Chat with Graham Hays
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com women's college basketball writer Graham Hays will be here to chat prior to the tip-off of the Stanford-UConn game. The No. 1-No. 2 matchup can be seen on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.
Send your questions now and join Hays Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:00 PM)
All is quiet at the XL Center for now, but that won't last long. 90 minutes to tip and expecting a full house of more than 16,000 for No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Stanford. How's everyone doing?
your name Dave (your location Cleveland Tn)
Does Women's basketball need the resumption of the Tenn/UConn game or can enough other rivalries be created to get the average Sports Fan to watch women's basketball
Graham Hays (4:04 PM)
Tough to escape the shadow of Tennessee-UConn, so might as well start with it. I'm honestly not sure if it needs that rivalry. The sport would be better with it, for sure -- the more top games out there the better. But I think the question is how many of the casual fans who tuned in for Tennessee-Connecticut stuck around for other games? Ultimately, the only way to sustain growth is to get people to tune in for the basketball, and Stanford-Connecticut offers that.
Which one player is today's x-factor?
Graham Hays (4:05 PM)
Can I go one for each side? Stanford needs a big game out of Pohlen - she's got to be able to handle UConn's pressure and get the offense started (with help from Hones and Gold-Onwude), but she's also got to be a shooting threat. If Hones, Pohlen and Pedersen can't knock down some 3's, it could be a repeat of last year.
Graham Hays (4:07 PM)
Similarly, what does Tiffany Hayes bring for Connecticut? She can look like just about the best player on the court in any given game, but she hasn't played point in a game like this since taking over for Montgomery. She's got to fill both roles -- scoring threat and floor general.
Rashad Brown (Atlanta,Georgia)
How do you feel that the lack of a true point guard will hurt Uconn womens against Stanfor?
Graham Hays (4:09 PM)
Following up on Hayes, there's two ways to look at that. Stanford isn't a team that's going to press the Huskies out of the gym. At the same time, they aren't going to make many mistakes in their defensive sets. Along those lines, who fills Renee Montgomery's leadership void if this is tight in the second half? Hayes won't be asked to fill that role, but the Huskies haven't faced that scenario yet this season.
Jake (Atlanta GA)
Hey Graham, my question is how far do you see the Lady Vols getting this year in the NCAA Tournament this year and the next few years? In my opinion this is the most improved team in the country, even though they were routed at Stanford, which was to be expected because Stanford and UConn are just at a different level than everyone else this year, it is probably a year early to think National Title for them, but for next year this should be the regular juggernaut powerhouse Tennessee we have been accustom. Thanks Graham
Graham Hays (4:15 PM)
Sorry for the pause, got caught up for a second. From what I've seen, Tennessee still has a bit of that multiple-personality issue from last season -- they can look great for entire games and then they can go through stretches where you wonder how they'll ever score. For the short term, I think they can be a Final Four team if they can get some consistent shooting from people other than Bjorklund. Not many teams can keep them off the boards the way Stanford did, so that's going to be a plus. Outside of these two teams here tonight, Baylor and Tennessee are the two I"ve seen that I could see potentially derailing a rematch.
We know playing in Hartford will only benefit the "home" team. What other intangibles are there to consider in today's game?
Graham Hays (4:18 PM)
Well, I don't have the evidence to back it up (probably worth researching at some point) but the west-to-east travel is something to consider. It's not like the Cardinal chartered. And playing a third game against a top-10 team in, what, eight days? Does that leave Stanford completely in a groove or a little tired? Haven't seen who the refs are yet, but both of these teams will probably suffer equally if they aren't allowed to play a little physical.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
What games are sleepers in terms of importance, for one the Jan 2. Game between WVU and St. Johns may be a huge game to set both teams forward or backward in the Big East and may set the pace for the BEAST in 2010
Graham Hays (4:22 PM)
Very true, Glenn. And truth be told, there are a lot of Big East teams with some questions to answer. By and large, the conference should be a little embarrassed by the schedules a lot of its teams are playing. This isn't SEC football (if it's even a valid excuse there) -- this league isn't so good that the teams can't risk playing people out of conference. I like St. John's a lot this year, but we don't really know anything about them yet. And with UNC, Florida and Virginia Tech, they're actually ahead of some of their peers on the schedule.
James Strong (Modesto CA)
If Stanford loses, do they fall in the polls? And if Notre Dame keeps winning, does that mean you all get another 1 vs. 2 on Jan. 16?
Graham Hays (4:24 PM)
That's a great question. If that scenario unfolds, it probably depends on the scale of the victory. Presumably most anyone with a vote is watching this game, so everyone should be able to make an informed choice. There's always going to be an inclination to move someone down, but unless it's a blowout either way, I'd probably keep these teams 1-2, in whatever order.
