Thursday April 11, 2013
A perfect day for football brought out a record G-Day crowd, and they got a show. Even with the shuffling of lineups and the unfamiliar reserves filling out the rosters, G-Day for once turned into a somewhat compelling game. The black team (largely the retooled starting defense) made things difficult for the red team, and they were able to make a couple of late plays to pull off a mild 23-17 upset of the red team. I admit that I wanted to see Murray come out for red’s final possession as he did in the first half and try to win the game with a 2-minute drive.
I wanted a chance to watch the broadcast before writing this up and finally got a chance to do it. Enough has been written by now that we’ll hit just a couple of positions and finish with some other notes.
Give me Mitchell, Bennett, Conley, and Rumph as the first four receivers, and I feel about as comfortable with that position as I do with Marshall and Gurley at tailback. Rumph needn’t have a Cordarrelle Patterson type of impact – he’ll be a tough matchup for anyone as a 3rd/4th receiver. The combination of size, decent speed, and the ability to fight for a few extra yards after contact give Georgia a nice option even if he might not yet be polished enough to be a starter.
The receivers were a big question that lingered into the season as we wondered whether King and Brown could handle larger roles. As we learned that they could, the position became a strength, and the offense prospered. Replacing those seniors was the question entering this season, and we seem to have the answer much sooner this year.
With a nervous eye on Bennett’s recovery (on track) and Mitchell’s meniscus surgery, we also saw last season that the depth has to go beyond just the first four. I’m fairly comfortable with the next group – Wooten and McGowan are seniors who are more than familiar with the offense, and Murray seems to have confidence going to McGowan. Justin Scott-Wesley continues to develop and had some nice catches on Saturday; I doubt the coaches will hesitate to call on him during the season. Tibbs had a rough start – a bad drop followed by a personal foul out of frustration. We heard enough about Tibbs in practice last season to want to see more, but the depth is solid enough for now that he won’t be thrown into the fire yet.
It wasn’t so much that a defensive lineman was dominant. It was that several players look ready to contribute. That was the main concern – after losing Jenkins, Geathers, Jones, and Washington, there had to be more than one player emerge to help Garrison Smith. That’s what happened at both tackle and end. Thornton and Mayes were active inside, and Mayes looks like he will be the second JUCO (after Rumph) to see a fair amount of playing time. Ray Drew seems to have found a home at defensive end, and every time we looked it seemed as if he was chasing quarterbacks in the backfield. We were interested to see how Taylor’s size would affect his move to defensive end, but he thrived there with two sacks and seven tackles in the G-Day game. Taylor has earned the attention of his coaches, and it will be tough to keep him off the field.
One thing you couldn’t get a handle on thanks to the format of G-Day is how Coach Wilson will approach the rotation for the line. Garner was known for his doghouse and a very conservative approach to substituting. Georgia still isn’t especially deep along the defensive line, but its strength might be in a pool of at least six capable guys (depending on Toby Johnson’s recovery from knee surgery). We’re at least encouraged that Wilson, like Friend on the other side of the line, will have some options and choices at his disposal.
- Bobo wasn’t especially down on the offensive line, but it was hardly a dominant performance. This is the classic spring game conundrum, but it’s hard to imagine noticing the play of so many defensive linemen without some help from the OL.
- Bobo put some of the defense’s nine sacks on quarterbacks holding onto the ball too long. I can’t remember ever seeing so many quarterback scrambles – the game’s leading rusher at halftime was Hutson Mason.
- Speaking of Mason, the scrimmage did little to change the outlook at quarterback. Mason was shaky in the first half (and the interception he threw was just a bad decision), but at least he settled in. Mason eventually brought the black team back for the win and ended up completing 16 of 27 attempts. It’s a bit of a toss-up after that though. Ramsey is headed for a redshirt. Going just by this game, Welch seems to be the better option at #3. LeMay had a couple of passes (including the interception) that should have been caught, but those were his passing highlights.
- Chris Conley has talked about adding some moves to go along with his speed, and he got the chance to show off a little shiftiness on a nice reception down the south sideline.
- The order behind Gurley and Marshall is something that will have to be revisited closer to the season once the freshmen get here. It’s G-Day tradition to overstate a performance by a reserve tailback, but Karempelis at least saw the field in 2011. J.J. Green didn’t look lost in his debut, and that’s more than you can expect from an early enrollee.
- A lot of eyes were glued to Matthews and Harvey-Clemons in the secondary, but Quincy Mauger quietly had a nice day with eight tackles. Mauger also made a very wise decision: he could have had the hit of the day on an unsuspecting Rumph but spared his teammate. Reggie Wilkerson was put in a tough spot as an early enrollee going up against the first team offense, but he looked surprisingly confident and capable.
- As always, the most important thing about G-Day is getting through it with no serious injuries, and that looks to have been the case. Atkins sprained his knee, but that won’t be a long-term problem. Mitchell and Bennett should be ready to go by early summer, and we should have a fairly full and healthy roster ready to put in work over the summer.
One more thing…it was great to see a nice turnout for Rennie Curran’s book signing. The book had sold out by the time we dropped by, and they were adding to a waiting list. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing it. You can find out more information and pick up a copy of the book by visiting Curran’s web site.
Friday April 5, 2013
With so much turnover on the defense from a year ago, almost every position has an angle for G-Day. If there’s been a theme so far, it’s been speed. “We’re much faster and quicker,” claims linebacker Ramik Wilson. That speed is a plus, but the faster players are also largely inexperienced and still learning the system. Here’s the state of the defense entering G-Day.
G-Day is the public debut of new defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Wilson has a fairly blank slate with which to work – the only established player is senior end Garrison Smith. It will be hard to replace the size of Jenkins and Geathers at tackle, so Georgia will go with the combination of Mike Thornton and Chris Mayes. Mayes is a JUCO transfer who looks the part but might still be a little raw. Thornton played well in limited action last season, but he’s much lighter than the duo Georgia had in 2012. That lack of bulk isn’t necessarily a liability, and Thornton is counting on his agility and experience to make up for the difference.
