For the fourth time ever, Virginia Tech women’s basketball will face off against LSU on the hardwood. This time, it’s for all the marbles in the 2023 Women's Final Four at American Airlines Center in Dallas at 7pm EST for a spot in the National Championship game against the winner of South Carolina vs Iowa.
LSU could in fact be the toughest opponent Tech has faced this season. At one point in time, the Tigers were undefeated 25-0 and second in the AP Top 25 poll before falling to South Carolina by 24 points. LSU's only other loss came in the SEC Tournament semifinals against Tennessee, a team the Hokies beat twice, including most recently in the Sweet 16.
Likewise, Tech faced a couple other SEC teams in the regular season when they went to the Baha Mar Tournament to face Kentucky and Missouri. Against those two opponents, Tech went 2-0 and won by an average 17-point margin of victory. The Tigers went 2-0 as well but won by an average point margin of 19. To get a better look at how Virginia Tech stacks up against another one of the nation’s top teams, let’s look at the three key things the Hokies must do to get a win Friday night.
1. Hold Steady on the Glass
LSU is arguably the best rebounding team in the country not named the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Tigers are top three nationally in total rebounds per game, offensive rebounds, and rebounding margin. On the other hand, the Hokies come in 30th in rebounding margin, but are outside the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounds per game and total rebounds.
Tech has Liz Kitley, one of the best rebounders in the ACC and the country, but they’ll need to have a more concerted effort on the boards from all six players in the rotation. The Tigers star Angel Reese averages 15.7 rebounds a game and an astonishing 6.5 offensive rebound a night.
Kitley will have to battle down low hard with Reese and win some 50/50 balls that tip off the glass. Tech being even with LSU on the boards or even down by just a few would be a big win given the Tigers usual huge advantage here.
2. Dare the Tigers to Rely on Shooting Outside Jumpers
While LSU is a great offensive team, they don’t shoot the long ball well. As a team, they shoot 33.9% from long range and only attempt 14.9 threes a game which ranks 308th nationally. Conversely, LSU obviously takes and makes nearly all of their shots from two-point range and especially in the paint. The Tigers have a team of ferocious drivers and love to get downhill where their stars can finish inside or grab an offensive rebound and score.
LSU takes the six most two-point shots in the country and is top 15 in field goal percentage. Their offensive efficiency is a major part of why they’ve only lost two games all season long.
Tech has been able to adapt to what the opposing team's strengths are on offense very well throughout February and March. They’ll need to clog the paint as much as possible, sag off their perimeter players and let them shoot jump shots. If they make them, they make them, but history tells us that the Tigers don’t win that way this season.
3. Let Georgia Amoore & Liz Kitley Cook
Georgia Amoore and Liz Kitley are the primary catalysts of why the Hokies are here. While Amoore was excellent in the regular season, nabbing an All-ACC First Team bid, she kicked it into high gear this postseason. Amoore won ACC Tournament MVP and set the record for most threes in ACC Tournament history with 14 makes in just three games. Additionally, Amoore is on track to set the NCAA Women’s Tournament record (22) as she’s made 20 threes in four games, one more than Iowa star Caitlin Clark.
Meanwhile, Kitley is still her dominant self. She had averaged just 13 points per game in this tournament through the first three games, well below her 18-point average she’s posted the past three years of her career. However, Kitley bounced right into ACC Player of the Year form again at just the right time, scoring 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocks in Tech’s Elite Eight win over Ohio State.
The answer for Tech’s offense is rather simple. Kitley and Amoore must play their A game and there’s no reason to think they won’t given all that they’ve done this season and especially in March Madness.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 67, LSU 60
Virginia Tech will prevail over LSU in a tight back and forth affair that will see multiple lead changes before the Hokies pull away late. LSU has a rebounding, depth and overall size advantage. However, Tech is a more balanced team offensively and I believe the Hokies will have a great night shooting the three ball.
Since the Tigers don’t shoot it well from behind the arc, Tech’s barrage from downtown will be too much for LSU to handle in the long run, sending the Hokies to the National Championship game on Sunday afternoon.