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Virginia Tech Ready to Embrace Being a 1 Seed Against a Familiar Face in Chattanooga's Shawn Poppie

Kenny Brooks 2 Selection Sunday 2023 From VT

On Sunday evening, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team officially earned a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, becoming the first team in program history to achieve that milestone.

The work to earn that 1 seed took time, but Tech now has earned their spot in the national spotlight that comes with a 1 seed.

“You take baby steps,” head coach Kenny Brooks said on Sunday. “Now you have that seeding and the responsibility that comes with it. You’ve got to go out and play like a one-seed.”

The Hokies are aware of the lofty expectations, but for Brooks, it’s important to not look too far ahead and to focus on the task at hand.

“As you go game-by-game, just as easy as we could win all these games, we could lose,” Brooks said. “We’ve had a motto going in saying ‘the only thing we can control is what happens today’. Let’s go 1-and-0.”

With the No. 1 seed in place, the Hokies will play host to the first and second round, as three potential foes will make their way to Blacksburg. Hosting for the first time in two decades, the Hokies knows what it means to bring the NCAA Tournament to Blacksburg.

“It’s monumental,” Brooks said. “It gives Hokie Nation an opportunity to come out and represent. We’re looking forward to taking advantage of it… to reward our fans and also reward our kids and our seniors with another game here is something special.”

One of the teams coming to Blacksburg includes a familiar face at the helm, and it just happens that they will face off against the Hokies in the first round.

That team is the Chattanooga Mocs, the Southern Conference champions led by head coach Shawn Poppie. Poppie spent six seasons at Virginia Tech, joining Kenny Brooks’ coaching staff for his first season at VT in 2016. Following the 2021-22 season, Poppie took his first head coaching gig with the Mocs.

It was quite the debut season for Poppie in his first season in Chattanooga, leading the Mocs to a 20-12 record and a 9-5 mark in Southern Conference play. The Mocs ran through the Southern Conference tournament, winning every game by double digits including a ten-point win over top-seeded Wofford in the championship game to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Throughout his first year as a head coach, one of Poppie’s top supporters has been Kenny Brooks. But this weekend, it will turn the two friends into foes for 40 minutes on the hardwood.

“Poppie is very near and dear to my heart,” Brooks said. “Very deserving of becoming a head coach and winning a championship in his first year… tremendous person and it’s tremendous what he has done for our program, but for 40 minutes, we’re going to battle.”

Despite the Hokies being the heavy favorite, Brooks knows this matchup provides a bit of a wrinkle that other matchups may not have.

“There will be a lot of familiarity with what’s going on,” Brooks said. “I’ve watched them play some and there’s a lot of familiarity with his offenses and what they do. I’m sure they’ll be familiar with us and it’ll be a good all-around game.”

The Hokies and the Mocs square off on Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. and the victor will await the winner of No. 8 Southern California and No. 9 South Dakota State.

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