Chat with Graham Hays
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com women's college basketball writer Graham Hays will be here to chat about the NCAA tournament.
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage. He began with ESPN in 1999.
Send your questions now and join Hays Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:01 PM)
Hello from Memphis, where they're getting ready to hand out the first Final Four spot in a few hours.
Why has Baylor suddenly emerged? Can they beat UConn and Stanford?
Graham Hays (4:03 PM)
I don't know that they've suddenly emerged so much as finally gotten all the pieces together. You start the season with so many freshmen in important roles -- way beyond Griner. Then as they get settled, Melissa Jones goes out and there is uncertainty over when or if she'd return. Then add in the Griner suspension and it hasn't been an easy season for the Bears. But now the freshmen are experienced, Jones is back playing big minutes and Griner seems to be playing some of her best basketball. It was just a matter of waiting to see if the parts would come together in time this season.
nice article on UK's pressure.. why are they so off the radar so much. i saw them play live and they sold me
Graham Hays (4:06 PM)
Thanks, bubba. I can't say I had the guts to pick them to beat Nebraska, but like you, they sold me when I saw them play in person. You can get a sense of how small Kentucky is watching on TV. But I'm not sure you can get a sense of exactly how intense that pressure is without seeing it up close. They're so quick at every position.
Katie Rutan makes ten 3 pointers and Amber and Ta'Shia are solid all game! Xavier wins by 10!!! I can hope, right?
Graham Hays (4:09 PM)
Well, you can count on the last one of those -- Ta'Shia Phillips is going to play hard and play well at all times. The other two will probably determine what happens tonight in that game. Not necessarily 10 3-pointers, but can Rutan, T. Moss and S. Jennings hit shots like they did against Gonzaga and like they mostly didn't at home in the first two rounds, at least until Rutan got hot late against Vanderbilt. And Harris is the key of keys. On pure talent alone, you could make a case for her as the best on a court that includes Neka Ogwumike, Kayla Pedersen and Jayne Appel. But will she bring it for 40 minutes like those three and will Xavier feed her?
Ed (Wallingford, CT)
Why does everyone assume UConn is going to win it all? Stanford is better than it was back in December and the game was a home one for the Huskies. UConn's one weakness is size inside and Stanford has an abundance of size.
Graham Hays (4:14 PM)
I think you'll hear plenty about all of that if we get to that game in San Antonio. Stanford is better than in December, when they were coming off a brutal stretch of games against Tennessee and Duke right before flying to Hartford. But UConn may be better, too. Maybe Kelly Faris doesn't keep shooting quite like she has the last two games, but for a team that doesn't have a deep bench, it's a big deal if she's fully part of the rotation because she's been a terrific defender all season. But you're right, if we get there, people will have to take a much closer look at the first half of that first game.
Betsy Adams out of Valporasio. Look for her to do HUGE things next season.
Graham Hays (4:15 PM)
Brady is on the record.
I saw youe new Final Four, Baylor, UConn, OU, Stanford. Given the upsets and from what you've seen, who is the winner? Sticking with the Huskies? The Cardinal looks awfully good and has the easier road.
Graham Hays (4:17 PM)
I have Kentucky over OU, which is probably good news for OU. But yes, I'm sticking with the Huskies. You can't call it cruise control because of how hard they play, but they do seem locked in, like they play the same game every time out.
How should we view the Big 12, the toughest conference? Baylor has been impressive. OU beat a good Notre Dame team. Oklahoma State and Texas A&M were huge disappointments. Nebraska struggled, even before getting blown out last night. And Iowa State turned in a 12th seed performance against UConn rather than a 4th.
Graham Hays (4:21 PM)
Not a big fan of drawing conclusions on conferences based on the tournament, with how much individual matchups dictate things. But it seems like, as you lay it out, it's been a push for the Big 12. It hasn't fallen on its face when you look at Baylor and OU, but it hasn't dominated either. Texas A&M ran into a Gonzaga team that was probably underseeded and whether they lost by 25, 30 or 40, I've seen a lot of teams look that bad against UConn. If you went in thinking the Big 12 was the toughest league, you can find evidence to support that. If you went in thinking it was overrated, ditto. Not sure a lot of minds were changed either way.
How many more seasons do UConn have left in them
Graham Hays (4:23 PM)
As one of a handful of the best teams? At least as long as Auriemma is there. As an unbeaten, double0-digit margin juggernaut? It's tough to see them keeping that up once Moore and Charles are separated.
