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. Sorry to miss the chat last week, but we're back in action - albeit slightly under the influence of cough syrup - this week. So it could get pretty crazy. :) Not really. Let's get started.
Daron G. (Pasadena, Ca)
With my Sparks and CP3 holding the #1 pick in this yrs Wnba draft, do you see any of this years top juniors (Griner, EDD, Diggins) coming out early? I've been hearing about EDD and her upcoming "announcement" and a Sparks fan can only dream she would declare.
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
This has been a hot topic, especially after the Seattle Storm's trade to Chicago to get the No. 2 pick for this season. To my knowledge, none of the players in question - Skylar Diggins, Elena Delle Donne or Brittney Griner - has publicly commented on plans to leave early. I know Seattle's staff was very curious about this topic, particularly in regard to Griner, last month. But ... they also needed to clear salary cap space and plan for the future, so it doesn't mean necessarily that the Storm has inside info on early departures. I think we are just in "wait-and-see" mode. At least the speculation makes the 2012 draft a lot more interesting. :)
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Does Elizabeth Williams have a Tina Charles-type future ahead of her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
That seems like a good comparison, and one that would certainly be fantastic for Duke and for Williams if it turns out to be the case. I talked with Elizabeth on Sunday in Durham ... she is very bright, articulate and has big goals, while realizing all she needs to keep learning. Great attitude. I am excited to see how she continues to develop, both for her future in college but also in the WNBA and internationally. She really may be a huge star.
How legit is maryland? Their schedule has been WEAK to the other top teams. Really G-town and Delaware count has beefing up a schedule? Georgia tech and UNC aren't exactly highly rated teams either and both were near losses. WOuldn't be shocked to see this team lose in 2nd round again.
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I think "weak" is a little too harsh about Maryland's non-con schedule, but I agree it wasn't as strong as we all probably would prefer. I will give Brenda Frese some benefit of the doubt as she's starting three very good sophomores now ... hopefully the next two seasons we will see a better non-con slate for the Terps. I saw them play in person in Chapel Hill, and was impressed with their composure and chemistry even though they didn't have much turnaround time from their win Friday over Georgia Tech. I can see why the skeptics still need to be convinced on the Terps; that's a legit way to view them. But ... I'm not a skeptic now. I liked what I saw, especially with the grit and talent of Alyssa Thomas. I think they are a good group that, if they avoid injury, is going to make some noise in March.
Sue Jones (Durham, NC)
First Team AA by position:PG: Skylar DigginsSG: Bria HartleySF: Elena Delle DonnePF: Nneka OgwumikeC: Brittney GrinerAny additions/subtractions? Could they really pick a 1st team with only one senior?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
That would be a very legitimate All-American first team, I think. As for whether the media would vote for a first team with just one senior, I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly would. This is not a particularly strong senior class anyway, which I believe has been the prevailing opinion. There are some other players, such as Odyssey Sims, who are going to be in consideration, too, for first-team All-American status. Underclass players are likely going to make up the bulk of the 10-player State Farm All-American team, I'd think. (The media doesn't pick that one, of course.)
jbb1985 (northern lattitudes)
With Conference play kicking in finally, which games are you most curious about this week, this weekend, and next week?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
Two games in particular seem intriguing this weekend: Kentucky vs. South Carolina and Baylor vs. Texas. The Gamecocks are ranked, but they're still not a "known" commodity yet. They play LSU tonight, so that's a game to watch, too, while Kentucky plays Tennessee. Meanwhile, Texas ended its 11-game losing streak to Texas AM last night, and the Longhorns REALLY needed that after starting Big 12 play 0-2. The Texas inside game asserted itself pretty well against the Aggies, and I'm curious how they'll do against Griner and Company. Looking down the road, I'm eager to see Maryland vs. Duke on Jan. 22, too. There's a ton of other games to anticipate, but those have really been on my mind.
kevin (macon ga)
Following on the success of Cheryl Reeve in Minnesota, the two WNBA head coaching hires this offseason have both been highly regarded assistants. Is that a good trend for the league?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
If nothing else, it indicates that both the LA Sparks and the Tulsa Shock believe that depth of knowledge of the WNBA is important for the head coach. And we know that's something that's been undervalued with various hires over the course of the league's history. Observers of the league would say that Carol Ross and Gary Kloppenburg were assistants that they saw doing a lot for their respective teams in Atlanta and Indy. These may seem like "trendy" hires in the wake of Reeve's success, but sometimes trends are for a reason: Because they work. So we'll see. These coaches know X's and O's, and their teams need strong bench coaching.
