3/30 wbb

Virginia Tech Hokies forward Taylor Soule (13) sticks the Hokies name on the bracket, March 19 2023

In Coach Kenny Brooks’ seventh season, the Waynesboro native has the Hokies on the heels of a national championship for the first time in program history as the Hokies (31–4, 14–4 ACC) will play the LSU Tigers (10–4–7, 4–1–4 SEC) in Dallas on Friday, March 31.

The Hokies have been one of the hottest teams in the country in 2023. Their 15-game win streak is second only to South Carolina, the other one seed left in the tournament who has yet to lose this season. Thirteen of their wins during this winning streak have come by double digits. 

The Hokies are led by the dynamic duo of guard Georgia Amoore and center Elizabeth Kitley, commonly referred to as the Cassell Queens. Amoore has been one of the best players in college basketball this postseason. After earning 2023 First Team All-ACC honors this past season, she has elevated her game during the postseason. 

Amoore helped the Hokies walk through their conference tournament, earning MVP of the 2023 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament. The five feet, six inches tall guard from Australia has been even better in the NCAA Tournament. As a shooter, she’s approaching uncharted territory, needing just three more three-pointers to break the NCAA Tournament record of 22.

Her teammate, referred to as Liz, has been one of the best players in the country for a few years now. Against Ohio State, Kitley became just the fourth ACC player since 2000 to have 25 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in an NCAA Tournament game. 

The six feet, six inches tall Summerfield native has accomplished just about everything any player can at this level. Kitley is a two-time ACC Player of the Year, a 2,000 point scorer and is the record holder in numerous statistical categories for Virginia Tech including rebounds and blocks. A national championship would undoubtedly bring Kitely into the “G.O.A.T. Hokie” conversation.

Their opponent, LSU, has been one of the dominant teams in college basketball this season. They have won 32 of their 34 games and were unbeaten at home during the regular season. 

Head coach Kim Mulkey is a college basketball icon known for far more than her sideline fashion. Coach Mulkey is one of three coaches to ever earn the AP Coach of the Year award three times. Mulkey is also the first person in men's or women's collegiate basketball history to win national titles as a head coach, assistant coach, and a player. Mulkey has also won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984.

Coach Mulkey’s 2022-23 squad is led by Angel Reese and Flau'jae Johnson. In her first season with the Tigers, Reese was one of the better players in the country, leading the SEC in both points (23.7) and rebounds (16.0) per game. The Maryland transfer led the Terrapins to the Sweet 16 in 2022 as their leading scorer and rebounder. As a star on and off the court, Reese currently leads all men and women in NIL deals. The 6 feet, 3 inches tall forward has helped take women’s college basketball to new heights.

Johnson, referred to as “Big Four” by most of her teammates, is also a woman of many hats. The freshman guard averaged 11.1 PPG during the regular season, but she has been experiencing scoring woes during the NCAA Tournament. Johnson is shooting just 21% from the floor and has scored in double figures just once. Off the court, Johnson is a rapper and is signed to record label Roc Nation while having an endorsement deal with Puma. 

Fortunately for the Hokies, they’ll only have to compete with LSU’s social media stars on the court. In order for the Hokies to win on Friday, they'll need a steady contribution from beyond the arc. Although Amoore leads Virginia Tech's three-point shooting efforts, Cayla King and Kayana Traylor must also play well.

King is coming off a 12-point outing against Ohio State. She should get as many shot opportunities versus LSU. The Tigers will likely send double teams to Kitley’s in a similar fashion to the Buckeyes. King’s ability to knock down those open looks could be the deciding factor.

Traylor has been one of the more efficient Hokies this postseason, shooting 62% from the field. She’ll need to stay out of foul trouble to take some of the pressure off Amoore offensively. Her discipline defensively played a big part in the Hokies winning their last matchup.

The deciding number to watch in this matchup will be Kitley’s fouls. The Hokies don’t have real size coming off the bench, so it will be crucial for Kitley to stay out of foul trouble. She will definitely have her hands full with Reese, but If Kitley can stay on the floor for 30-35 minutes, the Hokies should be in position to advance.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 64, LSU 57 

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