#NCAAMGym Conference Championships Preview B1G, MPSF & ECAC titles are up for grabs

The regular season is over and championship season is finally here. Before we crown an NCAA champion, we need to figure out the three teams that will call themselves conference champions. If we're going off season averages, a young Navy team is favored to win ECAC's, Ohio State is slated to defend their B1G title and Oklahoma seems destined to continue their reign of dominance by winning a sixth-straight MPSF title.

I have a hunch a few teams might have something to say about those 'projected' results...

In this conference preview we'll look at each team individually detailing why they could succeed, why they could falter and who their x-factor might be. The teams are listed chronologically based on their final March 27 ranking.

Big Ten Championships (Champaign, IL)

2016 Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes (HIGH: 422.2/AVG: 415.236)

  • What's going for them: A healthy Jake Martin. It's no secret how well Martin has done this year given the fact that he was announced as co-B1G Gymnast of the Year. Martin competing at a high-level on multiple events takes some pressure off of Alec Yoder and last year's B1G AA champion, Sean Melton.
  • What's going against them: Possible trouble on Floor Exercise & Vault. The Buckeyes have yet to make it through a meet in 2017 without a score in the 12's on one of those two events. It's not as big of an issue in a six-up/five-count format, but when they all count it can hurt.
  • X-Factor: Seth Delbridge. Delbridge has the ability to help a ton on FX & VT (was last year's runner-up on VT at B1G's & NCAA's). He looked sharp against Illinois and will be key in the Buckeyes' defense of their title.

Illinois Fighting Illini (HIGH: 422.9/AVG: 413.178)

  • What's going for them: Home-field advantage. In gymnastics it might not seem like much, but being at home can make a difference. You don't have to deal with the possibility of a long travel, you're familiar with everything around you and the host team has won the last two B1G titles.
  • What's going against them: Bobby Baker's health. The former B1G Gymnast of the Year's wrist has been a point of concern for the Illini all season long. The hope is that a cortisone injection was enough to sustain Baker until a post-NCAA's surgery. It's likely the Illini still won't have Baker on PH -- an event where he's sorely needed.
  • X-Factor: Matt Foster. Foster hasn't competed in a month now but is slated to be out there this weekend. He has the potential to provide a two-point boost to the Illini's team score on PH.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (HIGH: 426.95/AVG: 410.755)

  • What's going for them: Momentum. In the final weekend of regular season competition the Gophers went on the road and shattered the B1G's highest team score for the year. At the beginning of every year each team has one similar goal in mind: peak in postseason. The Gophers' trajectory looks to be going according to plan.
  • What's going against them: Pommel Horse. This is just about the only event where the Gophers are still looking for their first true 5/5 hit rotation. Staying out of the 12's (and especially 11's) would go a long way towards the Gophers raising a trophy at the end of the night.
  • X-Factor: Tristan Duran. Three straight meets of 13.65+ on PH combined with his talent on two difference-making events like PB & HB make Duran an important competitor for Minnesota.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (HIGH: 425.55/AVG: 410.088)

  • What's going for them: The Stephenson Family. As the Stephenson's go, so does Nebraska. Chris & Anton will more-than-likely account for at least 10 of the Huskers' 30 routines on Friday. That's good news as Nebraska will be going for its first ever top-five finish at B1G's.
  • What's going against them: High Bar. On March 25th, Nebraska scored a 70.4. Just five days earlier they scored a 63.65. That's a scary split. If they can score around the former they'll be in good shape, but that volatility isn't comforting.
  • X-Factor: Heath Anderson. Anderson is Nebraska's best scorer on one of their weakest events, SR. His numbers took a dip midseason but seem to be turning a corner at the right time.

Penn State Nittany Lions (HIGH: 420.4/AVG: 411.728)

  • What's going for them: A strong senior combo. You'd be hard pressed to find a more consistent pair of seniors than Leroy Clarke Jr. & Dominic DiFulvio. Both offer great potential on four events and stability to a team that has dealt with injuries to top competitors.
  • What's going against them: A fifth score on Still Rings. Since Ben Cooperman suffered an injury a few weeks back, PSU has struggled finding a fifth score on rings. Considering the high-scoring potential of SR, it's a concern heading into the weekend.
  • X-Factor: Pommel Horse team. When this group is good, the team is good. This is an event that the Nittany Lions may have an edge on every team in the conference outside of Ohio State. Hit PH in the postseason, reap the benefits.