With Smith established as one end, the other spot looks to be a competition between Ray Drew and Sterling Bailey. It’s unfortunate that Drew is already having to answer the “bust” questions at only the midpoint of his career, but this is his time. He’s long since moved from the outside linebacker spot that gave him trouble, and he’s more comfortable as a down lineman. Drew finished the 2012 season well, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with a starting role. Bailey, also a converted outside linebacker, played sparingly as a redshirt freshman while nursing an injured foot but has had a promising spring. John Taylor has moved to end from tackle – a strange move considering his size, but playing at end might be a way to get him on the field with Thornton and Mayes set on the interior.
We know about half the picture at linebacker. Herrera is now the veteran on the interior, and Jordan Jenkins is already the next great outside linebacker. Fans at G-Day might want to keep an eye on the other two spots. James DeLoach has made a move for the other outside linebacker position opposite Jenkins, but TJ Stripling is another player to watch outside. The closest position battle on the defense is at inside linebacker where Ramik Wilson is a veteran trying to hold off newcomer Reggie Carter.
The biggest unknown on the team at this point is the cornerback position. Swann is established, but the other starter is very much unsettled. Sophomore Sheldon Dawson had been favored to hold down that spot, but he’s out injured for G-Day. Watch freshman Reggie Wilkerson, another early enrollee, in place of Dawson.
Few stories have taken off this spring like Tray Matthews at safety. His hitting has become the stuff of legends, and, more importantly, he seems to be an answer at one of the two vacant safety spots. Corey Moore has, much more quietly, emerged as a likely option along with Matthews. Don’t count out veteran Connor Norman who saw lots of time early last season during the suspensions.
The plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons has been a story since the highly-touted defender arrived on campus last year. Thanks to him we learned about the “star” position, but it wasn’t something we saw much of last season. Then as Georgia prepared for option teams, we heard about Harvey-Clemons deployed at outside linebacker to attack those unique offenses. Again, the talk never materialized on the field.
The stories have started again, though Harvey-Clemons still doesn’t have an established position. The hybrid safety-linebacker “star” position is back in vogue. The trouble with the star, especially last year, is deciding who comes off the field. Do you sub out a safety or a linebacker? Georgia coaches may have an answer – at least for the first part of the season.
An alignment that looks more 3-3-5 than the traditional 3-4 would open up a place for Harvey-Clemons – not necessarily as a typical nickel back but definitely the fifth defensive back. Knowing Grantham’s history of unconventional fronts (remember the Jenkins-Washington-Jenkins look last season?), a 3-3-5 look doesn’t necessarily imply three linemen and three linebackers. Keep an eye on the alignments Georgia shows at G-Day, especially when Harvey-Clemons is in the game.
Top Three Things to Watch
- How does Chris Wilson plan to rotate and shuffle defensive linemen?
- Can Tray Matthews announce himself to Georgia fans (without injuring a teammate)?
- How will Harvey-Clemons be used, and how will his presence on the field affect the defensive alignment?
Friday April 5, 2013
I’ve been somewhat detached from spring practice this year, mainly because we’ve learned how the messages will be predictably positive. Nothing wrong with that in the spring – we’re still undefeated – but it doesn’t make for much in the way of interesting discussion. Do you buy into the hype and start framing the next season through that lens, or do you play the pessimistic contrarian? You’re not on solid footing either way. But G-Day, itself heavily scripted, at least gives us the chance to see live football.
(G-Day is only one of the events going on this weekend in Athens. Football, baseball, softball, and tennis will all be in action. You needed an excuse to drive to Athens? For the run-down and for travel tips, check this post over at Bernie’s.)
We’ll start with the offense.
There’s no mystery about Aaron Murray, though I wonder if we’ll see evidence of the things he’s worked on during his much-discussed spring studies.
After Murray, fans will be eager to see who establishes themselves as Murray’s successor. Hutson Mason is back from a rare junior redshirt season as the top backup, and he’ll receive the most scrutiny at G-Day. True freshman Brice Ramsey is an early enrollee, and he’ll be competing for the #3 spot with Christian LeMay and Parker Welch. Coaches will have a decision to make about Ramsey’s freshman season, and I imagine we’ll spend the season with a provisional redshirt on him as we did with Mason a year ago. Unfortunately redshirt freshman Faton Bauta has been limited by tendinitis, and I’m not sure we’ll see him at G-Day.
With the entire starting offensive line returning, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to talk about. One development is starting to gain traction: competition at the tackle position. John Theus, who started 2012 as a true freshman at right tackle, has worked at left tackle…and he wouldn’t mind staying there. A move by Theus could create some decisions along the rest of the line.
Does Gates flip to the other side? We started to hear about Xzavier Ward towards the end of last season, and he has apparently continued his development into spring. Will he content to start at right tackle? If Ward can win the job, does Gates move back inside to his more natural guard position where he played in 2011? There’s room for Gates at guard now with Burnette out injured, but would Gates displace Burnette or Lee at guard in August? That says nothing of the Long brothers or Dantzler who have been in the program long enough now to expect to contribute. Depth is a great problem to have, but it still presents a few decisions for Will Friend: does he stick with the combination that did so well a year ago, or does he shake things up to try to turn a very good line into one of the best in the nation?
The loss of King and Brown opens the door for younger receivers to step up, but our picture of the receiver position is still incomplete. Two top options, Bennett and Mitchell, are out for the rest of spring. Some familiar reserves like Wooten, Scott-Wesley, and McGowan will have plenty of chances to impress. If one player has stepped up this spring, it’s been Chris Conley. Conley, last seen sprinting 20 yards clear of the nearest Nebraska defender, is hardly an unknown, but he seems poised to take the step King did from nice role receiver to primary target.
I’m most interested in seeing what JUCO transfer Jonathon Rumph can do. At 6’5″ he’s a big target, and he’s going to be plugged in right away to help with the depth issues at this position. He’s earned comparisons to Marlon Brown, and we’ll see if he’s ahead of where Brown was as a junior. Coaches considered taking the redshirt off freshman Blake Tibbs last year, and this will be his first chance to make an impact on the fans.
