Jimmy V Classic set to deliver top-notch matchups

Olivia Miles elevates at a tournament earlier this season. Notre Dame Athletics photo.

Two big national-tv showcase games will take place this Sunday for two of the best teams in the ACC.

During the Jimmy V Classic, the No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies will travel to Knoxville to play the Tennesssee Lady Volunteers, and the No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the No. 3 UConn Huskies in South Bend, Indiana.

Both of these games will be broadcast to a huge audience, as the former will be on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. EST and the latter will be on ABC at 3 p.m. EST. Both of these games will mean a lot to these specific teams for different reasons.

For Virginia Tech, it will be a great opportunity for reigning ACC Player of the Year, center Elizabeth Kitley, to go up against another one of the nation’s top centers in the Volunteers’ Tamari Key. As two of the top-ranked prospects in the 2023 WNBA Draft, this will be a fun matchup to watch.

Both women are 6-foot-6, so they match up perfectly with each other. Kitley is averaging 20.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, one steal and 2.3 blocks per game, vastly superior to Key in every category, who is averaging 8.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. 

How Kitley performs in this game will be a major indicator of where this team stands. She has really been the key to the Hokies’ success this season, and this will be a major test on the road for her to go up against another talented big woman. 

On the flip side, we will get a matchup of two of the top offenses in college basketball. The Fighting Irish are averaging 87.4 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting and 36.5 percent 3-point shooting. 

This is thanks to the talented cast of Olivia Miles (15.7 points, seven rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game), Sonia Citron (16.6 points, eight rebounds and 1.3 steals per game), Lauren Ebo (10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game), Kylee Watson (9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game) and Maddy Westbeld (7.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game).

The Huskies are more than capable of riding alongside them, averaging 89 points per game, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from 3-point range. Azzi Fudd has more than filled in for the injured Paige Bueckers, who is out for the season, averaging 24 points, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

Other great offensive players for UConn are Lou Lopez Sénéchal (16.8 points per game), Aaliyah Edwards (16 points, 11 rebounds, 2.3 assists, one steal and 1.2 blocks per game) and Aubrey Griffin (13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game).

Notre Dame is coming off of a devastating loss a few nights ago to No. 20 Maryland, 74-72 on a buzzer-beater, and will be looking to bounce back. This time, their ability to get stops and make shots when it matters will be tested.

These were two teams that I was very interested in at the beginning of the season, having them both ranked in the top five in my ACC preseason power rankings. The reason for that is because both of these teams are so top-heavy with talent that it is impossible to see a scenario where neither is a serious contender.

I particularly had high expectations for Kitley, Miles and Westbeld. All have pressure on them to perform at a high level in these games against the top competition, and I believe that they will be at the highest level possible. They will showcase ACC basketball at its best for the entire nation to see.