Georgia’s Sweet 16 opponent was determined Tuesday night when top-seeded Stanford easily dispatched 8-seed Michigan. Georgia and Stanford will meet at 9:00 ET on Saturday night, and the game will be televised by ESPN.
2-seed Cal needed overtime to advance to Spokane, but they avoided the upset and moved on. 6-seed LSU used the homecourt to their advantage and pulled out a close upset of 3-seed Penn State in Baton Rouge. Cal and LSU will follow the Georgia-Stanford game in a late tip. The media focus will likely be on a Cal-Stanford rematch, but the SEC could end up with at least one team in the regional final.
Georgia has spent the week between games out in Spokane rather than returning home for a couple of days. That should leave them fresher than they’d be after a couple of cross-country flights, but we wondered how they’d handle their academic commitments during the time away. The Red & Black got some good answers on that subject.
The Lady Dogs will go about their day as if still attending classes and practices on Georgia’s campus. “We try to create a day that’s similar to the day we would have if we were in Athens,” (Andy) Landers said. “We want to get through three hours of schoolwork, and then we want to get a couple of hours of basketball work in. What this does afford us is more time together so we can watch a little more film than we would in a regular school day.”
As two of the most tradition-rich programs in women’s hoops, Georgia and Stanford are familiar postseason opponents. Andy Landers and Tara VanDerveer are both Hall of Fame coaches with 1,564 wins between them. This will be the seventh time their teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford holds a 4-2 edge in those meetings, including a 73-36 rout back in the 2010 Sweet 16 in Sacramento.
This is Georgia’s 20th trip to the Sweet 16 in program history and eighth since 2003, but the regionals haven’t been kind lately to the Lady Bulldogs. They haven’t advanced beyond the round of 16 since 2004, and after a heartbreaking 2-point loss to UConn in 2006 they’ve lost their last three Sweet 16 games by an average of more than 30 points.
It will be tough to reverse course against Stanford – they’re a #1 seed for good reason. As usual they dominated the Pac-12, losing only to Cal back in January. They were the only team this year to beat top-ranked Baylor. There is some hope: good defenses have had some success against Stanford, and the Cardinal were played to the final minute by South Carolina and UCLA – teams that might be considered comparable to Georgia. If you’re looking to history for hope, Georgia’s last regional final appearance came in the state of Washington (Seattle), and they ended up facing LSU.
Georgia’s primary challenge in stopping Stanford is a potential matchup problem. Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike averages 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. At 6’4″, Ogwumike isn’t as tall as some of the frontcourt players that caused difficulties for Georgia in the first two rounds, but Georgia’s interior defense will face its toughest task of the season against the junior. If Georgia collapses on Ogwumike, there are several Stanford players capable of doing damage from outside.
Even if Georgia is able to have the same kind of defensive success that South Carolina and UCLA had against Stanford, they’ll have to score a few points themselves. Georgia was effective from outside in the second round, but season averages tell us that a repeat performance isn’t likely. The Lady Dogs remain at their best on offense when Hassell can operate inside, and she’ll likely have Ogwumike as a defender.
Can Georgia get past this round for the first time in a decade? A few things have to happen:
- Defensive pressure has to keep Stanford’s score low and create opportunities to get out in transition.
- The ball has to find its way inside either in transition or on the secondary break.
- Get to the line. Ogwumike isn’t likely to get in foul trouble, but frontcourt mate Mikaela Ruef can be prone to fouls.
- Find Barbee. She’s been Georgia’s most consistent offensive threat so far in the tournament, and she won’t hesitate to drive.
- Georgia’s seniors have to step up. Hassell was frustrated against Iowa State but got some big points in the second half. Armstrong has struggled all year but had one of her best performances in the last game. James can make plays, but she can be very inefficient when forced to take too many shots, especially near the end of the shot clock. This game is the biggest chance this group of seniors has had to leave a unique legacy, and it won’t happen without all three of them contributing.