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Post Motivated Lady Dogs headed to Tempe

Thursday March 18, 2010

Well, I was wrong. The NCAA women’s selection committee gave us a nice surprise Monday night when they awarded the Lady Dogs a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I thought that a 6 or 7 seed was most likely, but Georgia’s impressive results outside of the conference must have weighed heavily in their favor. The #5 seed is Georgia’s highest starting position since 2007 when they were a #3 seed.

I can’t put my reaction to the seed much better than Angel Robinson did. "I was a little surprised about how high the seed was," the senior center said, "just because of how we played in SEC. I don’t know how they work it, but I’m glad the put us as a No. 5 seed and now we have to show that we’re worth it." I had expected the 10-8 record in the SEC to counter some of the goodwill built up earlier in the season, but hey – we’ll take it. It’s also possible that the committee considered the midseason injuries to Robinson and Ashley Houts as mitigating factors. Both senior leaders are back in good form for the postseason.

The #5 seed is the good news. The not-so-good news is that Georgia must head thousands of miles west to Tempe, Ariz. for the opening rounds of the tournament. That isn’t the end of the world (more on that below), but I’m sure Georgia or any school would rather be in the shoes of Tennessee who won’t have to leave their home state in order to reach the Final Four.

As the #5 seed, Georgia opens the tournament on Saturday night around 10:30 p.m. ET against #12 seed Tulane. The Green Wave have rebuilt their program after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and they won both the regular season and tournament titles in Conference USA. Should Georgia advance, they’ll face the winner of #4 Oklahoma State and #13 Chattanooga on Monday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16. I like the draw for two reasons:

1 – Georgia doesn’t have to face a team on their home court. The women’s tournament plays the first two rounds at or near the home courts of 16 host schools. Georgia will head to Tempe and the home court of Arizona State, but the Sun Devils didn’t make the tournament this year. Georgia’s possible first and second round opponents will all travel at least 1,000 miles to Tempe, so no one is likely to have much of an advantage. Contrast that with Georgia Tech’s situation – the Lady Jackets would have to beat Oklahoma in Norman in order to advance to the Sweet 16. It might suck for four teams from no further west than Stillwater, Okla. to have to go all the way to Tempe for their subregional, but at least all four teams will share the same experience.

2 – Georgia matches up well with Tulane and Oklahoma State, the likely second round opponent. Both are guard-oriented teams which should allow Georgia to assert its advantage inside. One of the most interesting matchups of the entire tournament could come in the second round when senior point guards Ashley Houts of Georgia and Andrea Riley of Oklahoma State face off. Riley is one of the nation’s most prolific scorers, averaging 26.6 PPG while still dishing out 6.5 assists per game. The second round would be Riley’s first game of the tournament. She’s suspended by the NCAA for the first round after throwing a punch at an LSU player in Oklahoma State’s last tournament appearance.

But first the Lady Dogs have to get past Tulane. Any team good enough to take LSU to overtime gets our full attention. Though a #12 seed, Tulane is up there at 41 in the RPI.  That’s ahead of teams like Mississippi State and four other SEC programs that beat Georgia this year.  Most successful tournament-bound teams can point to veteran leadership, and senior guard Chassity Brown fills that role for the Green Wave.  The load is balanced – five players average over 9 PPG.  They’re also effective on defense, leading their conference in steals and turnover margin. They played well down the stretch, winning 10 of their final 11 games.

If Georgia has an advantage, it’s inside.  Tulane has a single player on the roster taller than 6’1”, so the Lady Dogs will likely try to get their 3, 4, and 5 players as many touches as possible and look to clean up on the glass. Tulane was dead last in CUSA in rebounding margin.

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