Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Voepel writes for The Kansas City Star and is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
So, send in your questions now and then join Mechelle Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Mechelle (3:04 PM)
Hey folks ... a little time zone mistake on my part. Thought this was at 2 Central ... so ... anyway, sorry about that. I'll go ahead and hit the questions I have.
Courtney (Charlotte, NC)
What do you think about a possible UConn/UT matchup in the Final Four?
Mechelle (3:06 PM)
This question or some derivative of it seems to be the most popular topic. Obviously, there's an excellent chance these two will meet. Both are playing very well and have a lot of confidence going into the Sweet 16. If they do meet, there will a ton of pre-game hype and I think Geno Auriemma enjoys that more than Pat Summitt does. That said, she's going to love the challenge. At this point, I think UConn has more overall weapons and would win this matchup.
Debbie (Gaithersburg, Md)
Why is there so much dismissal of the LSU Lady Tigers? I keep reading how everyone else will run over them. Marist was supposed to take us to the wire. What gives?
Mechelle (3:09 PM)
I don't know where you've seen that everybody will run all over them. I think if LSU wants to use the "nobody respects us" card to motivate themselves, that's OK. But I would think most people are projecting an LSU-UNC regional final.
John Southington CT
With the 5-0 beating the Gig 12 took from the Big East has the power in WCBB shifted to the East and North?
Mechelle (3:12 PM)
Realistically, a lot of the power in the sport has been in the Northeast for more than a decade just because of UConn. Rutgers has really added to that, too, and with teams like Pittsburgh and Syracuse having such good seasons, that's a step forward for the Big East, too. I think the Big 12 is still pretty consistently good ... and it's not going to just drop off. The league that needs a boost, though, is the Big Ten. And the SEC could use a little jolt, too, frankly.
J (Dallas, TX)
Who are your darkhorses to win it all at this point?
Mechelle (3:16 PM)
You know, I just don't see a darkhorse winning this title. Theoretically it could happen, but if UConn plays as well as it can play, I don't think the Huskies will lose. That said, North Carolina probably would be my pick behind either UConn or Tennessee. I know a lot of Stanford fans are feeling underestimated, but we've seen Stanford fall short in regional action enough in the past few years that it's just playing the percentages to have doubt that they can get to Tampa. If they do, great for them because it would be a boost for the Pac-10 ... another conference that needs it.
Steve (Greensboro, NC)
Do you think the number of Big East teams in the sweet 16 demonstrate the flaw in placing RU and UConn in the same bracket?
Mechelle (3:19 PM)
Great question ... and I think yes, this was a mistake on the committee's part. From an "S" curve standpoint, it can be explained, but it just doesn't sit right. The best league's two best teams shouldn't be in the position where they have to eliminate each other before the Final Four.
AJ (Laurel, MD)
If UT and Uconn were to meet up who would guard Candace Parker? I still don't see anybody on there team that would stop her from scoring 30 like she did last year. I think Alexis could contain Maya Moore. What are your thoughts?
Mechelle (3:22 PM)
The thing is, she could score 30 and UConn could still win. I'm not saying that will happen, just that I think UConn's supporting cast around star Maya Moore has been so good the first two games. Players like Brittany Hunter and Charde Houston are playing with a purpose. Renee Montgomery is Sue Bird-like in her leadership, competitiveness and respect she has from her teammates. And Tina Charles has gotten a little wake-up cal from Geno Auriemma. ... I would expect she could have a monster game in this tournament. I'm not dismissing the competitve fire that's within Tennessee ... just that from what I've seen, UConn right now has more bases covered.
Wafic Omran (Norfolk, VA)
I'm going to Greensboro to cheer on those Lady Monarchs. Am I going to witness the best upset in this year's tournament and if so, what should my sign say? Thanks!!!
Mechelle (3:24 PM)
Your sign might say, "And you think Davidson was a giant-killer?" If ODU is able to pull off an upset of UConn it would be one of the more amazing feats in that program's history. At least ODU knows what it's going up against, having played the Huskies earlier this season.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
Michelle, what so far was the best game of the tourney and how does this tourney stack up to other tourneys in terms of excitement?
Mechelle (3:26 PM)
Unfortunately, I didn't get to see U.Va.-ODU ... I was in Bridgeport, Conn. and it wasn't shown on TV. But I thought that would be the best early-round game and it lived up to that. I also expected Notre Dame-Oklahoma to go to the wire, and it did. The Irish are a really good post-season program. I also thougth the Florida State-Oklahoma State game was terrific.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
Dunno if you heard but the NJ state house now wants the NCAA to investigate clockgate...political hot air or should something be done?
