Who will win NCAA gymnastics championships?

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Will Oklahoma win a third straight national title? Or will a first-time champion like California or LSU emerge to upset the Sooners? And don’t forget about traditional powerhouse teams Utah and Florida, who could put it all together at just the right time.

Beginning Thursday, eight teams will battle it out at NCAA gymnastics championships in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s set to be a whirlwind competition, with no guarantees. Who will win? Our experts make predictions.

Who are your picks for the final four teams that make it to Saturday?

John Roethlisberger: Gotta go with the defending champs, Oklahoma. LSU and Cal theoretically have the “easiest” path to the finals, although nothing is easy in April, but I will go with those two as well. The fourth one is tough. Flip a coin. How about a slight underdog, Alabama!

Kennedy Baker: It’s going to be a tough battle for both sessions. I think we’re going to see LSU at four on the floor. That second spot is a little trickier. I could see it coming down to Cal or Arkansas. As for semifinal II, I’m going with Florida and Oklahoma. Oklahoma is undeniable, and Florida has done a great job of pacing through the season to show up and deliver in the postseason.

Alex Perlman: LSU, Cal, Oklahoma and Utah. All of these teams had really strong showings at regionals and their usual performances should be enough to get them to the national final.

D’Arcy Maine: Cal, LSU, Oklahoma anddddd I’m torn with this final spot from Thursday’s second semifinal between Florida and Utah. Both have the talent and have had some impressive results throughout the season, so it really could come down to the wire in terms of which team advances. I’ll ultimately give the ever-so-slight edge to Utah, solely because of its title-winning performance at the Pac-12 championships last month, but I think the battle between those two teams might be the most compelling thing to watch Thursday.

Amy Van Deusen: Oklahoma, Cal, LSU and Florida. That second spot in the evening session could be as close as anything we’ve seen, but I give the edge to Florida because the team looked so strong at regionals, and seem to be peaking at the right time.

The team most likely to prevent Oklahoma from winning again is …

Aly Raisman: LSU.

Roethlisberger: LSU is the popular choice, and for good reason. Its level of difficult gymnastics may be the highest in the competition, top to bottom. The question is, can the Tigers execute at a level of the defending champs? I’ve seen them do it, but can they do it on the right day? That’s really the question for all these teams. Cal is capable as well. Its execution is on par with the best.

Perlman: LSU. The Tigers did nothing in regionals to show they aren’t capable of dethroning Oklahoma. It will be an uphill battle for sure, but LSU is performing in pressure situations and showed something by getting a 10.0 from Haleigh Bryant when they needed to hit in their final routine to advance to Fort Worth.

Maine: Cal and LSU. They have battled for the No. 2 spot in the rankings all season long, and for good reason. Cal is led by the incredible duo of eMjae Frazier and Mya Lauzon, and if both are at their best, the Golden Bears are tough to beat. And LSU, well, to paraphrase an old quote from UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma about his then-superstar Diana Taurasi, they have Haleigh Bryant and you don’t. The Tigers also have perhaps the most overall depth in the nation and are capable of huge scores on any given day. Both teams are in search of their first NCAA team title and will be giving it everything they have.

Van Deusen: Cal. The Golden Bears could sneak in for the title. They just quietly get to work, with one beautiful routine after another, and before you know it, they have 9.9s across the board. They’re also consistently superb on beam, which could be crucial at nationals, and seem to have a newfound confidence in how good they are.

Will someone pull off an upset, or will Oklahoma earn a third straight title?

Roethlisberger: If you’re picking OU to get upset, you’re saying this week will be the one time the Sooners haven’t done what they’ve done all year, and that’s be almost perfect. If your strategy for winning is hoping OU makes a mistake (or really two), you may be in for a long week. The Sooners have been by far the most consistently outstanding team in the country, and until further notice, I’ve got to stick with the champs.

That certainly doesn’t mean they can’t be beat. There are teams in this competition that have executed at their level — they just haven’t done it quite as consistently. As dominant as OU has looked, I still think it will be decided on the last routine, and when it’s decided on the last routine, a lot can happen.

Perlman: I would love to predict a massive upset, but Oklahoma has had an historic season. They broke the NCAA meet record score at Big 12s and it’s hard to see them making two mistakes in a single rotation. Look for a three-peat.

Maine: Despite the strong competition, the Sooners still are the heavy favorite to win and it’s hard to see anyone beating them. Oklahoma just does everything so well and rarely falters.

