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 (2:05 PM)
Good afternoon. It's a rainy day here in the Midwest, where we're still trying to figure out that Colorado-Oklahoma game last night. Not a Rocky Mountain high for the Sooners on their last Big 12 trip to Boulder. Much less surprising, though, was DePaul's loss at Louisville. Well, let's get started.
Blake (Washington, DC)
Big matchup in the Atlantic 10 on Sunday as Xavier travels to Philadelphia to take on Temple, with both teams at 13-0 in the conference. How do you like the Owls' chances of pulling the upset?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Its's been really interesting seeing how well Temple has played during the A-10 season, after the Owls lost six games in non-conference play. Some of those non-con losses were perfectly understandable, though, like to Ohio State (which admittedly has had its own problems), UCLA and Duke. The bottom line was that coach Tonya Cardoza really challenged her team in the non-con. And you can perhaps look at that seven-point loss to Duke at the end of December as an indicator that the team had learned a lot. And with the upcoming game on Temple's home court, I do think the Owls could pull this one off. It's great for the league to have this kind of game at the end of the season.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Yes, Geno deserves votes for COY, as do others. But what about Tonya Cardoza of Temple? Cardoza led Temple to 21 wins in 2008-09, and to 25 wins in 2009-10 which tied for the second-most in the history of the program. This year, the team is 22-6, 13-0 in the Atlantic 10. If Temple beats Xavier and wins the A-10 Tournament, is Cardoza going to get votes for national COY?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I've gotten some e-mails recently from UConn supporters who think this season - all things considered - is Geno Auriemma's best coaching job ever. Good case to be made there. Certainly, he is high on the list of COY candidates, but I'm sure he's really proud that his longtime assistant Cardoza is one of the challengers for that award. I'm still debating who I think the COY should be ... wouldn't argue with either one of those picks. Michigan State's Suzy Merchant is among those in the discussion, too, I think. And how about Katie Meier at Miami? She has a huge game tonight against Florida State.
Helen (New York)
Does anyone want to be the new Donna?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
Yes, there are people who want the job of WNBA president ... but I'm still waiting to hear from NBA headquarters about even just some *generalities* about what THEY want and if they even have a ballpark-figure timetable for the new WNBA president to be announced and on the job. Just this morning, I got another call saying they weren't ready to talk about it still this week. So perhaps they'll be ready the first week of March? Or maybe they will just suddenly announce the person when all of us reporters who cover *both* pro and college women's basketball are in the midst of March Madness and barely have any time at all to deal with the WNBA? Gee, that would make sense! I have wanted to write a story for the last two months that has some specifics directly from the NBA/WNBA rather than just speculation. You'd think the NBA/WNBA would want there to be some buzz and chatter about this, and would understand there is anticipation about it from fans. Yeah, you'd think.
kevin (macon ga)
Is Taj McWilliams a good fit in Minnesota?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
So far, she's been a good fit everywhere she's played. She has instant respect, not just because she's on older player, but because she's such a good presence in the locker room, a genuine leader who knows how to talk to people of all ages. At some point, athletes reach an age when the body can no longer do what it needs to in order to compete in pro sports, but Taj seems to be successfully stretching out the end in a way few players have. I like this move because Minnesota has all kinds of talent (and is about to get even "Moore" talent) but is still a young team. Taj will be fine with not being a star; but she'll provide on-court production, work ethic, emotional stability and veteran leadership.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Who do you predict will win tonight's Big Ten match-up of Ohio State versus Michigan State in East Lansing? Also, who is your pick for Big Ten Player of the Year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
Ohio State has ramped up its play in this odd, disappointing season for the Buckeyes. They come into this game with more "need" of the victory than Michigan State, but the Spartans won't see it that way. They want to close out the regular-season really strong and avenge their loss to Ohio State in Columbus in January. I'd say the Spartans are going to defend their home turf. As for Big Ten POY, once again it's hard to argue with the numbers of OSU's Jantel Lavender from getting it once more. But Northwestern's Amy Jaeschke and Michigan's State's Kalisha Keane have to be in the discussion, too. Would like any Big Ten fans on the chat today to post whom they'd pick and why.
Helen (New York)
How do you gauge the media response to the clearing of Diana? Has it been "enough"? Have you heard from reporters who, bluntly put, rushed to judgment and hung her out to dry?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
I actually got some complaints from readers that we at ESPN.com were doing *too* much about the exoneration of Diana Taurasi, which I found preposterous. In fact, I felt like it was really important to do at *least* as much as we did. I don't specifically know of reporters who hung her out to dry, as you put it, at least none of the regular women's basketball reporters I know. But I'll admit there is always a lot of stuff out there that I don't necessarily watch or read, especially when it concerns women's basketball being commented on by people who don't pay the slightest bit of attention to the game unless a negative story comes up. As a general thought, I will say these PEDs-related stories can be very tough for everybody in the media who is trying to be a responsible, fair reporter. The media has been criticized heavily for its inaction during so much of the steroids era in Major League Baseball, how reporters just "ignored" or didn't confront what was right before their eyes. And there really was some legitimacy to that criticism. Unfortunately, the situation with so many sports and PEDS has led to a media/fan culture that now tends to distrust athletes. Those who are linked to PEDS - even if through what proves to be a faulty lab - have to prove innocence to what tends to be a very skeptical audience. Not saying that it's fair, but it's sadly understandable as to why it's that way. A week before the Turkish lab retracted its findings on Taurasi, I remember one day just thinking about her situation and how lonely and frustrating that must feel. Even with family, friends and many supporters, it's still the reputation and livelihood of that one person that is on the line. I'm glad it was resolved, and I hope she feels vindicated.
