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2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament: Virginia Tech vs South Dakota State Preview and Pick

Kitley Soule Amoore Gregg VT Nebraska 2022 From VT
Will Locklin | @locklin_will
Writer/Basketball Analyst

After defeating the Seattle 3 region’s 16 seed Chattanooga Mocs 58-33 Friday night, Virginia Tech advances to face off against ninth-seeded South Dakota State in round two of the NCAA Tournament from Blacksburg. The Jackrabbits beat eighth-seeded USC inside Cassell Coliseum in a 62-57 overtime thriller that made the Jackrabbits realize the challenges that lie ahead for them will only be greater.

“I think we have come along with the idea we are going to play other teams that are capable of not only playing with us, but beating us,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. “We have to feel like a team that's capable of beating other people too. We are on an even foot with a lot of teams.”

Indeed, the Jackrabbits are a dangerous bunch from the mid-major Summit League. They held on against USC despite giving up a late lead thanks to efficient offensive play in the overtime period. South Dakota State’s leading scorer, Myah Selland, dropped 29 points on the mighty Trojan horse to lead the way. The Jackrabbits only other double digit scorer was Paige Meyer who chipped in 16 points for the game.

“They know that South Dakota State is a really good basketball team,” Kenny Brooks said. “They're competitors, compete, play hard, disciplined, play fundamentally good basketball.”

While you might think Virginia Tech is on an incredible win streak at 12 straight, try 22 in a row for size. That’s the kind of win streak South Dakota State is on as the Jackrabbits haven’t lost since December 15th; when they had the unfortunate task of playing the still undefeated and top overall seeded South Carolina Gamecocks.

In addition to a perfect 18-0 in-conference record and a Summit League tournament championship in which they ran the table winning by a 32-point margin in the three conference tournament games played, South Dakota State’s has quality non-conference wins too. The Jack Rabbits defeated Mississippi State and Rutgers in December. They also took down two ranked opponents at the time in Kansas State and a then top 10 Louisville in the Bahamas.

“I watched that game against South Carolina. I don't know if it was in December or January. They're not afraid of the moment. They're not afraid of whoever they're playing,” Brooks said. “I watched them play against Louisville in the Bahamas…anybody who is playing at this point in the season is a good team and they know they're good.”

As a whole, South Dakota State is a team centered around their offensive attack. The Jackrabbits square in at 79.4 points per contest, good for 11th best in women’s college hoops. Four double digit scorers lead the way for SD St. in Selland’s 16.4 points per game, Meyer’s 10.4, Burckhard’s 10.4 and Timmer’s 12.1. The Jack Rabbits are also a deep team, with a rotation that gives ten players 10 or more minutes a contest.

“They don't have to rely on one area, but they're well coached. They understand what they want to do. They're hard nosed,” Brooks said. “So we really feel like we need to come out and need to handle our situation and do what we do best and then I think we give ourselves a chance to win.”

Defensively, the Hokies have been an ultra-engaged squad, locking in and shutting down their opponents consistently over the course of their current 12 game win streak. Tech will need to keep that trend going against South Dakota St. when they square off Sunday evening.

“I think at the end of the day, it just is up to us and how physical we play both on the offense and defense. We have to match that physicality and even exceed to win.” Georgia Amoore said.

On the other end, South Dakota State ranks 79th best in the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents to net 60.3 PPG on them. They aren't necessarily a bad defensive team but given their national ranking compared to other opponents the Hokies have faced recently, Tech should have a clear advantage here.

With the pick your poison style of offense Virginia Tech employs, teams either can load up on Liz Kitley and leave the ever-deadly Georgia Amoore and Taylor Soule open or defend the perimeter while leaving Kitley with an easy one on one matchup. The Tech offense makes its bread and butter out of this dynamic and it will surely give the Jackrabbits issues when they match up head to head on Sunday.

“She just draws so much attention. And like as a shooter, I appreciate that because people do turn their hands heads and look at her often. But you know it also opens us lanes for like driving because people do turn their heads and start towards Liz.” Amoore said.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 61, South Dakota State 45

Although the Jackrabbits are no slouch at all, the Hokies will simply have too much firepower on both ends to handle. Tech continues to fire on all cylinders with the one two punch of Kitley and Amoore while locking down opponents on defense. Combine that with the infectious energy of a raucous crowd in Cassell Coliseum and the recipe is out there for the Hokies to cook their way into the Sweet 16 win a win over an underrated South Dakota State team.

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