As much as one can feel good about Alabama’s late-season surge, it did come with an unexpected downside — the Tide’s stellar scoring down the stretch elevated ‘Bama to a No. 8 overall finish in the country. And, with the NCAA Championships now being done in a regional format which mirrors baseball (and, to some extent, basketball) that means the Crimson Tide travel to the No. 1 host site.
Unfortunately, that just happens to be the home of the absolute machine known as the Oklahoma Sooners. As good as Florida has been this year — and they’ve been one of the two best in the country all season — it’s hard to believe, but OU is on a different plane of competition entirely.
The Dirt Burglars won last year, and were favorites the moment the toes first hit the mat this year, and they’ve done nothing but solidify their chances.
Which means that the one single place where Alabama fans did not want to get sent is in fact the one that the Tide drew.
Just two teams advance from the Regional into Supers, so that means Alabama’s margin for error is absolutely nil. On paper, there may be eight teams in the region fighting for two spots. But in the harsh, cold reality in which we actually dwell, the field is far more competitive than that: seven teams are fighting for one spot. Oklahoma has lost one home meet in eight years. That’s not going to happen this year, with this team, and in this event.
The good news in all this for the Tide is that gymnastics mirrors most of women’s sport. The drop off between the top few teams and the rest of the ranked squads may be huge, but the difference between ranked ones and unranked ones is a chasm that is almost impossibly vast. There are three ranked teams competing in the Norman region: Alabama, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Though, there are some solid Big 10 teams in there, as well as an Arkansas squad that can occasionally surprise you.
In essence, that means Alabama needs to fend off a challenge from these unranked foes, while out-dueling their main competition for a chance to advance: the Kentucky Wildcats. The Tide lost a close meet in Lexington earlier this year, but in the rematch at SECs last week, Alabama dropped a rock on the Wildcats, edging out UK on a night they had their second-highest meet total of the season (197.675).
Expect some close scores between these two again — with a trip to Supers being decided by about a third of a point, or less. Those are the stakes, and this has become an improbable little rivalry in the SEC.
For a complete scouting report of the No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats, check out this link:
Does Alabama win the rubber match against the Wildcats and advance to Supers?
This poll is closed
Too close to call