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 (2:06 PM)
Good afternoon. Welcome to the final chat of 2011. If for some reason I disappear on here for a while, it's not because I'm taking even *longer* than usual to answer questions. I'm having some computer issues, but hopefully will stay connected throughout the chat. Here we go.
EDD and Delaware vs. Maryland -- which team do we find out more about from today's game? Is Maryland a #2 seed by season's end? Is Delaware a #5-#6 seed by NCAA Committee time?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
There is something to be found out about both teams' strengths, which is why this is intriguing. As for projecting seeds, I think that's just absurd to try to do now, "Bracketology" not withstanding. Both these teams still have things to prove in their respective conferences. I supposed I should add this: So far, both these teams look capable of potentially reaching the seeds you suggest.
What do you think of the job Linda Lappe has done at CU?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
The Buffs are obviously off to a really good start this year, but the proof will be in the pudding (Pac-12 record). In just her second year, Linda Lappe is still finding her footing as a major-college head coach, and that's to be expected. The jury is still out on whether she is the long-term solution for her alma mater, but I would say that about anybody after such a relatively short span. So far, so good for 2011-12. Would be really nice to see the Buffs back in the NCAA tournament with the Final Four in Denver this season.
Although there are many positive reasons for the top-tier teams to play much lesser teams, such as helping seed WCBB interest in new locales, or to help out a former player/ asistant now coaching at lesser program, or a historical relationship/ intra-state situation -- how much is too much "cupcakes" on a topt-ier schedule? It seems that the average of 12-15 cupcakes a year is typical for all the top programs. Yes, there are Conference considerations on the schedules. But should the cupcakes be pared back by 33% or cut back by 50%? Too many 40-50-60 point wins do not seem to bolster WCBB...
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I'm thinking about this question in particular knowing that Baylor is playing Mississippi Valley State on Friday, a game that should NEVER take place. I agree with your latter point in particular, that some of these scores are just gross and make women's basketball look bad. Which is not to say there are not blowouts in men's hoops; I'm not comparing the two. But scores in the 20s make me gag. As I mentioned in the last chat, I don't know what good teams get out of playing opponents that they know, year in and year out, are total doormats.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Which of the following 3 undefeated teams is the least battle-tested thus far...Maryland, Texas Tech, or Ohio State?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
My vote for least-tested is Texas Tech. I believe they've only played two teams that currently have winning records: UMKC (which is barely on the right side of .500) and Penn State, a legitimate foe. Maryland's schedule has been kinda mediocre, but I believe eight of their foes (counting Delaware tonight) have winning records. I don't fault Ohio State's schedule - even if some of their foes are not as good this year as they have been in past years, at least an attempt was made to have a good schedule with the likes of Temple, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma and Cal. I understand why Texas Tech has been more into the lighter non-con schedule because of the difficulty of the Big 12 and the Raiders' absence for that stretch when they weren't in the NCAA tournament. But. still, you'd like to see at least a couple more challenges on their pre-conference slate.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Kentucky just got upset by Middle Tennesse State? How did this happen to such a highly-ranked Wildcats team?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
Kentucky coach Matt Mitchell acknowledged that tinkering with his starting lineup - going with more size in Samantha Drake and Samarie Walker - may have disrupted the Wildcats. Kentucky is known for its aggressive defense and forcing turnovers, but they were hurt by committing TOs against MTSU. You can toss in the factors of the layoff for the holiday break (which affects some teams more than others), the fact that MTSU already faced the likes of Tennessee, and that the Blue Raiders were at home. MTSU typically challenges itself in the non-con, and it pays off at times with important victories.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
If Nneka Ogwumike were to get injured during the upcoming Pac-12 season and would have to miss the entire 2012 WNBA season, would the Los Angeles Sparks still draft her at #1?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I don't even want to think about this possibility, but it would be similar to what Indiana did with Tamika Catchings back in 2001 - you can't let that kind of talent get away because you have to wait a year for it. So I would take Nneka even if she couldn't play in 2012. She's very valuable, especially in this draft. But let's hope nothing like this happens. I am looking forward to her transition into the WNBA.
Lynx fans are enjoying Seimone Augustus being named Sportsperson of the Year by the Star Tribune today. Wonderful story, wonderful player and wonderful person.
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
Congrats to Seimone, who is a great story of persevering through injuries, illness and disappointment. She is well-deserving of this honor, and it's nice to see the Star-Tribune make that choice.
