Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the upcoming season.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:01 PM)
Good afternoon, everyone. Before anyone asks, I've yet to hear again from the Mystics since last week. Have talked to two people with connections to players on the team, and those folks also said they are not sure what happened. The uncertainty continues.
Do you know if there's been any discussion about the Big 12 pulling in any other schools when NE and CO leave? If so, any talk about who it might be?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
A lot of things were discussed in the potential-moving frenzy that was going on this summer. I know TCU was one of the schools that came up. To my knowledge, there has been no serious discussion since things have settled down about the Big 12 gaining new members. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but I think for the time being they are focused on strengthening what they almost lost.
kevin (macon ga)
10 days ago you said the Mystics would have news "soon". How soon is soon?
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
Pretty clearly, "soon" in Mystics time is not "soon" in everyone else's time. I had been told by someone in the organization at the time I wrote that it was forthcoming within a week. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Aneela Khan (Canada baby where i live in a igloo!)
What do you feel is the one thing college draftees need to learn about the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Probably that they'll need to be self-sufficient in a way they don't have to be in college. Nobody's coordinating everything for them the way it usually is in college. Pros have a lot more time to themselves where they have to take care of themselves in terms of what they eat, how late they stay out, how they stay in shape. It can also be a lot more lonely as a pro than it is as a college player. There is not the same sense of "we all do everything together" that a lot of college teams have. So along with the fact that you have to elevate your game to stay competitive in the WNBA, you also have to be ready for adult life. I know that's been a hard transition for a lot of players.
tom (san francisco, ca)
In looking at the preseason poll for the SEC, is it going to be a down year for the league? Tennessee is loaded and should dominate, but all the other teams seem to have taken hits in terms of injuries and graduations. Mississippi State lost everyone and Kentucky loses their senior point to an ACL - who has the chance to make noise other than the Lady Vols?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
I kind of compare the SEC to the Big 12 in that regard ... there is one team that everyone expects to potentially be a national championship contender in each league (Tennessee, Baylor) and then a lot of the other teams have talent but question marks. Injuries and graduation have taken a toll on Kentucky, but I still think the Wildcats can have a really good season. Vandy is Vandy ... the Commodores usually figure out a way to get something done. In talking to Andy Landers a few weeks ago, he is optimistic about his Georgia team. LSU and Auburn have some talent. South Carolina, I'm sure, wishes Kelsey Bone hadn't left. The bottom five teams in the preseason poll really do seem to have an uphill climb. It's not the super-powerful SEC that it has been some years - not at all. But these programs are still getting a lot of elite athletes, and so by the end of the season you might some see some real progress in programs that you might not be anticipating now.
I didn't see any of the Big 12 media day *stuff*. What's your impression of how Missouri is moving into the coaching transition?
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
It's really all theoretical until the Tigers actually take the court. New coach Robin Pingeton talked yesterday about it being a "journey" and a "process" ... you know, this is a challenging job. The Tigers have had some good seasons in the Big 12, but they still haven't had a breakthrough-type season where people on campus and the community really took much notice. I think the upperclass players at Missouri were ready to embrace a change, and so Pingeton has that going for her - they are trying to do things her way.
Glenn (fresh meadows, ny)
Midnight Madness is out of the way it's time for the college game to take front and center! First question, who of the big time programs has the most to prove this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
What first comes to mind is that Ohio State would really like to counter what's become the Buckeyes' reputation: A program that can win the Big Ten over and over, but underachieves in the NCAA tournament. And I'm sure after a subpar last season, North Carolina wants to get back to its usual status. Tennessee made the Sweet 16 again last year, but as always, Pat Summitt is expecting more.
Which college coaches stand out as getting their players ready for the WNBA the best? UConn and Rutgers players seem strong and mature for example.
