Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the women's college hoops 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 (2:06 PM)
Good afternoon. I'm back in the Midwest after a visit to now 80-0 Huskies Land. Let's get started.
kevin (macon ga)
The Storm are apparently interested in Katie Smith. Is that a good fit?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
Yes, Storm coach Brian Agler would really like to talk Katie Smith - whom he coached way back at Columbus, of course, and in Minnesota -into coming to Seattle for another run at a championship. She and Brian get along very well, and Katie was as baffled as everyone else by what went on in the offseason Mystics mayhem. So there would be some draw for Katie to Seattle except ... for her overall life in general, staying in D.C. is a better fit. I expect that if she plays this WNBA season, that's where she will be. She is feeling pretty good physically. So we'll see what happens.
Peter (Atlanta, GA)
Did the Uconn-Baylor game prove that the Huskies are beatable?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
Yes, I think a one-point victory margin after having been down by as much as eight shows that it's possible for UConn to lose. I like a lot of what I saw from the Huskies, though, in terms of the young players really taking on responsibility. The thing is, because they are young, you are bound to get some consistency issues. That happens with even the best young players. So they are NOT the steamroller they were the last two seasons, and I think it could trip them up against certain opponents. That said, I thought - before Kelli Griffin's departure - that Baylor was going to beat UConn. Then Odyssey Sims stepped in and played really well at point guard, and Baylor still fell short.
Your thoughts about Odyssey Sims performance against UCONN?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
Speaking of which, I think she was outstanding in this game. She hit big shots, she seemed to want the responsibility. Much like the UConn freshmen, she acquitted herself well in prime time so soon in her career. But also like them, she is going to have some growing pains, and I'm sure Baylor coach Kim Mulkey knows that. She will not put this all on Sims' shoulders ... Baylor still has enough perimeter talent even without Griffin.
Ashley (Lincoln, NE)
If Nebraska stays on course against St Mary's this weekend after dropping 95 and 99 on Vermont and Miami, respectively, how can the AP possibly keep them out of the top 25?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
How 'bout those Huskers? The AP, of course, is a collection of voters nationwide, including myself, who expected that Nebraska was going to have at least a partial rebuilding year with the loss of so many seniors, led by Kelsey Griffin. But so far, the Huskers have lit up the scoreboard. Dominique Kelley had a career high in points last night, 25, and Jordan Hooper - who might have the best basketball name ever - is an outstanding freshman with a ton of potential. Still, it may take voters more than a couple of games to get the Huskers into the rankings ... the poll just works that way. I am going up to Lincoln to watch them Saturday, so I will also get the chance to see St. Mary's shot-blocking whiz Louella Tomlinson for the first time in person.
Helen (New(ark) York)
Apparently UConn issued 50 media credentials for the Baylor game. Can you talk about who was there (newbies, been-a-long-time oldies), their energy and attitude? And how embarrassing would it have been for Baylor if they had won and no one from Texas had been there to cover the game?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
Actually, it was pretty much a familiar crew of national folks who usually are able to get to the big games: Jere Longman of the NYTimes, Mel Greenberg who has his own web site, Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch. Both Graham Hays and myself from ESPN.com. And all the UConn folks who regularly have covered the team, many of them for a multitude of years. Also, Baylor beat writer Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune was there, so there was Texas representation. A few years back, before the newspaper industry collapse, this might have been something the Dallas or Fort Worth papers might have gotten to, as well.
Brian (Storrs, CT)
That was an incredible game on Tuesday! It seemed to me, from the student section, that Baylor was getting a lot more calls than UConn was, especially in the second half. Do you think this foul disparity is something UConn fans should worry about, or was it just a little bit of questionable officiating.
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I think it represents the difficulty all teams will have in stopping a 6-foot-8 athletic center who is still improving her game. A lot of teams will probably have a foul disparity against Baylor because it's just really hard to guard Brittney Griner without getting into foul trouble.
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
By the way, I've been asked the last couple of weeks if we will see Swin Cash in a Seattle Storm uniform next season. I talked to her after the UConn-Baylor game. She is an unrestricted free agent, and at this point her preference is still to return to Seattle, where she has enjoyed her time. But she's not averse to listening to other offers once the process starts next year, and she knows the Storm have a few things they have to work out, too, in terms of salary cap decisions. Also, Swin is going to decide probably this week whether she will play overseas this winter or do other work, including in broadcasting, here in the United States.
It's still very early, but the Big 10 seems to be doing pretty well against other conferences. Is this the year, one or more teams will make some noise?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
Actually, I was talking about this with some fellow reporters at the UConn-Baylor game ... it would be nice to see the Big Ten have more of a national presence this season. It's still too early to tell much, but Iowa is one of the programs that has some optimism in that regard, if they can avoid any more injuries. I want to wait a little longer to form any strong opinions on the Big Ten, but I certainly am going to keep on eye on the league.
Most fans of opposing teams have a strong opinion of Sammy Prahalis. Should they give her a break?
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
She is just that kind of an athlete: a natural lightning rod. She wears so much emotion on her sleeve, and she's not averse to drawing attention to herself. She's also played right on the border - or going just over the border, at times - of really physical play, which some folks might use another word to describe. Andrea Riley was like this in the Big 12, and there were a lot of spectators who just really didn't care for her. Then there were her fans, who passionately defended her. I think if Prahalis stays the same, the opinions of her will stay the same: Some people will love her, some will loathe her. I don't actually think it's a bad thing to have some diverse personalities like hers in women's sports. Not everybody is Little Miss Sunshine, you know? But Sammy P. does have to be careful about not losing her cool so much she hurts her team, either in action or with her attitude. You *can* be a successful hothead in sports, in my opinion, but you have to know where the line is.
