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. The WNBA schedule is out, so that mystery is over. :) Let's get under way.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Was the Temeka Johnson/Andrea Riley trade a good deal for the Phoenix Mercury?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
I am not sure I understand the motivation behind the deal from Phoenix's perspective. The Mercury must believe Andrea Riley can be effective in that system. Maybe she can. Especially because she's still so young, professionally, there is more growth potential. But when I saw the trade, I thought, "Why?"
with the emerging play of Elizabeth Williams, does duke have a legitimate shot to upend uconn at Cameron indoor?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
I thought even last year, on paper, that Duke should have been able to at least compete with UConn. Yet both meetings were blowouts. While it's certainly more to the Blue Devils' advantage to be at home than in Connecticut or a neutral court, being on the road doesn't ever seem to bother UConn much. You make a good point that Elizabeth Williams seems to be mature beyond her years and is not as likely as a lot of freshmen to be either rattled or try to do too much vs. UConn. All I hope for from this matchup, though, is that it is a competitive game ... and nothing like that atrocity between UConn and North Carolina.
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
With the B12 having no top teams other than Baylor this year, what is the chance that Baylor enters the tournament undefeated. It has to be at least 50/50, right?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
I actually think now maybe better than that. Maybe 80/20? Don't want to jinx Baylor, but I'm more and more doubting that any of the Big 12 teams can/will beat them this year. Now watch that be the kiss of death for their unblemished record. :) Seriously, though, right now Kansas and Kansas State are tied for second in the league, which is interesting to see considering they were picked to finish seventh and ninth in the now 10-team Big 12. Also, this could be the first year since 1997 - the inaugural season of the Big 12 - that both the Kansas State and Kansas women make the NCAA field in the same season. Yeah, it's been that long ... mostly due to KU's drought with no NCAA appearances since 2000. So it could be a positive year for the Jayhawks and Wildcats, but I'm doubtful either of them can beat Baylor.
Tennessee's Glory Johnson is playing well. Would she be a good fit with the New York Liberty and what they like to do defensively? Her stock has got to be rising right?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
I admit I tend to be too optimistic about WNBA potential for players and not critical enough. Even when I should know better. But ... that said, I have always believed that Glory Johnson will be a better pro than collegian. Obviously her athleticism is phenomenal, and she may be one of those players that just blooms better as a pro. She is having a good senior year, and I agree her stock should be pretty high. The Liberty picks seventh, so will she still be available then? I tend to doubt it.
Long been an admirer of Summitt's and Auriemma's lengthy, remarkable records and achievements -- are there any other past or present coaches that deserve mention next to them, or the others are very good to great, and Pat and Geno are on a whole different level?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
From a women's hoops perspective, it can be hard to compare eras just because of the vastly different resources available and investment put into programs in the last 20-plus years compared to before that. But ... I think when you look at the consistency of the excellence of the Tennessee and UConn programs and their number of titles, Summitt and Auriemma have put themselves on a separate level in women's basketball. And they are not just the two greatest women's hoops coaches, but two of the best college coaches in any sport of either gender.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Can Lindsey Moore win the pointguard match-up with Samantha Prahalis as Nebraska takes on Ohio State tonight in Columbus?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
There may not be a clear "winner" individually between the two, but it could be very fun to watch the matchup of these teams. Both Prahalis and Moore are very good at doing what their team needs specifically from them. And they have extremely different (opposite) personalities, of course. Fire and ice, you could say. I think everyone knows which one is which. :)
who gets your vote for player of the year up to this point?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
Apologies to the Stanford faithful, because I'm sure they would say Nneka Ogwumike, and it's hard to argue with them. But ... right now I would say Baylor's Brittney Griner. Baylor is undefeated, and she is so consistent in what she's bringing every single game. The supporting cast around her can shine because she demands so much attention.
Gabrielle (Washington, DC)
Which team do think will win the ACC regular season? Also, do you think that Clemson, BC and Wake will ever be competitive in the ACC again? Thanks.
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
Have to give the nod to Duke right now; the Blue Devils are in first place and still have two games against Maryland. But Duke has Miami at home ... I just think ultimately, they will finish first. But it could be a very interesting ACC tournament, especially semis/final. As for Clemson, BC and Wake ... this is a really rough ACC season so far for all three, and may not get better. But ... Clemson and BC in particular have past history of success. Wake has less of that to draw on. But the nature of sports is that almost any team/program can be salvaged if the right people are involved. I'm not saying I have the specific answers for Clemson, BC and Wake, but in general there should always be hope. Even though it can be pretty dim sometimes for long stretches.