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
They really do stand out for that reason, especially UConn, obviously. I think the tough practices and business-like atmosphere at a program like UConn gets players ready for whatever they might face as pros. Tennessee, Georgia and LSU have represented the SEC pretty well in the WNBA. But the Big 12 schools for the most part have not been all that impressive with producing a lot of WNBA standouts thus far.
kevin (macon ga)
Maya. Kayla. Nneka. Elena. Shekinna. Amber. Jantel. Names we all recognize because of their respective *buzz*. Young women who've already created a rep for themselves as up and coming stars. Okay. So we've got the Wade Watch List.Who's NOT so high on the radar screen, but have it in them to create some Real Buzz this season, i.e., have a real breakout year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
A couple of names from the Big East come to mind right away: Da'Shena Stevens of St. John's, who I think is already well-respected in the league, and Tiffany Hayes at UConn, who has been in the shadows as much as you can be if you play at UConn. With the injuries and graduation, I think Hayes could have a huge role to play for the Huskies. But I think one of the most interesting things about a season is watching who emerges nationally.
Glenn (fresh meadows, ny)
Slam is doing an interesting article on Player/Fan stories...so I ask you...what's the strangest encounter you've had with a fan, and what's the strangest encounter you've had with a player?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
I've tried to think through 26 years of reporting, going back to college, and I can't think of any encounter with a fan or player that I would classify as strange. I've had a few weird or hostile e-mails over the years from fans of the game, usually if they don't like something I've written. But that's it.
Carol Anne (Seattle)
You were at Wednesday's Big 12 media day. I'm surprised at how amateurish the conference's videos and photos are. Can't the Big 12 do better by its women's basketball fans?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
I was at the media day all day, so I haven't actually looked at the videos. I would be interested in how they compare to what's coming out of men's media day today. If that's about the same, then the issue is with the league's equipment and presentation, I guess, rather than anything specifically to do with women's basketball.
what does penn state have to prove this year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
The big thing for the Lions is trying to get out of that "middle-of-the-pack" status. The program wasn't awful last season, but it wasn't notable, either. There's a feeling like the Big Ten has been kind of treading water as a conference for too long, and it needs some shaking up.
Miss. State had a # 1 Draft pick a few years back, whats her story now?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
LaToya Thomas was the top pick from that 2003 draft class, which hasn't necessarily covered itself in distinction in the league. Although No. 3 pick Cheryl Ford, No. 4 Plenette Pierson and No. 5 Kara Lawson have all won WNBA titles. Hopefully, Ford will be returning to the WNBA next season. As for LaToya ... I think she played overseas in 2009, but am not aware if she is playing now.
Glenn (fresh meadows, NY)
In a world like College Basketball where a few months can set back a program years, and Unlike Michael Cooper who inherited a good team from Trakh, how much did Ann Donavan set back Seton Hall by finishing her Liberty contract?
Mechelle Voepel (3:16 PM)
I don't know how much more "last" can you get than dead last in the league, as the Pirates were in 2009-10. So it's hard for me to say anything Donovan could possibly do would set back Seton Hall. I'd say the success she had with the Liberty lets her bring more enthusiasm into a job that's going to take a ton of energy to help the program make progress.
tom (san francisco, ca)
What's your assessment of the situation in Austin? Is it really a matter of time for Goestenkors to get Texas back to national prominence? Maybe it's recruiting, since in this cycle she didn't get Griner or Bone so now she has to "wait" - it seems like Plonsky and the administration are being patient, but the fan base and other Big 12 observers are not.
Mechelle Voepel (3:23 PM)
I guess if the Texas fan base and other Big 12 observers know of anybody who could come in right now and instantly jump ahead of Baylor, Texas A
With each passing day, does it become more and more unlikely that Julie Plank will be named the Mystics' new general manager?
Mechelle Voepel (3:26 PM)
I wish I could answer with some firm idea of what's going on with the Mystics. But I just don't know. Everybody I've asked doesn't know. You might think if that's what they were going to do, it would have been done by now. But this is the Mystics, so who knows.
Mechelle Voepel (3:28 PM)
I appreciate all the questions, and I'm sure we're all looking forward to the day when the Mystics finally announce what they're going to do. Hopefully, they won't drag it out much longer. Same with future plans for Chicago and San Antonio. Chat again next week.