Utah isn’t going to be one of the favorites this postseason, but that isn’t abnormal

Utah calls for a 10 during the Pac-12 gymnastics championships at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, March 23, 2024.
Utah calls for a 10 during the Pac-12 gymnastics championships at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

The NCAA gymnastics regionals are set and Utah now knows which teams stand in the way of the Red Rocks and a record 48th-straight trip to the NCAA championships.

The NCAA unveiled the official bracket for the women’s gymnastics championships Monday morning and No. 5 Utah — fresh off a fourth-straight Pac-12 championship — will compete in the Gainesville, Florida, regional, beginning on April 5.

No. 4 Florida is the host, and the Gators and Red Rocks will be joined by Big Ten champion and No. 10-ranked Michigan State, No. 13 Missouri, No. 20 Georgia, No. 21 Towson, plus Maryland, Clemson and Iowa State.

It is a talented collection of teams, most notably with the Gators and Spartans. Every team in the Gainesville regional but Iowa State, though, has surpassed Utah’s season-low score at least once this year, leaving little room for error.

Florida’s national qualifying score is 197.905 and the Gators have a season-high score of 198.225; Michigan State has an NQS of 197.625, with a season-high score of 198.150; Missouri has an NQS of 197.420, with a season-high score of 197.600; Georgia has an NQS of 197.030, with a season-high score of 197.550; Towson has an NQS of 196.935 with a season-high score of 197.500; Maryland has an NQS of 196.790 and a season-high score of 197.300; Clemson has an NQS of 196.705 and a season-high score of 197.600.

“Everyone is brilliant at gymnastics in the regional tournament, and obviously in the finals,” Utah coach Carly Dockendorf said following Utah’s Pac-12 championship victory. “It comes down to who is hitting the handstands, who has a pointed toe, who can hold the stick a little bit cleaner.”

2024 NCAA women's gymnastics championship bracket
The complete bracket for the 2024 NCAA women's gymnastics championships.

How the NCAA regionals work

As constructed, regionals consist of three days of competition, beginning April 4 and ending on April 7.

The first day is a single-meet day and will see Clemson and Iowa State compete in a play-in competition. The winner of that meet earns a position in the regional semifinals, in this case in the meet between Florida, Missouri and Georgia.

On April 5, Utah will compete in one of two regional semifinals, against Michigan State, Towson and Maryland. The top two finishers advance to the regional final held on April 7.

Florida, Missouri, Georgia and either Clemson or Iowa State will compete in the other regional semifinal the same day.

If the favorites win out, Florida, Utah, Michigan State and Missouri would compete in the regional final, with the top two finishing teams earning berths in the national semifinals of the NCAA gymnastics championships in Forth Worth, Texas, on April 18.

Utah has advanced to the NCAA championships a record 47-straight times, with 48 a possibility. It will require top-two finishes in both of Utah’s potential regional meets for the longest streak in the NCAA to continue.

History between Utah and its regional competition

Jocelyn Moore
Missouri gymnast Jocelyn Moore scores 9.900 on the floor during a meet against Alabama on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Vasha Hunt

The Red Rocks and Gators are not strangers, having competed against each other in each of the last three seasons. All of those meetings came in the NCAA championship, with Utah proving the better team in 2021, the Gators being better in both 2022 and 2023.

Utah hasn’t competed in Gainesville since 2012, a meet the Red Rocks lost. The two teams have been among the best in the sport for decades.

Utah is also familiar with Michigan State, having recently competed against the Spartans in 2022 at the Seattle regional. The Red Rocks, along with Alabama, eliminated the Spartans from the postseason in the regional final.

The Red Rocks have also seen Missouri recently, joining with UCLA to eliminate the Tigers in the Los Angeles regional final last season.

Utah hasn’t competed often against the remaining teams in the Gainesville regional. The Red Rocks have competed against Maryland once, in 1983, though multiple Terrapin gymnasts have transferred to Utah, namely, Macey Roberts and Emilie LeBlanc.

Utah has only competed against Towson once, in 1990.

Clemson is a first-year program, and Utah and Iowa State haven’t competed against each other since 2013.

The team that Utah is most familiar with in its regional is Georgia. The Bulldogs and Red Rocks competed annually for national championships for decades, and the Bulldogs are the NCAA leader in national championships won, followed closely by the Red Rocks.

Since its heyday under Suzanne Yoculan, though, Georgia has fallen off in a big way. The Bulldogs haven’t finished in the top five in the country since 2014 and have since settled into being one of the worst teams in the SEC. Georgia finished in last place at the 2024 SEC championships, far behind seventh-place finisher Auburn.

Are the Red Rocks the team to beat?

Sarah Krump shouts to attendees during the Pac-12 championships at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

Outside of their regional semifinal against Michigan State, Maryland and Towson, the Red Rocks won’t be considered the favorite to win any meet going forward. Some of that is because the Red Rocks will likely never be the highest seed, barring some significant upsets.

And part of that is because Utah has flown under the radar this season, despite being ranked in the top five the entire season.

Ranked in the top seven on every event — No. 4 on floor, No. 5 on beam, No. 6 on bars and No. 7 on vault — the Red Rocks weren’t even mentioned as a national title contender in a recent ESPN roundtable featuring some of the most notable voices in the sport.

Kennedy Baker, Kathy Johnson Clarke, Alex Perlman, John Roethlisberger, Anastasia Webb, D’Arcy Maine and Ally Raisman all failed to either pick Utah to win the Pac-12 championships or advance to the national championship meet this season.

Cal was the prohibitive favorite among the panel to win the Pac-12 championship, but the Bears finished third while Utah won its fourth-straight conference title.

As for the national championship meet, no expert outright picked Utah to make it to the Final Four — the Utes have been to three-straight Final Fours — with Johnson-Clarke and Webb being the only ones to mention the Red Rocks at all.

Most panel members projected a Final Four featuring Oklahoma, California, LSU and Kentucky/Florida.

“Oklahoma, LSU, Cal, Florida, Utah, Kentucky ... and so many other top teams have an equal shot here!” Johnson Clarke wrote.

Being an underdog isn’t new to Utah, though. Based solely on seeding, the Red Rocks shouldn’t have made it to the national championship meet in either 2021 or 2023. Yet, both seasons, Utah not only made it but finished third overall.

And confidence isn’t lacking in Salt Lake City, after the Red Rocks performance at the Pac-12 championships over the weekend.

When asked if her team is peaking at the right time, Dockendorf said emphatically, “Absolutely. To get a 198 at Pac-12 championships is just huge and that was with a pretty subpar beam rotation.”

Utah Red Rocks’ Grace McCallum fist-bumps University of Utah gymnastics head coach Carly Dockendorf before competing on the beam during a gymnastics meet against Stanford and Utah State University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 15, 2024. The Utah Red Rocks won.