Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 4 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (4:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everyone. Sorry about the time change again, was traveling yesterday and had to bump the chat until today. Thanks for joining me. Let's get started.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
Do you know why ESPN shuttled the NCAA Women's College Cup coverage off of their main 2 stations on onto ESPNU and espn3 which many people don't get? The games are sold out! Do you see more women's basketball games getting pushed to ESPNU and off the main channels?
Mechelle Voepel (4:03 PM)
Honestly, I rarely know much of anything about television decisions. I would guess, based on what I think are some of the TV side's strategies, that they want ESPNU to become a bigger presence. So I would not be surprised to see even more women's hoops games on ESPNU. I can understand the frustration if people don't have ESPNU ... but remember about a decade ago, there were still a lot of people who didn't have espn2, and that has grown. So I'll attribute this to part of that growth, but I don't work on the TV side so I'm not privy to what decisions they make.
Ryan (Connecticut )
Griner always swats at every shot. What I wonder is why more teams don't up fake her and draw quick fouls, or penetrate, then up fake, and dish to the man she leaves in her attempt to block a shot? Would this be an effective plan?
Mechelle Voepel (4:06 PM)
One thing that's tough is that Brittney is so different - her size, her athleticism, her shot-blocking instincts - than most of the players teams will face. So teams aren't necessarily going to spend a lot of time on how to go against the likes of Griner, if that makes sense. Also, you have to give credit to her for how well she continues to learn the most effective ways to use her size without giving up points or committing fouls. She's paid attention to her coaches and continues to improve. But I think you make valid points about how teams might at least try to counter her.
Hey Mechelle, recently I listened to the Geno show and he mentioned that Bria Hartley has the chance to leave Uconn as their greatest pg. How would you stack her up against Sue Bird?
Mechelle Voepel (4:08 PM)
To me, this is impossible to do right now. Bird has such a long and distinguished career at all the levels - college, WNBA, overseas pro, and international/Olympics/worlds - that it's hard to go back and measure Bird as a sophomore to Hartley as a sophomore. Of course, Sue didn't get to play most of her freshman year because of the ACL, but she helped lead UConn to an NCAA championship as a sophomore. So I can't really compare Sue and Bria right now, but if Geno says that, I would take his word for it. He's a far better judge of skill and potential than I am.
If you take "jumping on the winning bandwagon" out of the equation, what area of the country do you think has the most enthusiasm for women's basketball year in and year out?
Mechelle Voepel (4:12 PM)
The UConn and Tennessee fan bases have tended to be very consistent for the most part for many years now. Tennessee goes further back, which I say just as a matter of historical record, not to tweak any of the New Englanders. The Big 12 has become, in the past decade plus, the leader in attendance, and the enthusiasm at several of the programs has become more consistent. Overall, though, I think the success of Tennessee and UConn just put that fan interest into overdrive. Although right now, it's pretty strong at Baylor, too. Not sure I'm answering your question ... in terms of region, overall, with the most teams' fans being involved, I have to say the Midwest. Not just because I live here. But going on the fan support from the best programs of the Big 12 and the best of the Big Ten.
Yes or No...Does Brittney Griner make the 2012 Olympic Team?
Mechelle Voepel (4:13 PM)
I think yes. She brings a presence that is not quite like anyone else, she's worked with and is liked by Geno Auriemma (even though he doesn't pick the team), and the thought may be that it's very good to get her that experience now, while she's so young, so she will be a player like Lisa Leslie who will participate in several Olympics.
Can we please get a montage of Kim Mulkey's animations on the side line at ESPN? She can be so funny.
Mechelle Voepel (4:14 PM)
I would imagine some techno-savvy women's hoops fan or fans could put together the perfect "music video" with Mulkey. Could be very hilarious to watch.
I submitted a question yesterday that was about the volleyball tournament. There's so many questions surrounding the brackets that came out. However, how in the world did Iowa State (I'm from Iowa and am a huge fan) and Purdue get higher seeds then Hawaii and USC. There are so many things that just logically don't seem to make sense with this bracket!!
Mechelle Voepel (4:19 PM)
Well, I'm right with you Connor. I wrote about this for espn.com, and not to re-write the column here, but it's a multi-faceted problem. I think the directives given to the volleyball committee need to change. The committee has to stop using the RPI like it's a GPS and instead just consider it as one "tool." The committee has to be held accountable and be sure that its members are really watching the sport and can properly evaluate it. And they probably could use the input of former coaches as advisors. Plus, the tournament is not the time to try to "engineer" upsets by robbing from the "rich" programs and giving to the "less-rich" in terms of seeding and placement. USC, Nebraska and Hawaii were 1-2-3 in the last coaches poll. Unless you just don't respect your coaches at all in this sport, clearly something is wrong here and needs to be fixed. The players deserve better. Incidentally, this has also been a problem with women's soccer and softball. Even men's soccer, a sport I also follow for espn.com, had some questionable seedings this year. But volleyball was one of the worst brackets I've ever seen.
Saw you in attendance at the Oklahoma Vanderbilt game. What did you think of the young Commodores?
Mechelle Voepel (4:22 PM)
You should have come to say hi. :) I was in Tennessee for a week - will be doing a feature on Vandy coming up next week, along with some features on Tennessee and Pat Summitt over the next month or so. I was impressed with how well the Commodores' backcourt played in that game, and the way they capitalized on the Sooners' mistakes. I'm eager to see how well they young Vandy guards continue to develop.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Does defending NCAA champion Texas A&M have enough talent left to match-up with UConn on national television this Tuesday after losing both Danielle Adams and Sydney Colson to the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (4:24 PM)
Can't wait to see. Texas A&M has really shown good balance thus far, but probably the biggest question is how solid the Aggies are at the point guard spot. I don't think any program more consistently takes advantage of any weakness in the opposing point guard than UConn does. So that will be an area to watch, but so will the low block.