kevin (macon ga)
The WNBA schedule is usually out by now. What's the holdup?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
The word I got from the league today was that the schedule would be released, "Hopefully in the next week or so." Not sure how long "or so" might be. :) Let's hope it's in the next week.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
Enjoyed your piece on ODU. Are you confident that Barefoot can attract recruits and transfers to Norfolk? Though the days of national glory are probably behind them, ODU should rule the CAA roost and be a perennial participant in the NCAAs.
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
That's how Karen Barefoot will be judged: Can she recruit better, since the opinion of the ODU administration was that Wendy Larry had fallen off enough in that department to not give her a contract extension. That, and the fact they hadn't made the NCAA tournament in three years. But ... let's credit the rest of the CAA for (finally) improving enough that the CAA tournament wasn't the ODU Invitational the way it had been for so long. I can understand Larry's frustration with the administration's move, and I can also see that ODU thinks a new coach might bring in different energy. I really can empathize with both sides. But now it's in Barefoot's hands to make it happen. Or else ODU will fall further from what they once were. It's a good school in a good location that should be consistently competitive in the CAA and never be *that* far away from an NCAA berth. But whether we'll ever see ODU in a Final Four again ... that could be pretty tough to achieve.
Ashley (Lincoln, NE)
What chances would you give the Huskers to come away with the Big Ten title in year 1?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
The Huskers are off to a really good start, and Jordan Hooper is progressing the way we expected she might. She is a phenomenal athlete who's becoming a better basketball player every game, it seems. The Huskers have depth, and I believe they match up better with a lot of their Big Ten opponents than they tended to with some of their Big 12 foes. Also, they have the experienced point guard in Lindsey Moore. So, yes, they do have a chance to win the title in their first year in the Big Ten.
Dan (Buffalo, NY)
Not sure if you have seen St. Bonaventure (15-2) play yet, but don't you think their win last night at Temple now merits a nod in the national polls? They sure as heck deserve more than one vote in "others mentioned." They are 7-0 on the road, and have won at West Virginia and St. John's, and they were missing their top scorer, Megan Van Tatenhove, in their loss to Villanova.
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
You know how it is with the rankings ... some teams with "history" have to do a lot to fall out of the polls, while others have to do a lot to get in. St. Bonaventure is on my radar, and I'd imagine that's the case for anybody who's been paying attention. I know sometimes it's frustrating for fans because the polls can seem slow in "reacting" to some teams' success, but if they keep it up, it will happen. And remember, the polls don't really "mean" anything, although I understand it is nice to get a ranking and that it gives teams a little more clout, if you will.
Have you seen Tenn play in person this year? Are the visible changes in Pat Summitt's coaching style pre-emptive measures to keep her healthy (low stress on the sidelines) or a result of disease progression?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Yes, I've seen Tennessee play in person, and I think the changes you mention may be for both reasons. This staff is so experienced and unified that it's dealt with these changes about as well as you could imagine any staff would. Summitt's presence and voice are still very important to this group, though. Summitt was on the SEC teleconference yesterday, and it was good to hear her voice and humor.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
With their win at Texas and delivering Iowa State their first 0-3 Big 12 start, is Kansas finally ready for post-season and conference success? Seems like Goodrich and Davis are solid pieces to carry them for the next two years. Is Bonnie Ball going to return to Lawrence next year if things fall apart?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
The thing that kills Kansas fans, though - not literally, but figuratively, of course - is that in between those games, the Jayhawks lost at home to Kansas State. The Wildcats have been a huge thorn in KU's side for the last decade-plus, at the end of Marian Washington's career and all through Bonnie Henrickson's. Angel Goodrich and Carolyn Davis are both very legit, good players on a national level, but this year it's still going to come down to whether KU can get the job done enough in conference. I don't know what will happen if they miss the NCAA tournament again, but this is Henrickson's eighth season there. (KU hasn't been in the NCAA field since 2000). Also want to give some credit to Kansas State starting 3-0 in the conference.