Lynch and Rome are established as the two top tight ends, and this is about the most drama-free position on the team. We should get to see more of sophomore Ty Flournoy-Smith.
Gurley and Marshall are set, but we haven’t heard much about what comes next. Malcome is gone, and a couple of possible contributors are freshman who haven’t enrolled yet. At G-Day we’ll see a steady stream of walk-ons and reserves like Harton and Karempelis, and newcomers J.J. Green and A.J. Turman will make their Georgia debut.
Fullback is also up in the air. Ogletree is gone. That leaves Merritt Hall, who saw lots of time in 2012 but is slightly banged-up, and Quayvon Hicks, who looks the part but has yet to win the job.
Top Three Things to Watch
- Which offensive line combinations are used?
- Which quarterbacks look most ready to back up Murray?
- With Bennett and Mitchell out, which young receivers will make the most of G-Day?
Wednesday April 3, 2013
Georgia’s deep tournament run was the crowning accomplishment for the career of a successful senior class. The group played in four NCAA Tournaments, reached three Sweet 16s, and of course played in last night’s regional final. But as this class moves on, the program will be hit hard by graduation. In all, seven seniors will leave the program including three starters and reserve forward Tameka Willis. Only eight scholarship players return, and there will only be one senior.
The frontcourt will take the biggest hit. Merritt Hempe will be the only returning post player with significant experience. Kaelyn Causwell, a 6’4″ freshman, played sparingly this season but will get a chance to contribute more next year.
The situation in the backcourt will be a little better. Tiaria Griffin should continue to develop into one of the SEC’s better scoring guards. Shacobia Barbee is already a force as a wing, though the lack of depth up front next year might force her to play more as a forward. Krista Donald could also help in the frontcourt, but her chronic knee issues will limit the ceiling for an otherwise very talented player. Reserves Erika Ford and Khaalidah Miller will step into larger roles next year. Marjorie Butler is poised to take over at point guard, though Miller can help there too.
Georgia has signed three players so far including two top-100 prospects. There are two post players in the class, and Halle Washington especially will get an opportunity to become the replacement for Hassell. Point guard Sydnei McCaskill could be brought along behind Butler. It’s possible that Georgia could add someone else during the spring signing period, but Andy Landers has gone into a season with fewer than 11 players before.
It will still be a very young team next year. With five sophomores and three incoming freshmen, there will only be three upperclassmen (Ford, Donald, and Miller). We’ve heard a lot over the past week about the effort Landers made to impress upon the outgoing seniors the tradition that had been built at Georgia and the standard that had been set. The biggest challenge heading into next season will be passing that understanding on to this next group of underclassmen. Landers commended Barbee and Griffin for their willingness to buy in from the outset, and they’ll need a similar response from the incoming class for Georgia to avoid a rough rebuilding year.
Wednesday April 3, 2013
If you hadn’t watched much of the Lady Dogs before last night’s regional final against Cal, you might’ve wondered how they got this far without consistent scoring, rebounding, and interior size. But that was this year’s team in a nutshell – they went as far as their defense could take them, scrapped for what points they could score, and much more often than not they came out on top.
Against Stanford, that formula was just enough for the upset win. Last night against Cal, the same approach came up just short. Georgia led for most of the game and even built a ten point lead with under seven minutes remaining, but a combination of stagnant offense, foul trouble, and defensive breakdowns led to a Cal comeback, overtime, and eventually a 65-62 heartbreaking loss in the Spokane regional final.
Georgia countered Cal’s up-tempo offense with an effective 2-3 zone. The defense frustrated Cal, and Georgia was able to open up an early 9-2 lead. The Golden Bears plugged away and eventually took the lead, but Georgia closed the first half on a run and went into the locker room up by five.
Cal’s offense was a little more fluid against the zone early in the second half, but Georgia also put up some points. Cal made a few pushes to get to within two or three points, but Georgia usually answered an extended their advantage back to around six to eight points. A pair of free throws inside of seven minutes left put Georgia up 49-39, but things went sour from that point. Cal brought the deficit back into single digits immediately with a three-pointer. They quickly followed with another basket to close to within five. Georgia got a couple of points down the stretch from the foul line, but Cal kept coming and even re-took the lead. Georgia continued to miss shots, but Cal couldn’t seal the win in regulation. A missed one-and-one free throw set Georgia up to tie the game at the end of regulation, and Anne Marie Armstrong scored on an offensive rebound inside of ten seconds left. Armstrong’s basket was Georgia’s first field goal in the final eight minutes of the game.
Georgia started overtime with a Khaalidah Miller three-pointer, but Cal took over from there. The Golden Bears forced turnovers, and Georgia lost sight of Hassell fighting for position inside. Cal left the door open for a miracle by missing free throws, but Georgia let too much time elapse before starting to foul. The Lady Dogs had just two seconds to heave a desperation shot to tie the game, but the shot never came close.
If this were midseason, there would be several things to take from the game. Georgia’s gameplan gave them a reasonable opportunity to win. The zone was effective and held Cal to 52 points in regulation. But at this level, getting the gameplan generally correct only puts you in a position to win. Several not-so-little details kept Cal in the game and ultimately led to the loss:
- Georgia’s zone was effective out of the gate, but Georgia missed an opportunity for an early knockout blow. A solid double-digit lead was within reach by the time Cal started to figure things out, but Georgia couldn’t build a lead greater than seven points.
- Georgia’s 12-of-18 from the foul line looks relatively good next to Cal’s 12-of-24. But those six misses, four of which came in the second half, loomed large as the game got tight.
- Georgia was willing to concede defensive rebounds in order to get back and set up the defense. 22 Cal offensive rebounds were not part of the plan. One of the disadvantages of zone, especially when you don’t practice it often, is that rebounding becomes about improvisation as you aren’t assigned a man to block out. Georgia struggled to rebound on both ends, and they weren’t aggressive about establishing position even when they did find someone to block out.
- The foul trouble of the seniors cost Georgia their poise down the stretch. James quickly went from three to five fouls, and Hassell was neutralized with four. Miller had filled in admirably at point guard when foul trouble set in for James in a hostile environment at Kentucky, but she was tentative when called on in this game. Georgia’s offense came unglued, and good defense wasn’t enough to overcome that.
