The University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team is back on the road this week, as they face No. 6 Illinois.
The Gophers, who are ranked No. 7, swapped places with the Illini in the rankings heading into the meet. Illinois is coming off a home loss to No. 1 Penn State, while Minnesota stormed past Iowa at the Sports Pavilion, but the Illini still overtook the Gophers in the rankings.
"Heading to Illinois for a gymnastics meet is always a daunting task," said Minnesota head coach Mike Burns. "Illinois is always tough at home and we will be challenged. They just moved ahead of us in the national rankings, taking our spot at No. 6 and bumping us to No. 7 and now we need to try to regain our spot in the top six on the road. Illinois will be ready for us so we need to come in ready for a test in Huff Gym."
This weekend's meet will be familiar and unfamiliar to collegiate gymnastics fans. The new format of having five gymnasts participate and all five scores count will be in place, as will the traditional scoring system. However, this meet, which will be shown on tape-delay by the Big Ten Network, will feature head-to-head scoring as well. Both teams will participate on the same event in alternating fashion.
"This week we will be using a new Match Play format that should be both exciting and challenging," said Burns. "Both teams will be competing on the same event with each team throwing up gymnasts to go head-to-head. The winner of each head to head match up will win a point for their team. There will be 30 head-to-head matchups through the course of the meet and we will be able to determine on the fly which gymnast will compete in each match up based on who goes first in each match. It should be an interesting new format and I know our guys are excited about the head-to-head approach to this meet."
In addition to having a traditional final score, the meet will also have a score based upon the new format, so one team could win 18-12 or 16-14. In the event of a 15-15 tie, five gymnasts from each team will compete in a backflip-off on the floor exercise. The team that sticks the most will be deemed the winner. With this new, exploratory format, it is conceivable that one team could win based upon traditional scoring and taste defeat in the unofficial scoring system.
The Gophers are at Nebraska on March 16, where they will participate in a tri-meet with Iowa. Minnesota has beaten both Nebraska and Iowa at home this year. The Gophers also suffered a loss on the road at Iowa.