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Malury Bates, a freshman from Roanoke, Virginia, and Maya Caldwell, a freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, defend Vanderbilt players at the University of Georgia women's basketball game vs. Vanderbilt, on February 8, 2018, in Stegeman Coliseum, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com)

This year’s Georgia women’s basketball team is good. Ranked No. 19 in the nation with a 22-5 record? It’s appropriate to call them really good. A good team can get to the round of 32. A really good team could even make it as far as the Elite Eight. But good doesn’t win a championship. Only greatness does, and that’s a level Georgia hasn’t reached quite yet.

Georgia’s got a lot of similar qualities to some of the best teams in the NCAA—good guard play, a dominating low-post presence and excellent coaching. One thing has stood in the way of the Lady Bulldogs making that good-to-great jump, though, is their ability to beat the nation’s elite teams.

Georgia has now played three top-10 teams. The Lady Bulldogs lost all three of those games, and they haven’t been that close, either. Against second-ranked Texas, Georgia put up single-digit points in two different quarters in an 81-53 routing of the Lady Bulldogs.

The game against Mississippi State was even worse. Georgia failed to outscore its Bulldog counterparts in any of the four quarters and lost that game 86-62. No. 7 South Carolina was Georgia’s closest game against a top-10 opponent and it still lost that game by double digits, 77-65.

The Lady Bulldogs aren’t a team that’s going to get upset by lesser opponents. In games against unranked opponents, Georgia is 20-1, with one loss coming to a team that is now No. 24 LSU. The team doesn’t have an issue with taking smaller games too lightly. Georgia is one of the few outliers in the sports world that actually sticks to taking its season one game at a time. Even against ranked teams outside of the top-10, the Lady Bulldogs generally get the better of their opponents. They beat No. 11 Missouri by 12 and got an overtime win at No. 17 Texas A&M. 

It’s clear that Georgia is talented. It’s not easy to win 20-plus games in a season, especially in the SEC. And that talent will likely carry the Lady Bulldogs through the first, second and maybe even through the third round of the NCAA Tournament. But if it makes it to the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight, that’s likely where Georgia will run into the wall it has hit three times already. 

It’s not to say Georgia is fully incapable of winning those kind of games. If a few plays went the other way against South Carolina, maybe that game would have been a win for Georgia, or at least a close loss. Tendencies don’t just disappear, though. Especially when that tendency results in a scoring margin of -64 against top-10 teams.

After going 16-15 in the 2016-2017 season, this is a good conversation to have. Who would’ve thought that there would be talk about Elite Eight possibilities for a team that didn’t even receive a single AP vote until the third week of the season? But that conversation is happening. Joni Taylor has the Georgia women’s basketball program ascending. 

That ascension will build an elite program for the Lady Bulldogs in time. But that time has not yet come for Georgia.  

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