And yet with all of that, the team went to overtime in a regional final with a very strong opponent. As I said at the start of this post, that’s this year’s team. You can nitpick the details and come away frustrated, but there they were: near the top of the SEC and as close as you can get to the Final Four. That’s the legacy of this team and its seniors – more often than not they found a way to overcome their flaws and ended up elevating the program.
Monday April 1, 2013
Georgia’s upset win over Stanford earned them the right to celebrate for a short while, but one big hurdle remains before the program returns to the Final Four for the first time since 1999. 2-seed Cal broke open a game that was tied at halftime to beat LSU 73-63. LSU gave up 47 points in the second half as their upset bid fell short. Georgia will meet Cal on Monday night at 9:30 ET on ESPN with a trip to New Orleans on the line.
Cal will be every bit the challenge that Stanford was. They’ve only lost three times all season, and they were co-Pac-12 champs after beating Stanford during the regular season. The Golden Bears considered themselves Stanford’s equal and had anticipated a rematch in the regional finals before Georgia crashed the party.
But while Cal might be comparable to Stanford in quality, it’s a completely different style of challenge for Georgia. The Iowa State and Stanford games were big tests of Georgia’s ability to grind against two very good halfcourt-minded teams. Neither opponent liked to push the tempo, and they presented Georgia with few opportunities to run. Not so with Cal.
The Golden Bears are quick and athletic and are scoring around 72 points per game. It could present Georgia with a chance to push the tempo a little more, but there’s also the danger of getting into a shootout with a team that can get out and run themselves. It will be an extreme test of Georgia’s ability to control tempo with its defense. Georgia’s offense will also have to limit the turnovers and long rebounds that let Cal’s outstanding transition offense get going the other way. If you need an SEC comparison, think Kentucky – especially on offense.
Cal is led by senior guard Layshia Clarendon. She averages over 16 points per game, and she fueled Cal’s explosive second half against LSU with 16 points and 6 steals after intermission. Brittany Boyd handles point guard duties. She has 145 assists on the year but can also score with over 12 points per game.
Forward Gennifer Brandon averages a double-double and will be a tough matchup inside. Georgia’s posts can’t afford too much attention on Brandon because center Talia Caldwell gets over 9 PPG. The defensive assignments will be interesting – does Hassell match up against the better scorer or rebounder in Brandon, or does she get the true center in Caldwell? How will Armstrong fit in this post defense?
Cal, as any good transition team does, draws fouls and gets to the line. The Golden Bears have attempted at least 24 free throws in each tournament game so far and earned an amazing 41 trips to the line in their win over LSU. Georgia must be disciplined with their fouls. Hassell got into trouble against Stanford with some unnecessary fouls away from the basket, and those need to be avoided against a team that knows how to draw contact and get to the line.
If Georgia can avoid sending Cal to the line and force the Golden Bears into playing a lot of halfcourt offense, the Lady Dogs could have the advantage. Cal shoots only about 30% from outside, and LSU held them to 3-11 from beyond the arc. Even in victory, Cal is giving up over 71 points per game in the tournament. That speaks to both the tempo at which they like to play and the opportunities that should be there for Georgia’s offense.
On paper, it’s a mismatch in terms of coaching experience. Andy Landers has coached in 11 regional finals while second-year Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb is coaching in her first regional. But Gottlieb’s two seasons have been packed with success. Cal finished second in the Pac-12 a year ago and advanced to the NCAA second round. This year her team was conference co-champs, and she has them playing deep into the tournament. Neither team’s players have played at this stage of the tournament before, so Georgia will hope that Landers’ experience can be a calming and deciding factor.
Baylor’s upset loss to Louisville on Sunday night opens things up on Georgia’s side of the bracket. One of Georgia, Cal, Tennessee, or Louisville will play for the national title. Georgia’s win over Stanford made bigger things possible, but Cal stands in the way of the road to New Orleans and the Georgia program’s sixth Final Four. This is new territory for the Cal program, but they expected to be here. Can Georgia put aside the success they had against Stanford and get up again to play a favored and determined opponent?
Monday April 1, 2013
The Lady Dogs fought back from deficits in both halves to earn a 61-59 upset win over top-seeded Stanford Saturday night in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Women’s Tournament Spokane Regional.
Georgia hadn’t advanced beyond this round since 2004, and they had lost their previous three trips to the Sweet 16 by an average of more than 30 points. It looked early on as if we were headed back down the same path. Stanford jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, and the Lady Dogs didn’t score until a Krista Donald offensive rebound with 14:23 left in the half. Despite the slow start, Georgia managed to keep the deficit in single digits and made their first run more than midway through the second half. Jasmine James scored a quick eight points to key a 13-4 run that gave Georgia their first lead at 22-21. Stanford recovered and went on another tear to close the half on a 13-5 run.
Georgia started the second half within striking distance but couldn’t make much progress. The defense was having better success, but the offense couldn’t capitalize. The score remained 39-32 in favor of Stanford for nearly four minutes, and the teams combined for just 15 points over the first ten minutes of the second half. Georgia began another push with about nine minutes left. Tiaria Griffin hit a jumper in transition and followed it with a three-pointer. The Lady Dogs scored nine straight to take a 44-42 lead with eight minutes remaining.
The teams traded punches for the final eight minutes with neither leading by more than three points until the final minute. Jasmine Hassell, held to just seven points for most of the game, scored on three consecutive possessions, and her drive with 1:05 left gave Georgia the lead for good. Stanford committed a costly turnover, and Georgia milked their next possession before a pair of free throws gave them a four-point lead with 23 seconds left. Georgia’s defense forced Stanford to burn a lot of clock, but the Cardinal hit a deep three-pointer with five seconds left. Georgia, as they did against Iowa State, executed a long inbounds pass and ran off all but one second of the remaining time. Shacobia Barbee hit one of two free throws, and Stanford was left with just a desperation heave as the clock ran out.
