All Hail the Sooners
In a thrilling final, the Sooner used their superior execution and depth on all four events to take the title. This season, Florida was able to effectively counter the OU start value advantage on VT with some powerful vaults of their own. It was on the FX, however, where some small landing errors made all the difference in the final tally. With the parity that exist among the teams, the high level of talent and a set of NCAA Code Modifications that can't keep up, you have a recipe for some thrilling competition.
It Really is the Landings
With so many talented teams, the difference in standings came down to small bobbles and steps on landings. The NCAA code modifications are too easy for the level of talent on these squads leaving the outcome subject to key obvious errors like wobbles and steps. Even on vault, the real difference between teams came down to how many vaults a team could stick, or at least land with a hop or small step. A slightly underrotated vault, with a small step back, can spell disaster due to a flat 0.1 deduction that is supposed to be taken. This was Utah's undoing at the NCAAs, as their small landing errors and some slightly short 1 1/2 twisting Yurchenkos took them out of the race in the finale.
Execution and Technique Rule the Day
O'Keefe's win echoed the most important rule of the finale: The gymnasts or the team with the fewest number of execution deductions was going to win. O'Keefe stayed solid on all four events despite vaulting a 9.95 Yurchenko Full and ceding 0.05 in Start Value to her main competitors. She did this by sticking her landings with nothing more than a small scoot. Jordan Chiles of UCLA came up well short on her double pike dismount from balance, taking a large lunging step forward. LSU's Haleigh Bryant went in the first session but also took a large step, with her front foot dragging back slightly, on her normally spectacular and open front pike 1/2 vault.
The broadcast of the NCAA finals exceeded 1 million views for the first time. The ratings were also up from last year's total, reflecting the growing interest in the sport and success despite the unfavorable time slot. Viewing across platforms broke records for ESPN. However, in person attendance was only 16,403, a disappointing tally but an improvement over the last two COVID-years.
Parity, Now More than Ever
The Regional races showcased just how much parity exists in the NCAA. When you combine a higher level of talent, a weaker set of Code Modifications and lax judging, you can get the recipe for upsets. What's more, a high level of variation across the country in scoring strictness produced seedings and rankings that were not accurate. This was not isolated to any one location or Region, but some teams appeared to benefit more than others. As a result, you saw some teams score at the high end or their season range or above, and others at the lower end, or below. As a result, we had far closer meets than some expected. We also saw the #27 team, one that nearly was forced into the playoff round, defeat the #12 team. In this case, both squads were missing their #1 AAer.
The Other Dynasty: The Stanford Men
The Stanford men won their 4th National Team title in a row, and their 9th overall (1992 | 1993 | 1995 | 2009 | 2011 | 2019 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023). This year, however, Michigan was much closer to the Cardinal and gave a strong challenge. Both teams were missing their star AAers, Paul Juda for Michigan and Brody Malone for Stanford. Next season we'll have some further distractions as gymnasts train for the Olympics but we will see if Stanford will be able to pick up their fifth in a row.
Transfer Portal Heats Up
The NCAA Transfer Portal for Gymnastics opened on March 21st and will close May 19th. A number of athletes have already publicized their entry into the portal, and a number of others may joint them (or already have). Also, with a new Head Coach at Pitt and an opening at Iowa State, incoming signees and future commits may also chose to switch commits. Along with transfer, they are also in the running for open spots at various teams. Here's our running list of gymnasts in the transfer portal: LINK Be sure to contact us if you have additional information.
Scoring and What's Next
As we head into the offseason, we'll soon post our list of wishes for rules changes for next season. Later in the summer, we'll update our Class of 2023 Ratings and publish the Class of 2024. Since our ratings rely on performance data, we need to see the results from Women's Development Program Nationals and the US Championships in order to finalize our ratings.