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 Tuesday at noon ET!
Mechelle (12:01 PM)
Good afternoon to East Coasters, good morning to everyone else! Live from Tampa on championship day, let's get going. :)
Christine (Cincinnati, OH)
Candice Wiggins is so important to Stanford's effectiveness on offense, do you think just shutting her down could be enough to shut down Stanford's offense? Do you think Tennessee is even capable of doing that?
Mechelle (12:03 PM)
No one has really "shut down" Wiggins and I wouldn't anticipate Tennessee thinks it can do that. Tennessee just wants to make her have to work very, very hard to get her points. And they want to disrupt the flow of what's been a terrific Stanford offense. UConn was not able to do that.
Kevin (Vero Beach, FL)
Which time had the "tougher" season and road to the Final?
Mechelle (12:05 PM)
Stanford did have to deal with two ACL injuries this season. And while those were not to starters, both players were going to be key reserves ... not just depth but people who would have had a regular role on the team. And being a No. 2 seed, Stanford's path means to win this title, the Cardinal will have had to beat three No. 1 seeds in a row.
Ok this is probably the most stunning question that is going to be asked. Anyways I am a huge UConn fan and well seeing as how they have now been bounced from the tournament I am now rooting for my 2nd favorite team TENNESSEE!!(Weird right??) My question is it seems as though TN is somewhat like the undedog in this game like last year because they had not played that well in the Final Four against UNC and Rutgers was jsut on fire and then deflated in the Championship probably because they had not been there before. Do you think the same could be to say about Stanford?? Oh and also don't you just love how our name is spelled don't really know too many people with it spelled like that..lol. Thanks!
Mechelle (12:09 PM)
Somehow there does seem to be a feeling that Tennessee has turned into the "underdog" ... not sure how that happened. They are a No. 1 seed and they're here, so ... Stanford played so well in the semifinal against UConn and the Cardinal's tournament run has impressed everyone. The interesting thing, though, is that Tennessee's last three opponents - ND, Texas A&M and LSU, are really defensive-minded teams. It will be a different kind of matchup with Stanford.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
Lest we forget, we got the WNBA draft tomorrow! The one team in a quandry is Minnesota, they need a post and need a guard like wiggins like a hole in the head...Chicago wont give up fowles it seems and well you'd have to pry parker from LA's cold dead hands (RIP Charlton Heston) do you see them trading the 3 pick and if so who to or do they trade down for an existing post player?
Mechelle (12:12 PM)
Well, I agree that Minnesota needs a post but probably won't leave Wiggins out there ... her draft value was already high, and it's gotten higher in this tournament. So I think she probably will be traded. As for whom ... Minnesota needs a powerful low-block player to go along with Ohlde. The Lynx need to make a smart move here because they have some options.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
Michelle - was it a sign of destiny that of all things to be showing on the clock at the big shot from Hornbuckle was 0.2 LOL seriously...how bad is it for the game that they STILL cant get the clock right in the final 4 after several clock scoreboard issues all year!
Mechelle (12:15 PM)
The St. Pete Times Forum had some problems with the roof leaking during the semifinals ... if you saw any reporters trying to "protect" their laptops with paper, that's why. That and the clock issue was a little distracting for everyone. We still haven't gotten just a simple, straightforward explanation for what happened with Tenn-Rutgers in February, and we've asked. I don't think it's forthcoming.
Kevin (Vero Beach, FL)
"The interesting thing, though, is that Tennessee's last three opponents - ND, Texas A&M and LSU, are really defensive-minded teams. It will be a different kind of matchup with Stanford." That really is the key, can UT produce on offense (enough)? Is this UT team not capable of running the floor (like previous teams), or is that defense was such a promiment of part of the last several games?
Mechelle (12:18 PM)
Exactly ... that's what I'll be interested in seeing. A&M and LSU - especially - are as difficult to score against as pretty much any teams in the country when they are playing well. So I think that defintely has contributed to why Tennessee's offense has seemed less effective. Throw in, obviously, that Parker has not been 100 percent in the last two game. This is not to suggest Stanford's defense is sub-par ... Pat Summitt said it's very good, and she said the Stanford offense is the best Tennessee has faced this season.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Do you think Candace Parker should come back for one more year? She wouldn't be giving up that much money, college basketball has more fans and better ratings and ultimately, when we talk about greatest of all time, it's all about their college years.
