Georgia’s Marritt Hempe (13) grabs the rebound against Vanderbilt’s Christina Foggie (10) during the SEC women’s basketball tournament Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Georgia had little suspense Monday night. Just minutes into the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament selection show, the Bulldogs appeared on screen as the No. 8 seed in Lincoln, Neb., Regional.
Georgia will face ninth-seeded Saint Joseph's at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. The day's second game will feature top-seeded Connecticut against Prairie View A&M.
"We're excited," head coach Andy Landers said. "It seems like this is the second or third time in the past couple of years that our name has shown up early on the bracket. I guess that's better than waiting. This is the time of year that every coach and player dreams of. We've been working hard to get to this point, and we're pleased that we will again have the opportunity to compete for a national championship."
Georgia secured its 31st invitation in the 33 years that the NCAA has staged an intercollegiate women's basketball championship, a tally that ranks No. 2 nationally. The Bulldogs have traditionally made the most of their opportunities, reaching the Sweet 16 20 times, the Elite Eight on 11 occasions and the Final Four in five tourneys. Georgia finished as NCAA runner-up in both 1985 and 1996.
The Bulldogs will be making their 20th consecutive trip to March Madness and join Tennessee, Connecticut, Stanford and Duke as the only five programs to make every NCAA Tournament during that span.
"It feels great," Khaalidah Miller, the lone senior on the Georgia roster, said. "Not too many players can say that they were a part of four NCAA Tournament teams. I'm proud of that and it's something I'll always be proud of. It feels great to be a part of the winning tradition here at UGA."
This season, Georgia raced to an 11-0 start and as high as No. 15 in the national polls before dropping five of its next six games and opening Southeastern Conference play 0-4 for the first time ever. The Bulldogs rallied to win eight of their next 14 games. Five of those victories came over other SEC Tournament teams – Florida (twice), Kentucky, LSU and Vanderbilt.
The SEC placed eight teams in the 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket.
Georgia returned to practice last Friday following a weeklong layoff during spring break.
"We needed that because we've gone hard at since Christmas," Landers said. "It's the most time we've had off since we started practice back in October. They came back and practiced with an eye on making sure our conditioning was in tact. Each day, we've focused on something different to make sure we didn't rust over during the break. I've been reasonably pleased with how things have gone the last four days."