For the second time in four years, Georgia will begin the NCAA tournament by taking a long trip to the West Coast.
Fourth-seeded Georgia (25-6) will play 13th-seeded Montana (27-3) at about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. The first game in the Spokane Regional will match fifth-seeded Iowa State (23-8) against the 12th-seeded host Gonzaga (27-5) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter where we go,” Georgia senior guard Jasmine James said. “It’s just a great thing to be in the tournament, period. It doesn’t matter where they send us, I feel like we do get really excited about it. We’re just looking forward to going out there and being ready to play.”
Georgia’s current group of seniors were freshmen the last time the NCAA sent the Lady Bulldogs to the West Coast.
In 2010, Georgia beat Tulane 64-59 in the first round and Oklahoma State 74-71 in the second round in Tempe, Ariz.
After a quick trip back to Athens, Georgia went straight back to Sacramento, Calif., but lost to Stanford 73-36 in the Sweet 16. Spokane is in the Pacific time zone, which is three hours behind East coast time.
“I remember we went there early to adjust to the time change,” James said. “I remember the time change being a little bit different because around six- or seven o’clock everybody was ready to go to bed. But we adjusted and by the time we were ready to play and by the time we went out to the Sweet 16 our bodies were adjusted to it.”
Georgia has four seniors who made the trip West in 2010 — James, Jasmine Hassell, Anne Marie Armstrong and Tamika Willis. But Georgia has been to the western regionals nine times in its 30 NCAA tournament appearances, and advanced through the West to the 1985 Final Four.
“We’ve been as successful there as we have anywhere,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “The thing that I mind about it is it makes it difficult for our families and our fans. When I say difficult, most of them aren’t going to be able to go. But moreover, it’s hard to stay up and watch. That part I don’t like but the rest of it — you get out there, you’re by yourself and you can get focused. You don’t have a lot of peripheral things going on.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who finished at No. 14 in the season’s final Associated Press poll, were knocked out in the first round by Marist last season.
Georgia has made the NCAA tournament 19 consecutive seasons and 30 of the 32 times the NCAA tournament has been played.
Georgia played Montana in the first round of the 2000 tournament in Athens, 74-46. Montana won the 2013 Big Sky Conference’s regular-season and tournament titles. The Grizzlies have advanced to the NCAA tournament 20 times in the last 31 years, all under 34-year head coach Robin Selvig.
“It’s a great feeling to know you’re going,” Georgia freshman Shacobia Barbee said. “The whole time you’re growing up, you’ve watched the NCAA tournament so to be an actual part of it, it’s just an honor. Georgia is known for going to the tournament and making an appearance in general so it’s a big thing. It’s huge. It’s great to know that you’re coming into a great program like this.”