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Realizing the limitations of his team and the capabilities of the Thunderbirds' opponent this week, Southern Utah gymnastics coach Scott Bauman has rarely been as excited about the possibility of a loss.
SUU, coming off a 194.700-193.625 win over West Virginia, plays host to No. 8 Michigan on Friday. It's the first time the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 4 until this week, have visited Cedar City.
SUU was able to bring in Michigan, which finished fifth at the 2005 NCAA Championships, because Bauman is good friends with Michigan's coaching staff and was in assistant coach Scott Sherman's wedding.
"We've talked about doing this for a couple years and were able to finally bring them in this year," Bauman said. "Hopefully, they'll love it out here and want to come back."
Beating the Wolverines would take a perfect performance from the No. 22 T-birds and a horrific one from Michigan, but regardless of the dim prospects of an SUU win, Bauman is thrilled with bringing in such quality competition.
"The level they're at and Utah are at is where we're trying to get," he said. "It's going to be fun for our fans to see gymnastics like this. When they hit, they're a 197-plus team."
SUU's win over West Virginia was its highest score, but Baumann is still happy with his team's efforts this season.
"This is the hardest-working group we've ever had here," he said. "We're still working in a lot of upgrades, but they're a tough group."
The team Bauman still would like to get down to Cedar City is Utah, but that isn't going to happen.
"If we went to Utah State, BYU and SUU, that would take up most of our road schedule," Utah coach Greg Marsden said.
"I know he's frustrated with me, but we think we're better off bringing in a Michigan, Nebraska or [Arizona State]. We think that better prepares us for nationals than Southern Utah."
Sandy's Jessica Duke loves BYU-Utah week, if for no other reason than to cause her parents some discomfort. Her parents graduated from BYU, but have to pull for the Utes out of loyalty to their daughter.
"It's funny and really cool to see them wearing red on BYU's campus," she said. "Last year was really hard for them, but I think they're getting more used to it."
As expected, Utah's gymnastics team fell a notch in the recent rankings, which switched to the regional qualifying score this week. The formula, in which highs and low scores are tossed, will be used for the rest of the year.
Georgia remains No. 1 and Florida moves up from fifth to second. Utah is in third and Alabama slipped a spot to fourth. Brigham Young, No. 25 a week ago, falls out of the poll. Utah State, which entertains Sacramento State on Friday, is No. 24.
Individually, Utah's Nicolle Ford is fourth on the bars and seventh on the beam. Ashley Postell is third on the beam and Kristina Baskett is ninth on the bars and tied for 10th on the floor.
1. Georgia 196.795
2. Florida 196.170
3. Utah 196.120
4. Alabama 196.100
5. Oklahoma 195.965
6. UCLA 195.850
7. Iowa State 195.655
8. Michigan 195.620
9. Missouri 195.600
10. Nebraska 195.440
11. LSU 195.155
12. Stanford 195.135
13. Auburn 195.000
14. Arizona 194.970
15. Arizona State 194.785
16. Denver 194.380
17. Oregon State 194.115
18. Kentucky 194.025
19. Arkansas 193.425
20. Minnesota 193.115
21. Illinois 192.990
22. SUU 192.925
23. Michigan St. 192.745
24. Utah State 192.720
25. New Hamp. 192.515