OK, I am a huge UK fan, but have also been an Oklahoma follower and fan for many years. I really believe that if A'dia Mathies, Victoria Dunlap, and especially Amber Smith are on game tomorrow as they were last night, they can beat Oklahoma. I'll take their speed and unrelenting defense over size any day.
Graham Hays (4:27 PM)
That's fair. It's funny, but Liberty is probably the team that made the best use of its size against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament (a game when the Wildcats may also have felt the nerves of a tourney debut for all these players close to home). Michigan State and Nebraska didn't deal with the pressure well enough to go to work in the post consistently. If Danielle Robinson does that and Oklahoma starts getting a lot of touches close to the basket for Amanda Thompson and Abi Olajuwon, it has an advantage there. But if Robinson gets tired against the pressure, after playing 45 minutes against Notre Dame, it's trouble for the Sooners.
baylor in the FF, home court in san antonio effect on possible NC
Graham Hays (4:29 PM)
Maybe a little, but unless FSU pulls the stunner tomorrow, you're talking about UConn in the semifinals, and the Huskies aren't unfamiliar with playing in big venues with everyone other than their fans actively rooting against them. And UConn has played in the building already this season.
Sarah (South Dakota)
I think it's funny that Geno Auriemma has to explain their lopsided wins by saying things like, "This team (that we just slaughtered) is much better than they looked tonight." It's become one of his standard phrases, and I'm just wondering, have you ever heard any other coach say that after beating another team?
Graham Hays (4:30 PM)
I think most coaches say that after a double-digit win, just on the off chance the teams play again down the road. The difference, as you point out, is Auriemma has to say it after every game.
Chad (High Point, NC)
Graham, why does women's basketball not have the kind of parity we see in the men's game?
Graham Hays (4:35 PM)
I get where you're coming from, Chad, but it sort of frustrates me to hear it after what we've seen the last couple of weeks. Yes, UConn, and to a lesser degree Stanford, are sort of hanging over the whole thing because of the way they're rolling over people. But I can't remember a year where the competition has been more, for lack of a better word, competitive than it has been this March. So what's more likely a sign of what direction the game is moving: one or two teams that I would suggest are increasingly anomalies or an increasingly level landscape after that? As for the root of your question, I'd say the reason there has historically been less parity, and continues to be less parity, than in the men's game is because the women's game is younger. It takes time to produce enough talent to spread evenly across 300 Div. I programs and for those programs to get the funding and support to compete evenly.
George (Windsor (CT))
I don't see Baylor gets to FF, not this year. Why? Because beyond Griner, they are not a very good team and not too balance. And no one-person teams win titles. What do you think?
Graham Hays (4:38 PM)
Don't agree. Melissa Jones and Morghan Medlock are absolutely the kind of talents you'd expect to see starting for a Final Four team. Kelli Griffin is a good point guard and Griner, albeit for completely deserving reasons, has completely overshadowed a really good and really deep freshman class. Baylor can still be inconsistent, but in terms of talent, it's a lot more than Griner.
What is the biggest personnel matchup in tomorrow's game between OU & UK?
Graham Hays (4:40 PM)
I don't know how Kentucky will come out defensively against Olajuwon and Thompson, but whether it's one-on-one or just in the same vicinity, Amanda Thompson and Victoria Dunlap on the same court will be a lot of fun to watch. And what kind of pressure is Amber Smith able to put on Danielle Robinson?
I asked Mechelle Voepel who she thought had the better career at TENN, Candice Parker or Chamique Holdsclaw? She chose Chamique. Do you agree, and if so did she also have a better career than Diana Taurasi at UCONN?
Graham Hays (4:43 PM)
Wow, tough call. I guess I'd go Holdsclaw for Tennessee, just with the extra games and the extra title. I'll have to duck the Taurasi one. I need more time to mull it over. My gut feeling is Taurasi's last title might have been the best single season effort between the two of them but she may also have had more support around her over the full pull.
for george.. people seem to discount the LA Tech family tree at baylor
Who you got: Baylor or Duke? And any shot either of those teams can take down the mighty UCONN?
Graham Hays (4:46 PM)
I picked Baylor. I could also see the team's youth showing through, which would be trouble against as good a defensive team as Duke. But when it comes down to it, Griner's playing too well and having Jones out there was the final piece of the puzzle.
Graham Hays (4:46 PM)
And with that, I need to head over to the arena. Tune in tonight and enjoy the games!
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