The Ally Tipoff in Charlotte, NC might feature the most fun women’s college hoops game of the season, as two 2023 Final Four teams now ranked in the top 10—the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) and No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0)—meet at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2).
Here are three things to watch for when the Hawkeyes and Hokies take the court:
Clark vs. Amoore
If there’s one player who can match the offensive punch and panache of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, it’s Georgia Amoore. The Virginia Tech senior point guard possesses her own deep bag of tricks, with a deft handle, playmaking poise and, most notably, a penchant to get hot from downtown.
Clark, at 6-foot-0 with long limbs, can rain 3s over most perimeter defenders with relative ease. In contrast, the 5-foot-6 Amoore often has to create space for her off-the-dribble treys. She does so with flair and facility, unleashing nasty stepbacks and sidesteps to open the windows needed to fire off 3-pointers.
While basketball is a team game, it would be quite fun if Thursday night’s game turns into a shooting contest between Clark and Amoore, with each one upping the other with increasingly absurd behind-the-arc bombs.
Can Iowa contain Kitley?
In Virginia Tech’s opening romp of High Point, fifth-year big Elizabeth Kitley, a preseason All-American, scored 27 points in 26 minutes of play, while also grabbing 11 rebounds and swatting a pair of shots. Iowa doesn’t have anyone who approaches the 6-foot-6 Kitley; the Hawkeyes’ starting frontcourt is 6-foot-3 redshirt junior center Sharon Goodman and 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Hannah Stuelke.
While Iowa is accustomed to being undersized, combatting a player with the talent and touch of Kitley is a tall order. If she consistently establishes post position and dominates the glass, that might be the edge the Hokies need to defeat the Hawkeyes. However, Iowa’s offense, specifically their offensive pace, might be their best counter to Kitley. Like most players of her size, Kitley isn’t the most fleet of foot. If Iowa can fly up, down and around the court for quick buckets, they can prevent Kitley from establishing a comfortable rhythm and punishing the Hawkeyes with her size.
Iowa’s continuity advantage
After losing Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock to graduation, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder elevated two players—Goodman and Stuelke—familiar with the Hawkeyes’ system and culture into the starting lineup. Bluder also can call on reserves who have spent their entire college careers in Iowa City, like fifth-year guard Molly Davis and junior guard Sydney Affolter. This sense of familiarity, especially early in the season, gives the Hawkeyes an edge over most opponents, including the Hokies.
While the Amoore, Kitley and grad wing Cayla King form the core of the Hokies, head coach Kenny Brooks rounds out his rotation with new faces. Replacing Kayana Traylor and Taylor Soule are two transfers: junior wing Matilda Ekh from Michigan State and junior forward Rose Micheaux from Minnesota. Of course, both Traylor and Soule arrived at Virginia Tech as transfers, only to become crucial contributors to Final Four team. New faces aren’t necessarily a weakness. Off the bench, Brooks will turn to another transfer in grad wing Olivia Summiel from Wake Forest, as well as redshirt freshman guard Carleigh Wenzel. A lack a familiarity wasn’t an issue against High Point, but, in a potentially close game against Iowa, still-developing chemistry could cause trouble for Virginia Tech.
No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) vs. No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0)
When: Thursday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC
How to watch: ESPN2