The 36 women's NCAA Division I gymnastics teams who've earned postseason berths all know where they will compete on April 10.
Except second-seeded Alabama, No. 3 Utah, No. 10 Florida and No. 11 Ohio State.Those four were waiting for word sometime Monday from the NCAA gymnastics committee, which was to hold a conference phone call in the morning and eventually tell them to which regional they will be sent. Because of the way they finished in the final rankings, Alabama will be paired somewhere with Ohio State, and Utah and Florida will link up in the other regional-to-be-named-Monday.
Actually, there are only two possibilities for the four teams: Region 2 at Utah State or Region 6 at West Virginia.
The other four regionals are Region 1 at Oregon State, Region 3 at Nebraska, Region 4 at Louisiana State and Region 5 at Penn State.
For the Utes (12-1), who host the 1999 NCAA Championships April 22-24, being sent to Logan would be a nice assignment. "We would love to go to Utah State simply because of the easy travel and our fans would hopefully drive up there to support us," said Utah coach Greg Marsden. His clubs have won 10 national championships.
But West Virginia wouldn't be bad, either. It is likely the easiest field of the six regionals with no in-region powers. Maryland ranks 14th nationally and West Virginia 20th, North Carolina State 22nd and Towson 26th.
"If we wind up in West Virginia, hopefully we will handle it well," Marsden said.
He said that because Utah's last trip to the East Coast, on March 20 at New Hampshire, was a win but not a satisfying experience. In fact, when they got home, Marsden put the Utes through the roughest week of practice he's ever concocted in 24 years as U. coach. That led to a strong performance Saturday night to end the regular season with a 197.475-195.475 win in the Huntsman Center on Senior Night over BYU.
Sadly, BYU's season of injuries kept the Cougars from qualifying for the postseason. It's just their luck to be in a relatively strong Region 2. Their Regional Qualifying Score (as average of six scores, at least two from the road, with the high and low thrown out) of 194.6375 was higher than a dozen teams that made it into easier regions.
Under a new system this season, instead of five regionals that took the best seven teams from within their regions, there are now six regions with six-team fields, but the nation's top 12 teams were dispersed by final ranking. Top-ranked Georgia is paired with No. 12 Oregon State, No. 2 Alabama with No. 11 Ohio State, No. 3 Utah with No. 10 Florida and so on, with teams ranked in the top 12 who are hosting a regional staying home. Each regional field will contain two of the top 12 teams, and two teams from each regional qualify for the 12-team NCAA Championships. This is an effort to make sure each regional produces competitive teams for the national finals.
It, however, costs No. 1 Georgia dearly. The defending NCAA champions must travel coast-to-coast for a regional. Alabama and Utah were scared to death they might get the Oregon State matchup because that field, with several strong West Coast teams, is considered the toughest. As of Friday, Utah would have had that matchup because Oregon State was ranked 10th, but Stanford shot from 14th to seventh with a 197.2-192.2 win over Cal last weekend, and Florida's 195.875 at the Southeastern Conference Championships Saturday moved it from 11th to 10th, dropping Oregon State to 12th.
That saved the Utes and infuriated the Bulldogs. As the No. 1 team, UGA logically should have the easiest road to the nationals but instead gets the toughest, though Stanford's leap keeps the Cardinals out of that region, making it a little easier.