Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the 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 (2:06 PM)
Good afternoon, everyone. Basketball season is officially in full swing. NCAA women's soccer tourney in progress. NCAA field hockey Final Four is this weekend. NCAA D-I cross-country championships for men and women are Monday. Temperatures have been dropping here in the Midwest. The only bizarre thing is I've actually gotten some holiday gift purchases done in November. That never happens. Let's get started.
UConn Steve (Plano)
UConn has encountered trouble scoring against Stanford in their last two matchups. UConn scored 59 in a loss to Stanford in December 2010, with Maya. UConn scored 53 in a win over Stanford in April 2010, with Maya and Tina. How many points do you think UConn needs to score to win against Stanford? Do you think Stanford's height, athleticism, and depth are too much for UConn to overcome? Will the Huskies NCAA record 85 consecutive home win streak end on Monday? Thanks!
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
UConn is really good at the old, "rise-to-the-moment" thing, especially at home. Stanford would appear to have a post game, in particular, that is going to give UConn a lot of problems, especially this early in the season. I guess I am looking at this game more from the standpoint of how many points does UConn need to hold Stanford to, as opposed to how many the Huskies have to score. Because I don't think - and doubt anyone else does, either - that UConn wants this to be a high-scoring game. A score in the 50s would favor the Huskies, one would think. Not that Geno Auriemma really likes those kinds of games.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
Regarding Baylor, we keep hearing about Griner and Sims, Sims and Griner... but how important are Destiny Williams, Brooklyn Pope and Jordan Madden to the Lady Bears chances to get to Denver and cut down the nets?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Absolutely, it's Baylor's depth that makes this team the so-called favorite, along with the superstar quality. I thought that last year, too, though ... the difference could be that the Bears have more experienced depth this season. When you look back on Baylor's 2005 title, there were stars like Sophia Young, but also a lot of role-player contributors who all had big moments throughout the course of the season.
D-Ford (San Dimas)
Thanksgiving Question. Have the family over, should i go traditional with Turkey or go Hybrid with Turducken?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Go vegan with Tofurkey.
Prevailing wisdom among a lot of fans right now seems to be that there's a top one (Nneka Ogwumike), then a next two (Shekinna Stricklen and Shenise Johnson in whichever order), and then the rest for the 2012 WNBA Draft. Would you agree with that?On a related note, any chance at all that Delle Donne or Griner give up their remaining eligibility and declare for the 2012 draft? Both are old enough to do it under the rules.
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I'm willing to see how some other players develop over the course of their senior season, and I'm sure others are, too. I know at least one WNBA coach who's going to the Southern Cal-Nebraska game in Lincoln tomorrow night, so I think the WNBA folks are aware that maybe there are some under-the-radar people worth scouting. I don't think anyone will dislodge Ogwumike from No. 1, even though the Sparks don't seem to have as great a need for someone in that particular spot on the floor as they do others. She's so talented, though, I think they'd be crazy not to pick her. Just my opinion. After that ... I like a lot about Stricklen, but she might have a little to prove in terms of offensive consistency. Then again, most players do as they make the transition to the pro leagues. As for Delle Donne and Griner, nothing that either one has said or done so far indicates to me that they have an interest in leaving school early.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
In Tuesday night's nationally televised game, what was the main factor which caused Miami to be unable to keep up with Tennessee during the 2nd half?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
Tennessee's defense was like a vise that at first was open and then started tightening throughout that game. Tennessee made it harder and harder as the game went on for Johnson and Williams to do what they wanted. I was surprised that Tennessee wasn't better on the boards, but they did improve on that, too. Add in that Taber Spani and Meighan Simmons were making clutch offensive plays, and it was too much in the second half for Miami to handle.
kevin (macon ga)
The IOC wants to mandate that female boxers wear skirts in competition. What is the fixation these international groups have with athletes wearing skirts?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
This all goes to the core belief by some people (male and female) that women should feel some sort of mandate to look "feminine" and "attractive" in a conventional sense to men, regardless of the activity the women are engaging in. It's a backward-thinking concept that is going to meet a lot of resistance, for good reason. If a woman wants to wear a skirt playing sports, fine. I have no problem with her making that choice. You watch some of the pro tennis players at Grand Slam events, and I swear they look as if they take as much time to primp for a match as some girls do to get ready for their prom. That's totally OK - if that's what they are comfortable doing. But no woman should be mandated to be "feminine" while competing. It's ridiculous. It's outdated. But ... it's a hard notion to kill. Especially when these governing bodies that are run mostly - if not exclusively -by men get involved. And there are also a lot of women who try to enforce this gender rigidity, too, as if those things shouldn't be personal choice and comfort. My colleague Bonnie Ford, ESPN.com's Olympics writer, addressed this issue in a recent blog: http://espn.go.com/blog/olympics/post/_/id/2232/drawing-a-hemline-in-the-sand
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
When considering the injuries to Purdue's Mingo and now Michigan State's Williams, has any conference been bit more by the injury bug than the Big Ten thus far this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
Sadly, so far I do think the Big Ten has been the most affected by major injuries ... but we're only in November. (Groan). Unfortunately, there are several more months for another league to get that dubious title that no one wants.