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Brittany Rayburn's 12 three-pointer game against Minnesota is pretty darn amazing, but it seems almost equally amazing that Minnesota never made adjustments to stop her. Am I missing something, or is just another indication that Borton's coaching isn't getting it done in Gopher Land?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
I once saw Kansas State's Laurie Koehn hit 10 3's against Iowa; part of it was her amazing consistency, and the other part was after a while, it was like Iowa just went "numb" on defense. Like, "We just can't stop this." That seems to have happened to Minnesota. Having someone hit 10 3's on you is nuts, and obviously a dozen is even nuttier. At least right now, neither Pam Borton's coaching nor anything else is working very well for the 10-9 Gophers.
Lisa (New jersey)
can we make a request to the NCAA committee...uconn as a 1 seed and Delaware as a 4 seed in the same bracket. Upset of the decade with a great storyline in delledonne vs her "former" team!
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
I'd suspect that the idea of Delaware and Delle Donne facing UConn in the NCAA tournament would make a certain TV network happy. :) Somehow, if there's a way this works on the bracket, I guess I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up as a possibility for UConn and Delaware to meet.
I'm worried about Notre Dame, even though they won a close game against UConn, yet they did lose easily to Baylor. Can Diggins and Novosel win it by themselves at a neutral site, whether Baylor or UConn are the other team in the FF this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
I do think the rest of the Irish are a significant help to Diggins and Novosel so that they don't really have to do it by themselves. Admittedly, they are the top two and the heart of the team. Novosel really has that bulldog mentality that sometimes is just so key to a good team achieving even more than you think they will. And I don't say that to short-change Diggins in that regard, because she has it, too. So do I still think it's possible for Notre Dame to win the NCAA title regardless of who they might meet in the Final Four if they get that far? Yes. But I still will say the obvious: Baylor remains the favorite, at least by a little.
Jerod Day (Calais, Maine)
What do you think about Sylvia Hatchell's comment about how the game has become to physical and is not as much about finesse. While I think she was trying to change the subject from her team's blowout loss to UConn, what I think this may have done is shown how the game is passing her by. To me the great teams play both physical and with Finesse. Do you think she will ever win another national championship again or her best days behind her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
The idea of North Carolina's coaching staff complaining about physical play is laughable. UConn didn't win that game because they "roughed up" the Tar Heels, of course. UConn won because the Huskies could execute better with their eyes closed than the Tar Heels do with their eyes wide-open. North Carolina has dealt with injuries this season, no doubt, and that has affected the Heels. But that game was a perfect example of a program that consistently teaches and practices at a different level, as UConn does. So unless UNC has enough top athletes/tough competitors who can overcome that (which the Heels have had at times in the past with the likes of Ivory Latta, Erlana Larkins and Camille Little) you get the train-wreck of a game we got. It felt like UConn could have won by 100. Yes, you are right: great programs master the finesse and physical aspects of basketball regardless of who their personnel is year to year. UConn has won for all these years because of execution and coaching meshing with both great recruits and those players who may not be "great" and yet *play* great at UConn because they fit into the mindset of excellence. Not to write a book, here, but Sylvia Hatchell is not any different a coach now than ever, so I don't know that the game is passing her by so much as she's not going to change. The lifeblood of that program is recruiting very high-caliber athletes who are going to out-jump and out-sprint their foes most of the time. And on the recruiting front, Hatchell has has a lot of success. And I know she's worked hard, but there are times watching UNC drives me nuts because I typically feel there is untapped potential.
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
I admit at some point in the second half, I just couldn't watch anymore of UConn-UNC and turned to the Betty White 90th birthday special. I think Betty might have helped the Tar Heels. Her comic execution is flawless.
Florida Gulf Coast is on pace to obliterate the NCAA record for 3-point fields goals per game. Can they parlay that strategy into post-season success?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
I think when you commit to a style and really believe it in, as long as you execute it and have the right athletes to do that, it can be successful. Of course, the thing about relying on the 3 is that it's really a "live or die" proposition. But, heck, that's the nature of the postseason anyway.
When Pat Summitt does retire, should TN open a search for her replacement or is promoting Holly Warlick the only right thing to do?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
Tennessee has handled this whole situation with a lot of grace, class and loyalty. They will handle the change - whenever it happens - the same way. But they will also do whatever is best for the program. I would say that Holly Warlick has earned the right to be the next head coach, if that is what she aspires to do. Her loyalty has been exemplary, and no one loves the program any more than she does.