Beating a #1 seed is a tremendous accomplishment, and it’s something that Georgia hadn’t done since 1996 – when they faced Stanford in the 1996 Final Four. The win is a big step forward for a tradition-rich program that hadn’t been able to get over this hump for nearly a decade. It’s a legacy for a celebrated senior class who all contributed at key moments in the game. It’s also a small amount of redemption for Andy Landers. Facing long odds to break the team’s string of Sweet 16 futility, he kept calm and trusted in his team’s ability to hang in. The team reflected that calmness and never let the deficit become unmanageable even during scoring droughts.
Landers also made one important adjustment. Stanford’s star forward, Chiney Ogwumike, scored 18 points in the first half. Georgia was content for Ogwumike to have some success, but it was coming far too easily. Georgia dropped another forward, often Anne Marie Armstrong, to help contain Ogwumike in the second half. That freed up some opportunities outside, but Georgia’s guards adjusted well and forced Stanford to settle for difficult jumpers rather than an easy look inside for Ogwumike. Ogwumike still scored eight points in the second half, but the rest of her team couldn’t do enough to make up for the loss in production.
Georgia’s defensive adjustments gave the offense just enough slack to overcome its struggles. “If we can just hang in there until somebody hits a shot, we’re going to be OK,” Landers explained. We knew it wasn’t likely that Georgia would repeat its success from outside that they enjoyed against Iowa State. Early on, Georgia had trouble even finishing at the rim. They got their points in spurts, often with one individual leading the charge. In the first half, it was James. Griffin got hot in the second half. Whether Stanford wore down defensively or Hassell found another gear, Georgia’s senior forward came up big in the final minutes.
Though no one Georgia player was as dominant as Ogwumike was, enough players hit shots at the right time to keep Georgia close enough for the final push that got them over the top. As Landers put it, “I think the thing that’s so good about the comeback and going ahead is that each one of those five players did something that was really significant as we did that. And they did something really significant on each end of the floor.”
Thursday March 28, 2013
Georgia’s lack of an indoor practice facility seems to come up every few years – usually when weather has forced a change of plans for the football team. It’s back in the news this spring after two events. First, Aaron Murray’s spring break work at Oklahoma left him impressed with the Sooners’ facility. That, and a little rough early spring weather, led to a lighthearted (and unsanctioned) PR campaign last week.
Then on Saturday, stormy weather forced Georgia to postpone a scheduled spring scrimmage to Tuesday. That’s no big deal, but several important recruits were in town to observe the scrimmage. The canceled scrimmage changed the day’s plans which gave coaches more time to meet with prospects in person but also took away the central attraction of the day for some. When a prospect remarked ($) that “they need an indoor facility,” fans reacted to a disapproving comment from a recruit and joined the call for a facility.
If you’re one of the people wanting this done yesterday, the good news is that the project might soon be in reach. If you’ve thought of an indoor facility as a waste of good money, the good news is that the price tag need not be as steep as we thought a few years ago.
An indoor facility has been in the works since the Donnan years. It was one of the first things Richt talked about when he got to Georgia. We hear every so often that it’s in the works and a top priority, but here we are a decade later still without one. The same points come up each time, so hopefully a little Q&A will cover most of the background – what’s involved with an indoor facility, why after all this time is Georgia without one, and what would it take to make it happen?
Does Georgia really need an indoor facility?
Depending on whom you ask, an indoor facility is anything from an immediate need costing Georgia recruits and precious practice time to an extravagant monument to the excesses of college football. I think it comes down squarely in the “nice to have” category. Yes, it’s inconvenient to alter the practice schedule, especially during the tight timetable in the season when lost days can’t be made up. It’s also unfortunate to disappoint recruits who might’ve been looking forward to watching a practice.
Recruiting ends up being one of the biggest reasons to have an indoor facility. They’re supposedly heavy artillery in the facilities arms race, and being able to hook up a game console to the display inside your facility is all part of the package designed to impress and awe prospective players. Schools still manage to sign highly-ranked classes without such a facility, but we can’t deny the wow factor.
The actual usefulness to a team is less clear. There’s one obvious use case: practicing during bad weather. There will be other uses – individual workouts, a site to host Pro Day, and even other teams can take cover there. Reality seems to be that the facilities don’t get used as much as we’d expect.
UGA officials have talked about building an indoor practice facility for years, but when UGA administrators toured other universities that have such indoor facilities, they found that the schools’ football teams rarely used the expensive buildings. Instead, the biggest user seemed to be the schools’ track teams, said UGA athletic director Damon Evans. “Football hardly ever utilized the facility,” Evans told the board of directors of the athletic association.
So there’s a cost / benefit analysis to be done. A lot of other programs have decided that what few benefits come from a facility are worth the costs. Of course some of these programs haven’t been the best stewards of their checkbooks.
If there’s even a small need and most other schools have one, why doesn’t Georgia have one yet?
Short answer: given the scope of what Georgia planned for its indoor facility (more on that below), there have been higher priorities for its capital budget. The athletic association has responsibilities to all of its programs, and we’ve seen some impressive projects like the $30 million Coliseum Training Facility. Even when it comes to football, other projects have been more important since Mark Richt became coach. There have been very visible projects like an expanded Sanford Stadium and some improvements out of the public eye like improved outdoor practice fields.
Most recently the athletic association completed a $40 million expansion of the Butts-Mehre facility that primarily benefits the football program. When it came down to it, Mark Richt supported this expansion over a separate football facility.
After seeing other schools’ facilities, UGA football coach Mark Richt said he’d rather have the Butts-Mehre expansion than the indoor football field, said UGA President Michael Adams, who also is chairman of the athletic association board.
What’s the big deal? How much could it cost to put a roof over a practice field?
An “indoor facility” can can cover anything from a simple $6-7 million covered field like Georgia Tech just built to a $26 million facility at Michigan. The range comes from what you want out of the building. Putting a roof over 120 yards of turf is relatively inexpensive. It’s when you think bigger that the price tag goes up.
Georgia and Mark Richt think bigger. Even nine years ago, Richt had a pretty clear vision of a multi-use facility that would be far more than just a covered field.