Matt (Ann Arbor. Mich.)
I see you picked The Boilermakers to make the volleyball Final Four. That would be a huge accomplishment for this program! How impressive is what Dave Schondell has done creating a real volleyball program from virtually nothing at Purdue.
Mechelle Voepel (4:27 PM)
No offense to Texas, but if the Longhorns didn't have the homecourt advantage in last year's regional final, I think there's a very good chance Purdue might have made the Final Four then. Despite suffering an injury to their setter, the Boilermakers were just tough as nails in that match. I picked them out of the Minneapolis Regional this year just because there isn't a ton of experience in that quarter of the bracket; Washington is the only past NCAA champion. The Boilers could potentially have to play the Gophers on their homecourt, but maybe what they went through last year at Texas will help in that regard. Kudos to the Purdue coaching staff for building their program in a tough, tough conference.
kevin (macon ga)
Last time out you agreed that we'd never see an NCAA tournament winner with no future WNBA players. In retrospect, how much more impressive does that make Sophia Young carrying Baylor to the title with no other future WNBA players on the roster?
Mechelle Voepel (4:30 PM)
It was impressive. I think Abiola Wabara was a pretty decent pro player, though not in the WNBA. And credit goes to Kim Mulkey for how well she managed the minutes on that team and got the most out of everybody. It still seems unlikely to me that a team will ever win again with no future WNBA players. But I'd guess most people think that.
Zach (London, KY)
I am a huge UK fan. That being said, how legitimite do you think that the Wildcats are this year?
Mechelle Voepel (4:32 PM)
I think Kentucky has crossed a threshold, if you will, to being consistently a pretty good team. That's in part because Matt Mitchell has brought in the kind of athletes he needs for his system, and even if they are still trying to grow in it, they're going to succeed a lot of the time. It's still too early to know exactly how good they can be, but I'm actually pretty optimistic about how they will perform this season.
The Maryland Terps are now ranked 6 in the nation, what do you think of their chances of making a run at the national championship. This team is different from the Langhorne/Coleman/Toliver Terps, the current edition is built on depth in the post, length, pressure and speed.
Mechelle Voepel (4:36 PM)
As you know, the best of those Terps teams - including the 2006 squad that won the NCAA title - had a lot of offensive skill. They were just a more fluid team to watch shoot and pass the ball than several of their opponents. And they weren't great, of course, on defense, but good enough for what they needed to be. This is a different bunch, and I think it shows that Maryland can use another style to be successful. I don't think we've seen enough of them against the toughest competition just yet to call them a title contender.
Should the NCAA, or the 6 big Conferences, or even the leading coaches strongly engourage their teams to schedule much more top non-Conference games and much less non-conference cupcakes that lose by 40-60 points? Perhaps each big Conference team schedules at least 4 Big East, at least 4 Big XII, at least 4 ACC, at least 4 SEC and at least 3 Pac 12 and 3 Big Ten teams? I'd mix in 2 top mid-majors, too. Who has the power to initiate it besides powerful ESPN journalists?
Mechelle Voepel (4:42 PM)
I have to laugh ... I don't think "powerful" would ever be a word I would associate with us journalists. But ... as for teams scheduling "harder" with more marquee meetings ... there are a fair amount of good games, although, I agree there are some match-ups (and resulting scores) that just make me groan. I don't think anybody - not even diehard fans - really want to watch their team clobber a foe by 50 or 60 points. There's no fun for anybody in that. You're just waiting for the game to be over. But ... it's up to individual coaches to make those decisions for their programs. In the case of some powerful programs, it can be hard for them to get mid-level or rising programs to play them, because those coaches are afraid of the loss.
J (Washington, DC)
Thank you for your thoughtful coverage of the Oklahoma State tragedy.
Mechelle Voepel (4:43 PM)
Thanks. It's been a very difficult thing to write about. I do like how so many programs in the country have honored the Cowgirls and coaches Budke and Serna, even if they never met them. It shows a respect in the community of women's basketball.
Watching Baylor this last week and against Notre Dame left me with several questions, but the most prevalent being: Who can stop Baylor when they have such an incredible 1-2 punch with Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims and a just a tough bunch of kids who have really bought into what Kim Mulkey is asking them to do!?
Mechelle Voepel (4:45 PM)
It's going to be very difficult. But I guess teams can at least look at the way that Tennessee played Baylor in the first half - crashing the boards hard and trying to keep the ball out of Griner's hands - and see it as a potentially effective blue print for going against the Bears.
Matt (Ann Arbor. Mich.)
Bigger lock: Adele sweeps the Grammys or Griner sweeps the POY awards?
Mechelle Voepel (4:47 PM)
I have a confession: While I am a huge fan of the Academy Awards - even in all their bloated excess and Hollywood hokum - I can't recall ever watching the Grammys. That's probably why I make a lot more analogies to movies than I do to music. I'll take your word for it on Adele.
Mechelle Voepel (4:52 PM)
Thanks again for all the questions and I plan to be back next week at the normal time on Thursday. For those who've asked about what young players look to be the most impressive as freshmen, I don't want to give you the cop-out answer, "It's too early to tell," ... but for me, it's still too early. :) Hope to answer that better in late December/early January.