out of hand. Plus, remember Georgia competing off campus a few years back because the ceiling of Stegeman fell down and getting road meet credit for it? Our rules about what you can count as a road meet are far too permissive, considering how critical it is for rankings.

The USAG Nationals bubble is going to come down to the wire. Cornell and Southern Connecticut have been trading the last qualification spot all year, and now Bridgeport has emerged as a contender too. Anything could happen there. 

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Article by Rebecca Scally


  1. I SO agree about the road meet issue. I have been whining about the Pac-12 championships (which counts as the final meet in NQS) being at the Maverik center, and counting as an away meet for Utah, since 2019. Nevermind that they also get the advantage for winning the Conference championship… The huge difference in LSU’s home vs away scores this year means this “bonus” they get today is huge. Is the home benefit only using familiar equipment? No. Fans. Friends. Getting to sleep in your own bed and eat your own food. No time change to adjust to or wasted time traveling. That said, how do we determine what is too close? Would schools that are geographically close to multiple other schools be penalized by having more of their meets count as home meets? Cal is at Stanford this Sunday. They can probably stay home and drive down in the morning. Some fans will make the drive. Is that enough of an advantage to make it be a home meet?

    1. I’ve always had these same feelings, especially with Utah and the added element of elevation being a factor. If they can have PAC12 basketball championships in Las Vegas, in a state where there is not a single pac12 school, I don’t understand why they can’t make the same effort for gymnastics. Not that it matters after this year for that conference.

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