Code Changes May Have an Impact
We're seeing the debut this season of a new set of NCAA Code Modifications. These Code Modifications represent changes the NCAA makes to the underlying USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Level 10 Code of Points. Essentially, the NCAA inserts a different set of special requirements and compositional erquirements, while keeping execuation evaluation the same. We've covered these changes in a prior article.
In brief, the NCAA has reduced the base start value of routines on UB, BB and FX to 9.4, down from 9.5. Thus, gymnasts will now need an extra tenth of difficulty bonus on each event. However, the NCAA also created a few new bonus opportunities, effectively neutralizing some of the impacts of the decrease in base start value. For example, on UB, a single bar release earns an extra tenth of bonus. On BB, a B or higher acro directly connected to a C or higher dismount earns an extra tenth of bonus, as does a C or higher dance element connected to a C or higher dismount. We'll likely see the most impacts on FX and possibly BB. On the former, difficulty and quirks of the rule changes will impact routine construction. On BB, the extra tenth in required bonus and emphasis on smooth connections may cause some start value variances and incremental rhythm deductions.
On FX, a double flipping salto or E acro in the last pass earns an extra tenth of bonus. This has created an unintentional consequence: we are seeing a number of gymnasts now adopting two acro series instead of three in their routines. Because they can move an eligible skill (i.e., double back, front double full) to the second pass and earn an extra tenth of bonus, they can even meet the new difficulty requirements through two passes. For example, a gymnast with a back layout 1 1/2 twist to front layout full and a double tuck second pass now earns 0.5 in bonus from those two passes. Along with a required dance series bonus, the athlete can meet her required bonus through just two passes. Under last year's rules, this set of passes only earned 0.3 points. Because this bonus applies to two pass routines and is also NOT time restricted in the routine (e.g.. in the last five to ten seconds, ), the endurance value of the bonus was significantly cheapened.
The Second Year of the New Format
Last season, the NCAA deployed a new Regional format. There were just four regions, instead of six, and each Regional had a play-in round for two of the nine teams (Round 1). Two teams advanced from each Regional Semi Final (aka Round 2), and then two teams from each Regional advanced to the National Semi Final. Two from each National semi-final made it to the final "Four on the Floor" NCAA final. The format is in place for this season.
This format puts the emphasis on consistency and grace under pressure, while the former Code and lax scoring combined to enhance the rising parity in the NCAA. As a result, we saw some traditional super powers get left at home last season for the National Semi Final. Florida in particular, was among the early Championship contenders, and had enough problems on BB at Regionals to miss a trip to Nationals. This has happened in the past as well, but with stronger fields in each Regional (the top 16 teams, not the top 24), the important of a no-fall meet has increased. In fact, with such parity and the current scoring trends, even large steps on landings can really cause a team to fall behind. We'll see this season how teams have further adapted, if at all, to the new Code Modifications while preparing for the rigors of the new format. The Code Modifications could potentially reduce parity by providing more structural deductions in the routines, while at the same time some teams may rethink their approach to consistency and risk/reward.
OU will seek to defend their National Title, but at the same time, there is no clear favorite for the title. UCLA returns a ton of talent, while Florida has relatively minimal losses and a deep and talented roster. LSU has a tremendous frosh class while new upstarts like DU will seek to take the next step A number of teams have lost key routines, and in a few cases, over half their lineups. Over first month of the competition, we'll see not only who is going to contend for the title, but even those that are going to challenge for a spot at Nationals. It will be an exciting and dynamic time.
That's enough about the big changes, let's check out what's happening with the teams! Here's our Preseason Top 25 Season Previews:
Link: Season Preview Capsules: Teams #1 to #12
Link: Season Preview Capsules: Teams #13 to #25