Entering the season, expectations were not the highest for the Virginia Tech Hokies after the offseason had seen a coaching change with Kenny Brooks replacing Dennis Wolff. A return trip to the WNIT goal seemed like a reasonable goal for a Virginia Tech that had some talent, but faced an ACC returning tons of talent.
However, the Hokies have changed those expectations with the Hokies putting together an incredible non-conference run that has made the Hokies one of the biggest surprises in women’s college basketball.
For the fourth time in recorded program history and first time since the 2005-2006 season, the Virginia Tech Hokies have gone undefeated in non-conference play, getting a win over Delaware State to end 2016 with a 13-0 record ahead of the start of ACC play at home against North Carolina on January 2nd.
The Hokies absolutely dominated Delaware State with this game being over at halftime as the Hokies led 52-21 at the intermission with the rout only getting larger in the second half on their way to a victory.
While the Hokies haven’t played the toughest non-conference schedule, the Hokies have played some quality opponents and gotten big home wins over Tennessee, Nebraska, and Georgetown plus a few road wins including arguably their most impressive win of the season so far on the road at Auburn.
In their opening 13 games, Virginia Tech has shown that not only is this a NCAA Tournament-caliber team, this team is going to be one of the top threats in the ACC and absolutely has a chance to push for a top 4 seed that would bring a NCAA Women’s Tournament regional to Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies have a very talented starting 5 led by star point guard Chanette Hicks who is emerging as one of the best players of the ACC and can do it all for the Hokies offensively and defensively as she has been one of the best defensive players in the country and one of the best offensive point guards. Hicks has a future in the WNBA and the Hokies have one of the best women’s basketball players that has ever played for the maroon and orange at Cassell Coliseum.
In the frontcourt, the Hokies have a talented duo of forwards in Sidney Cook and Regan Magarity who both can produce a double-double on any given night while also being able to stretch the floor and being reliable ball handlers that can attack the rim from the perimeter. Cook and Magarity are going to give every ACC frontcourt and are a big reason why the Hokies are going to be a very dangerous team throughout ACC play.
Virginia Tech also has some experience and shooting to round out the starting 5 starting with Vanessa Panousis who holds the career record for the most threes made by a Virginia Tech player. Virginia Tech also has Sami Hill who has provided some great defense for the Hokies and has stepped her game up a lot in her first year in a starting role for the Hokies.
Depth was a concern early for the Hokies and while it still isn’t great, it has definitely improved a lot starting with freshman guards Kendyl Brooks, who provides quality three-point shooting off the bench, and guard Kaela Kinder who is a quality rebounder and is solid on the offensive end. Tara Nahodil has returned for the Hokies from injury in December and gives the Hokies a third forward that Virginia Tech has been needing while Diandra DaRosa and Erinn Brooks both can provided some solid minutes if needed.
While the talent is there, the biggest reason for the sudden success has to be head coach Kenny Brooks who has implemented his style on a team that is largely unchanged from last year and has already taken many steps in the right direction that I’m not sure many could have seen happening under the previous regime.
Brooks has to be one of the early favorites to be the national coach of the year which would be a well-deserved award for a man who built a dominant program at his alma mater JMU and already has the Hokies playing at an extremely high level. Whit Babcock has clearly hit another home run getting Brooks who has made Virginia Tech women’s basketball relevant again with the Hokies playing at a level that hasn’t been seen in more than a decade.