Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the college hoops season.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel on Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Good afternoon, coming to you from the tropical paradise of Grand Island, Neb. Ok ... so it's not actually tropical. But it is paradise if you happen to be a high school volleyball fan. I am working on a culture of volleyball in Nebraska story, but on this chat, I figure I'll be pretty busy with hoops. So let's get started.
Notre Dame is ranked #12. Isn't that a bit high for a team that lost 4 key players, even with Diggins returning?
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
There have been a few questions about the "overrated" Irish, both this chat and last. My feeling is to never take the rankings too seriously, but REALLY don't do it at the beginning of the season. So much of voting early is just on reputation. I put Notre Dame 11th. Is that right? Who knows. It's just so hard to tell. Even if you do a lot of research, honestly, there is only so much you can be sure of before the season even starts. The poll starts to make more sense around January, if you ask me.
Carol Anne (aka Scamp) (Seattle)
I think fans deserve to know why players are suspended, especially when it's for more than one game. When things are going well, we are drowned in favorable PR about players. When there are troubles, there's no info. Gossip and speculation and false rumors abound. Wouldn't it better to just tell the truth in 25 words or less?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
As a journalist, I totally agree with you. :) Some of this is about privacy, of course. But I agree ... we are inundated with happy spin, and then everyone clams up when things are not so happy. And in the absence of reasons given, the rumor mill kicks in. Then it becomes, "My friend, who knows someone who knows the radio broadcasters for the team, said she heard that they heard that ..." And away it goes. The truth is usually the best avenue in every possible scenario.
What's the word on why Baylor's point guard quit? Does this mean the advantage now shifts in favor of UConn extending their streak?
Mechelle Voepel (3:13 PM)
And speaking of rumors ... since Baylor said she "quit," I assumed that meant it wasn't a pleasant or amiable departure. What I have heard is just that: She left. Didn't want to play anymore. Seems a real shame, no matter what the reason. You don't get second chances to come back someday and re-do your college athletic career. When it's over, it's over. If you end it early, you are probably going to have some regrets some day. But, that is every person's decision. As to how it affects the game with UConn, it is bound to have some affect because Kelli was one of the three players - along with Melissa Jones and Brittney Griner - whom Kim Mulkey said before the season would be the team leaders. So they will miss her. But this is still a Baylor team with a lot of talent, and UConn - also quite talented - is not as experienced as usual.
USA Basketball had a stipulation that you had to have pro coaching experience to get the head coach's job, but they changed that, presumably to make it possible for Geno Auriemma to get the job. After the '12 Olympics. do you think they'll change it back again? Who else in the college ranks do you think would make a good USA Basketball head coach?
Mechelle Voepel (3:18 PM)
Of course, it allowed Coach K to take over the men, too. Which has been a good thing. USA Basketball can make up whatever rules it wants to accommodate who they want coaching the national teams. Two of the people who seem the most qualified from a coaching and playing history perspective for the women's team are Kim Mulkey and Dawn Staley, former USA point guards, if they want that responsibility.
Do you think Odyssey Sims can step right into the starting point guard slot for Baylor?
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
Baylor really wasn't expecting her to have to do that ... in fact, Mulkey talked on media day on Oct. 20 about the desire to not rush her as she is coming off the knee injury. Obviously, with Griffin gone, Baylor might be in a position where Simms has to come along a little faster. I don't know too many freshman point guards who've ever stepped right in and had no problems. There is a learning curve for everybody. But she is really talented.
Any news on how soon San Antonio will announce who will be their head coach and any new specualtion who it might be? I mean how hard is it and why the delay if it is going to be Dan Hughes?
Mechelle Voepel (3:25 PM)
If they are going to hire somebody else, they may figure there is no need to add in a salary now when Hughes is doing the scouting. And if it's going to be Hughes, he's already there, so maybe they feel like it's not a big deal. At some point, you've got to wonder if San Antonio actually thinks nobody cares.
kevin (macon ga)
What should we make of Liz Cambage saying she might not come to the US if she's drafted? Will that hurt her position?
Mechelle Voepel (3:29 PM)
She's a teen-ager, so she might not feel 100 percent ready. Not everybody is going to be the same in terms of emotional and physical readiness at that age, of course. What she says publicly, though, doesn't matter as much as what she tells WNBA teams. I'm sure whoever wants to pick her will secure a commitment from her before spending that pick.
