By the numbers, Oklahoma is the top gymnastics team in the country, boasting a regional qualifying score of 197.57. But in Utah’s perception? The way the Utes see it, there is no better team than Florida, which is ranked just behind Oklahoma in second with an average of 197.44.
Utah coach Greg Marsden looks at Florida’s recent history, what it has done this year and its roster and just doesn’t see how the Gators could be anything but the top team.
1. Oklahoma 197.57
2. Florida 197.44
3. Michigan 197.175
4. Alabama 197.125
5. LSU 197.055
6. Georgia 196.985
7. Utah 196.94
8. UCLA 196.905
9. Oregon St. 196.79
10. Stanford 196.59
11. Nebraska 196.565
12. Auburn 196.51
13. Denver 196.34
14. Minnesota 196.25
15. Arkansas 196.09
16. Penn St. 196.085
17. Illinois 196.03
18. Arizona 195.96
19. Kentucky 195.86
20. Ohio St. 195.815
21. West Virginia 195.78
22. Kent St. 195.755
23. Boise St. 195.665
24. Central Mich. 195.62
25. Iowa 195.60
"To me, they are the most talented team," he said. "Really, they are good enough that the only team that can beat them is Florida."
Is Marsden already playing some mind games with the Gators, who visit the No. 7 Utes Saturday in the Huntsman Center? Probably.
But still, it’s hard to argue his point.
For several years, the Gators have been threatening to break the stranglehold on NCAA titles held by Utah, Alabama, Georgia and UCLA but always seem to break just when the title is within their grasp.
Florida finished second to Alabama last year.
This year, the Gators have put up huge numbers. They’ve scored above 197 six times, including meets where they notched a 198.1 and a 198.425. They also have some of the best all-around competitors with Kytra Hunter (39.8), Bridget Sloan (39.75) and Ashanee Dickerson (39.65) leading the way.
No wonder, then, the Utes see Saturday’s meet as an epic challenge, all apologies to the Sooners.
"It’s definitely one of those meets where we have to put our best foot forward," Lia Del Priore said. "It’s going to be exciting for us."
More rankings talk
With just a week remaining in the regular season, the Utes find themselves in the surprising position of being the highest ranked Pac-12 team. If the rankings hold, the Utes will be slight favorites going into the Pac-12 Championships on March 23 at Oregon State.
That meet is shaping up to be extremely competitive, with UCLA (196.905), Oregon State (196.79) and Stanford (196.59) bunched together right behind the Utes.
"All it says to me is any one of those teams has a chance to win," Marsden said. "There isn’t much difference at all in those teams."
The Utes find themselves in an unusual position this year since they have no seniors to honor Saturday. Instead, the Utes are hosting "Alumni Night," with past gymnasts being honored at 5:40 p.m. Team introductions will start immediately after the presentation so the meet can start promptly at 6 p.m. for live TV coverage by the Pac-12 Network.
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