What are Michigan's chances of getting into the tournament this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
Considering their strength of schedule and RPI, the Wolverines have a stronger case than most 16-10 teams. They finish with Minnesota and Illinois, so if they can win those two and get at least one Big Ten tournament victory, you'd think the committee would look favorably on them getting a bid.
Is Stanford being tested enough during the Pac-10 season, or does being "tested" really matter? Aren't there only a handful of teams at the top level and unless they play each other they're not going to be ready for the rigors of a final four?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
I'd say it doesn't matter that much in regard to Stanford, considering the Cardinal has made it to the last three Final Fours without really being tested much in the Pac-10. Not entirely sure what you mean with the last part of your question. I think most folks would say there are a handful of teams favored for the Final Four, and I'd say all of them are ready for it. Doesn't mean they all have the same chance to win it, but they're ready to get that far, for sure.
Julie (Boise, Idaho)
Many people have written off Duke as a Final Four Contender, because of their offense. Do you still see this as the situation? They have a great, clutch player in Jasmine Thomas. Can she put Duke on her back and take them to the final four? With the developing players, it seems to me, she finally may be getting some help.
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
There's a difference between calling Duke a "contender" to make the Final Four, which the Blue Devils are, and a "favorite" to make it, which is less the case in large part because of the offensive inconsistencies that have plagued the team. Having Jasmine Thomas is a huge help, no doubt. And, of course, last year, it's not like Duke was very far away from making it to the Final Four ... they could have won that Elite Eight game against Baylor, losing by three. So it depends on the matchup and whether Duke can avoid having one of those lengthy dry spells against an opponent that won't let the Blue Devils come back if they're down too far.
Who will win national player of the year in your opinion?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
Maya Moore will win. She's been terrific all season. While Brittney Griner has been great, too, I really just don't see any chance that Moore will not be most people's pick.
thoughts on Xavier? do you think there's a possibility of them receiving a #1 seed if they win out their schedule and their conference tournament? possible contender for the championship game?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
Lots of questions today on Xavier. I guess there is still an outside shot of X as a No. 1 *if* the Musketeers win out and there are some upsets among the favorites for top seeds either at the end of the regular season (doubtful) or in their respective league tournaments (a little more likely). But the odds are very likely they'll be a No. 2 ... or No. 3 if they themselves are upset. If Xavier can make a breakthrough to the Final Four - which as we know it was close to doing last year - that would be a great thing for women's basketball. It's hard to make that kind of breakthrough AND win a title, though, in the same year. And again, in terms of how far Xavier can go in the NCAA tournament, it's really hard to even speculate on most teams in that regard until the actual bracket comes up and you see what kind of road they have.
Jacob (Milwaukee, WI)
What do you think of BYU and their chances of an at large if they don't win the MWC tourny?
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
Well ... at 19-7 now and without a signature victory (but three losses outside the top-100 in the RPI), BYU really needs to win the automatic bid and not count on anything else.
What are your thoughts on the ACC tournament? It seems like the top 4-5 teams in the conference keep trading wins and losses
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
You're right ... there are just two games left in the regular season, and yet so much is still up in the air. Tonight is a big night at Miami, with FSU visiting. And Duke is going to Virginia, where the Cavs have been dangerous. Sunday, Duke and Carolina have their second game, with the Tar Heels having won the first. And even though Maryland is right now in the middle of the standings, the Terps could cause some ruckus in Greensboro. Even once the ACC tournament bracket is finally set, this is going to be hard to predict. Duke still has to be considered the favorite, but less so than we probably would have thought coming into ACC season.
would a Final Four matchup between UCONN and Tennessee be good for WCBB, or would the off court drama detract from what promises to be a great final four?
Mechelle Voepel (3:24 PM)
It would be very good for women's basketball. They haven't met since 2007, and I think most people at this point would be very interested in seeing them play again. There would be a lot of drama, but that isn't always a bad thing.
What are your thoughts on the latest signings in the WNBA? With Candace Parker back in L.A., Maya in Minnesota, Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi rested after not playing this winter, and Seattle still being Seattle, the West is looking much more competitive this year.
Mechelle Voepel (3:27 PM)
Good points ... last year, Seattle was so dominant and the rest of the West all had some kind of problems holding them back or keeping them from being as good as expected. It could be a very interesting conference race again in 2011. Last year, it was more a matter of who - other than Seattle - was going to stumble into the playoffs despite their flaws.
Mechelle Voepel (3:34 PM)
Thanks again for all the questions ... will probably chat a day earlier next week (Wednesday) to get ahead of league tournaments beginning. Talk to you then!