Mechelle (12:21 PM)
Candace said yesterday when asked about this that it was the hardest decision she'd ever made. I think she's spent four years at school, is on time to graduate and has played top-level basketball ... in her mind, she's at the end of this chapter. I think it would be hard to give up the atmosphere of Thompson-Boling for one more year if you had that year available. But I'm sure Candace feels it's the best thing for her life to move to the pro game.
for some reason i just feel like LSU earned/deserved it more
Mechelle (12:23 PM)
I think from a "karma" standpoint, we all can empathize and say, "Why didn't it happen for LSU at least ONCE in five trips to the FF?" Even Candace Parker brought that up yesterday in interviews, saying she felt bad for the LSU players. But I think it points out how hard it really is once you get to the Sweet 16 ... every win is going to be difficult from there on out. Sometimes it seems a shame that a program can make the Final Four five times in a row and yet that doesn't seem like it's enough.
Maureen, Oakland, CA
Not counting Wiggins, what Stanford player has surprised you the most during the tourney? Thanks for your work, enjoy reading your articles.
Mechelle (12:26 PM)
JJ Hones has really impressed me with her job running the point. In crunch time against UConn, she did not panic with the ball in her hands. She stayed calm throughout that game, hit some big shots and had just one turnover to six assists. That's impressive for anybody, but for a sophomore it's really impressive.
Kevin (Vero Beach, FL)
You were the only ESPN expert that picked Tennessee to win tonight. What where your reasons for picking Tennessee?
Mechelle (12:31 PM)
Well, I don't much like "picking" ... they have to force me to do it. I'd rather just write stories and then watch the game play out. But, since they make me do it :) ... I went with history. Tennessee rarely loses to opponents twice in one season. Stanford beat Tennessee in December, but hadn't beatent them before that since 1996. UConn has defeted Tennessee four times in the NCAA title game, but the only other program to do that was Southern Cal ... back in 1984. Plus, there is something about the way Tennessee's "role players" tend to step forward in big games. All that said, it was hard to pick against Stanford because they have looked the best so far.
AJ (Laurel, Md)
Is it safe to assume Candace will be the 1st pick tomorrow? Wouldn't LA trade the pick if there were not going to take her?
Mechelle (12:33 PM)
I can't imagine not taking her. She's going to be a phenomenal pro player for a long time.
You think Van will come back and coach LSU next year
Mechelle (12:35 PM)
You know, I would assume he's going to stick it out there and see how the next couple of years go. LSU has gotten a ton of exposure over the last five seaons and there's a lot to work with for recruiting. The question obviously is will Van get weary of it sooner than later, that grind of recruiting?
AJ (Laurel, MD)
Do you think Candace will respond tonight the same way she did when Fowles won SEC POY since Wiggins won the Wade award?
Mechelle (12:37 PM)
Candace Parker is as good as she is because she plays so hard all the time. I just don't know that she needs any extra motivation because she didn't win an award. It might irritate her, but I don't think she's play with any less fire in a championship game if she HAD won the Wade. She's going to give her all tonight.. And she's proven this whole tournament, no matter how sore her shoulder is, that she's able to play through it.
Mike (shreveport, louisiana)
its been said by some of the media that the officials are intimidated by Pat Summit,..Do you agree with that and do you think that will play a part in tonight's championship game if Stanford keeps the game close
Mechelle (12:41 PM)
I don't know that "intimidated" is quite right ... but I think that top coaches like Summitt are always going to "work" the officials. The refs are human, and I do think sometimes coaches get in their heads. That said, Tara VanDerveer has been working the sidelines a long time, too, and she's going to be pleading her case. Maybe in a different way - since Tara doesn't have "The Stare" - but she will be doing what she can to protect her players.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
I hate saying it because I think the sport needs to grow beyond the Blue and the Orange to survive, but with all the talk always going back to "Why did pat drop the series" is it good for the sport not to have Tennessee Uconn every year?
Mechelle (12:44 PM)
I'll put it this way, it was good to have Tennessee-UConn, but it's not the sport is going to stop growing because that game isn't being played. That rivalry started in 1995 and turned into something terrific for the sport. But there are other rivalry already in existence that just need more attention, and there are new ones developing.