Mechelle (3:29 PM)
I think the NCAA and the SEC should acted more responsibly with this. There was obviously a problem and no one explained it. They treated it like it wasn't on national television and we all hadn't seen it with our own eyes. It was not only disrespectful to Rutgers, it was disrespectful to anyone who follows women's basketball. Something got screwed up or someone made a mistake. Explain it and don't act like it didn't happen. That isn't taking away from Tennessee. If it happened TO Tenessee somewhere else, I'd be just as insistent it be explained.
Ozzie (Rialto, CA)
Spoken like a true UConn lover or a Tennessee hate.... Why UConn has great players so do Tennessee... Who are they going to put on Alexis, who going to guard Bobbit, and lets not forget Angie ifshe has a monster game then what.... I know you so call expert love you UConn but they are not unbeatable and should havelost the game to Depaul or who ever it was they last should have lost to.... So UConn is not perfect and They cold loose...
Mechelle (3:32 PM)
Well, of course UConn could lose. I do not love UConn and hate Tennessse. I think UConn looks like a stronger team right now ... my job is to give some analysis. It isn't based on who I "like" more .... I like both of them. They're great kids on both teams (and the kids like/respect each other, by the way) and the two most successful coaches in women's basketball.
Hels (Alta, UT)
Mechelle, if only the mascots from the remaining teams competed against each other....who would win? Who would you root for?? :)
Mechelle (3:38 PM)
I have to say it would be Oklahoma State's Pistol Pete. The guy has a gun, for heaven's sake. However, the LSU Tiger might jump him after the UNC Ram butted into him. Then they could disarm him. Then the Tiger beats the Ram. I don't see the Louisville Cardinal intervening in this war. Anyway, that's what would go on in New Orleans. I give the Pitt Panther the edge in Spokane. the Duke Blue Devil is the winner in Oklahoma City (he also has a weapon, the pitchfork) and the Scarlet Knight (I think he carries a sword) in Greensboro.
I think for the wnba to be successful there has to be more committment to drafting in-state stars. As a lynx hater because they trade up for lindsay whalen then they don't try to get janel mcCarville. Both players all big-ten. I took my daughters to one game and we all feel the same way. The wnba has to have in-state loyalty to be more successful. We have not been to a game since and we would of been season ticket holders otherwise. I hear this alot at work echoing the same thing.
Mechelle (3:40 PM)
Yeah, we don't want to forget the draft is going on. I agree that Minnesota should have done whatever it could to get Whalen, especially. Still think so, although, the Sun will never want to give her up.
Tony (Cary, NC)
When it comes to deciding which teams go into which region, does the selection committee for the men and women use the same criteria? It seems as the Selection Committee for the women, hides behind policy/procedure instead of using common sense. If you have #1 Seed UConn and #1 Seed UNC both in the east with the regional in Greensboro, NC that since UConn is going to have to take a plane ride anyway, that they would be sent to the New Orleans Regional and UNC would be in the Greensboro Regional. I understand the concept of keeping the #1 overall seed close to home, but in this case when there is another #1 seed that would not have to travel, common sense should take over.
Mechelle (3:42 PM)
I think the same thing. Common sense should prevail and it wouldn't have to "violate' procedures and principles.
Pete - New York, NY
Do you think that George Washington can upset Rutgers?? Should the NCAA Tournament Committee make changes concerning site locations and avoid teams getting home games, like LSU??
Mechelle (3:44 PM)
I guarantee Rutgers is not looking at anything beyond GW. Consider that GW has some really savvy seniors and went out and beat Cal in Cal's backyard ... GW has a lot of experience in big NCAA games as a program. This really could be a very good matchup.
Mac, Durham, NC
Please give me your take on the Duke vs A&M game. What are the keys to a Duke victory and what are the key match-ups? Also,think L'ville will beat UNC?
Mechelle (3:48 PM)
The "old" Duke vs. A&M would have been a interesting game because it would have been Duke's offensive "beauty" against a team that likes to make teams play ugly. Gary Blair will say that himself. However, Duke is a little different now under McCallie and the matchup may be a more grind-it-out affair. A&M's offense has been clicking better in the last month, and Morenike Atunrase is playing very well. I would give the edge to A&M, very slightly. As for Louisville and UNC, I think they are two teams who are a lot a like, but the Tar Heels seem a little more talented and they have more experience in these types of games since Louisville is in its first Sweet 16.
Mike (Rockville, MD)
What's up with all the love ESPN is showing Maya Moore? I don't think Candace Parker has left for the WNBA yet. Is this a case of WCBB trying to find the "next big thing"?
