Gymnastics

Looking Back at My 2016 Preseason Super Six Prediction

Before the season started, I made a prediction on which 6 teams would vie for the National Championship Saturday night. Let’s see how close I got.

The 2016 Super Six for women’s NCAA gymnastics is:

Oklahoma
Alabama
Florida
LSU
Georgia
UCLA

Back in January, I predicted:

Florida
Oklahoma
Alabama
LSU
Michigan
Utah

Not bad overall, it was going to take a major meltdown for the first 4 not to advance. When it comes to the last 2, everyone in the 4-10 ranking range was so close all year it truly came down to who hit the day of semi-finals.

Except Michigan. Oh Michigan. Big Blue didn’t make Nationals at all as a team. The season started well. The Wolverines were a top 3 team for a significant part of the early season, but by March they were struggling with consistency on beam. Those struggles are what ended Michigan’s season at its Regional (at home no less), where the team had to count a fall and couldn’t recover against a strong field.

When it comes to Utah, it ended up being more than close competition it had to deal with. First, a quick flashback:

…this team lost a lot of key routines that it didn’t seem to fully replace with its incoming freshmen. But the Utes still have too much talent and experience to be counted out. Behind sophomore Kari Lee, who is expected to become a key gymnast for the Utes, Utah should be making a return trip to Texas this spring.

The Utes did make a return trip to Texas. Unfortunately, Kari Lee suffered an Achilles tear about midway thru the season. The loss of her routines cut out some buffer space scoring-wise the team would’ve had between it and other teams fighting for one of the finals spots available. Ultimately, that and the team’s relative inexperience caught up with it. Shaky from the start the meet, the Utes gave up a few tenths here and few tenths there before multiple falls on beam did them in.

On to the teams that made it in their places…

Georgia is a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” for me. I didn’t name Georgia as one of my Super Six teams despite feeling good about its direction going into the season. I wrote then:

If they can find consistency on those two events [beam and floor], they’ll challenge for a Super Six spot.

It may have taken a little longer than Georgia fans wanted, but it seems Danna Durante’s plans for this team are starting to gel.

The team had its struggles during the regular season, especially on beam, but Georgia found its groove when it mattered. I guess the next time I make predictions, I can have a little more faith in my gut feelings.

When it comes to UCLA, I never predict what the Bruins are going to do correctly. But I did say, “watch me be wrong” when it came to saying they’d narrowly miss finals — so that kinda counts for me being correct, right?

As for my “close, but not quite group”, both Auburn and Stanford turned it on at the end of the season to make it to Nationals, but as predicted just didn’t have enough to make finals. Coincidentally, both of those teams advanced from the Regional that ended Michigan’s season early.

Illinois was a team I thought could surprise. It was surprising — in the other way. The Illini never really got any momentum all season, then the injury bug hit hard taking out significant contributors MJ Horth and Giana O’Connor, among others.

The pleasant surprise this year turned out to be Cal, making Nationals for the first time in over 20 years. And Cal didn’t just make Nationals — they hit for a best-ever 7th place finish.

As for the champion? We’ll know soon enough. I said a few months ago that the champion is the favorite until dethroned. I still believe that. However, with the season it’s had, any team other than Oklahoma as the victor Saturday night would be a surprise.

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