With only the first of three days of weekend NCAA gymnastics complete, the surprise of the week is already in: Florida's loss to LSU in Baton Rouge, 196.875-196.575.
(Disclaimer: Sure, they were at LSU. Sure, it's the SEC. Even if the Gators had scraped out a close win this article probably wouldn't have been written.)
But much has been written about the immensely deep Florida squad this season. They have the reigning NCAA all-around champion in sophomore Kytra Hunter. They have the 2009 World champion in freshman Bridget Sloan, 2010 World team members in Mackenzie Caquatto and Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto, a 2008 Olympian in Marissa King. (That's not to go into the accomplishments of Ashanee Dickerson, Alaina Johnson, Randy Stageberg and Bridgette Caquatto.)
In short, you could put six Florida gymnasts on the floor at a World Championships and they'd have a fighting chance at being in the top eight. And yet, they can't beat LSU. That is big if you're LSU. It's disappointing if you're Florida.
Having watched Florida rise above Ball State in what was essentially an intrasquad, and having watched LSU coast past NC State last weekend, the conclusion that can be drawn is not that Florida is overrated, exactly, but that LSU has been vastly underrated.
Let's examine the Tigers for a second. They don't have a world champion or an Olympian, but they do have a couple of people who are close (and, frankly, formerly well-ranked elites don't always do so well in college gymnastics. But this does not seem to be the case at either Florida or LSU.) Sophomore Rheagan Courville was a fine elite and a sleeper candidate for the NCAA title last year, and she looks even better this year. Jessica Savona came oh-so-close to making the Canadian Olympic team. They've matriculated former elite standouts Randi Lau, Brittany Ranzy and 2012 Nastia Liukin Cup contender Randii Wyrick. They have the NCAA's most engaging performer in Lloimincia Hall, who does the floor routine everyone's talking about.
But as a team, LSU has been a perennial Super Six candidate who produce a memorable all-arounder every few years (remember April Burkholder? Susan Jackson?) But the fact remains, LSU is simply not the pick for the fifth team ever to win an NCAA title. Florida is. That's why, aside from the depth thing, this is so surprising.
Maybe next week the universe will right itself and Florida will score 198. That could happen. But LSU looks like it has the potential to do the same. Just sayin'.
The Gymnastics Examiner | Facebook | Twitter | Subscribe above