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Post Lady Dogs get favorable seed, location for NCAA Tournament

Tuesday March 15, 2011

The Georgia Lady Dogs (21-10) have earned the program’s 28th NCAA Tournament bid in the 30-year history of the tournament. They received the #6 seed in the Dallas Region and will open the tournament Sunday evening at 7:30 against #11 seed Middle Tennessee State in Auburn, Ala. ESPN2 will have the game. Should Georgia advance, they’ll face the winner of #3-seed FSU and #14 seed Samford on Tuesday night.

I’ll admit – it’s a bit higher seed than I expected. Georgia didn’t make much of a splash out of the conference, choosing an easier schedule to bring the young team along. They fared reasonably well in a weak SEC, but they’ve lost four of their last five coming into the tournament. They’ve been in and out of the rankings most of the season, rarely breaking into the top 20.

Of the Lady Dogs’ three non-conference losses, two came against teams in the NCAA Tournament field (Georgia Tech and Louisiana Tech). They recorded no non-conference wins against the field of 64. Georgia’s biggest wins, and only wins against an NCAA Tournament team, came in a sweep of SEC runner-up and national #4 seed Kentucky.

As we noted above, it was a down year for the SEC, traditionally one of the strongest conferences in women’s basketball. The league merited only four bids. It was a little surprising to see Vanderbilt – who tied the Lady Dogs for third place in the SEC – all the way down at a #10 seed, but they had even fewer big wins than Georgia. We thought that LSU might get in on reputation alone, but they probably came up just short by losing a heartbreaker to Kentucky in the SEC quarterfinals.

But here we are. Somehow Georgia ended up with a #6 seed, and they’re fortunate to be close by in Auburn. The women’s tournament, in the interest of ticket sales, pays a lot more attention to geography and proximity than the men’s tournament. That attention to proximity seems to be even greater than usual for the Auburn sub-regional. Since hosts Auburn didn’t merit a tournament bid this year, the committee chose four schools whose teams and fans can easily drive to the games. MTSU, facing about a five-hour drive, is the most distant participant. Georgia and FSU should be able to bring a healthy number of fans, especially for the Sunday games.

It will be impossible to discuss Georgia’s opening game without mentioning the shocking murder of MTSU junior guard Tina Stewart earlier this month. MTSU made the brave choice to play on after her death, but the rattled team lost in the quarterfinal of their conference tournament. As regular season conference champs, MTSU deserved an at-large bid and got one. They’ve had a few weeks to process the event, but there’s still no telling how it will affect them in this tournament. They might come up fired up and use the loss of their teammate as a rallying point, or they might still be numb. With respect to Stewart and the emotional challenge her team continues to face, MTSU will also have to account for her role on the court. She was one of the first players off the bench, had previous starting experience, and was one of the very few veterans on a team that features 11 underclassmen.

Andy Landers is in no danger of overlooking MTSU, and he won’t allow his team to either. The Blue Raiders beat Georgia in their last meeting during the 2006-2007 season when the Lady Dogs were ranked #8. MTSU’s star during that time was actually a former Georgia signee, Amber Holt. Holt had to leave Georgia for academic reasons, but she led MTSU to upsets of Georgia and LSU during her career while earning All-American honors. This isn’t the same MTSU team that beat Georgia, but of course it’s not the same Georgia either. MTSU has maintained a strong program, dominated its conference, and won’t be afraid of Georgia thanks to a tough non-conference slate that featured Kentucky, Xavier, and Georgia Tech.

More Information

  • #6 Georgia vs. #11 Middle Tennessee State
  • Sunday 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Auburn, Ala.
  • ESPN2
  • Tickets for both sessions in Auburn are $32 for adults and $17 for students. Single-session tickets are $16 for adults and $11 for students. Tickets can be purchased from the Auburn ticket office by calling 1-800-282-1957 or online at this link.

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