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By Nancy Lieberman
Special to ESPN.com
 

The West is the only regional with the four top seeds still playing. And since Georgia vs. Purdue is the only Sweet 16 matchup between a region's No. 2 and 3 seeds, this could be an excellent showdown.

Both teams have plenty of talent and, when they play up to their potential, are capable of beating anybody. For example, Purdue upset then-No. 5 Penn State, the East's No. 1 seed, in the Big Ten championship. Georgia upset then-No. 1 Tennessee -- the Midwest's No. 1 seed -- in the SEC title game.

Consistency has been Georgia's Achilles' heel. After that win over the Lady Vols, the Lady Dogs then blew an 18-point lead as Vanderbilt came from behind to win the conference tournament final.

While Georgia is as athletic as ever, you're not always sure which version of the Lady Dogs will show up, and consistency might be the biggest question they face as the head into coach Andy Landers' 14th Sweet 16 appearance.

In that 68-66 overtime victory over Tennessee in the SEC tournament, four Lady Dogs finished in double figures. They made clutch steals -- Sherill Baker stole an inbounds pass then scored to tie it at 63 -- and huge shots -- Janese Hardrick drove to the basket for the game-winning basket with .9 on the clock -- when they needed.

The next day, despite leading 34-18 at halftime, Georgia fell victim to a 20-4 run from Vandy. The Commodores' defensive press and traps led to 11 second-half turnovers for Georgia.

The Lady Dogs' backcourt -- Baker, Hardrick and Alexis Kendrick -- usually takes very good care of the ball, and although two freshman and a sophomore handle the ball the most, Georgia's averaging 15.1 turnovers a game. Georgia's guards are some of the quickest in the Sweet 16, and that could cause problems for Purdue.

The Boilermakers' point guard, senior Erika Valek, is one of the best floor leaders in the nation. Although Shereka Wright is the star of this team, everything revolves around Valek. She makes it work, and is quicker than you think. The key to success for Valek is that she remains confident enough to pull up and take the jumper. But she must be able to handle Georgia's defensive pressure, too, and be smart enough to pass the ball up the floor and then get it back when she's in trouble.

Purdue must continue to play smart, possession-by-possession ball. The Boilers will push tempo when it's on, but are patient enough to slow it down in the half court when needed. And because the Boilers are undersized -- inside, Georgia has 6-5 Christi Thomas, one of the best posts in the game, and 6-2 Jessica Pierce -- Wright's ability to get to the rim must continue to be one of Purdue's greatest strengths. Freshmen Katie Gearlds and Erin Lawless also must continue to play beyond their years.

Bottom line? This game could go either way. Georgia is good enough and talented enough to pull off the upset. But keep in mind I've picked Purdue to reach the Final Four out of this region since Selection Sunday. The Boilers' seniors played in the national championship game as freshmen, and have what it takes to get to New Orleans.

Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.



EAST
1 Penn State
2 Connecticut
3 Houston
4 North Carolina
5 Notre Dame
6 Colorado
7 Auburn
8 Virginia Tech
9 Iowa
10 North Carolina State
11 UC Santa Barbara
12 Southwest Missouri State
13 Middle Tennessee
14 UW-Green Bay
15 Penn
16 Hampton
MIDEAST
1 Duke
2 Kansas State
3 Boston College
4 Texas Tech
5 Louisiana Tech
6 Ohio State
7 Minnesota
8 Old Dominion
9 Marquette
10 UCLA
11 West Virginia
12 Montana
13 Maine
14 Eastern Michigan
15 Valparaiso
16 Northwestern State
WEST
1 Texas
2 Purdue
3 Georgia
4 LSU
5 Miami
6 TCU
7 Villanova
8 Michigan State
9 Arizona
10 Mississippi
11 Temple
12 Maryland
13 Austin Peay
14 Liberty
15 St. Francis (Pa.)
16 Southern
MIDWEST
1 Tennessee
2 Vanderbilt
3 Oklahoma
4 Baylor
5 Florida
6 Stanford
7 Rutgers
8 George Washington
9 DePaul
10 Chattanooga
11 Missouri
12 New Mexico
13 Loyola Marymount
14 Marist
15 Lipscomb
16 Colgate