Iowa Hawkeyes (HIGH: 414.65/AVG: 405.106)

  • What's going for them: A strong group of freshmen. It's not often you get three freshmen that your team can count on for high-level scores. Andrew Herrador (FX, VT, HB), Nicholas Merryman (PH) and Josh Zeal (VT) have been three of the most consistent Hawkeyes on their respective events.
  • What's going against them: Floor Exercise. It's not that the Hawkeyes are bad on FX, they just don't quite have the potential that other teams do. They're the only team in the B1G who has yet to reach the 69.0 mark on the event.
  • X-Factor: Dylan Ellsworth. It's been an up-and-down season for Ellsworth but when he's good, he's good. He competes a big 2.5 on VT and will need to be good on SR & PB for Iowa to have a good day.

Michigan Wolverines (HIGH: 414.95/AVG: 404.519)

  • What's going for them: Floor Exercise & Vault. Having the two most explosive (arguably) vaulters in the NCAA helps -- a lot. Emyre Cole & Anthony McCallum on FX & VT have the ability to single-handedly make up a lot of ground for Michigan.
  • What's going against them: Dmitri Belanovski's health. Belanovski hasn't competed since late February and still won't be available to the Wolverines this weekend. He's aiming for a return at NCAA Championships.
  • X-Factor: Marty Strech. As the season closes, Strech is beginning to heat up. A contributor on potentially four events, the RS-sophomore will need to keep doing what he's doing for the Wolverines to compete.

PREDICTIONS:

TEAM: In one of the closest meets of 2017, Ohio State wins their second-consecutive B1G title.

AA: Jake Martin, OSU

FX: Alex Diab, ILL

PH: Alec Yoder, OSU

SR: Sean Melton, OSU

VT: Anthony McCallum, MICH

PB: Sean Melton, OSU

HB: Tyson Bull, ILL

MPSF Championships (Berkeley, CA)

2016 Champion: Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma Sooners (HIGH: 434.55/AVG: 430.363)

  • What's going for them: A 1,090-day unbeaten streak. Meh, not even much to have going for you if you ask me. Truthfully though, the Sooners have a lot going for them. Talented freshmen, one of the best AA'ers in the world and one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history.
  • What's going against them: Floor Exercise. If I'm nitpicking, and believe me, I am, FX isn't quite as dominant of an event for OU as it has been in the past. It's still something that could barely be counted as a concern, though.
  • X-Factor: Yul Moldauer. If this seems like an obvious choice, it's because it is.

Stanford Cardinal (HIGH: 432.05/AVG: 422.306)

  • What's going for them: Akash Modi's two-straight meets of 87.65+. For Stanford to take down OU it might take an 88.0 in the AA from Modi. Luckily, he's already proven that's possible as he went 88.15 against Cal & Washington in late-January.
  • What's going against them: Pommel Horse. The Cardinal has just one score of 70.0+ on PH this year and have scored below a 67.0 in 25% of their meets.
  • X-Factor: Robert Neff. Modi can keep up with Moldauer. Can Neff keep pace with Allan Bower as the second AA'er? That will be the deciding factor in whether Stanford has a chance at dethroning Oklahoma.

Air Force Falcons (HIGH: 409.15/AVG: 400.173)

  • What's going for them: A dominant AA'er. To be a good team in today's NCAA it's imperative that your team has a gymnast that can take over a meet. The Falcons have that in Tim Wang.
  • What's going against them: Consistency. It's hard to project what this team will do because they're so different from week-to-week. They could score as high as 410.0 and as low as a low-390.
  • X-Factor: Chase Cannon. Cannon might be the closest thing to a 'number two' that this team has. He also offers great potential on a weak event for Air Force, HB.

California Golden Bears (HIGH: 407.3/AVG: 399.494)

  • What's going for them: Aaron Mah. Mah is coming off a season-best 82.35 against Stanford. While the Canadian product is always impressive on FX, he scored a season-high 13.6 on PH, an event where Cal is in desperate need of help (16th - NCAA).
  • What's going against them: Pommel Horse. This shouldn't come as a surprise as it's been a problem all season for Cal. The event puts extra pressure on the other five events to make up ground throughout a meet.
  • X-Factor: Yordan Aleksandrov. With a stronger PH, Aleksandrov would be a consistent 82.0+ in the AA. That's not where his team needs him though. His SR, PB & HB might be the three most important routines for the Bears.

