It would normally be quite all right for Georgia to be happy about being back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.
But that’s not the approach the Lady Bulldogs are taking.
Head coach Joni Taylor, in her first season at the helm, said her team, seeded eighth, isn’t content with simply making the field of 64. There’s a lot to accomplish, which would begin with a win in the first round against No. 9 seed Indiana.
"We’re excited to be back in the tournament but that’s not enough," Taylor said. "We want to play deep into the tournament. That’s what Georgia basketball does. That’s what our expectation is. The hoopla of being back in the tournament is over. It’s back to business."
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The Lady Bulldogs (21-9) enter the tournament having lost their past two games, which included a first-round defeat against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament. But they’ve had to play their last three games without Shacobia Barbee, who suffered a season-ending left distal fibula injury against Florida on Feb. 21.
While Georgia certainly didn’t want to lose early in the conference tournament, it could have served as somewhat of a blessing in disguise. It’s given the Lady Bulldogs some added time to plan for the tournament without Barbee, who averaged 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
"It gives our kids reps to work on us and not worry about an opponent, per se," Taylor said. "It gave us time to watch film on ourselves, tweak some things. We showed them little detail pieces that were missing for us to continue getting better."
One area Georgia should have an advantage is rebounding the basketball. The Lady Bulldogs average 40.6 rebounds per game to Indiana’s 37.7.
Senior guard Marjorie Butler expressed plenty of confidence in being able to force the Hoosiers (20-11) to adhere to Georgia’s style of play.
"They are a team that is very susceptible on the boards," Butler said. "I do think that we can rebound against them. They’re less athletic than us. They have a couple of athletes on the floor. Overall, they like to run the ball but they are nowhere near as athletic as we are. I think we can control the game in that way, and hopefully get some boards and easy shots inside using our athleticism."
Butler remembers what is what like to be outside of the tournament at this time last season and hopes to stay around much longer than others outside of the program may anticipate. If Georgia is able to defeat Indiana, No. 1 seed Notre Dame could be lurking in the second round if it beats No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T. Notre Dame is hosting these two games, with Georgia and Indiana tipping off at 9 p.m. on Saturday.
While it’s a good feeling for Georgia to be dancing again, Butler echoed what Taylor had to say in that being there isn’t enough.
"It’s something that we emphasized in the offseason and throughout the season," Butler said. "It was a huge goal for us to get back into the tournament because we didn’t last year. We felt we let a lot of people down, we let ourselves down. Getting back there is a huge accomplishment but we have so much more we hope we can do."