Richt spoke in detail about a comprehensive facility that he said would include an indoor track and would benefit other teams and the band during inclement weather….It would include a weight room on the bottom floor, administrative offices on the second floor and a third-floor dining hall that would be part of the university dining system.
As you can imagine, that kind of building wouldn’t come cheap. Texas A&M completed a nice facility in 2008 that combined an indoor practice facility with an indoor track at a cost of $35 million. Georgia has braced itself for a big-ticket facility for a while.
Athletic officials considered an indoor facility more than four years ago when Jim Donnan was coaching the Bulldogs. The pricetag then was in the $25 to $30 million range. The cost now would be significantly higher especially with the scope of the project that Richt talked about.
Wait – didn’t we just build an indoor something or other?
Sort of. That $40 million improvement and expansion of the Butts-Mehre building took care of a lot of needs. The weight room was addressed. There’s a lot more meeting and office space. There’s even a large turf-covered area that can be used for walk-throughs and can be re-purposed for large gatherings. The only things it isn’t: a full-length covered field and an indoor track.
I can’t see Georgia throwing away a $40 million project just to build it all over again in a standalone football facility. The good news is that the Butts-Mehre expansion allows the scope – and cost – of an indoor practice facility to be pared back to something that’s more likely to get done sooner than later. Schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Virginia have all recently unveiled new facilities that came in under $20 million.
The bad news is that it might require going back to the drawing board. Georgia’s ambitious facility has been the plan for over a decade now. Would the stakeholders (especially Coach Richt) support a facility that’s pared down to “only” an indoor field? Would the athletic association open the wallet for something that’s not exactly multi-use and might exclude an indoor track? Those discussions to revise the existing plans need to take place before Georgia can start building.
Even so, isn’t Georgia sitting on a pile of cash? Why are they being so stingy?
It’s true – Georgia has about $68 million in reserve funds as of last fall. That doesn’t mean that it’s idle cash. It’s foremost a safety net against any kind of downturn. Properly invested, reserves can also provide interest income to cover some of the minor upkeep projects that we hear about every year.
With annual expenses now over $88 million, the current reserves are about 80% of a year’s spending. That might seem like a lot, but let’s consider the Tennessee situation: the perfect storm of a poor economy, declining support of a poor flagship football program, hefty buyouts for coaches, and $200 million in debt has led to reserves dipping under $2 million and an operating deficit. Georgia’s not nearly in that situation, but it’s not hard to imagine the strain a sustained downturn in football could put on the bottom line.
It’s worth mentioning again that Georgia hasn’t avoided spending on facilities projects. From the 600 level and Reed Alley at Sanford Stadium to the Coliseum Training Facility to the Butts-Mehre expansion, there have been several high-dollar additions and improvements. There are even more smaller projects like the Stegeman Coliseum renovation and new scoreboards. Annual expenses have gone from around $72 million in 2010 to $88 million now. Good financial management isn’t a bad thing.
Where would it go?
Location matters, and that’s been at the heart of some of the decisions that have been made. Real estate is limited in and around the Vince Dooley Athletic Complex. Building a full-length indoor field in that area would require the expensive relocation of something like Foley Field or the Spec Towns Track, or it would cost the football program at least one of its four outdoor practice fields. Losing an outdoor field isn’t optimal, and it’s one of the reasons why the Butts-Mehre expansion only included a short stub of indoor turf – there just wasn’t the room to go bigger.
Most plans then call for any new facility to be built out on South Milledge by the soccer and softball complex. Though the hilly terrain out there would add to the site preparation costs, there’s plenty of room for a facility and parking (even for scooters!). The downside is that the remote location reduces the utility of an indoor facility. A practice couldn’t just be relocated next door for inclement weather – there would be the same logistical steps as there are now when a practice gets moved to the Ramsey Center. The facility would be several miles away from training areas, the main football offices, and all of the other amenities added to Butts-Mehre.
TL;DR: So what’s the outlook?
If you’d like to see an indoor facility, the good news is that there aren’t many higher priorities remaining. There’s a $5 million plan for Foley Field, but that’s already in the fundraising stage. Sanford Stadium won’t be expanded any time soon, but it could always use some improvements. As far as major capital projects (>$10 million) go, the indoor facility looks to be next in line.
Because of the Butts-Mehre expansion, we expect plans for this football facility to be scaled back to a building that could come in around $15 million. That does mean starting from square one and a revision to the master plan, and that will take some high-level approval from the athletics board before we even draw up plans. They don’t exactly meet every week, so it could be later this year for an indoor facility to become an agenda item.
Location seems locked in on South Milledge. That will give the building all of the room it needs, but it will also isolate it from the rest of the football facilities and make it slightly less useful than a building that’s adjacent to the existing practice fields. That’s the trade-off of getting all of the other items on the wish list.
The final hurdle will be fundraising. The athletic association isn’t eager to increase its debt load, so most – if not all – of the money for this facility would come from private sources. With that in mind, a $15 million target looks a lot more attainable than $30-40 million. Still want an indoor practice facility? Send that check to 1 Selig Circle…
Thursday March 28, 2013
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.
Tuesday March 26, 2013
Georgia’s 65-60 win over Iowa State puts them into the Sweet 16 for the 20th time in program history and for the third time in four seasons for this group of seniors.
Spokane is hosting both the first rounds and the regional this year, so Georgia will be in a familiar city for their next game. The venue will change – they’ll move from the Gonzaga campus to the larger Veterans Memorial Arena downtown.
When Georgia last went out west in 2010, they started in Tempe and played the regional in Sacramento. They chose to come home between the sessions, and a quick turnaround had them headed back out west for their third cross-country trip in a week. This time the team will remain in Spokane during the break between rounds. That should help their condition for the next game, but it’s tough to imagine missing over a week and a half of classes. Knowing Andy Landers’ commitment to academics, it would be interesting to hear some of the ways the team is keeping up during their time away.
