ATLANTA — Georgia Tech received the highest seed in school history. Now, the Yellow Jackets figure it’s time to make their best run in the NCAA tournament.
After tying a program record for wins and reaching the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Georgia Tech (24-8) was rewarded Monday with a No. 4 seed in the Des Moines regional.
The Jackets will race 13th-seeded Sacred Heart in the opening round at Chapel Hill, N.C.
Georgia (22-8) also received a No. 4 seed, despite losing in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament. The Lady Bulldogs will open against 13th-seeded Marist at Tallahassee, Fla., in the Raleigh region.
Both games are set for Sunday.
The Yellow Jackets were thrilled with their seed, which topped last year’s No. 5, and especially excited when they spotted something different in the bracket.
This year, they’ll have a true neutral-site game in Chapel Hill if they make it to the second round, a change from past years when they usually had to face the host on its court.
Georgia Tech is becoming a tournament regular, earning an NCAA bid for the sixth year in a row. But the team has never advanced past the second round.
This appears to be the best chance yet.
“I could see it all over the faces of my seniors when they realized we were going to a neutral floor,” coach MaChelle Joseph said. “This is an opportunity for us. There’s a crack in a door. Now we’ve got to push the door open. Before, it was like the door was closed and we had to knock it down.”
Despite losing to South Carolina in the SEC tournament, Georgia coach Andy Landers figured his team was in line for a fourth or fifth seed.
“I thought we were solid,” Landers said. “This is a good basketball team. We’ve had some good wins, and we have no bad losses. It’s a team that’s been very consistent.”
Georgia is a perennial tournament selection, having missed out only two times in the last 31 years.
But a fourth seed is something new; it’s the first time since 1988 and only the second time overall that the Lady Bulldogs have been placed in that slot.
Like its state rival, Georgia doesn’t have to worry about playing a host school should it advance to the second round in Tallahassee.
Landers isn’t looking ahead that far.
“A neutral court is always a good thing,” he said. “But you’re looking way ahead of where I’m looking. We played Marist four or five years ago, and that’s a good basketball team. That’s really about as far as I care to look.”
Metra Walthour, Georgia Tech’s senior point guard, said her team is intent on getting to the round of 16 — and beyond.
“That’s very important,” she said. “We set a goal to play for the ACC championship and also get to the Sweet 16. We played for the ACC championship. We didn’t quite get over the hump, but we’re going to take that momentum to the NCAA tournament. We’re very confident in ourselves.”