- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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Andy Landers knows his team has struggled through some inconsistency this season. At times, the Lady Bulldogs have been brilliant. At other times, they've failed to fulfill their potential.
But heading into Georgia's first-round game against Rice on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament, coach Landers says his team has produced some of its best practices of the season. And he has high expectations as the Lady Dogs head to Dallas for their opener.
"We feel like we have a lot of good basketball, if not great basketball, in front of us," Landers said.
Fans in Dallas to see first-round games in the Chattanooga and Philadelphia regionals will, in fact, have plenty of good things to see. But it starts on the sidelines, where four of the game's biggest pioneers, who have combined for 2,811 career coaching victories, will be.
Landers, Texas' Jody Conradt, Texas Tech's Marsha Sharp and NC State's Kay Yow have combined for 10 Final Four appearances. Conradt (1986) and Sharp (1993) also have NCAA titles on their résumés, and all four have won national coach of the year honors at least once. Conradt, Landers, Yow and Sharp, who combine for 100-plus years of experience, joined the game when it was played for pennies.
And though Tennessee's Pat Summitt is one win short of tying Dean Smith's career record of 879 victories, Conradt isn't far behind; the second all-time winningest women's coach enters the Big Dance with 868 victories.
Their teams will be among the most well prepared of the tournament, and on one hand, it's sad to think two of them will be eliminated possibly by the other two by the end of the second round. If seeds hold, Georgia will clash with Texas in Chattanooga. NC State could meet Texas Tech in Philadelphia.
So while Chattanooga and Philadelphia boast the top two overall seeds in the tournament, and Chattanooga might be the most loaded region in terms of overall talent (Seimone Augustus, Temeka Johnson, Khara Smith, Tanisha Wright, Jess Strom, Tasha Humphrey, Tiffany Jackson, Sancho Lyttle, Monique Currie, just to name a few), the Dallas pod and its coaches could steal the show.