SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah gymnastics team, which returns just five performers from last year's NCAA Super Six finalist, was picked fifth in the Preseason Coaches' Poll, released Wednesday by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC).
The Utes, who have seven freshmen on their 13-member roster, must replace 12 of 24 routines from last year's NCAA Championships, where they finished sixth. The top six teams in the 2011 preseason poll are all returning Super Six finalists. Picked to defend its 2010 NCAA title was UCLA, which received 38 of a possible 42 first-place votes.
Others in the preseason top six are No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Utah and No. 6 Stanford. Rounding out the top 10 are Georgia, Oregon State, Michigan and Nebraska. The Utes will face seven teams in the top 10 this season, starting with No. 1-ranked UCLA in the season-opener on Jan. 7 in the Huntsman Center.
Utah also has home meets against No. 3 Florida (March 4), No. 6 Stanford (Jan. 28) and No. 9 Michigan (Feb. 18), while facing No. 7 Georgia (Jan. 15), No. 8 Oregon State (March 12) and No. 10 Nebraska (Jan. 22) on the road.
In their final season as an independent before becoming members of the Pac-12 Conference, the Utes will meet five of the six current Pac-10 gymnastics teams (UCLA, Stanford, No. 25 Arizona State, No. 21 Washington and Oregon State).
—Deseret News staff and wire services