Seriously ... what is the Tulsa Shock going to do now? They've got so much bad mojo they can't even win a high spot in the draft lottery. And I hate to ask negative questions, but it's going to sound like one anyway, no matter how I phrase it: Is Liz Cambage a disappointment? Should a number two draft pick reasonably have been expected to produce more than she did? What's the status of her relationship to her national team, and how will that affect the Shock's plans for next season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
I do feel bad for the Shock ... they really defied the odds with getting the No. 4 pick, and not in a good way. I don't know that anything has changed with Cambage's relationship with the national team, which is to say I think she will not be in Tulsa until after the Olympics are over, if then. At this point, there is so much work for the Shock to do that figuring out how to deal with her potential absence is just one thing on the list. As for her being a "disappointment," I think it depends on what Tulsa was thinking with the pick. Did they pick her thinking that in the course of one WNBA season she could become an immediate impact player who was polished? Or did they get her thinking she was a 19-year-old diamond in the rough with physical size/skills that very, very few players can replicate? They should have been thinking the latter, in which case she did about what was expected. Obviously, it's easier to be that player who is growing into potential stardom on a much better team, because the expectations of you are less. We even saw growing pains from a much more polished overall player - Maya Moore - and she's older than Cambage and was with a far, far better team.
A new season with conference realignments, what kind of impact Utah and Colo bring to Pac-12 and Nebraska to Big 10?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
Nebraska is a more immediate good fit into the Big Ten, I think, because the Huskers have actually resembled teams from that conference in terms of area of the country the players are from, skill set, size, speed. I'm not saying Nebraska didn't fit well in the Big 12, but they didn't always have the talent that the better Big 12 teams had. They may consistently be more competitive in the Big Ten. I don't say that as an insult to the Big Ten, but just basing it on the fact that the Big 12 has had more recent success getting teams to the Final Four/winning NCAA titles than the Big Ten. As for Utah and Colorado ... the jury is still out on both of them in terms of how good their programs can be now. Can they measure up to the best teams that each of those schools have previously had? The best of Utah and the best of Colorado - historically - are teams that could have played well in the former Pac-10. But in both cases, the coaches who were the architects of those teams with the Utes and Buffs - Elaine Elliott and Ceal Barry - are not the programs' coaches anymore. So ... we'll see if they can both develop to be strong Pac-12 teams.
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
And let's acknowledge something else, too ... Colorado went through a lot of bad times overall with its athletic department. There were some institutional control problems there and negligence about "doing the right thing" and protecting people that hurt that institution a lot in regard to its athletic endeavors. (Yes, it reminds us that some of things we are hearing/finding out about Penn State now are not unique to that school). I think CU is still in recovery mode. Maybe being in the Pac 12 will accelerate that process, but I don't know.
Is it right to be concerned about the effect of the NBA lockout on the WNBA, especially teams like the Lynx that share an owner with a NBA team?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Everything that both I and my colleagues that cover the NBA have heard from NBA management is that their commitment to the WNBA is unwavering and has not been part of the wrangling they've had in regard to the NBA owners' current war with the NBA players' union. That doesn't mean there haven't been cuts that affect certain aspects of the WNBA - such as public/media relations - but there seems to be a mindset that is keeping the leagues overall very separate. That said, I don't think anyone wants to see continued labor problems because it means lost money for a lot of people. So I don't think you can reasonably not worry just a bit if you're a WNBA fan, but you should not have doomsday thinking, either. I wish they'd settle it soon, but it doesn't look very promising. What a shame. Especially for the people who really do live more paycheck to paycheck and depend on the NBA being in business.
Which new coach will bring a bounce to their team i.e. Caldwell, Boyle or someone else?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
Well, we know now which one will be adding a bouncing baby to the mix. Congrats to Nikki Caldwell, who might be trying to pull a Charli Turner-Thorne during tournament time. As far as new energy and enthusiasm, they are both going to provide a lot of that. I would like to see that in Washington, too, with Kevin McGuff. And I'm curious how Bobbie Kelsey will impact Wisconsin. These are all coaches who come into their new programs with a lot of success in their backgrounds at other places. Quickest immediate impact? I'll say Caldwell.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
After watching Miami, how can they improve to make a deep run in the NCAAs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
Stronger, more consistent post play. Cutting down on turnovers. Taking some of the load off the two superstars. The team's experiences in last year's NCAA tournament should help, too. They will spend this whole season in more of a favorite's role, and that is a very different mindset to play with.
kevin (macon ga)
Every Division I NCAA championship team, all the way back to 1982, has had a future WNBA player on the roster. Do you think we'll ever see one that doesn't?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
Not a chance.
Biggest surprise so far in the first week or so of the regular season?
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Nothing's really shocked me so far. Too early. Something will. It always does.
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
As always, I appreciate all the questions. Next week, we'll chat Tuesday or Wednesday, since I'd guess people might have plans for Thursday. :) Will confirm the date on Twitter. Thanks!
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