Outside of the Pac-12 championships, a meet Utah won for the fourth consecutive year, who the Red Rocks have competed against on a week-to-week basis hasn’t mattered all that much, nor have wins and losses.

That is not to say that head-to-head results don’t matter at all, nor regular season conference title races, but in women’s college gymnastics, scores are of paramount importance.

Scores are what are compared weekly with the rest of the programs across the country, not wins and loss. Scores determine rankings, scores determine postseason seeding and scores determine who are named All-Americans and the list can go on and on.

That all changes with the arrival of the postseason. With the postseason, scores matter less than results. At NCAA regionals this week, that means the top two finishing teams in each semifinal meet advance to the regional final.

Utah’s regional semifinal, scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. in Gainesville, Florida, will pit the No. 5-ranked Red Rocks against No. 10 Michigan State, No. 21 Towson and Maryland. The teams that finish first and second in the competition will advance. For the teams that finish third and fourth, the season is over.

No matter how high or low the scores, if Utah finishes in the top two in its regional semifinal, the Red Rocks will advance to the regional final on Sunday.

With results now mattering, who the competition is takes on added importance.

Which begs the question, is Michigan State on Utah’s level?

Getting to know the Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State's Skyla Schulte competes on the vault during an NCAA gymnastics meet on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in Las Vegas. | Stew Milne

Traditionally, MSU hasn’t been a powerhouse in women’s gymnastics. Prior to 2022 — looking back the previous 10 years — the Spartans were never ranked in the top 25 at the end of a season.

Things have changed dramatically under head coach Mike Rowe, though, beginning two years ago.

In 2022, MSU finished the regular season ranked No. 12 in the country and battled Utah and Alabama in the Seattle regional final before falling short of a trip to nationals.

Last season, the Spartans ended the regular season ranked No. 10 overall and again advanced to a regional final, only to finish third again, this time behind Florida and Cal.

This year, Michigan State has been better than ever, finishing ranked No. 10 again, but this time winning the Big Ten championships for the first time in program history.

The Spartans broke the 198 barrier for the second consecutive season with a season-best showing against Greenville, Central Michigan and Fisk in early March.

The Spartans’ national qualifying score, or NQS, of 197.625 had them on the same level as teams like UCLA and Michigan and just slightly off the pace of teams like Alabama and Kentucky.

MSU is ranked No. 14 on balance beam and floor exercise, No. 12 on uneven bars and, most significantly, No. 4 in the country on vault.

Spartan gymnasts to watch

Michigan State's Sage Kellerman competes on the vault during an NCAA gymnastics meet on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in Las Vegas. | Stew Milne

Arguably no Michigan State gymnast warrants more attention than junior Skyla Schulte, who won the Big Ten all-around title at the conference championships and is ranked No. 20 in the country in the all-around. Moreover, she is ranked in the top 25 on both beam and floor.

Schulte has been a standout for MSU since she arrived as a freshman in 2022, but this year has, statistically, been the most complete of her collegiate career.

Schulte isn’t the only Spartan gymnast who warrants mention, though.

Gabrielle Stephen is another all-arounder, and she is ranked No. 34 in the country. There’s Delanie Harkness, a top 25 gymnast on bars. Also Baleigh Garcia, a top 30 gymnast on beam and Nikki Smith, an All-American on vault and a top 40 gymnast on floor.

Deserving of special recognition is Sage Kellerman, an All-American on vault who is ranked No. 4 in the country on the event. Poll college gymnastics fans and pundits, and Kellerman will be considered by many to be the single best vaulter in the country this year.

Does Michigan State compare to Utah?

Event by event, Utah is the better team. The Red Rocks are a top 7 team on every event this season, including top 5 on beam and floor.

Utah also has considerably more postseason experience than Michigan State, even with the Spartans’ rise over the last three years. Utah has never failed to make it to nationals and has finished third at the national championships in each of the last three seasons.

Michigan State is certainly capable of out-performing Utah in any given competition — just ask Michigan — and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Spartans were to win the regional semifinal.

But the Red Rocks will be expected to win the regional meet, with MSU projected to finish second overall.