We know that Georgia will play on Saturday night, but their opponent is still unknown. Top-seeded Stanford will face 8-seed Michigan on Tuesday night for the right to advance to Spokane and play Georgia. 2-seed Cal needed overtime to win their second round game Monday night, and LSU will face Penn State for the final spot in Spokane. Game times on Saturday are currently set for 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. PST (9:30 and 11:30 p.m. ET), but those times are subject to change as ESPN sets its schedule. Should Georgia advance, they’ll play again next Monday at 9 p.m. ET against the Cal vs. LSU/PSU winner.
Tuesday March 26, 2013
The 2012-2013 Lady Dogs season has been all about a veteran senior class blending with a talented group of freshmen. So with the season on the line it makes sense that a senior and a freshmen combined to make sure that the season would continue. Shacobia Barbee continued her brilliant NCAA Tournament performance with 20 points, and Anne Marie Armstrong added 13 to help 4-seed Georgia win a thrilling 65-60 game against 5-seed Iowa State in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament. With the win, Georgia advances to the Sweet 16 for the 20th time in program history.
Things started as close as you’d expect from a 4-5 matchup. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half. The game quickly became about Georgia’s outside shooting versus Iowa State’s size inside. Cyclone forward Anna Prins proved to be a tough matchup on both ends – she was able to shoot over Georgia’s interior defense, and her range extended beyond the arc. On defense Prins was a shotblocking threat that frustrated Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell and held Georgia’s leading scorer without a point in the first half.
With Hassell neutralized, Georgia had no choice but to look outside. Fortunately the shots fell. The Lady Dogs shot under 30% from outside this year, but they drilled eight three-pointers in the first half to stay in the game. Anne Marie Armstrong, despite early foul trouble, went on a personal 8-0 run to turn a four-point deficit into a four-point lead. The teams went to the locker rooms tied at halftime.
Georgia opened the second half with increased intensity on defense and a greater effort to get the ball inside on offense. Though the scoring started slowly, Hassell finally got going around the basket. Georgia’s defense was stifling and held the Cyclones without a basket for the first seven minutes of the half. Georgia didn’t run away with the game, but they started the second half on a 19-5 run that opened up a 51-37 lead with 9 minutes left.
Iowa State didn’t fold and began to close the gap. Georgia suddenly like a team that struggled hitting the outside shot. A pair of Iowa State three-pointers turned a comfortable nine-point Georgia lead into a three-point advantage around the 5-minute mark, and we were set for a tight finish. It ended up being a 19-1 run for the Cyclones, punctuated by Prins’ second three-pointer of the night inside of 3 minutes left that put Iowa State up by 4 and had Georgia reeling.
Desperate for an answer, Georgia turned to its freshmen. Tiaria Griffin drove towards the paint and found Barbee open on the left wing. Barbee calmly drained her third three-pointer of the night to close the gap to one and put an end to Iowa State’s run. Then it was Armstrong’s turn. Anne Marie caused a turnover on the other end and found herself wide open at the top of the key on the secondary break. She nailed the three-pointer to put Georgia back on top. Iowa State answered with their own deep shot to retake the lead, but Armstrong came up big again by handling a tough lob pass and going under the basket for a reverse layup that gave Georgia the lead for good. Iowa State missed their next shot, and Armstrong forced a jump ball on the rebound. With the possession arrow in Georgia’s favor, Iowa State had no choice but to start fouling, and Barbee hit three of four shots at the line. Iowa State didn’t manage another basket, and Georgia sealed the win with a full-court pass to a streaking Jasmine James.
The game was about as exciting as Georgia’s comeback win over FSU two years ago that send the Lady Dogs to their most recent Sweet 16. Georgia had to play outside of their comfort zone on offense and overcome a big size disadvantage in order to win. For the second straight game they won despite a big deficit on the boards, and the cold stretch in the second half nearly cost them. On the whole though the outside shooting was as good as it’s been all year, and they only turned it over 5 times.
The defense was outstanding. They held a team that shoots about 43% well below their average. Though Prins’ size was tough to deal with, no other player was consistently effective. Though Iowa State got back in the game on their run, Georgia’s defense helped to surround that stretch with Georgia spurts of 19-5 and 13-4. The offense in this win was unconventional for this Georgia team, but the defense was typical of what has carried the team this year.
Monday March 25, 2013
Georgia’s women’s swimming and diving team rolled to its fifth national title over the weekend, posting 477 points to runner-up Cal’s 393. The team features Olympians Allison Schmitt and Shannon Vreeland, but a team accomplishment like this requires contributions up and down the roster. The highlight of the meet was the 400-yard freestyle relay which broke the NCAA and U.S. Open records.
The national title is Georgia’s first NCAA team title since 2009. That means it’s the first team national title under athletic director Greg McGarity, who was appointed to the job in August 2010. That merited the AD joining the national champs for a celebratory dive into the pool.
Monday March 25, 2013
The Lady Dogs opened up a tight game midway through the second half for a 70-50 win over Montana in their NCAA Tournament opening game on Saturday. Georgia squandered an early lead and Montana fought back to within two points, but a decisive run with about 13 minutes left put the game out of reach. Tight Georgia defense began to wear on the 13th-seeded Lady Griz who scored just 14 points over the final 15:53 of the game.
We know by now that Georgia’s not going to light up the scoreboard, so they’ll go as far as defense will carry them in the tournament. At its best, Georgia’s defense both disrupts the opponent’s offense and creates chances to score in transition. That combination was on display during the pivotal second half stretch against Montana. Georgia held Montana to under 30% shooting and forced 17 turnovers while recording 8 blocks and 7 steals.
Georgia’s halfcourt offense wasn’t bad – they assisted on 15 of 28 made shots, and they only turned it over 11 times. They shot 46% from the floor – better than their typical 40%. The only thing that held them back was missed shots – Tiaria Griffin was just 1-of-7 in her first NCAA Tournament game, and Jasmine James was 4-of-12. Other players stepped up to help. Jasmine Hassell had her usual efficient performances with a game-high 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Shacobia Barbee had an impressive tournament debut with 13 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Georgia’s depth proved key: bench players scored 19 points led by Erika Ford’s 8. Tameka Willis added four points and four rebounds in just 9 minutes of playing time.
