SALT LAKE CITY — Because it did not do especially well in its Feb. 26 meet at BYU, the Utah gymnastics team's ratings fate was somewhat sealed, and even though the Utes had their best road score of the season last Friday at Florida, they dropped two spots in the rankings this week.
The No. 11 spot that the Utes now occupy ties with earlier in the year as the lowest ranking a Ute team has ever had, and with only Friday's home meet with BYU left before the postseason, there is little Utah can do to improve its standing.
The rankings determine the fields for the NCAA regionals on April 10.
Utah will be host of the North Central Regional.
"If nobody else improved (this week), and we improved as much as we could (this Friday), the highest we could get is ninth," surmised Ute coach Greg Marsden, whose team was ranked ninth for four straight weeks., Feb. 22-March 15.
"When we didn't help ourselves much down at BYU (scoring 195.925 on Feb. 26), we kind of did ourselves in because we were locked into our away scores (for the rankings)."
If Utah were to finish the regular season with this No. 11 ranking, it would be in the regional on the Huntsman Center floor with the No. 2 team (currently Oklahoma) and another seeded team, which at this point could be No. 13 Illinois, No. 15 Auburn or possibly No. 16 Iowa State. The top 18 teams are seeded, with three going to each of the six regionals as determined by an "S" curve, with Nos. 1, 12 and 13 supposed to be grouped together, Nos. 2, 11 and 14, Nos. 3, 10 and 15 and so on. But this is changed by the regional hosts because they get to stay home. The current No. 14 team, Missouri, is a host and therefore wouldn't be sent to Utah, as the formula calls for, so it would be switched, with another team sent to Utah. Other regional hosts are current No. 3 UCLA, No. 17 Penn State, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 33 West Virginia. Depending upon the final rankings, there will be some juggling on the "S" curve.
The top two finishers from each regional advance to the 2010 NCAA championships at Florida April 22-24.
If Utah could move up to No. 10 or even No. 9, it could get lowered-seeded teams for competition — No. 9 would currently draw No. 4 Florida and No. 16 Iowa State.
"We aren't thrilled about where we're ranked, but I don't think it changes things drastically about how we'll feel about regionals," said Ute co-coach Megan Marsden. "It's definitely a meet that we need to be at our best, we need to be hitting every event, and if not, there will be some question for any team — whether you're top seed or a little lower, like we are — whether you move on. "
Marsden takes that even further. "We're in a tough region geographically, so we'll get some other pretty good teams," he said.
Southern Utah is currently ranked 22nd, and if it doesn't move into the top 18, it will come to the Utah regional. The same for No. 19 Boise State. "Those are very dangerous teams that — as was evidenced when Southern Utah was here — if we'd had any trouble, we'd have been there with Penn State (last in the quad meet on March 12)."
A FIRST: Utah can win the 2010 NCAA women's attendance war — not just for gymnastics but for all sports — if it draws better than 12,374 for Friday's 7 p.m. meet with BYU. That would be by far the smallest U. crowd of the season, so it seems like an attainable goal. It would be the first time anything other than a basketball team won the national attendance title. It's usually Tennessee basketball that wins, but the Vols have averaged 12,393, and Alabama gymnastics has averaged 13,786, and both are done for the season. Utah has averaged 14,049, with Senior Night to go.
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