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Monday, February 6, 2006
Updated: February 9, 1:27 PM ET
Gearing up for a busy Final Four in Boston

By Mechelle Voepel
Special to ESPN.com

The WNBA draft is now going to be held the day after the NCAA title game. I suppose this slightly prolongs, by about 24 hours, the onset of my annual depression that the college hoops season is over.

It also might save everyone from the comic absurdity of my annual mock draft, where -- beyond the selections that are obvious -- I typically flounder. Perhaps I'll be deemed too busy (hint, hint editors) with stuff like, you know, the Final Four to be doing a mock draft. I can always hope.

Anyway, the whole concept of moving draft day makes sense, I guess. If the idea is to increase media coverage, the move should succeed. More women's hoops reporters are likely to stay an extra day in the Final Four city than make it to the NBA studio in lovely Secaucus, N.J., in April. The same, obviously, goes for fans sticking around to see the draft.

Of course, the end result might be a player having to hold up a small jersey and smile with WNBA president Donna Orender less than 24 hours after losing the national championship game. And who knows, it could become an annual thing. Maybe that will be therapeutic for some. For others … well, let's just hope they don't have their breakdown on camera.

After the draft date change announcement, my pal Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer called to say, "Not that anyone cares what it will be like for us -- understandably -- but …"

What he meant was that the Final Four is the culmination for writers, too, the end of the nonstop "busy" that is the season. The night of the championship game is always a deadline scramble for newspapers. And for those of us who also write for the Web, it's a push through one more late night or early morning of trying to produce a few more things that are worthwhile. Or at least, marginally readable.

The next day (and the next, and the next, and so on), we're all pretty dull knives. We typically do follow stories -- which usually aren't award-winners -- and sometimes make our predictions for the next year.

I hazily recall pounding out one of those gems a few years back, while sitting on the floor at the San Antonio airport, sending it in, getting home and meeting my new puppy … and then for the first time in months, actually not thinking much about basketball the rest of the evening.

The next day, I got an e-mail with a subject line that said something like, "How could you possibly write …"

And I thought, "Oh, God, what did I write?"

Turns out, this fellow was really ticked off that I didn't mention Kansas State in that particular "Let's predict next season six months before practice even starts" column. And let me tell you, that's pretty much the only time I've been accused of not paying enough attention to K-State.

But this year … well, we media folks better eat our Wheaties from the second we get into Boston, because there's no lame-braining our way through the day (or two) after the title game anymore.

Now, we have to give astute draft analysis, which for me typically means finding multiple ways of saying, "Well, I think she's pretty good, but we'll have to wait and see." Of course, sometimes we have help in adding variety to our observations, such as when the New York Liberty makes picks no one seems to comprehend.

Then I can write stuff like, "Well, I'm not sure if she's that good, but we'll have to wait and see."

But this year is a particularly dandy one for me to have the draft added onto the Final Four -- because by then I expect to be even more in love with basketball than I ever have been. If that's possible. So I will be able to wait a little longer in April to hit the wall.

That's because for the rest of this month, I'll be in Italy, where I hear they're having a snow-and-ice spectacular, some kind of world-gathering big deal that involves skates and sleds and skis.

No, I was not misled into believing that basketball had been transferred to the Winter Olympics. I just figured, when the time came, I would be ready to part from the constant observation of hoops for a while. Clearly, I was delusional. I'm not ready, and am having major separation anxiety. In fact, it's my dismayed understanding that the season will go on as if it doesn't even matter that I'm not going to games every week. How do you like that?

Apparently, though, the Internet exists in Italy. So it's not like I just have to imagine what's going on back here.

When I return, I will be thrilled to see even those crummy folding chairs in the media room at Dallas' Reunion Arena, site of the Big 12 tournament. I might even be so gleeful as to not criticize the selection committee's decisions after our brand-new "Selection Monday." (But don't hold me to that.)

In fact, I might want the Final Four festivities to go on even longer. Why not make it last until the following weekend? We'll need a few more events, though, of both the college hoops and WNBA variety. So I'll offer a few possibilities now. These could fill out the Thursday, Friday and Saturday after the draft.

• Smackdown! Pokey vs. Mulkey: In this possible pay-per-view event, LSU coach Pokey Chatman and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson engage in three five-minute rounds of an exciting new sport: combat hand-shaking.

• The Hornbuckle Rally: Five of the most obnoxious Cameron Crazies battle five of the angriest Tennessee fans in a no holds barred shopping cart race through the aisles of a WalMart Supercenter.

• Need a Medic, Son? Post-Up Challenge: WNBA stars Yolanda Griffith, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Lisa Leslie are celebrity judges as Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, Ohio State's Jessica Davenport, Georgia's Tasha Humphrey, LSU's Sylvia Fowles and Maryland's Crystal Langhorne park it on the low block and wear out randomly selected trolls from the ESPN.com women's hoops message board.

• Pop-A-Shot with Elaine Powell: European players attempt to beat the Chicago Sky guard at the arcade game without getting beat up.

• A Prince vs. A King: Rutgers recruit Epiphanny Prince sees how many points she can score in a game against UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Tag-team partners will be Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi, with dueling commentary from Rebecca Lobo and C. Vivian Stringer.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.