The Lady Dogs advance to the Round of 32 where they’ll play fifth-seeded Iowa State. On one hand, it’s a good thing to be facing Iowa State. Host team Gonzaga has been a giant-killer in recent seasons, and they pushed Iowa State in the opening round. With the hosts out of it, there should be a relatively sparse and neutral crowd. The bad news of course is that Georgia will face a very capable and balanced opponent. Iowa State has good height, and most players aren’t afraid to step out for a perimeter shot. They shot over 50% in their opener and hit nine three-pointers.
One key in this second round game will be rebounding. Georgia was outrebounded by Montana, and the Lady Dogs gave up 17 offensive boards. Iowa State controlled the glass against Gonzaga with 39 rebounds. Georgia will need to emphasize rebounding for two big reasons: first, second-chance opportunities for a team that shoots as well as Iowa State almost guarantees that the possession will result in points. Second, Georgia looks to push for transition chances off of defensive rebounds. Those opportunities to run can mean valuable points for a team that can struggle at times in its halfcourt offense. Iowa State doesn’t go very deep, so any chance to push the tempo could pay dividends later.
Georgia’s bid to return to the Sweet 16 should tip off from Spokane, Wash. at about 9:50 p.m. ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN.
Tuesday March 19, 2013
Georgia’s 2012-2013 basketball season ended up having quite a bit more life than I expected, but it still ended just short of a shot at postseason consideration. Mark Fox has patroled the Stegeman sidelines for four years. The NCAA Tournament bid in 2011 was the high point, but the process of rebuilding the program has been slow going. Have we reached a plateau, or will there be a payoff to patience in and a commitment to a coach?
Getting Georgia back to the postseason is going to be about the players. With Caldwell-Pope’s return for next season still up in the air, Georgia might have to find answers elsewhere. One player like Caldwell-Pope can elevate a program, but we learned this year that the rest of the cast must do its part. There was some nice progress from the freshmen in the backcourt. The frontcourt remains a liability. If Georgia is going to continue to show progress next season, there are significant holes to fill.
Though no team from the state of Georgia is headed to the 2013 tournament, there are 25 student-athletes participating who called Georgia home. I don’t mean to suggest that Georgia would be a contender if they built a team around this list – there are players here from high-major starters to minor program benchwarmers. There are also several good players from Georgia who are on teams that didn’t make the tournament. But good recruiting starts at home, especially in a state like Georgia. Will Kentavious Caldwell-Pope be a rare exception, or will some of these home-grown impact players start to pick Georgia and lead Fox’s program to the postseason?
||Powder Springs (McEachern)
||4.8 pts / 3.4 reb
||Fla. Gulf Coast
||Conyers (Rockdale County)
||14.0 pts / 4.4 reb
||Cochran (Bleckley County)
||12.8 pts / 7.2 reb / 1.6 blk
||Savannah (Urban Christian Academy)
||12.6 pts / 3.1 asst
||1.2 pts / 1.1 reb
||Atlanta (Pace Academy)
||0.4 pts / 0.4 reb
||Austell (Oak Hill Academy)
||Waynesboro (Burke County)
||1.8 pts / 1.6 reb
||Fla. Gulf Coast
||Atlanta (Montverde Academy)
||DNP – transfer
||Smyrna (Hargrave Miliary Academy)
||10.5 pts / 4.7 reb / 2.6 asst
||Atlanta (Oak Hill Academy)
||15.3 pts / 3.8 reb
||12.1 pts / 4.3 reb / 7.2 asst
||Rentz (West Laurens)
||12.5 pts / 5.8 reb / 2.4 asst
||Atlanta (Woodward Academy)
||0.8 pts / 0.7 reb
||DNP – injured
||12.7 pts / 10.7 reb
||Hinesville (Liberty County)
||5.9 pts / 1.8 reb
||4.8 pts / 3.8 asst
||Atlanta (Southwest DeKalb)
||7.8 pts / 4.6 reb
||Marietta (Whitefield Academy)
||6.3 pts / 3.9 reb
||Atlanta (Miller Grove)
||Has not played since Nov. 15
||Atlanta (Miller Grove)
||2.2 pts / 1.1 reb
||9.5 pts / 3.7 reb
||2.4 pts / 1.4 reb
Tuesday March 19, 2013
Andy Landers’ squad enjoyed the relatively close destinations of Auburn and Tallahassee in the opening rounds of the two most recent NCAA Tournaments. This year, for their 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, they’ll be sent about as far from Athens as possible.
The Lady Dogs earned the 4-seed in the Spokane Regional of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Georgia will open on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) against 13-seed Montana in Spokane, Wash. at the McCarthey Athletic Center – the home court of Gonzaga. The winner will advance to Monday’s second round game against the winner of 5-seed Iowa State and 12-seed, and host, Gonzaga.
Should Georgia advance to the Sweet 16, they’ll be right back in Spokane a week later – this time at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, the host site of the regional. It’s doubtful that the team would miss a week of classes to remain out west, so they could be facing consecutive coast-to-coast trips. Three seasons ago the team was sent to Tempe, Ariz. for the opening rounds, returned to Athens, and flew back out to Sacramento for the regional.
They’ll have to take care of business before worrying about frequent-flier miles. Georgia, given a high seed and a venue close to home, didn’t survive the first round a year ago. That loss to Marist should be fresh in the minds of a senior-laden Lady Bulldog team. Georgia faced Montana in 2000 when the opening round was hosted in Athens. The top-seeded Lady Dogs rolled 74-46. The setting won’t be as friendly for this meeting.
The Lady Dogs should expect to feel very much like the visiting team in Spokane. The University of Montana is only a three-hour drive from Spokane. Gonzaga, on their home court, will be a dangerous 12-seed for any of the other three teams. They’ve reached the Sweet 16 in three consecutive seasons. For the past two seasons, they’ve hosted as an 11-seed and ended up knocking off two teams with 3-seeds en route to the regional. Georgia has been fortunate over the past three seasons to host or play at a venue where the host team didn’t qualify for the tournament.
Georgia is the top seed in the Spokane group for the first two rounds. The top three seeds in the region are Stanford, California, and Penn State.