No matter the sport, the fate of University of Alabama athletics seems to be inextricably interwoven to that of the Oklahoma Sooners — the Crimson Tide has met no other intersectional opponent more in the last 20 years than the Sooners, and the sport doesn’t particularly matter either: Softball, football, basketball, and once again, gymnastics.
On the heels of a somewhat surprising SEC Championship, the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide will host NCAA regionals this week. Their reward for unseating No. 1 Florida and No. 3 LSU to take home the SEC crown is the appearance of (T1) No. 1 Oklahoma in their region, a machine of a program if ever there were one. It is not an easy draw for Gym, to say the least.
Beginning at 1:00 local time tomorrow, the Crimson Tide will kick off action on its home floor as the No. 1 seed in the early session. And did they draw a tough one:
Alabama is seeded first in Session I and is joined by No. 10 Arkansas, No. 19 Iowa, and No. 20 Iowa State. The Tide will start on the balance beam, before rotating to the floor exercise and vault and will then finish on the uneven bars. Iowa State will start on the vault, Arkansas on the uneven bars and Iowa on floor exercise.
For contrast, OU as the evening’s No. 1 seed (and overall No. 1 seed), will compete against two teams ranked below 30th and the No. 23 Missouri Tigers. It is a cakewalk to the Super Regionals for the Sooners. A 9th team will be competing this weekend as well, and that would have been the Auburn Tigers — but, like the frontrunners they are, the Tigers pulled out of competition just last night. And we will know that competitor by the end of the afternoon.
The top two from each of the four regional sites advance to Supers, until we get to the Final Four and 16 individual competitors at Nationals in Fort Worth. Alabama should make it to supers, and if they compete as they did against LSU, most of the UF meet, and in the SEC Championships, are more than capable of winning not only its home regional, but the whole thing. They were that good (and they did get a little luck from a shockingly shaky Florida squad in some fairness).
But it will be an exceptionally tough road to climb out of just Tuscaloosa. Arkansas has come a long way in a very short time, Former UCLA assistant and Olympic Fierce Five gold medalist Jordyn Wieber has put together a very dynamic, fun squad — one reminiscent of those Bruins teams. When she gets elite talent, this will be a very dangerous squad. They already are. So, the Tide will need a consistent meet to stave off the Hogs. More importantly, with all the confidence in the world going into the meet, and with oodles of outstanding young talent, ‘Bama can enter meaningful postseason competition fully confident that they can beat anyone in the country.
TheTide Gymnasts have already shown that it is not only possible, but attainable. And they have the gold medals on their walls to prove it.
Best of luck, and Roll Tide.
There are still a few select tickets available for tomorrow’s sessions. They are $10 general, $7 for kids. The first session with the Tide begins at 1:00; and the Sooners compete at 4:00 central. The final four will compete for the regional title on Saturday afternoon. Social distancing protocols and clear bags will be in place, and masking is mandatory. You can order those at rolltide.com.