Way back in November of last year, during STL's 2014 Hoops Week, I said this in conclusion about the latest installment of the Virginia Women's Basketball team:
This is... complicated.
We've looked at all of the components of a season that would normally make up predictions. And two of the three (the roster and off-season changes) just scream question marks.
This team isn't likely to blow the doors off the ACC and bust into the upper echelon... yet. Maybe next year, with Imovbioh back for a fifth year and some of the younger players solidified in their position and the pack-line a little better understood. But that's not to say this team will do poorly. I'm just not sure yet how far these pieces can take us this season.
One thing I'll say I'm confident on: We'll get back to having a winning record. I'm thinking we'll go something like 10-3 in the non-conference slate. Then we'll follow that up with 8-8 in the ACC slate for a final record of 18-11. That will reverse the trend of the past three years under Joanne Boyle and give her some more time to implement the defense and groom these very talented recruiting classes she's brought in.
The ambiguity of my "predictions" allow me to say that I was essentially right: It was complicated. But we did get back to our winning ways. I did miss my overall prediction by a game - the team ended up 10-3 in the non-conference slate, but only 7-9 in the ACC. The losses to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh were unexpected on my end, but the win over #8 Louisville was even more unexpected and balanced out one of those losses.
So what's the reward for getting back to a record above .500? The 'Hoos were given the ACC's automatic qualifying bid to the WNIT by being the conference's best available team. And that's accurate - Virginia finished 9th in the conference and all eight teams above them were selected for the NCAA tournament.
Virginia will open the WNIT on Thursday, March 19th at Old Dominion. The Monarchs finished 20-12 overall and 11-7 in Conference USA. They lost in the semifinals of the C-USA tournament to Western Kentucky.
Other ACC schools in the field are Georgia Tech and N.C. State, both of whom also finished 7-9 in the conference. No other teams in the conference finished above .500. The Cavaliers lost unexpectedly to Georgia Tech 68-62 back in January, but took care of N.C. State 71-63 the very next game.
Virginia faced four other schools in the WNIT field this season: Radford (W 75-47), Toledo (L 64-62), Saint Mary's (W 62-49) and Drexel (72-66).
In an interesting twist, if the 'Hoos were to beat Old Dominion they would likely end up in Villanova in the next round. The Wildcats, of course, is the #1 seed in the Virginia men's team's NCAA region.
Overall this is a good situation for the Cavaliers. They have some tough games ahead of them and they don't get any home games (barring upsets). But most importantly they get more practice. For a squad as young and with as many questions as this one... the practice is huge. And a somewhat realistic chance at a championship never hurts either!