Photo Credit: Liam Sment
After three WNIT appearances in Kenny Brooks' first three seasons, the Virginia Tech Women's Basketball team has broken through this season. With a mix of returning stars and talented newcomers, the Hokies are well on their way to making their first NCAA Tournament since 2006.
During the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the Hokies were a #7 seed winning their first round game against Missouri before losing in the second round to Connecticut.
Now women's basketball is a little different from men's basketball as the women's game still uses the RPI and some more traditional bracket methods in addition to common stats like strength of schedule.
So to provide some insight, we were fortunate to have veteran basketball writer Russell Steinberg accept our invitation to join us for a Q&A breaking down Virginia Tech's resume and bracket projections.
For those who don't know, Russell writes for numerous places like SB Nation, Mid-Major Madness, A Dime Back, and High Post Hoops, where he is the resident bracketologist for the NCAA Women's Tournament. We also encourage you to follow him on Twitter @Russ_Steinberg.
So with that introduction, here's our Q&A with Russell Steinberg that should provide lots of insight into Tech's NCAA Tournament seeding possibilities and more.
Q: Where do you currently have Virginia Tech projected in the NCAA Tournament and why?
Right now, I have Virginia Tech as the strongest 8 seed in the field, or the 29th-best team overall. That could change slightly between now and when the next bracket goes live (Wednesday) depending on what teams do around them.
The best thing the Hokies have going for them is the lack of any truly bad losses whatsoever. Their worst, at Syracuse, was still on the road against an RPI Top 100 team. On the other hand, they’ve suffered a bit by some ACC teams that they’ve beaten underperforming. Earlier this year, Miami and North Carolina looked like surefire tournament teams. Those wins have lost some luster. The good news is that Virginia Tech can move up with a win over suddenly hot Duke on Thursday.
Q: Is Virginia Tech certain to make the Tournament at this point or is there still a realistic path for them to miss it?
I’d call them a lock at this point. Given that their last two games are against probable tournament teams (including one on the road against a possible 2 seed), they could be forgiven for losing both. Same, probably, for their first ACC Tournament game. Right now, Iowa State is my final team in the field and I don’t see a scenario where Virginia Tech’s resume falls to the point of being remotely comparable. You’re talking about a 10-loss team there with only one win (Texas) against a team sure to be in the tournament.
Q: What are the strengths of VT's resume?
As I said above, Virginia Tech hasn’t lost any really bad games, and there’s more to be said for that than you might think. Over a 30-ish-game schedule, most teams are going to have an ugly blip on there. Those are really the only situations where I’ll drop a team more than a couple spots for taking a loss and that simply hasn’t happened for the Hokies. You might think the loss to Virginia stands out, but Virginia has a top-50 RPI, and I can tell you that is something the committee considers a lot more than their win-loss record.
Q: What are the weaknesses of VT's resume?
Virginia Tech’s strength of schedule did it no favors. The committee says you should schedule “the best teams you think you can beat,” and the Hokies scheduled…some A-10 teams and a few other schools from one-bid leagues. The wins over Rice and Purdue are solid, but neither project to be better than a 9 seed. A couple of big-time wins in ACC play could have mitigated that, but as of now, that just hasn’t happened.
Q: What's the best case, realistic scenario for VT to achieve in terms of seeding?
These questions are always tough because, yeah, theoretically, VT can just win out, knocking off Louisville twice along the way. But that’s not realistic. If they can manage to spring an upset or two, either in the last game of the regular season or in the ACC Tournament, I can see them climbing as high as a 6 seed. Once you start looking above that, however, it gets tough. I’m not sure I can justify a scenario where it has a better resume than, say, Florida State (projected 5 seed), which has beaten the Hokies head-to-head and also has wins over Louisville, Michigan, Texas A&M, and LSU.
Q: What's the worst case scenario for VT at this point?
I don’t think it’s too much worse than where they are now. It’s a high floor. Something people probably don’t realize is that one win or loss against a comparable team doesn’t move the needle a whole lot. Maybe up or down a spot or two. How much can I really punish Virginia Tech for losing at Louisville, a game literally any team in the country can lose? Now, sure, if they lose to Duke, Louisville, and in the first round of the ACC Tournament, they’ll fall a little. Other teams will pass them too. But will it be worse than from their current spot as the best 8 too, maybe, a middling 10? Probably not.
Q: What's the ceiling for this Virginia Tech team in terms of an NCAA Tournament run?
I’m sure you’ve heard this as a cop-out a million times, but so much of it depends on placement in the bracket. If Virginia Tech does stay on the 7, 8 or 9 line, I don’t see it getting out of the first weekend. The 1 and 2 seeds are simply too strong across the board. If you want some hope at a mammoth upset, Virginia Tech does rate as a strong defensive team and has multiple players capable of catching fire from 3. All it takes is one above-average night from you and a bad night from the other team…
Once again, we appreciate and thank Russell Steinberg for joining us and encourage you to follow him @Russ_Steinberg and check out his bracket projections at HighPostHoops.com.