Virginia Tech women’s basketball has hit quite the rough patch. The Hokies have lost their last five games and six of their last seven, thanks to a 76-59 loss to No. 7/8 Notre Dame on Thursday. Tech was ranked in the top-25 earlier in the season, but now find themselves fighting for a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re not a good basketball team right now,” said Virginia Tech women’s basketball Head Coach Kenny Brooks. “What I mean by that is, I think we have the capabilities of getting back on track to being a good basketball team, but at the moment, we’re not a good basketball team.”
No one issue has plagued Virginia Tech during this stretch. It’s been a collection of problems, some of the Hokies’ doing and some not.
Increased level of competition
You’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who don’t think the ACC is the best basketball conference in the country. That statement holds true for both men’s and women’s basketball. Take a look at the ACC teams ranked in the current USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
No. 5 Florida State
No. 7 Louisville
No. 8 Notre Dame
No. 15 Duke
No. 16 Miami
No. 19 NC State
No. 21 Syracuse
That’s seven teams ranked inside the top-25. During this skid, Virginia Tech women’s basketball has lost to five of those teams. The Hokies’ other loss came to Virginia, who’s 15-7 this season. Virginia Tech’s average margin of defeat in their six losses is 22.6 points per game.
“I know Vegas doesn’t put any lines on our games, but I would probably say that we were the underdog in the games that we’ve lost,” Brooks said.
Instead of getting the elite-level teams on the road and playing winnable games at home, the Hokies have hosted Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse at Cassell Coliseum so far. Virginia Tech will host Louisville on Feb. 9.
“It seems like the schedule is not nice to you, because you have Louisville, then you have Florida State and Notre Dame, all of them at home, then you have what some people might call a 50-50 game against Georgia Tech or some other teams, you have them on the road,” Brooks said. “It’s kind of tough. It is what it is.”
Lack of depth
Kenny Brooks did inherit talent when arriving at Virginia Tech, but he did not inherit depth.
For the first half of the season, Regan Magarity and Sidney Cook were the only post-players on the roster. Tara Nahodil rejoined the team after the fall semester and provided some help off the bench, but injured her foot after the Virginia game and missed the Hokies’ game vs. Notre Dame.
The Hokies have primarily played eight players during games, but the starters are logging tons of minutes.
Chanette Hicks: 32.3 minutes per game
Vanessa Panousis: 29.1 minutes per game
Samantha Hill: 32.3 minutes per game
Sidney Cook: 32.3 minutes per game
Regan Magarity: 33.3 minutes per game
Besides Panousis, the starters are on the floor for nearly the entire game. Kendyl Brooks and Kaela Kinder have provided minutes off the bench to give Panousis, Hill and Hicks rest, but both Brooks and Kinder are true-freshmen that are still acclimating themselves to the college game.
Tech’s lack of depth reared its ugly head once again in their loss to Notre Dame on Thursday night, when Magarity picked up her third foul in the first half. With Nahodil unavailable, Virginia Tech was forced to play zone defense, something that goes against their strength. Notre Dame scored 42 points in the paint on Thursday, mostly against the Hokies’ zone.
“We were trying to protect Regan a little bit and they got comfortable against our zone,” Brooks said. “They carved us up.”
Lack of offensive rhythm
Virginia Tech had zero issues scoring earlier in the season, but that hasn’t been the case in the Hokies’ last five losses.
59 points vs. Duke
54 points vs. Florida State
27 points vs. Virginia (VT shot 18.8 percent from the field)
72 points vs. Syracuse
59 points vs. Notre Dame
In Virginia Tech’s last five losses, the Hokies have turned it over on average 18.4 times per game. Virginia Tech turned it over 28 times vs. Florida State. Virginia Tech’s turnovers vs. Notre Dame cost them. The Fighting Irish scored 15 points off of turnovers on Thursday night. Tech has also struggled shooting the ball, connecting on field goal attempts at a 33.6 percent clip in their last five games.
Virginia Tech’s schedule is far from easy for the rest of the season.
Feb. 5 at Georgia Tech
Feb. 9 vs. No. 7 Louisville
Feb. 12 at No. 19 NC State
Feb. 16 at Pittsburgh
Feb. 19 vs. Virginia
Feb. 23 vs. No. 16 Miami
Feb. 26 at Boston College
Realistically speaking, Virginia Tech needs to win all of their remaining games against unranked teams. Georgia Tech is 2-7 in-conference, Pittsburgh is 3-6, Virginia is 4-5 and Boston College is 1-9. If Virginia Tech can shake off their funk soon, they could easily pick up four more conference wins. That doesn’t include Virginia Tech pulling an upset over Louisville, NC State or Miami, which could happen if the Hokies get back their winning ways. It all starts vs. Georgia Tech on Sunday.
“It’s a big one, just because it’s the next one, like coach says all the time,” Chanette Hicks said. “Like you said, they’re not a No. 7 Notre Dame team, so those are the games that we really have to try and walk away with. Even though it’s away, we can win away games. We’ve done it.”
“We know we’re a good team, we just need to believe it,” Vanessa Panousis said. “I think throughout games, especially lately, we can’t have as many lapses as we’ve had.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw says that Virginia Tech is still a team to watch out for, despite their struggles over their last seven games.
“They’re a really good team,” McGraw said. “I watched the Tennessee game earlier in the year and they’re capable of beating every team in this league. I think the momentum has fallen off a little bit for them, and I think it’s going to take just one player to turn that around. I think they’re a dangerous team… I think they’re a scary team, the type you don’t want to play again.”
Brooks said on Thursday that nobody’s given up on the season. He said the team is motivated and driven to turn their season around.
“Anytime you come in here and you take over a team, there are going to be growing pains,” Brooks said. “You’re getting to know your team, your team is getting to know you, you’re implementing a new system. I think we were fortunate enough we got off to a tremendous start. Maybe some people’s expectations got raised a little bit too high. We came in, we had an opportunity, but we’ve hit some adversity and we’ve struggled. The beauty about sports and being with a team is how you get through adversity.”