Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
It’s been a long time coming for Virginia Tech women’s basketball.
After a decade and a half of missing the dance, the Hokies (15-9, 8-8 ACC) now find themselves in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the San Antonio bubble. Virginia Tech is fresh off a gritty 70-63 win over Marquette to open the tournament.
The task is quite tall now — literally and figuratively. Virginia Tech will face the defending national champion Baylor Lady Bears (26-2, 17-1 Big 12) this evening for the right to advance to the Sweet 16. It would be the first appearance for Virginia Tech since 1999 and just the second in program history.
When asked if this is what fifth-year head coach Kenny Brooks envisioned when he took this job back in 2016, his response was immediate — “Absolutely.”
Game Day Information
When: Tuesday, March 23, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Bill Greehey Arena, San Antonio, TX
PXP: Pam Ward
Analyst: LaChina Robinson
Series History: First Meeting
A Look Back
The No. 7 seed Hokies picked up their first NCAA Tournament win since 2006 on Sunday with the victory over No. 10 seed Marquette.
Nothing unusual for the Hokies, it was the Elizabeth Kitley show. The sophomore forward has been a force to be reckoned with this season, and has shown no signs of slowing down.
She put up 23 points and added eight rebounds in the winning effort, as she continues to be a massive threat down low for the Hokies.
Duke transfer Azana Baines has also come along nicely as the season has progressed. She added 15 points while freshman point guard Georgia Amoore scored in double figures as well.
The freshman Aussie put up 13 points and has likely developed as well as anyone on Virginia Tech’s roster throughout the season. She plays with the mindset of an upperclassmen now, as she seems sharper with her decision-making, stronger with the ball, and overall, is playing with more confidence. She’s been paramount in the turnaround for Virginia Tech this season.
Star guard Aisha Sheppard has not been herself since suffering an ankle injury in the win over Miami in the ACC Tournament. But when she’s right, the duo of herself and Kitley is one of the best in the country. She only put up seven points in the win over the Golden Eagles, but is just one shot away from getting hot.
This is going to one of Virginia Tech’s biggest tests this season. Luckily for the Hokies, they’ve had experience in these types of games, playing four top-5 opponents this season. All were close, with three against NC State and one against Louisville. The lone win for the Hokies in those contests came over the Wolfpack.
Still, Baylor has been on top of women’s basketball for quite some time, likely seen as the second-best program in the country behind mighty Conncecticut.
Attempting To Snack
The Lady Bears haven’t been doing much hibernating recently. They’re led by 21st-year head coach Kim Mulkey, who is seen as one of the best in the game with a career 630-104 record in Waco.
A lot of the defending champions’ production comes down low with forward NaLyssa Smith. Smith nearly averages a double-double with 18.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest. This will be yet another gigantic test for Kitley down low.
Guards DiJonai Carrington (13.7 points per game) and Moon Ursin (12.4 points per game) have also been instrumental for the Big 12 champions. Ursin led Baylor with 24 points in the first round victory over No. 15 seed Jackson State.
The Lady Bears are good, and they’ll attempt to make Virginia Tech the next victim in their quest for back-to-back national titles.
Women’s basketball has been a dominant game in year’s past at the top.
However, the gap has closed quite a bit recently. Virginia Tech will challenge Baylor tonight.
But history shows not to go against the Lady Bears. The Hokies are going to have to keep this one in the 60’s to 70’s to win, but that won’t be the case against Baylor’s high-powered offense.
Baylor will knock off the Hokies and advance to the Sweet 16.
Prediction: (2) Baylor 84, (7) Virginia Tech 70