The Alabama Crimson Tide opened the season dropping its first two meets, but even so, there were some positives to take away from those outings — especially the young depth on the squad. A week after a high-scoring, hard-fought loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, the No. 10 Crimson Tide hit the road for a four-team meet in Dallas, featuring a rematch against those same Sooners.
While the result was similar, with Oklahoma taking the event, the Crimson Tide did finish second. Along the way, it upset the No. 3 Denver Pioneers and archrival Georgia (then-No. 8).
Unlike the Points Faeries that showed up in Tuscaloosa, the Metroplex judges were considerably more discerning — even downright stingy. If ever there were a night to spring an upset, it was this one, with the Sooners finishing almost 2/3rds of a point below their season average. In the end, however, OU’s 197.525 was still more than enough to dispatch Denver and the Crimson Tide. Alabama ended the night with with a 196.575, finishing right at its season-average of 196.658.
Still, this was a meet where Alabama again left a lot of points on the mat with unforced errors.
The night began well enough for the Tide, with another very solid showing on the uneven bars — tallying a season high. But, with each subsequent rotation, the Tide would post successively worse scores, including a ghastly season-low 48.950 on the vault. This is an issue we have noted the last two weeks (and for the last few years): The Crimson Tide is just frankly not good enough on the vault to compete at a championship level. There were again falls on beam (even one uncharacteristically on the uneven bars). The Floor exercise again failed to impress the judges (and, like the Vault, that has been another season-long issue.) In some fairness, this group of judges were hard to impress across the board. But, it just wasn’t Bama’s night: the Crimson Tide would not score 9.9 in any of the three rotations after the bars. So, it’s not solely at the feet of discriminating judges.
On an error-prone evening for most everyone, the Sooners made fewer than anyone in what was a de facto home meet. Still, the Tide was able to capitalize on the mistakes of Denver and Georgia well enough to claim second place — and don’t undersell the value of that. Learning to win can be as hard as the winning itself.
And, anytime Georgia has a longer plane flight home than Alabama, that has to count as a net positive in my books.
Making Sense of 2020 Alabama
I know it sounds like a broken record, but the Metroplex Challenge actually summarizes the 2020 Crimson Tide quite well. The takeaway from the meet is the same conclusion that you can draw about the team after almost a month: It is a good team. There is a lot to like about the talented, personable freshmen in particularly. But, it is a team that replicates errors and has fundamental weaknesses. It is a team where the upperclassmen are not being the dominant scorers they should. It is a team looking to establish an identity and personality. The Week Three Crimson Tide were fundamentally the same team as they were in Week One: good-but-not-great overall scores, good-but-not-great all-arounders, very good bar team, consistent-but-not-overwhelming floor team, breath-holding beam rotations, and below-average vaulting.
There are a lot of freshmen and sophomores being pressed into service, and that learning curve is surely a steep one. But, the 2020 Alabama Gymnastics is what it is — a competitive squad that will make mistakes, post solid overall numbers, but be in dog fights on a weekly basis. All of those factors are apt to reap significant dividends — but we may not fully see the results materialize until 2021.
The road does not get easier for the No. 7 Crimson Tide — and we mean that quite literally.
For the third time in four meets, ‘Bama again is on the road. This week, the Tide travels to No. 6 LSU. The Tigers are another squad breaking in a lot of new faces. This is the most evenly matched the two schools have been in a few years: The Tigers’ high on the year is 197.327 (196.700 average), while the Tide has posted a high of 197.4 (196.667). On paper, the meet is winnable — one of those dog fights we alluded to above. But, LSU has been the beneficiary of notoriously friendly home-scoring in recent years.
Anyone watching these Tigers on Friday night could reasonably conclude that this meet should be a coin toss between the two rivals. Truly, the team that cleans up its mistakes the most should gain a big confidence-boosting victory — coaching will out on Friday.
The meet will be aired on SEC Network at 7:30 central.
PS. As an aside, if you ever find yourself in need of streaming a gym meet — such as the Metroplex Challenge — Flo Gymnastics is ridiculously expensive: $29.99 for a one-month trial or $12.99 per month with a pre-paid yearly subscription. Yuck.