NCAA gym dandies
What: NCAA East Regional.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Huff Hall.
Field: No. 8 Illinois, No. 3 Iowa, No. 9 Massachusetts, No. 1 Michigan, No. 6 Michigan State, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Penn State.
At stake: Top three teams advance to the NCAA Championships April 22-24 at Lincoln, Neb. The top three all-arounders, if not on a qualifying team, also advance. In addition, the top three in each individual event who are not on a qualifying team nor an all-around qualifier will advance.
Illini update: The Illini may be without reigning NCAA all-around champion Travis Romagnoli (broken hand) but at least they've had some time to become reconciled to his loss. That wasn't the case for the Big Ten Championships, which started four days after Romagnoli suffered his season-ending injury. The shaken Illini proceeded to finish sixth. Coach Yoshi Hayasaki has been reminding his Illini that they are hardly a one-man team, pointing to the school-record 230 points Illinois scored in its March 6 victory over No. 2 Ohio State. Freshman J.G. Ketchen returns after missing the Big Ten meet with mononucleosis. He's been solid in the still rings and high bar, two events the Illini faltered in at Big Tens.
Hayasaki's comment: "We've come to the realization that we don't have Travis now but we still have a team and we have to go with that team. And I think we still have a good team."
What: NCAA Region 3 Championships.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lincoln, Neb.
Field: No. 25 Arizona, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, No. 4 Michigan, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 22 Oklahoma.
At stake: Top two teams advance to the NCAA Championships April 22-24 at Salt Lake City. The top two all-arounders, if not on a qualifying team, also advance. In addition, any individual event winner who is not on a qualifying team nor an all-around qualifier will advance by scoring an 9.80 or higher.
Illini update: Coach Lynn Brueckman has her Illini in the NCAA regionals for the second straight year, and this time she actually gets to witness it (newborn Jacob Brueckman was occupying his mom's attention at this time last year). Illinois is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten Championships, a performance highlighted by sophomore Gina Wiechmann's victory in the balance beam. Illinois has broken the school record for team score three times this year. Also setting school records ere sophomores Phaedra Dixon (all-around) and Carissa Ericson (floor exercise). Although it's unlikely the young Illini will challenge Michigan or Nebraska, they'll be disappointed if they don't improve on last year's regional finish (sixth out of seven teams.
Brueckman's comment: "Last year, our kids were overwhelmed (at regionals). This year we have no freshmen. They know what to expect. Our goal is to get other teams talking about Illinois, that we can compete."