SALT LAKE CITY — Because the University of Utah managed to improve to the No. 10 in the final regular-season rankings, and because the Utes, No. 3 UCLA and No. 15 Missouri are all regional hosts, the NCAA had to do some juggling from its preferred formula for assigning teams to the six April 10 regional meets.
The scrambling gave Utah a field that includes No. 4 Florida, the winner of the Southeastern Conference championships over the weekend, as well as No. 16 Auburn among seeded teams. Also in the Utah field for the NCAA North Central Regional are No. 19 Boise State, No. 22 Denver and No. 23 Washington.
"It's a strong regional, deep with talent," said Utah co-coach Megan Marsden
The formula alterations find No. 26 BYU being sent out of the North Central to the West Regional at UCLA, where it will meet UCLA, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 17 Iowa State, and West regulars Arizona and Arizona State.
And No. 18 Southern Utah, which obtained the last of the 18 seeds for the postseason, will have to go all the way to West Virginia, where it will vie with No. 6 Stanford and Michigan, who are tied for the No. 6 rankings, plus home-region members North Carolina State, Kent State and West Virginia.
The NCAA's guidelines call for teams Nos. 1-12-13 to normally go to one region, teams 2-11-14 to be grouped, Nos. 3-10-15 to be together, plus 4-9-16, 5-8-17 and 6-7-18, but that cannot be because so many host schools were in the same grouping and had to be split.
The top two teams from each of the six regionals advance to the 2010 NCAA Championships at Florida, April 22-24.
Utah, which lost at Florida 197.55-196.70 (Utah's highest road score of the season despite beam problems), was happy to have the Gators in its field. It's a chance to show it belongs with the team that will host nationals, and both teams are very friendly, so Ute coach Greg Marsden says it's a little added oomph to the meet for Utah.
"We're excited we get them at our place," he said. "I feel compositionally we can compete with them if we execute. We've got to get this team thing worked out."
Utah's had beam troubles since Feb. 12, getting to 49.0 only once since then — at Florida.
Marsden once coached Florida coach Rhonda Faehn at the international level and has been close with her since then (1987), "and our teams sincerely like each other," he said. Ute senior Annie DiLuzio has a number of friends on the Florida team, for instance.
But that just makes it like "going out back with your brothers or sisters," Marsden said, meaning it's even more competitive that way.
Should Utah be able to beat Florida — and the rest of a fairly tough regional field — and go to the NCAA championships with a big triumph under its belt, Marsden said it might go a long way toward convincing everybody that Utah is not as bad as its ranking has been lately.
The Utes hit their routines in practice and just need to resolve the nerves issue in meets, especially on beam. They are coming off season-high scores in three events from last Friday's home meet with BYU and would have been into the mid-197 scores if they'd gotten better than 49 on beam.
Appearance and reputation are important in gymnastics. Even though they're not supposed to, Marsden asserts that judges do know who's expected to do well, and that can influence them subconsciously.
Salt Lake City Regional – Utah (University of Utah, host)
4. Boise State
Los Angeles Regional – California (University of California, Los Angeles, host)
3. Iowa State
5. Brigham Young
6. Arizona State
Columbia Regional – Missouri (University of Missouri, Columbia, host)
2. Oregon State
6. North Carolina
Lexington Regional – Kentucky (University of Kentucky, host)
5. Central Michigan
6. Michigan State
University Park Regional – Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania State University, host)
3. Penn State
5. Ohio State
6. New Hampshire
Morgantown Regional – West Virginia (West Virginia University, host)
3. Southern Utah
4. North Carolina State
5. Kent State
6. West Virginia