Mechelle (3:50 PM)
It's funny, because I've gotten several other questions asking if ESPN is Candace's person publicist. I think star players on two No. 1 seed teams are naturally going to get a lot of attention. And the "other side" is always convinced one is the favorite over the other. I've written about both a lot and figure I will for many years to come.
David (Columbia, SC)
Looks like of the top seeds, NC got the toughest opponent in the 2nd round and Lousiville's playing better than any of the 3, 4 or 5 seeds that's for sure. That coupled with the New Orleans regional...I think the NCAA should stop with what they've had to face over the past couple years. That said, no one matches up well against Rashanda McCants. She's a match up nightmare. Is she the most unheralded player in this tournament?
Mechelle (3:52 PM)
I do think UNC overall got a very tough draw. And McCants is doing the same thing she did last year - playing really well in March. She has been streaky at times this season, but when she's on she is unbelievably hard to guard ... especially with the teammates she has.
Matt: Watertown, NY
What Sweet 16 game are you most looking forward to?
Mechelle (3:56 PM)
Probably UNC and Louisville ... I was so impressed with the way the Cardinals played against Kansas State and how they've competed in the past month. Also really think A&M and Duke could be a very good matchup. And it will be intersting to see if Oklahoma State can do anything to slow Sylvia Fowles.
Peanut (Pittsboro, NC)
What is your assessment of Texas's first season under Coach G? Better than expected, about what you expected? And how long do you think it will be before they are back in the elite 8 and final 4 arenas?
Mechelle (3:57 PM)
About what I expected ... that they would get into the NCAA Tournament - but have to struggled for it - and maybe win a game. The Longhorns will benefit from having Erika Arriaran back next season, everyone having a year under Coach G and the recruiting will be the next piece. They'll be back battling near the top within a couple of years.
todd cheverly maryland
mechelle, thanks for not talking about maryland!! maryland will come out of the west bracket just fine. nobody has giving maryland any chance thats good!!
Mechelle (3:59 PM)
I picked them in my ESPN.com bracket to go to the Final Four, so I wouldn't say nobody is giving them a chance. I said in earlier chats they could win it all again, but they're going to need to play better than they did in the first two rounds.
Judy (Muskogee, OK)
Which team or teams, in your opinion, has this year's best leader?
Mechelle (4:01 PM)
I would say Renee Montgomery of UConn has impressed me most with her leadership. And a leader that doesn't get a lot of publicity for how good she is with her team is UNC's Erlana Larkins. She is really respected by her teammates and is a big reason Cetera DeGraffenreid had such a comfortable transition taking over as a freshman point guard.
Mechelle, no love for the Cuse on the season they had?
Mechelle (4:02 PM)
I mentioned them earlier in this chat as part of the power shift in the Northeast.
Michael (Norfolk, VA)
I'm a huge Duke fan... but an even bigger Comets fan... its interesting to me that in the women's game during the Tournament analysis don't do mock drafts for the seniors going into the WNBA... if you had to choose what order players go in the first round what would they be??? I really hope the Comets pick up Candice Wiggins or Essence Carson... GO BLUE DEVILS!!!!
Mechelle (4:04 PM)
Well part of the issue with having the draft the day after the Final Four is that most of us who cover women's basketball are consumed with the tournament and honestly don't have time to devote to the draft the way we did when it was a couple of weeks after the season. I think the draft gets lost in the tournament coverage.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
who's really built up their draft stock this tourney, and who's really knocked it down?
Mechelle (4:09 PM)
I would think most of the evaluation is pretty well set even before the tournament. So far, I don't think anyone has had a big dropoff ... although players from teams like GW - who don't get as much attention during the season - might get a bump because they are in the Sweet 16.
With Candice Parker and Sylvia Fowles leaving after this year, is it safe to consider Courtney Parish and Kia Vaughn as the top two big women in college basketball next season?
Mechelle (4:12 PM)
They are both excellent, but Stanford's Jayne Appel has been really impressive in this tournament and UConn's Tina Charles can really be a superstar.
That was my fault Mechelle, With the young women Hillsman is getting in here now, Do you see them contending for BE titles in the future?
Mechelle (4:13 PM)
You know it's so hard in the Big East to reach the very top because UConn just doesn't slip. And now Rutgers has been recruiting so well, too. What I think is great about programs like Syracuse and Pittsburgh and West Virginia is that they are now starting to assert themselves on the national scene ... and they can do that even if they can't quite knock UConn off the pedestal anytime soon.
Roger, Denver, CO
Who do you see as the top teams going into next year. UConn is obvious, losing only Britney, Charde and Ketia while gaining Della Donne but who else will be coming back loaded?
Mechelle (4:16 PM)
Louisville will have a lot back, and Duke - if there is no off-season movement _ will have most of its team back, too. Those are two that stand out to me of this current Sweet 16 group.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
Is foster and OSU in any trouble after a blah year and another horrid 1st round exit?