Erica (Boise, Idaho)
Hi Graham. Do you think Stanford is hurt or helped by the academic requirements for its recruits? Or is it a wash?
Graham Hays (4:28 PM)
Having some issues, so I'm not entirely sure the questions are showing up when I post them. Yell at me if I'm typing answers without questions. But for Erica, I think it's more of a non-factor than in the men's game. Are there players Stanford has lost because they didn't meet Stanford's academic requirements? Sure, but when you look at Kayla Pedersen and Neka Ogwumike, both of them talk about the academics at Stanford being a big selling point.
kc (new haven ct)
Is Dixon Dressing?
Graham Hays (4:31 PM)
I believe I saw in the Connecticut Post that she's available to play, but I don't know for certain. She dressed for Iona but didn't play. She's not out shooting yet, but there are a few other UConn players not out here yet.
Linsey (Sterling Heights MI)
What do you like most about the Michigan State Spartans? And how far do you think they will go in this years NCAA Tournament?
Graham Hays (4:35 PM)
Still taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach on the Big Ten, but I'm warming up on Michigan State. In contrast to some of the Big East teams, the Spartans are a team that's really tested itself out of conference. Beating UNC, Xavier, even St. Bonaventure recently? DeHaan might not be Brittney Griner, but she can change an opposing team's approach on the defensive end.
Does this matchup determine whether or not there still is parity in the Women's game?
Graham Hays (4:36 PM)
No, I don't think we learn a lot about that tonight. To me, there's more parity from Nos. 3-30, but these two do seem to be on a different level right now.
Andrew (San Francisco)
Speaking of Kayla and Nneka, everyone knows they're killing it offensively, but how have they handled guarding 3s? Have they thrown some zone in there?
Graham Hays (4:40 PM)
We'll find out some of that tonight. Duke doesn't have the shooters to stretch a defense like Stanford, and Tennessee is still trying to find that game between the paint and 3-point line. Moore, Kalana Greene, even Kelly Faris will stretch them more defensively than either the Blue Devils or Lady Vols could.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Are you shocked how fast Louisville has fallen, needing a huge comeback to beat NEW HAMPSHIRE...Y I K E S!!!
Graham Hays (4:43 PM)
Seems like when you saw Des Byrd go out, it was a bit of a concession that this was going to be a tough season. But the cupboard isn't bare there, and Jeff Walz loves his recruiting class coming in next season. And if you trust in Walz as a tactician, his teams may be a tougher out against familiar foes in conference play than in some of these early games.
Speaking of refs...I got the impression they REALLY "let them play" in the Vol-Cardinal game. Jayne was getting brutalized away from the ball. Think we'll see some of that tonight?
Graham Hays (4:45 PM)
I hope so. Appel and Charles don't ask for much quarter and both of them play better when they're a little ticked off. These teams are so good, so familiar and so experienced, it would be shame if the officials start taking players off the court with cheap fouls early.
Why do you care about women's basketball?
Graham Hays (4:47 PM)
Better question: Why do you care that I do?
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Which Women's College Basketball players do you think has a great shot to play in the WNBA?
Graham Hays (4:49 PM)
There could legitimately be six future WNBA all-star caliber players on the court tonight in Charles, Moore, Hayes, Appel, Ogwumike and Pedersen. And several others who could get a run, even in an unfortunately smaller league. Will the battle tonight between Charles and Appel actually impact who goes No. 1? Maybe not, but you can bet the coaches for the WNBA teams involved are in the house.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
What's your take on the large differences between the media and coaches polls this season, especially toward the bottom of the top 25
Graham Hays (4:51 PM)
Probably speaks to just how little we can know about anyone other than these two teams. Every season is a fresh start, yada, yada, yada, but more than any season I can remember, there was just no sense of a top tier beyond Stanford and UConn. And I'm not sure it's going to settle down all that much in conference play.
Paul (New Britain, CT)
Love this team, IMHO may be best team ever. Attendance seems to be the hot topic, my personal feelings for it being down include the additions of a WNBA team, new Football Stadium, the economy, and the lack of good competition. I have season tickets to all 3 and it's just me and my partner. I could not imagine what it would cost if we also had to purchase tickets for the kids.
Graham Hays (4:55 PM)
All fair points. and while still reasonable compared to any pro leagues, UConn women's game are not as much of a deal at the ticket window as some programs (supply and demand strikes again). It's also tough not to grow a little immune to the nature of these games. Yes, it's amazing to have chance to see a team that executes like Connecticut does in person, but there are only so many 85-35 games a normal person can get excited about.
Graham Hays (4:56 PM)
All right, time to wrap it up. Check out the live coverage all game, with people far more entertaining than me (although I'll be there as well). http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/news/story?page=CoverItLive
Graham Hays (4:57 PM)
Thanks for the questions and enjoy the games!