Michael C. (Westport, CT)
So does UCONN lose this year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:32 PM)
Geno Auriemma said they would ... and I don't think he was just posturing. They should lose at least a couple of games. Just because other teams should have an advantage over them, at least early in the season.
With MN likely adding Maya Moore in the draft, do you think MN will look to move one or more of Wiggins, Wright, or Hornbuckle?
Mechelle Voepel (3:37 PM)
I think the Lynx have a lot of thinking to do. Cheryl Reeve said recently that she had identified her core group that she thought the Lynx would build on, but she didn't specify exactly who those players were. The Lynx have a golden opportunity to finally *really* put the right pieces together, but they have to be sure the players they keep are truly on board with that. I think this team is a lot about finding the right chemistry, and that's harder to do than it sounds. It's not just about talent.
Jono (Atlanta, GA)
Okay, Mechelle. You're the LA Sparks GM. You have the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft. What do you do with it? (Isn't it fun playing head games with other people's picks?)
Mechelle Voepel (3:44 PM)
I'm not sure there are many teams that you could be less sure about right now in terms of draft-day plans than the Sparks. What kind of shape will Candace Parker be in? Will Tina Thompson and Ticha Penicheiro come back? How much will some of the other players improve? This was a team last season of players who were either on the "old' side of veteran or very young. Who besides Candace Parker, who was hurt, was really in the prime of her career on that squad? I'd say nobody. So maybe that's what the Sparks can look for - a few more players who aren't at the beginning or end of their careers. Maybe they deal their draft pick.
Do you think any team in the WNBA has had a profitable year in the last 5 years?
Mechelle Voepel (3:46 PM)
Actually, yes, I do ... but that's just based on anecdotal evidence. I have been told if you don't advance far in the playoffs, your chances at making a profit are very slim.
Mechelle Voepel (3:46 PM)
The secrecy with finances is the WNBA is a nut that no one is quite able to crack.
kevin (macon ga)
The NFL, NHL, MLB, and even MLS have a Hall of Fame Game. Why hasn't the WNBA teamed up with the Women's Basketball HOF to have a game like that in Knoxville?
Mechelle Voepel (3:51 PM)
When I went to the Hall of Fame this summer, I found the ceremony and the atmosphere around it to be really lacking. I wrote that they needed to have either a WNBA game there to go along with the induction, or have the induction during the college season and have a game or a doubleheader on that weekend. As it is, there is little reason for fans to make the trip to see the Hall of Fame induction. The tickets are very expensive, and it's really not that fun to watch people ramble through their speeches. The ceremony is boring and long. It needs to be overhauled. There is not enough of a cooperative effort between various organizations to boost the profile of the Hall of Fame. It's like it's just Knoxville's "thing," and I think it's been withering on the vine.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Why is it women's basketball fans simultaneously beg for coverage, then trash and berate the commentators and analysts for not picking or ranking their team where the fans want? Can you explain this? :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:57 PM)
I did tell Barry I would take his question. :) I think some fans are very reasonable about how they evaluate commentary and analysis, and some aren't. It's really their prerogative to approach it however they want to. In the end, you really don't have to pay attention to anyone's opinion about your team. The one thing I always say is that predictions don't actually mean anything. They have no impact on what really happens. Sometimes teams use them for "motivation," but you have to go out and play. So I think getting all bent out of shape about predictions is kind of a waste of energy, but ... again, there is a lot of emotion tied up into being a fan. I think sometimes - I'm really not joking - fans would be more willing to objectively criticize their own family members before they'd do that with a worshipped coach or player. Not all fans. But some. :)
What do you think about the resurgence of the Louisiana Tech program under Teresa Weatherspoon?
Mechelle Voepel (3:59 PM)
I think everyone who follows the sport is hoping for the best for Louisiana Tech. That is a program that is so crucial in the history of women's basketball, everyone should want to see it sustain itself into the future. Certainly, T-Spoon has the energy and the love of the university to be the person who leads that process. But it is a lot of work.
Mechelle Voepel (4:02 PM)
Well, I actually do have to head back to Kansas this afternoon. Will be going to Connecticut for the UConn-Baylor game on Tuesday. I have said that I think Baylor can win that game, but let's see how the Bears and Huskies do this weekend. Baylor plays three games in Waco, while UConn plays one in Storrs.