November 6, 2022
Preseason ACC notes, quotes: Non-conference scheduling wasn’t easy for Virginia Tech
Also, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips weighed-in on the possibility of moving the conference tournament
Having been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons, non-conference scheduling has gotten a bit tougher for Kenny Brooks and preseason No. 13 Virginia Tech. Brooks said recently he had no problem finding opponents during his first few seasons in Blacksburg, “but all of a sudden… a lot of the phone calls weren’t being returned. We had a couple instances in tournament-style (games) where people were like, ‘We don’t want to play Virginia Tech.’”
Returning the ACC Player of the Year in Elizabeth Kitley and adding transfers like Ashley Owusu and Taylor Soule in the offseason probably had something to do with teams being intimidated by the Hokies. Still, there was one team that wanted to play Virginia Tech this season, Brooks said, and that was Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks. Unfortunately, when the call came, Brooks’ schedule was full.
“We were already playing three SEC teams,” Brooks said. “Maybe in the future.”
The Hokies’ non-conference schedule includes Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska and NCAA Tournament teams in Mount St. Mary’s and Longwood. It also includes a road game at High Point, which should have a whole lot of Kitleys in the stands. She grew up just 20 miles away in Summerfield, N.C.
“It’s a very challenging schedule… I think it’s going to be one that will allow us, along with the ACC schedule, to put us in a position to get a coveted seed that we want,” Brooks said. “When we first started, we just wanted to get in. Now, we’re starting to play for seeding.”
The biggest challenge for Virginia Tech will be a Dec. 4 trip to Knoxville, Tennessee to face the No. 5 Vols.
“We wanted to strengthen our non-conference schedule. Obviously we felt like we came up a little bit short last year in being able to host (in the NCAA Tournament),” Brooks said. “We wanted to strengthen our schedule, not only for that purpose, but also to prepare us for the ACC.”
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- I asked Elizabeth Kitley at the ACC Tip-Off in Charlotte if she was 100% healthy in Virginia Tech’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Florida Gulf Coast last season – a game in which she scored a career-high 42 points. She said, “Honestly, no. My shoulder was still a bit messed up. But I think I had enough adrenaline that it was fine.”
- N.C. State guard Diamond Johnson has garnered a few NIL deals since arriving in Raleigh, including ones from Bojangles and Fortnite. She also has an NIL deal with NextGen America, a PAC founded by Democrat Tom Steyer. Her role is to advocate for young people to get out to vote. Johnson spoke with ABC News about her work with the PAC through NIL and what is most important to her leading into Election Day on Nov. 8: “I think the abortion issues… There’s a lot of talk going around about that. We all have our own opinions on it. But that’s my biggest issue, as far as being a woman, a young lady.”
- Speaking of N.C. State, the Wolfpack will appear more than any other ACC team on ESPN’s family of networks this season with 17 games. That’s tied with South Carolina for the most of any team in the country. Louisville will play in 15 ESPN network games while Notre Dame will play in 14.
- You can count ACC commissioner Jim Phillips among those who want to expand the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments. Here’s what he had to say at ACC Tip-Off on Oct. 12 in Charlotte about the topic: “It’s time to look at that… The greatest championship we have are those (men’s and women’s basketball) tournaments… I think where we’re needing some dialogue is in not only looking at the men’s basketball and women’s basketball tournament, but some of the other tournaments that have fewer opportunities. When you have this compression that I feel that we have to address in the sense that you have a lot of schools that are spending a tremendous amount of resources in sports and not having a chance to access those championships, I certainly felt like we deserved more than five ACC teams last year on the men’s side, and I felt like we deserved more than eight on the women’s side… The time is now. The time is now as we’re looking at the overall structure of the NCAA, and one of their responsibilities has been championships. So I’m in favor of looking at it, and I really would like us to expand.”
- The ACC is relocating its headquarters to Charlotte from Greensboro, the latter of which has been the longtime home of the conference’s women’s basketball tournament. Since 2000, the ACC women’s basketball tournament has been held in a place other than the Greensboro Coliseum just once. I asked Phillips if there have been discussions about an alternate location for the tournament. He said, “It’s been the perfect venue, for sure. We have and will continue to look at what we do with all of our championships… Feedback from our coaches and feedback from our student-athletes really is significant to the conference office and myself. But you also don’t want to mess up a good thing, and so you’ve got to kind of balance those two things. But I’m excited about it, and our brand is only getting stronger in women’s basketball. Excited about what this year looks like, and we’ll certainly address future years as we move forward.” So, perhaps don’t expect any immediate changes with where the tournament is played, but perhaps a change of scenery will happen within a few years.
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And quotes …
- Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore on new teammate Ashley Owusu: “Ashley is incredible. She just does some things and you just have to go, ‘Oooh,’ like, it’s embarrassing for the defense really. Even guarding her sometimes, I’ll play the best defense I can and she’ll still find a way to score on me. It’s a good thing to have on your team and a bad thing to play against. She’s a really big threat. I can’t wait for the games to start… We’re sharing. She has plays run for her. I have plays run for me… The scariest part is Ashley is so good at transition and she’s so creative, and I like to shoot it, and she likes to drag and shoot too. So, it’s very complimentary.”
- Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks on Virginia hiring Amaka Agugua-Hamilton: “She’s a tremendous young coach. I think she’s going to make this league better. I have a lot of respect for her and what she’s done. Not only is she a colleague, she’s a friend. I think it’s going to develop into a really healthy rivalry again for Virginia Tech and UVA… Very happy for the rivalry. I think it’s going to intensify.”
- UNC coach Courtney Banghart on fanning the flames in the rivalry with N.C. State: “You got to do what you got to do, right? And guess what? Those two games are now on ESPN. And last year they weren’t… Whatever we can do to put light onto the best teams in the country. If I have to take a bullet to do it, that’s a thing you’ve got to do.”
- Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith on her mindset last season: “When I let it go was when I maximized my full potential in that season. I feel like I played free. When you’re always playing to prove something to people, you play tighter in the game – it feels like the end of the world every time I make a turnover. I swear that’s what it felt like. And I just was like, ‘I don’t care if this person likes me. I don’t care if this host picks me as the ACC Player of the Year.’ I’m playing basketball because I love it and I love my team. And it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. And that’s kind of what changed in me.”
- N.C. State coach Wes Moore on Saniya Rivers: “I just think her potential is off the charts. She’s got some things to work on. She didn’t shoot the ball real well last year. I think she’s very capable of shooting the ball well, and I’ve seen it in practice… Excited to have a player of that caliber. We recruited her hard out of high school, but she got led astray. Luckily, she’s seen the light.”
- Notre Dame guard Olivia Miles on her favorite road environment: “All of them suck. They’re all hostile. But I would say Oklahoma, because we were beating them and it was just fun to see them all walk out of the stadium and be upset and frustrated… I love playing at Georgia Tech, just that arena, the lighting and the court. It was very homey and comfortable.”
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