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
How awesome is it that the Timeless Torches will appear on "30 Rock"?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
I had not heard that, actually. Considering I love the Torches and "30 Rock," that is indeed awesome. Just as an aside, I'm still hoping for Kate Winslet on "30 Rock" someday. :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
Guest appearance, of course. :) BTW, I will probably shell out money to see the release of "Titanic" in 3D in the spring. I won't be able to help myself, as ridiculous as that movie is in so many ways.
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Rob Lowe claims to have broken Peyton Manning's "retirement" on Twitter. What celebrity do you want to see Tweet WNBA personnel news?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
As long as we're fantasizing ... how about Rachel Maddow, Ellen Degeneres, Robin Roberts, Jay-Z and Spike Lee?
kevin (macon ga)
Why doesn't the WNBA seem to grasp that when the national and local media care less about your sport/league, the information coming directly from the source has to be better and more comprehensive not worse?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
I don't claim to know all the inside business of the NBA/WNBA office, but it seems to me that with the work-stoppage crisis of the NBA over the past year, the commitment to WNBA.com became even less. I wish I could give you a good answer, but you know what you've stated has been a longtime frustration WNBA fans have expressed. Almost since the league started. I do get very frustrated, too, with what I think are continual missed opportunities by the league to better promote itself and keep its hard-core base connected.
In the Connecticut/North Carolina embarrassment Kiah Stokes had 10 points and 11 rebounds. If Stokes begins to emerge as a more consistent post presence how big could that be for an already extremely tough UConn team? Is that back up post a position they are lacking or in need of at this point.
Mechelle Voepel (3:11 PM)
Every step forward that Kiah Stokes makes is a big asset for UConn. Dolson has been terrific with how she fits into that system, but you're right that it would be one more weapon in a spot on the floor that UConn could use some help when it comes to potentially facing you-know-who again. Or any team with a strong post presence.
Helen (New York)
Mid-majors -- I know Graham does great work on them -- but what are your thoughts on Green Bay, Middle Tenn, St. Bon?
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
The first thought that comes to mind with all three is good coaching that makes the most of the talent at hand. Green Bay and Middle Tennessee are more "known" commodities among the so-called mid-majors, but St. Bonaventure deserves notice. Jim Crowley is one of those coaches who's really worked hard to "re-think" the game from the perspective of how you maximize player potential when you're not necessarily going to get blue-chip players.
mechelle, love your articles. I've been a long-time fan of Joe McKweon. Can he be successful in the Big Ten with Northwestern? So far it seems up and down this year.
Mechelle Voepel (3:19 PM)
Joe is another of those coaches who's often gotten more from his team than you might think he could with the talent available. Of course, he did that for years at George Washington. There are challenges at Northwestern in terms of re-establishing a consistent winning culture there, and the competition for recruits. But he has proven over the course of his career that given time, he will put together a pretty decent team most years.
How special a player is Bria Hartley? Might she be considered after her career, up there with Bird and Montgomery?
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
Very, very special. She's on the right track to being on her way to joining the greats of UConn guards. A lot of pressure to put on a still-young kid, but I think she can handle it.
What the heck has happened to New Mexico?
Mechelle Voepel (3:30 PM)
We'll have to see how coach Yvonne Sanchez develops as the head of the program after years as a top assistant. It's not always the easiest thing to make that transition. It just seemed like New Mexico has hit this lull overall as a program. I don't know how much unity there is there overall in the athletic department (Lobo men's coach Steve Alford hasn't exactly been known as a "friend" to women's basketball anywhere he's been) or if that even has an impact on the Lobos in any certain way. I do know it would be good for the game to see New Mexico regain some of the luster it had in the best years under Don Flanagan.
I know it's too early to look in the future but do you think Breanna Stewart can pass Maya Moore in terms of Greatness at UCONN?
Mechelle Voepel (3:34 PM)
OK, that is funny. Expectations aren't too high for recruits in Storrs, are they? :) I guess you could say if the Huskies win four NCAA titles with Stewart, then maybe she's the "greatest" UConn player. But, yeah, it's way too early to seriously speculate about such things in regard to a kid who hasn't even started her UConn career.
Mechelle Voepel (3:35 PM)
Then again, that's the nature of fandom. :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:36 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Start making your plans for summer now that the WNBA schedule is out. :) Chat with you next week.