Alex (St. Paul)
Any thoughts on the Pac 12/Big 10 partnership announced yesterday?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
It continues the theme of these two conferences being forward-thinking, ahead of the curve, and anticipatory. Rather than reactionary, the way too many other leagues have been. Football is the biggest factor, like with all other moves, but this is particularly interesting to me from the Olympic sports standpoint. I'm not so naive as to believe that was any big motivating factor, but regardless, it's potentially a very good thing for women's volleyball - where the Pac-12 and Big Ten are far and away the leading leagues - and men's soccer, to name two sports. I don't know how much impact it will have in women's basketball, a sport where these two leagues - other than Stanford - have been under-performers in the last several years in regard to making the Final Four/winning NCAA titles. I think from a national perspective, we can all see that it will help women's hoops if the Pac-12/Big Ten have some gains in future years. So overall, I was impressed with the collaboration.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Who would you put on your list of the top 3 guard duos in the country?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
This is a tricky question because several teams don't have guard "duos" ... they have guard ensembles. Such as UConn, Notre Dame, Kentucky, etc. With some teams I'd say to count their star guard and whomever she is on the floor with as a "top duo." Such as with Baylor's Odyssey Sims. Pair UConn's Bria Hartley with whichever of the guard/guard-types she starts with. Considering she's a defending NCAA champ, also TAMU's Sydney Carter. Probably would include Kentucky's Adia Matheis in that, too. Among more established "duos," if you will, I'd say the top three are Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins/Natalie Novosel (I know, where does Brittany Mallory fit in?), Miami's Shenise Johnson/Riquna Williams, and Ohio State's Sam Prahalis/Tayler Hill. Also worth consideration: Penn State's Maggie Lucas/Alex Bentley, Green Bay's Julie Wojta/Adrian Ritchie, Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers/Rubylee Wright, Vandy's Christina Foggie/Jasmine Lister (I will have a story on the 'Dores duo soon on ESPN.com). I am sure there are some I have not thought of ... Nebraska's Lindsey Moore is a guard that deserves mention no matter who she's on the floor with.
Bill H (New Jersey)
Mechelle. Given the Final 4 is such an event for both the men's and women's game, would you champion a single, Semi-Final day, where both the men's and women's games are played (at the selected sites) and alternate the times, so that all four semi final games are played in one day?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
No, I just don't see the women's game pairing with the men in this way. Men's college hoops is such a cultural phenomenon, it stands on its own. The women's FF was on Sat-Sun for a stretch in the 1990s on CBS-TV and the women's semis were overshadowed. I was part of the ESPNW podcast of Beth Mowins/Debbie Antonelli recently where the idea of a single site for Sweet 16 and/or Elite Eight and Final Four games was discussed. There's still room for new ideas in how to best market and promote women's basketball while keeping it away from direct competition with the men, which is an unwinnable situation.
Can anybody stop Baylor this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
I recently saw where UConn is honoring the 2002 team on its 10-year anniversary, and in retrospect, that *was* a team that nobody could beat. At the time, I think most considered them unbeatable, and that proved to be true. Baylor is not quite at that level in part because there is still some youth on this team that has to play big roles, where that 2002 UConn team was senior-dominated. That said, I think the fact that Baylor was down to both Tennessee and UConn and still came back should give that squad a lot of confidence that it can withstand any challenge. I think it's kind of unfair to tag any team with an "unbeatable" tag, but I do believe Baylor is going to be extremely difficult for anyone to beat. Just as was the case for subsequent UConn teams in 2009/10 that proved to be unbeatable.
Lisa (Northern, Kentucky)
Will Matthew Mitchell be able to regroup his Kentucky Wildcats? Will they rebound?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Oh, yeah. I think this was a good wake-up call for Kentucky. I want to give Middle Tennessee credit ... that is a program that has beaten several "big"-conference teams over the years. This was a lesson for the Wildcats, as Mitchell said, that they have to show up in full-focus mode every night. The game also exposed some of the difficulties Kentucky may have as it transitions between bigger and smaller lineups. The smaller, quicker lineup works well against a lot of squads, but there are certain teams, particularly in the SEC, against whom Kentucky will have to get more contributions from its big players. So the Wildcats need to look at how they played with different people on the floor, and how to improve that. This was an important win for Middle Tennessee, but actually perhaps an important loss for Kentucky, in terms of teaching them some things that the Wildcats will need down the road.
Bill H (New Jersey)
Mechelle. In your experience, what three venues would you believe are the best experience when there is a natural rival game being played?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
Three that come right to mind are Duke-Carolina in either Cameron or Carmichael, Baylor-Oklahoma at the Lloyd Noble or the Ferrell Center, and Notre Dame-UConn at the Joyce Center or Gampel. I would also say that Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum with a large crowd is a place all women's basketball fans would love to experience. Of course, not to bring up old wounds, but UConn-Tennessee at Thompson-Boling, Gampel or in Hartford ... those were amazing games to watch and feel the energy from.
How would the undefeated LA Tech and undefeated Texas teams of yore stack up against more recent undefeated teams?
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
I think about that sometimes, actually. I didn't see those Louisiana Tech teams in person, just on TV. But I did see Texas 1986 in person - and that team was very, very good. And very deep. All the great teams of the late 1970s, early-mid 1980s had some ahead-of-their-time players who, if transported via time machine to today, would fit in with the women's game as it currently is. That said. I wonder about the greater speed and strength of women's players now as a group, especially on the best teams. The weight training and conditioning today is advanced in all sports. In that way, I think today's teams have an edge. But it could be a very interesting matchup to see some of those older teams against the likes of UConn, Stanford, Baylor, Notre Dame, Tennessee of today.
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Hope everyone has a happy New Year's celebration. Be safe. I will be traveling to the East Coast next week to work on various stories, but the chat will still be at the same time Thursday.