Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the start of the college season.
Voepel has covered women's college and pro basketball for ESPN.com since 1996. Read her blog at www.mechellevoepelblog.com.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
Good afternoon. I am starting the chats again after a little break in them following the WNBA season. Later today is the WNBA draft lottery. Can Minnesota get really lucky again?
Stephen (Los Angeles, CA)
Who is your front runner for the Wade Trophy? And do you see any dark horses rising from the ashes to via for a national championship?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
Nneka Ogwumike would be my top pick right now for the Wade trophy. Not exactly going out on a limb there. And I don't think we're going to see a team come out of the blue to contend for the NCAA title. It's going to be a team we expect to compete for it.
Justin (Coral Gables)
How big of an impact will Pitt transfer Shawnice Wilson have with Miami? I feel like all Miami was missing was a big inside presence and she is it. Agree?
Mechelle Voepel (2:10 PM)
At 6-6, she's certainly a big presence, for sure. I would agree that the Canes needed more of that to go along with such a spectacular guard combo. Let's see if Wilson's offensive prowess improves while playing with Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams. It's not as if Miami needs a lot offensively from Wilson. Defensively, she's going to help the team with the shots she can not just block but alter.
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Has any player had a worse run lately than Drey Mingo? First there was whatever led to her lack of development and decision to leave at Maryland. Then she almost dies and loses part of her hearing. Now, she loses her senior season to an ACL. I know that NCAA rules about 6th years of eligibility are .... complex .... but is there any chance she gets to come back next year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
I hope so. It's hard to believe so many things can happen to one person while in college. She's shown a monumental amount of strength so far, and I hope the NCAA will understand the challenges she's faced. How could they not?
kevin (macon ga)
Lisa Leslie has been tweeting about "mentoring" Candice Wiggins. Is it appropriate for an owner of one team, as Leslie is now, having regular meetings with a restricted free agent from another? Wouldn't most sports league consider that tampering?
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
Sure seems like it to me ... but I wonder if Lisa Leslie is really thinking in ownership terms. It's a new role for her, and she may need to at some point really consider how that changes some of the things she can do and say.
Looking at the top 7 teams schedules (including preseason/holiday tourney likely match-ups) seems like there could be a lot of movement at the top of the rankings. Likely top 10 match-ups for each team: Baylor - 5, ND - 6, UT- 4, Stan- 2, T A&M- 4, UConn- 7,MIA-4. Do you think the rankings will actually be an assessment of a teams strength or schedule? Looks to me that Stanford has the inside track of staying at the top with the weakest schedule of the contenders.
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
I always say to not take the rankings all that seriously *anytime,* but especially not in November and December. There are a lot of match-ups that could shake up the polls, but it's all such a subjective process. And especially early on, there will be a lot of teams voters are really just trying to get a feel for.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
With the WNBA Draft Lottery being held today, will the winning team automatically select Stanford's Ogwumike at #1, or are there other contenders for that selection?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
OK, seriously, last night I had this dream that I was a WNBA GM, and I had the No. 1 pick in the draft. And I'm looking at a list of players available but I don't know *ANY* of them. I don't even recognize the names of the schools they play for. I say, "Who in the world are these people?" I think, "Can I just trade this pick for some player that I actually know?" That's all of the dream I remember. Ridiculous, I know. But ... I guess it may reflect my concern about the senior class and viable draft options. Maybe, though, it is better than I think. But if I were a GM in real life (hah!) and I had No. 1 next April, Nneka Ogwumike would be the easy choice.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Will Ohio State be able to continue their streak of winning either the Big Ten Conference regular season and/or tournament now that they are without the services of a future WNBA center?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I think the Buckeyes may relish being in the role of underdog in the Big Ten for a change. Might be good for them. Right now, they would not be my pick to win the league all, but it's not as if teams such as Penn State, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan State etc., are necessarily miles ahead of Ohio State. At least I don't think so. So I don't expect them to win the Big Ten regular-season or tournament, yet I don't think if they manage to pull off the latter, in particular, it will be a huge shock.
kevin (macon ga)
Are the Sparks looking for a new coach or will they bring Jellybean back?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
I am not sure at the moment what the Sparks or Joe Bryant are thinking, but I can give some insight into how the veterans felt about him. They would prefer a coach who's maybe a little tougher, sticks to a philosophy and works on that in practice everyday. The Sparks players I've talked to _ who I think are very hoops-intelligent _ think a coach needs to commit to how he/she wants to play and then believe in that - not try to be constantly tinkering. One player told me, also, that she is most comfortable with a coach who is pretty no-nonsense and business-like; she felt Bryant at times was "too nice," and worried about players' feelings. She wasn't really criticizing him, but thinks it would be more beneficial for him to say, "This is what we're doing. Let's do it."
J (Washington, DC)
Mechelle, what are your thoughts on Rutgers this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
It's funny, but I kind of have the same feeling about Rutgers most years. When Stringer has the right mix of players who really understand her - which is not the easiest thing to do - then that team will be successful because her system works. It might not be the prettiest thing to watch, of course, but when the players *get* what she wants, they win games. But there are good players who don't *get* her, so that's always a challenge. I feel like I want to see them play a game or two before I have an idea if this is her kind of group.
