Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at noon ET!
Mechelle Voepel (12:03 PM)
Hi, thanks for joining me a day earlier than usual for the chat this week as we look ahead to several of the league tournaments and the countdown to the Big Dance. March has arrived.
john (shreveport, la)
What latest news on melissa jones of baylor injury?
Mechelle Voepel (12:09 PM)
I don't think there has been an official confirmation this morning that she has regained vision in her right eye, but a couple of Baylor fans have indicated that. For those unaware of her situation, she had swelling behind the optic nerve in her right eye and is out indefinitely, including for senior night tonight in Waco. The hope is that she will be back, though. I think by now, everyone who follows women's basketball has an idea how of highly regarded Jones is a player and person, especially here in Big 12 territory. She has fans of every team rooting very hard for her.
The Baylor-Oklahoma game was one of the top 5 of the year so far. Does the fact that all of Baylor's tests have been of the road make them the favorite when we reach the neutral site part of the Big Dance?
Mechelle Voepel (12:14 PM)
I heard from several people, including some who don't normally watch a lot of women's basketball but did catch this Baylor-OU game, that it was one of the most entertaining they saw all season, men or women. It really was dramatic and exciting, for sure. As for your question, I think you could probably say the same thing about UConn and Stanford, though ... at home, they've been pretty much untouchable. Tennessee of course has been very tough at home. So I don't know that Baylor is necessarily any bigger a favorite on a neutral site than any of those teams. I do think the loss at Tech and the test from Oklahoma are good for Baylor, though. The biggest thing right now for that team is Jones' health because she's so critical a person to have on the floor for her leadership and hustle.
Which of the Big 4 teams might have the toughest Conference Tourney?
Mechelle Voepel (12:16 PM)
Considering Baylor is the only one that's lost a league game, I think it has to be Baylor in the Big 12 tourney. A few weeks ago, I thought Tennessee might be the one that would lose in its league tournament, if it was going to happen to one of the four. I don't think that's going to happen. But Texas A&M and OU came so close against Baylor, and Texas Tech did beat BU in Lubbock. So things could be pretty interesting in Kansas City next week.
PAUL S. (TEXAS)
The women's game is excelling at a tremendous pace, yet I don't see the officials keeping up. As a lady bear fan I realize that we are forced to play a more physical game. In the end a foul is still a foul. What is your opinion on the overall officiating of today's game. Thanks
Mechelle Voepel (12:21 PM)
I honestly think that officiating in every sport at every level takes a beating now even more than ever because of high-def TV and multiple camera angles _ so many ways to see what happened that the official doesn't have. I agree the officials in the women's game are at times more frustrating when they don't keep pace.But I was also complaining about that when I first started writing for ESPN.com in 1996 ... and I know it has gotten better. Ultimately, it's a very difficult job that I would like to see more former players try to do, as a way to stay close to the game.
Mike (Newburyport MA)
With uconn's lack of depth, with the departure of samarie walker, and now heather buck sidelined with a stress fracture and ofcourse doty out for the year does uconn have enough in its tank to win it all? They have proved all year long they can, but its a new ball game when it comes to tourney time. What do u think?
Mechelle Voepel (12:28 PM)
With almost any other program, you'd say, "OK, they don't have the depth, it has to catch up to them eventually." Yet with UConn, they have so consistently found a way to win no matter how many injuries they face, no matter what adversity comes up. Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi before her, are players that can step forward and do somehow produce even *more* when you already think they couldn't possibly do that. It's the greatest compliment you can give to a program to say that even when they get hit by things that would take down most other teams, you still actually *expect* UConn to adjust and deal with it, because the Huskies always do.
Several great players have recently been feted on their respective senior nights, such as Maya Moore, Angie Bjorklund, Amber Harris, Jasmine Thomas, Victoria Dunlap, Danielle Adams and others. Do any of them belong, in your view, in the Top 10 WCBB All-Time?
Mechelle Voepel (12:32 PM)
I think Maya Moore is in that top 10, or going to be historically considered as being in that group. I am very respectful and cognizant of women's basketball history, but I think she's one of the most talented we've ever seen, and she still has a whole professional/international career ahead of her.
kevin (macon ga)
In the introduction to Bird at the Buzzer, Jeff Goldberg suggests that what WBB really lacks is a sense of its own mythology. What can we do to increase awareness of the game's history among both players and fans?
Mechelle Voepel (12:39 PM)
I would say that's the case for women's sports in general, although some have fared a little better in getting attention. But why do we know about so many things from the past in men's sports even when we weren't alive to see them? Why are they emotionally so important to us? Because they were mythologized by media and fans ... not fictionalized, mind you, although there's always some of that, too. :) But they became an important memory for a lot of people, part of American nostalgia, and that was passed down. I never saw Stan Musial play baseball, but I feel like I did because my dad told me so much about his experience watching him. If you ask me the single most important reason I focused my career on writing about women's sports, I would have told you at age 26, 36 and now almost 46 the exact same thing: Because I don't want the great female athletes I watch to be unappreciated and forgotten. Ultimately, it comes down to whether fans feel the same way and share their thoughts and stories with other fans and with the new people that every year develop an interest in this game ... and any other women's sport.