PREDICTIONS:

TEAM: Oklahoma wins their sixth in a row defeating Stanford by five points.

AA: Akash Modi, STAN

FX: Yul Moldauer, OU

PH: Allan Bower, OU

SR: Josiah Eng, STAN

VT: Matt Wenske, OU

PB: Akash Modi, STAN

HB: Robert Neff, STAN

ECAC Championships (Chicago, IL)

2016 Champion: (TIE) Navy Midshipmen & Army Black Knights

Navy Midshipmen (HIGH: 409.4/AVG: 396.064)

  • What's going for them: Great PB & HB. The Mids are ranked 8th nationally on both events. PB & HB come in handy in the postseason; having a leg up on every team in the ECAC on those two events would be huge.
  • What's going against them: The Absence of Jonny Tang & Tanner West. The bottom line is that this team isn't the same without Tang & West. Hopefully we see them in action this weekend in Chicago.
  • X-Factor: Noah Beeman. Beeman competed his ninth AA of the year at the USAG Nationals. As the most consistent presence for Navy, Beeman must be on his game regardless of whether they have Tang & West.

William & Mary Tribe (HIGH: 401.6/AVG: 393.56)

  • What's going for them: Veteran presence. When I say this, I'm talking about guys like Aria Sabbagh, Neal Courter and Rob Meyer. Each of them contribute on 3+ and have competed well in the postseason before.
  • What's going against them: High Bar. I've talked about it a lot, but if there's one event holding the Tribe back, it's HB. They've capped out at a 65.7 in 2017 and struggled with it at USAG's (61.35).
  • X-Factor: Jacopo Gliozzi. It's only one routine, but it's a big one. Gliozzi's PH can be a big, big score for W&M.

Army Black Knights (HIGH: 405.85/AVG: 393.556)

  • What's going for them: Freshmen are stepping up. In Army's last regular season meet, five of their fourteen competitors were freshmen. The fact that Army is gaining experience and still has a chance at bringing home another ECAC title is impressive.
  • What's going against them: No 'go-to' guy. Much of this has to do with the graduation of Jesse Glenn. Glenn was the identity of this team for the past four years so he left a void. Still, Genders, Goff and Cannon have done their best to step into the role.
  • X-Factor: Nathan Goff. When doing AA this year, Goff has scored as high as 81.9 and put up impressive numbers on each individual event. If Goff can replicate what he did at home against Navy in February, Army could have a chance to repeat.

Springfield Pride (HIGH: 390.55/AVG: 384.581)

  • What's going for them: Depth. Not many teams can say they have three reliable AA'ers, but Springfield does. That can make a coaches' life a lot easier come postseason.
  • What's going against them: High Bar. Only once in the month of March could the Pride eclipse the 60.0 mark on HB. Mistakes must be limited on that event.
  • X-Factor: Chris Graff. A few weeks back, Graff had a career-meet with an 80.2 in the AA. Any replication of that would give Springfield a chance at cracking the top-three this weekend.

UIC Flames (HIGH: 387.7/AVG: 373.506)

  • What's going for them: Led by underclassmen. Of their fourteen-man roster against Michigan, ten competitors were underclassmen. ECAC's might not go perfectly but they can leave knowing they're gaining a ton of experience.
  • What's going against them: Pommel Horse. Only three times this year have the Flames scored a 60.0+ on PH.
  • X-Factor: Chris Root. Root only competed one event for the Flames in their final regular season meet but offers their top-scoring potential on roughly three events.

PREDICTIONS:

TEAM: William & Mary picks up their second ECAC title in four years (first since 2014).

AA: Jonny Tang, Navy

FX: Neal Courter, W&M

PH: Jacopo Gliozzi, W&M

SR: Tanner West, Navy

VT: Lucas Beltran, VT

PB: Rob Meyer, W&M

HB: Leo Genders, Army

Created By
Logan Bradley
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Photo Credits: Jess Frankl

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