Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Virginia Tech women's basketball has found a new level of consistency under Kenny Brooks with the Hokies making three-straight WNIT appearances along with a pair of undefeated non-conference starts. Despite that, Tech hasn't been able to break through yet and reach the NCAA Tournament under Brooks.
That may change this season.
While the Hokies aren't off to an unbeaten start, they have done well against a solid non-conference slate with a win over a good Purdue team that also has their sights set on the NCAAs. Additionally, Tech's only loss came against a good Georgia team that is also a contender to earn an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
Because of that, the Hokies are already receiving some NCAA attention with ESPN's Charlie Creme having the Hokies as a 9 seed in his latest Bracketology. Tech is also one of 8 ACC teams that made Creme's latest bracket, a sign that Tech's conference slate should once again provide plenty of opportunities for quality victories.
Now expectations weren't crazy high for Virginia Tech before the season with the Hokies being picked 10th out of 15th in the Preseason ACC Polls by both the media and the league's head coaches. There was reason to wonder how good this team would be especially after the graduations of stars like Taylor Emery and Regan Magarity.
However, that doubt probably should have been less given how the Hokies went out and added the SEC's 2018-19 leader in assists Taja Cole, Radford's star post player Lydia Rivers, and five-star center Elizabeth Kitley this offseason. Additionally, the Hokies had a solid core returning highlighted by Dara Mabrey, Aisha Sheppard, and Trinity Baptiste.
That combination has worked wonders for Virginia Tech this season with Cole emerging as the leading assister averaging 6.6 assists per game. Meanwhile, Rivers is second in rebounding with 7.9 boards per game and first in blocks with 15 in 9 games. Kitley has also impressed as she is third in scoring and rebounds averaging 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game along with 13 blocks in 9 games.
Additionally, Tech's top returning trio has taken off this season with Sheppard and Mabrey emerging as one of the best one-two scoring punches in the conference with Sheppard averaging 17.1 points and Mabrey averaging 16.2 points. Both have also been efficient shooting over 47% from the field and over 38% from three-point range. Baptiste has continued to improve as a strong forward for Tech averaging 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 47.4% from the field.
Tech does have some depth concerns as they are looking to their three other freshmen Cayla King, Makayla Ennis, and Taylor Geiman to step up with King claiming the largest role having played in all 9 games and averaging almost 15 minutes per game. Depth has been one thing that has held Kenny Brooks teams back in the past and Tech will need to overcome that in a grueling ACC.
Overall, Virginia Tech has the star talent to continue their strong start in ACC play and pick up some signature wins that could prove valuable Selection Sunday.
While there is a long way to go, Virginia Tech is currently in great shape to break through their WNIT ceiling and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Only time will tell if this team will be able to do what Kenny Brooks' first 3 teams were unable to do.