Mechelle (4:19 PM)
I don't think he's in any "trouble" at OSU but I would bet he's doing some soul-searching ... or at least a little. I wrote his players have to take some responsibility for how uninspired they played, and tha'ts true but ... maybe he needs to shake up his staff or something. They have not played well in the postseason and that's become a trend.
Not Ozzie (Not in Rialto, CA)
Mechelle, If you were a star wbb player coming out of HS right now, what university and coach would you want to play for??? And let's say you could mix and match!!!
Mechelle (4:23 PM)
Honestly, I would say most kids would be wise to go somewhere where they are going to play a lot and don't discount how important it is to be close to your family if you are indeed close to them. Most of the time when kids are unhappy, it's because they are not playing and it's not any fun to practice and not play. Kids adjust to being role players - but if you really want to play a lot, find a place that really needs you and that is still the type of school you want and in a location where you think you can be happy.
Two quick questions: Does Sharnee Zoll have a chance at the next level? What does Debbie Ryan need to do to get the Cavaliers back at this level on a regular basis?
Mechelle (4:26 PM)
Zoll is a great play-maker, but the question is can she shoot well enough to carry some scoring weight. A player like Ticha Penicheiro in Sacramento has had a long pro career even without being a very consistent shooter because her play-making and defense are so good. As for U.Va. it has to be able to recruit well enough to keep up with the likes of the teams that have turned into the Big Three in the ACC ... and having the new arena should be a help with that.
Doesn't Coach Fennelly deserve to be mentioned with top coaches in the country? What he did this season is nothing short of amazing. If he were in an area with a bigger recruting base he would be in the Final Four year in and year out.
Mechelle (4:31 PM)
I think Bill's achievements this year were the finest of his career ... I really thought that team was dead in the water in January. If he truly wanted to go to a different school, he probably would have done it by now. He likes the fan support, of course, and he's best at coaching the kinds of kids who will go through a wall to play. It would be difficult for him to deal with kids who had a ton of talent and didn't always go all-out. I think he'd rather coach the less-talented kid who gives 100 percent all the time. But it would be interesting to see Bill X-and-O with a group of superstars.
With Parker leaving, who will Pat Summit look to become her go to player next season
Mechelle (4:32 PM)
That is something I've been wondering, too ... and I do not have the answer. I don't know that Coach Summitt has it either ... there's a big opportunity for some player or a couple of players to really step forward next year.
Deb (SF, CA)
Can you tell me if you have heard any names mentioned for the PAC-10 coaching openings? Thanks.
Mechelle (4:36 PM)
I honestly don't know who would rate as the top candidates now ... sometimes it takes until the end of the tournament for the real maneuvering to take place. Probably the job many of us who follow the game are most interested in is at UCLA ... which with the right person could become another power in the West, which this sport really needs to have happen. It would be nice to see UCLA at least try to think as big as Texas did last year, even if they aren't going to offer that kind of mone ... really think BIG.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
What happened to Oklahoma and is Sherri Coale losing this team and approaching dangerous waters once the Paris Twins move on?
Mechelle (4:39 PM)
Oklahoma had problems with guard play all season and it never got better. I think there is some pressure in regard to next year because it's the final season for Coutney and Ashley, and the recruiting in the Big 12 didn't get any easier with Texas getting Gail Goestenkors. Sherri Coale has always responded well to pressure, though. And there is great support administratively and in the community for her and her program.
Hurricane Jeff (Byesville, OH)
Hey Mechelle, Hurricane here. Which conference do you think has the best chance of sending two or more teams to the Final Four?
Mechelle (4:41 PM)
Because UConn and Rutgers are in the same bracket, I think the ACC probably has the best chance of getting two in the Final Four with North Carolina and Maryland ... considering they are both No. 1 seeds.
Heidi nashville tn
which team left has the best/most impactful "6th man (player)"?
Mechelle (4:43 PM)
When UConn's Charde Houston comes to play, which she has so far in this tournament, she's still star-caliber. That's a pretty potent weapon to have on your bench.
AJ (Laurel, Md)
If UT and Uconn meet for the title do you think it will be the most watched womens basketball game ever? There are so many potential storylines in that game.
Mechelle (4:44 PM)
I think it probably could be ... and for all the disappointment of the two not playing in the regular season, this could be the silver lining. Even those fans who are "sick" of Tennessee and UConn would be intrigued by this one.
Mechelle (4:47 PM)
Well, I apologize again for starting the chat an hour later than I was supposed to ... and thanks for coming back to it when I did get here. :) Enjoy the Sweet 16!