Kimberly (Bristol, Va)
Hello Mechelle, I have heard many people around here saying that the game between LSU and Tennessee put women's college basketball back 20 years because of the low scoring game. Why was it such a low scoring game?
Mechelle (12:49 PM)
It was one game, and yeah it was ugly because both teams are so familiar with each other and both are so defensive-minded. The Stanford-UConn game was right before it and, yeah, much more enjoyable to watch. There are lousy men's hoops games, lousy football games, lousy baseball games ... there's no such thing as one game being representative of an entire sport and "setting it back." I think the only peple who would say that are those looking to rip the sport to begin with. They'll always find something. :)
Marc (Malden, MA)
Do you think the 1st 2 rounds should return to the top 4 seeds? I know it's unfair, but the lack of attendence at neutral sites should be embarrasing to the NCAA.
Mechelle (12:52 PM)
That would be the ideal scenario ... but ESPN is now televising every game, and it's just not possible for them to scramble enough trucks/crew to get to 16 places without advance knowledge of where they are going. To some degree, you could guess since we can all predict probably at least the top 12 with a good degree of accuracy. But ... going to 16 pre-determined is the compromise between getting better attendance and getting them all televised. It's not ideal, but it's where the game is now. It's better than the eight-site set-up ... the game wasn't ready for that.
Marc (Malden, MA)
As great as she is, I will be completely shocked if CP3 can win tonight by herself. Tenn cannot be as one-dimensional and predictable as they were Sunday.
Mechelle (12:54 PM)
You're right ... and that's where I was referring earlier to how Tennessee's role players seem to come up big in big moments. Last year against Rutgers, for instance, Alberta Auguste had 10 points and made a big difference in that game.
Mechelle, any chance Maya Moore leaves early for the WNBA like Parker is this year?
Mechelle (12:57 PM)
Remember, Candace isn't leaving early. She's been in school for foury years. She had to redshirt her first season with a knee injury. So she is just bypassing her final year of eligibilty. She is not challenging the WNBA to go early. I do not have any indication that Maya would try to challenge the system to leave early. I think she is a very, very bright kid who understands how ready for the WNBA and life she'll be with four years of college and playing in that program.
Treefan, Palo Alto, CA
Hi Mechelle, if Stanford wins the National Championship, do you think the media will finally let up about the Harvard game?
Mechelle (1:00 PM)
Well, you know there will always be that, "The only time a 16 beat a 1 ..." I think most people who follow the sport know about the injury situation before that game. And Stanford wins another NCAA title, it really does bury the disappointments of 1995-98 in the past.
Dan (Los Angeles,CA)
What are the chances of the Sparks drafting Candace Parker?
Mechelle (1:05 PM)
Right now, I'd say 99.9 percent ... leaving that .1 percent open just in case the world ends before Wednesday. :) She's going to be a phenomenal pro.
glenn (Morris Plains, NJ)
Ok here's a complaint from RU country: WHAT THE HECK was Tanya Napier doing reffing in the final 4...By all accounts she was the one who blew the clockgate call...how was she of all people the crew chief at Stanford/Uconn, she's a borderline ref for starters...is the pool that shallow that they went back to her or does the WBOC just have short memories?
Mechelle (1:11 PM)
We reporters asked about that yesterday. I can't say we got much of a satisfactory answer. Tina Napier was on the crew that had the biggest "incident" in women's basketball this year. An incident that still hasn't been explained publicly. I don't agree with the message that is being sent by including an official from that crew in the Final Four. You can be part of an incident like that ... but don't worry. You still get to work the Final Four just two months later.
mike (shreveport, louisiana)
michelle, do you think the day will come when women will ever start leaving school early for the draft like the men?
Mechelle (1:17 PM)
I think it depends on the continued growth of women's pro basketball in the U.S. and in other countries. If it really becomes financially feasible long-term for women to do it, somone will challege and permanently change the system. But I hope for the sake of the college game and for what it means to a person to spend four years growing and learning in college, that that day is a ways off.
Mechelle (1:18 PM)
Well, that's it for me for today. Hope you all enjoy the championship game tonight.
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