Eric (Coral Gables)
As a student at UM, I am very much invested in the Hurricanes and their brilliant season, so far. In your opinion, how far will the Canes get in the ACC tournament, what seed will they receive in the NCAA tournament, and how far do you think they will get in the NCAA tournament? AND GO CANES!!!
Mechelle Voepel (12:43 PM)
Miami is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, and I thought their regular-season finale win at Georgia Tech was really important. That's not the easiest place to play, and Tech was up for that game. It showed a toughness on Miami's part, and it earned the Canes a share of the regular-season title, which is a landmark thing for that program. Their NCAA seed could be impacted if they win the ACC tournament, which obviously is going to be difficult ... may have to face Florida State for a third time this season, in the semifinals. But we always hear about how far guards can take you in the postseason, and Miami's got two of the best.
Craig (Salisbury, MD)
What are your thoughts on the predetermined sites for the Women's Tourney? Should the regional sites host first two weekends of the tourney?
Mechelle Voepel (12:55 PM)
I've written a lot in the past about the fact that I don't like predetermined sites for the first two rounds. Until women's basketball reaches the stage of true neutral sites for the sub-regionals - and I have no idea when that might happen - I still think top 16 seeds hosting makes more sense. That way, you earn the right to host, and we don't have these inevitable situations where teams on the same seed line have very different paths in the tournament. Or where a team with a worse seed has home-court advantage over a team with a better seed because of pre-determination. TV has been the driving force behind pre-determined sites, and I understand the value of televising all early-round games. But I think it comes at too high a cost to the tournament's overall integrity. I have complained and complained about this for years, and so have other people, but the NCAA has made its choices. As for the idea of having a completely different set-up for the tournament, I know they have looked into it. It's hard to experiment with things that are really different because of the fear it will be a complete flop. Having eight subregionals didn't work well, for example, from an attendance standpoint. So I think we just are still in a limbo state with the game in terms of what is the very best and most fair way to to set up the NCAA tournament. It is a flawed system now that everybody just has to live with.
Damian (Brooklyn NY)
With the Liberty's 15th season at hand do you agree Cappie needs help like getting size at least 2 big women,another scoring threat and if they can play at a high level and compete for the top seeds in the East and how do you the Liberty will end their season?
Mechelle Voepel (12:57 PM)
I would imagine all the Liberty fans are worried about the interior game and how much help Cappie Pondexter will have. With a new coach and system, there's a lot still to be answered. I do think Cappie will continue to excel, but she's got to have some questions, too, about the rest of the make-up of the team in terms of whether they can really challenge for the Easter Conference title.
Mechelle, Tennessee's go-to player in the NCAAs this year: Simmons or Stricklen?
Mechelle Voepel (1:01 PM)
I don't think Tennessee has to have one person that they know is go-to, certainly not the way Candace Parker was in the two championship runs. In fact, I think it could be one of Tennessee's strengths that you really don't know who, on a given night, might just be the one who steps forward in a big way. Of course, the counter to that is that Tennessee doesn't always know that, either. But I think they have become more comfortable with that. And Simmons - even though she's so young - is not at all afraid to be a spotlight player or take the big shot when it's crunch time. Or for that matter, make the big defensive play.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Who do you predict will win the Big Ten Conference Tournament, top-seeded Michigan State or fifth-seeded Ohio State?
Mechelle Voepel (1:05 PM)
I was wrong last week in thinking the Spartans were going to be able to hold off Ohio State on their home court. So I'm not sure that any prediction I have for the Big Ten tournament is worth much. This league has been such a jumble, I really don't know how anyone could very confidently say they think they know how it's going to turn out. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me to see Ohio State, after everything that's happened, actually come in and win this tournament. But I don't know that anybody would be surprised by what will go on there. There is a lot of parity in that league, and that proved to be the case through the regular season.
Patrick (Kokomo, IN)
Die hard Boiler fan here, is Drey Mingo the best story in all of college sports this year given a 50/50 chance to live, and is coming off another double/double. Truly an inspiration.
Mechelle Voepel (1:08 PM)
Speaking of which ... how about Purdue? I agree, this is an amazing story, almost beyond words, really. It's so good to see her back and playing so well.
Is there any chance we wont see UCONN,Stanford,Tennessee,and Baylor in the final four?
Mechelle Voepel (1:12 PM)
Oh, sure there's a chance. Everybody is going to agree they are the four favorites, but until you see the bracket and how the matchups look, you don't know the potential pitfalls. And unfortunately, we know that injuries can happen at any time and radically change the equation for some teams.
With the continued improvement of Stefanie Dolson for uconn, does it make them even more of a threat for the NCAA tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (1:14 PM)
I think they've needed her all along in order to be the threat that they are, and she deserves so much credit for how hard she's worked and how much she's improved. But it says a lot about how well UConn's staff understands talent evaluation. You have to have certain qualities to be successful at UConn that go beyond just talent, and the staff knows how to recognize that in kids. That's such a big part of UConn's success.
Mechelle Voepel (1:16 PM)
I am sorry to have not gotten to more questions today, but I appreciate all of them. Next week, I will likely chat on Wednesday, too, and by then we'll know a lot more about how the NCAA seedings will shape up. Thanks again!
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