Craig (Salisbury, MD)
Maryland-Miami tonight. What are the keys for each team???
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
Maryland needs to avoid careless turnovers (few too many of those vs. UNC almost cost them a win), and really establish their inside game. The Terps are very strong on the boards and should try to pound away inside if they can. By the same token, Miami has quite a winning streak going at home, and we know how good the Hurricanes' perimeter can be when it's on. This is big game for Maryland to prove that it can assert itself on the road like it ultimately did in beating Carolina. (Although that took OT.)
Jennifer (Boston, MA)
With the arrival of Swin Cash, it's an exciting year to be a Chicago Sky fan! But what does this mean for the rest of the roster, particularly Carolyn Swords?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Carolyn is big and strong, and her job has been as backup to the even stronger Sylvia Fowles. I don't know that Swin Cash's presence would lessen the need for Carolyn if she continues to fill the role she has been. I do know that Cash has been a winner wherever she goes. As long as she's healthy, she's a very good pickup for the Sky. She brings a lot of credibility for what she's done in her career.
jbb1985 (northern lattitudes)
Do you read the ESPN message boards for the bigger games, or too little free time or modest inclination to do so?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
This made me laugh, because - maybe I should be embarrassed to say this, but it's true - I can't remember the last time I looked at the ESPN message boards. Hope that doesn't get me in trouble. But it's been years, seriously. I tend to limit my time on any message boards. I find it sometimes messes with your mind as a writer more than it helps. There are some super-knowledgeable people on various boards who tend to offer thoughtful opinions and facts, and I value that. There are really funny, smart people who have valuable things to say and that's helpful to all media. But ... I pretty much stay away from a lot of debates, arguments, random griping etc. It typically does not do much good to look at it - although that was something I've learned over time. I have never posted on any message boards. I think it's totally fine for fans to have those forums, though, and they have their importance in the growth of the sport.
Do you think the Baylor women will go undefeated? They seem unstoppable with already beating Notre Dame, Tennessee, and UConn
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
Baylor is still getting better, even as good as they already are. It's going to be tough for a Big 12 school to beat them, but everybody has "off" nights, and as I've mentioned before, there is still a "youth" factor on this team. I don't sense they are really thinking about being undefeated. They just want a shot at the national championship. If they lose a game or two before the NCAA tournament - not that I'm saying they will - I don't think that will shake them much.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Thoughts on Carol Ross and the Sparks? What were the deciding factors for Ross to take this job (persumably she has had other offers)?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
Ross likes the ownership commitment and the big potential in Los Angeles. She believes this team can challenge for a championship right away and that the Sparks have probably underachieved to a degree, even taking into consideration Candace Parker's injury issues. It seems to me that she sees the pieces are in place and she's confident she can move them in the right direction. I think it's a good fit.
Keith H (Seattle)
Mechelle, you mentioned earlier this might not be that strong a senior class. Now I'm puzzled why the Storm would trade Swin Cash and others for the #2 pick. I realize the Storm were near the cap. Was it to inject youth while waiting for Lauren Jackson to get back from the Olympics?
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
I think it was a long-term decision that Brian Agler hopes will pay off this year or next. As mentioned, there's speculation about three high-caliber underclass players and their potential to come out early. I believe Agler is confident this was the best move to make for the future regardless of whether any of those three - Griner, Diggins, Delle Donne - leave early or not. Sometimes the best moves come when it seems you're letting go of a player (Cash) maybe just a little too early ... better than too late.
jbb1985 (northern lattitudes)
Given your ODU article -- which was the best AIAW player you ever saw or covered?
Mechelle Voepel (3:18 PM)
The NCAA era began in 1981-82, overlapping one year with the last AIAW tournament. I was in high school then, so I never covered any AIAW games. My first year regularly watching women's college games in person was 1983-84, and then I started covering the sport the next season for my college newspaper. So I didn't see many of the AIAW players in person at any stage in their careers. But ... I did see Lynette Woodard at various stages, sometimes even just "goofing" around in practice at Kansas, where her athleticism was still so evident. She was an extraordinary talent, and would have been so in any era.
Mechelle Voepel (3:19 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Let's hope to see that WNBA schedule by next chat, huh? :) Hope wherever you are, there's not too much snow and lots of hoops to watch. Chat with you next week.