Van Deusen: It can be done. The margins in the final will be razor-thin, so an upset is not as hard as it looks on paper, when you see Oklahoma ranked first on nearly every event. Cal has a lineup of smartly designed, deduction-free routines, which should pay off in a meet where the scores are often a little bit lower and deductions are taken more stringently. And LSU has a team that can be absolutely phenomenal when they’re on.

I think sticking vaults may be the difference-maker in the final, and the team that manages to stick the most will win. I still have to put my money on Oklahoma, though. The Sooners are just so good in these high-pressure situations.

Who will win the all-around?

Raisman: Haleigh Bryant or Jordan Bowers.

Roethlisberger: There are so many great all-arounders. Eight gymnasts scored over a 39.8 in the regular season, and there are others beyond those eight that could also contend. My pick might be the easy one, but I am going to go with the No. 1 all-arounder in the country Bryant. She’s got it all. Some of the most dynamic gymnastics ever done in collegiate gymnastics, incredible execution and charisma to match.

Baker: I have Bryant for all-around champion this year. Her consistency and performance this year is at an all-time high, and I hope that shows at championships, because she is an incredible gymnast. Bowers is a contender as well and has delivered high-performing and well-executed routines.

Perlman: There are so many talented individual gymnasts in the NCAA, and this race is much more open than the team champion. Bryant has the edge in the all-around competition over Bowers by a hair. Regardless, this is going to be fun to follow.

Maine: Bryant. She ended the regular season as the top all-arounder in the country for a reason, and she’s truly been a model of consistency (and perfect scores!) all season long. She is more than capable of a 10.0 score on every event — she achieved a “GymSlam” this year and has had multiple meets in which she’s earned more than one 10.0 — and has been seemingly unfazed in the big moments. It feels like this is her title to win.

Van Deusen: As much as I agree that Bryant deserves the title, it’s just seemingly so tough to win it in the first semifinal session. The past six all-around champions have all been from the second semifinal, and it seems that the scores rise slightly as the day goes on. For that reason, I’d pick Bowers, and I’ll also add Luisa Blanco, Leanne Wong and Anya Pilgrim to the mix. Any one of them could win it with a good day.

Pick a routine that’s under the radar but shouldn’t be missed this week

Raisman: Sierra Ballard (LSU), beam: I like her confidence and the pride she takes in going first.
Ira Alexeeva (Stanford), bars: She has Olympic-level difficulty in the beginning of the bar routine.
Andi Li (Cal), bars: She has a fantastic release move, dynamic and high. One of the best!
Chae Campbell (UCLA), floor: She’s an unbelievable performer who puts on a show.
Selena Harris (UCLA), beam: I love the way she keeps her rhythm throughout the routine.
KJ Johnson (LSU), vault: She does one of the best Yurchenko fulls! The height!

Roethlisberger: Tune in and don’t miss any! It’s super hard to choose, but how about KJ Johnson on vault and floor. She not only does great gymnastics, but adds a fire to her performance that makes her fun to watch.

Baker: Mya Lauzon’s vault. Really, all of Lauzon’s gymnastics, but she has one of, if not the best, Yurchenko 1.5s this year. She received a 10.0 on it in the Sweet 16, and it was absolutely stunning.

Raena Worley will be competing for the final time as an individual. Although her team didn’t qualify, they had another record-breaking regular season and she is a major part of their success, this season and seasons prior. Definitely should check out her floor routine.

Perlman: Missouri missed out on nationals as a team, but don’t sleep on Mara Titarsolej’s bars routine. She’s the SEC co-champion and recorded the Tigers’ first ever 10.0 on bars back in February. It’s visually stunning and she’s more than capable of capturing perfection (and a national championship) in Fort Worth.

Maine: It’s hard to justify calling a gymnast ranked No. 1 on the event and a routine that’s scored a 10.0 — more than once — “under the radar” but because her team didn’t qualify and this will be her lone event Thursday, I’m going to go with Worley on floor. One of the most decorated gymnasts in Kentucky history and a fifth-year senior, this will mark Worley’s final performance — and she has a legitimate chance of winning the title. Not to mention, it’s really fun and her joy shines through from start to finish. It could be a farewell to remember.

Van Deusen: LSU’s Konnor McClain and Savannah Schoenherr. Neither gymnast is exactly under the radar, but on a team with so many superstars, neither has been mentioned so far. Schoenherr has possibly the best Jaeger release move I’ve ever seen on bars, and McClain does one of the most difficult bar routines in the country. And then, McClain on beam is simply a work of art. When she hits — and she almost always does — she deserves a 10.0 every time.

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