Do you think Jennifer Azzi can turn around the University of San Francisco's program?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
With the right coach and some good (lucky) breaks with recruiting, various mid-majors/small-conference schools can make breakthroughs. Sustaining that success, though, is really difficult. She's going to have be able to get more talent, and then we'll see what her coaching chops are like. USF has had some success in the past, so we at least know it's possible.
Jeremy (New Orleans)
How do you see the Miami vs. Tennessee match up playing out? Huge non conference showdown! Potential Final Four preview?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Miami is going to have to prove it can play at that level in the postseason. And the only way you do that is... well, to do it. Tennessee seems more like a classic UT team to me this year - lots of size and athleticism. If someone like Taber Spani gets on a hot streak shooting to go along with their bigs and penetrating/slasher players, they are really, really good. I don't know if Miami is ready to go toe-to-toe with them on this stage, especially in Knoxville. But I hope so, because it will make for a great game.
I really do think you're going out on a limb selecting Nneka Ogwumike for the Wade Trophy. Have you completely forgotten about Brittney Griner?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
The thing is, for the longest time, the Wade was so heavily dominated by senior winners. It's gone away from that in the last decade or so - which is for the best - but I think seniors still get an edge a lot. (Obviously, though, not with Maya Moore winning it multiple times.) If it's not Nneka, it will almost certainly be Griner. Or maybe I should say if it's not Griner, it almost certainly will be Nneka. And, no, unless I'd had a heavy object dropped on my head in the last hour - which I haven't - then I could not forget Griner.
Will UConn's first post-Maya year be an instant-replay of their first post-Di year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
Indeed, this is the key question on the minds of those in Connecticut ... well, unless they still don't have their power back, that is. Yeesh, what a storm, and what an aftermath. Anyway, I do think it's a enormous challenge for UConn to have championship expectations the year after MM, but coaches like Auriemma really don't think that way. They don't lower expectations.
How do you see Nebraska fitting in and doing in the Big 10 this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
The Huskers may do OK, actually. Last year was a rebuilding year after having lost all those seniors from 2010, and the younger players got a lot of time to mature. But they've had a lot to deal with in terms of coach Connie Yori's health issues and the transition to the new league. I'll be eager to see where they fit in. Ask me how I think Missouri is going to do in the SEC: Not well.
Alex (St. Paul)
Have you been following the dispute in the Israeli league? Will the players be able to find alternative teams to play with?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
I have read about it, and I can understand the points of view from both sides. However, it doesn't do any good for the development of the Israeli players to have the league be shut down. It's up to the American players' agents to try to scramble to help them find work. Hopefully, that will happen for them.
Is Sammy Prahalis the only legit point guard candidate in the entire first round of the 2012 WNBA Draft?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Interestingly enough, we had quite a debate at ESPN.com about Prahalis being one of the top-five point guards on our top-five lists. I make the case that her stats indisputably put her there. Others are still not sold on her leadership, for obvious reasons with the various meltdowns. I recently talked to Katie Smith, who of course knows Prahalis and knows what it takes to play PG in the WNBA. She believes in Prahalis and thinks she can play at that level. I haven't picked too many WNBA brains just yet to see how Shenise Johnson, for example, is being evaluated for PG potential.
Sean (Las Vegas)
Do you think stanford can make the final four for the fifth year in a row ?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
Yes, I think they can, and they likely will.
Jasy (Boise, Idaho)
With a spectacular young point guard in Chelsea Gray and a future All American in Elizabeth Williams, Duke has tons of young talent. Do you think they can content this year, because they are so young? Or do they need more experience?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
The Blue Devils do have a lot of talent - absolutely. But I am wondering who really steps forward as this team's on-court leader. Because it's going to have to be somebody who has the "approval" from coach Joanne McCallie to do that. They will certainly contend in the ACC, but as to whether they have Final Four potential ... it will depend in part on how mature the youngsters truly are. But also on how the team is coached.
Blake Whitney (Washington, DC)
With the horrific scandal unfolding at Penn State, I couldn't help but think back to the days of Rene Portland and how long Penn State took to do something in that instance. Obviously this is on a completely different scale of seriousness, but it seems to speak to a larger problem of people sticking their heads in the sand at Penn State. Thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Yes, It's been a column I've been working on all week, as soon as the news broke Saturday. It should run fairly soon. The connecting factor in these two episodes is leadership not stepping forward to defend those who have less _or no _ power, and the insulated way that Penn State has tended to operate. I don't believe, though, that that mentality is in any way unique to Penn State. A lot of institutions tend to zealously protect the powerful, even when they've done something wrong or at least need to be scrutinized.
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Thanks for the questions. We'll find out later today the WNBA draft lottery order, and college tip-offs will be happening all over the country soon. Look forward to chatting with you next week.