Tough assignments for Georgia, Tech women

For Georgia and Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball teams, the road to the Final Four – or even to the Sweet 16 – will not exactly rise up to meet them.

Both the Lady Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets received unenviable assignments in the NCAA tournament when the bracket was unveiled Monday night. Georgia was given a No. 8 seed in the Lincoln, Neb., region, where the Bulldogs would play No. 1 seed Connecticut on its campus if they can get past No. 9 seed St. Joseph’s on Sunday afternoon. Connecticut is 34-0, ranked No. 1 in the country and widely expected to reach the national championship final against second-ranked Notre Dame.

“Who wouldn’t want to get a crack at them?” said UGA guard Khaalidah Miller, a senior from Atlanta who will be playing in her fourth consecutive NCAA tournament. “They’re a really good team, a No. 1 seed and they’re going be playing at home. There’s nothing like playing against a team in their place and being able to pull out a win. I think we’re capable of doing that if we play to the best of our ability. In fact, I know we can.”

Tech’s road test will arrive in the first round, as the No. 10 seed Jackets will play No. 7 seed LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday afternoon. It’s Tech’s seventh tournament berth in the past eight years after staying home last season.

“Just being able to go dancing again in the tournament is definitely a great feeling for me and my teammates and everybody who supported us,” said Tyaunna Marshall, Tech’s All-ACC guard. “It feels good right now.”

Counting Tech’s past seven berths, this will be the fourth time that Tech will play a team either on its campus or close to it. It is a reality of the women’s tournament, as organizers often seed teams at their home courts for ostensible neutral-court games in the first two rounds in order to increase attendance.

“Obviously, you don’t like to play on someone’s home court in the first round, but a lot of respect to the SEC and LSU,” Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. “It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve played well on the road this year, so we’re looking forward to it.”

If Tech (20-11) can get past LSU (19-12), it will likely face No. 2 seed West Virginia, which was paired up with No. 15 seed Albany in the Louisville, Ky., regional. The Jackets will play for their second-ever Sweet 16 berth.

For the Lady Bulldogs (20-11), their appearance will simply be more of the same. Monday’s invite was their 31st NCAA tournament bid in the 33-year history of the women’s tournament. Only Tennessee, which has appeared in every one, has played in more.

And Georgia traditionally has played deep into the bracket. The Bulldogs have advanced to the Sweet 16 round 20 times, the Elite Eight on 11 occasions and the Final Four five times. Georgia also finished as NCAA runner-up in both 1985 and 1996.

There was some question late in the year whether the Lady Dogs would make it 20 in a row this year. They were rebuilding after last year’s Elite Eight run and had to rally toward the end of the season to become one of the eight teams selected from the SEC, the nation’s top RPI-rated conference.

“We felt confident we’d be in,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “I suspected we’d be a middle seed and when you’re one of the middle seeds, it so happens you’re going to be paired with one of the tournament favorites.”