Brad (Beverly, Ma)
How many teams on Uconns schedule are better than Baylor in your opinion?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Better than Baylor? Not many. Maybe Stanford. The thing is, as I think about it, it might not be a better team than beats UConn. Right now, I expect the Huskies are going to get to Stanford undefeated, and that's going to be where the streak stops. But ... when you have the freshmen UConn does, even as good as they are, the inconsistency can really hit at inopportune times. So it could be a team that isn't as good as Baylor that actually does topple UConn.
Mechelle: Have there been any players that have graduated a year earlier to join their college team that much sooner? UConn could use Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart (if she commits) next year!
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Off the top of my head, I can't think of girls hoops players who've accelerated high school by a full year to get into college. I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I don't know of anyone. Anyone who does, let me know. However, in fall high school sports such as volleyball, football and soccer, I've heard of some kids finishing high school in December (after their season is over) and then going to college for spring semester to acclimate themselves before officially starting their college sports careers the following fall. That takes mature kids who are willing to give up the last part of their high school senior years - and the social aspects of that - to get a head start on college. A Nebraska volleyball player I'm soon to have a feature on at ESPN.com did that, and it takes a really serious-minded athlete. And obviously good student.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Who is your WTA Player of the Year? Caroline Wozniacki won six titles, but not one of them was a major; she didn't even reach a final. Serena Williams won two Grand Slam events, but shut it down after Wimbledon. Kim Clijsters won five titles, including the U.S. Open and the year-end event in Doha. Who gets it?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
I would go with Clijsters this year, even though there is the caveat that Serena wasn't able to defend her U.S. Open title. Stupid broken glass.
kevin (macon ga)
Van Chancellor says Jantel Lavender should be the #2 pick in the draft next year. Is it fair to downgrade Lavender based on the pro disappointments of previous Jim Foster coached post players, as many seem to do?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
I don't know if it's "fair," but I think it's natural to look at historical precedence in terms of players from a certain program and/or coach. If you are from UConn, obviously, you are going to get the benefit of the doubt because the alums have been so successful. It's kind of like investing in the stock market: of course you take a look at past performances of a certain stock and stocks similar to it. All that said, let's weigh Van's comment: Obviously, as a four-time WNBA champion coach, he knows what it takes to be a successful pro post player. But ... he is also prone to hyperbole, and players always look pretty good to coaches after they've just lost to those players' teams. So we'll see .... nobody has to make up their mind in November on what they'll do next April in the draft. Although, all the pro coaches I have talked to do like Jantel.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Are you saying OSU doesn't have a shot despite being post centric, on neutral turf and with Prahalis on a rookie?
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
Yes, Ohio State has a shot. But I don't need to point out that Ohio State doesn't have the best reputation in terms of coming up big in big games against non-Big Ten teams ... except I just did. There's a big difference between saying I think now that Stanford will end the streak and saying that nobody else has "a shot." I didn't say the latter.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
What did you think of the Shot Clock violation non call that sealed the game for Uconn? Forsberg and Kantner are the best in the Business and Brewton's OK but they seemed to blow that one (and I remember something similar happening in the W playoffs with change of poessession vs the buzzer sounding on a no rim shot)
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
We reporters asked about it afterward, and the Big East coordinator of officials indicated since Baylor immediately got possession, they could play on ... Baylor's Melissa Jones said she thought it was a shot-clock violation and that she was waiting for a stoppage in play, and then she chastised herself and said she shouldn't have paused briefly and waited for that. I think it was not perfectly handled, but by the same token, it wasn't like the whole game came down to that. Baylor shot 57 percent from the line ... that was what cost them the game.
Alex (St. Paul)
Any surprises in results or performance so far?
Mechelle Voepel (3:26 PM)
I'm not sure how surprised anybody should be by anything in November ... just because unless you had a magical way to be at every practice across the country before the season started, you could not be very sure how good or not good most teams are. Heck, even if you could do that, I'm not sure you would know. That said, some results that did grab my attention were Nebraska's big points pileups against Vermont and Miami, Kansas State defeating St. John's (admittedly in the Manhattan that is FAR from the one that the Red Storm is used to), Seton Hall beating Temple, and Georgetown not just defeating Maryland, but holding the Terps to 45 points.
kevin (macon ga)
How far will Baylor drop in the polls? Could they remain #2?
Mechelle Voepel (3:32 PM)
I think they should remain No. 2 provided they defeat Michigan State on Friday night in Waco. Losing by one point to the No. 1 team on that team's alternate home court shouldn't drop Baylor at all. By the way, folks, Division I NCAA titles get decided in field hockey (the Final Four is kind of like the ACC invitational, with Md., UNC and U.Va., plus the Big Ten's Ohio State) on Sunday and in cross country on Monday. Oklahoma State's men and Villanova's women are defending NCAA X-C champs. There won't be a chat next Thursday, as it is Thanksgiving, and ESPN.com shuts down the chat that day. I will look into chatting on another day next week, probably Wednesday. Thanks for all the questions!