Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about 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 (2:00 PM)
Hi folks! There is a conference call soon with the LA Sparks, including new signee Alana Beard. So I will have to keep the chat pretty short this week. Which, of course, means I'll have to avoid so many of my usual long-winded answers. :) I'll try!
kevin (macon ga)
Everyone wants to see what Alana Beard can do in her comeback. Realistically, what should be the expectations for her? How will she adapt to being neither the alpha dog (Candace Parker) nor the veteran leader (Delisha Milton)?
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
That's a great question to which we right now don't have an answer. Is she truly healthy? Can her ankle hold up for a season in the WNBA? What will be her playing level on it? We know how much AB's quickness and athleticism was a part of her game, so we'll see. I hope, though, the other things you mention- not being alpha dog or vet leader - will not be issues. Right now, all AB should be concerned with is getting court time in the league again and contributing to a team that has tried to rejuvenate itself in various ways.
In her relatively short WCBB coaching career so far, would you think Kim Mulkey, with a rare 80% win rate (only 4 others have that; Barmore, Auriemma, Summitt and VanDerveer) and 1 Natl. Champ, is already in the Top 10 All-Time, or maybe even knocking on the door of the Top 5, especially if she snags a 2nd NC?
Mechelle Voepel (2:03 PM)
She is getting there, and of course, she spent 15 years as an assistant at Louisiana Tech. She could have been a head coach even earlier, is my point. But she did it the way she wanted to, which is Mulkey's trademark. With her passion for what she does, I don't see her slowing down, either.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Will Purdue' frontcourt match-up advantage be enough to upset Ohio State and their #1 backcourt in Columbus on Sunday on ESPN2?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
I have to give the edge right now to the Buckeye backcourt, but won't be surprised if the Boilers pull this off. Looking forward to seeing this game, among lots of other action this Play 4Kay weekend.
Jim (Kansas City, MO)
Mechelle -- I went to the KU-Texas game last night, and I was astounded at the poor level of play from Texas. It appears to me that their only real scoring threat is Chassidy Fussell, who seems to be on her way to stardom...Her team, on the other hand, is headed to the NIT, and I think the athletic dept. won't hesitate to pay off GG after the season and her back east...I'm starting to see why most coaches tend to stay in the same region...Kansas, on the other hand, seems to have made great strides under a coach who was brought in from the East Coast. It took a long time, though, as you know.
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
All good points, Jim. This season is really going poorly for Texas. Injuries are an issue, but everybody has those and you have to deal with them. Oklahoma has been pounded by injuries, for instance, but has still figured out ways to win. Last night's game in Lawrence was between two coaches who have really been through some tough times after coming into the Big 12 with a lot of previous success. Gail Goestenkors in particular. Will Texas pull the plug after five seasons? If Kansas doesn't make the NCAA tournament, will KU pull the plug on Bonnie Henrickson after eight seasons? KU really needed that win, especially after falling to Oklahoma at home last week.
Texas fans are in revolt against Gail G. Will UT face up and fire her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Part of this, I think, is about whether Texas's administration feels absolutely sure nothing is going to get better in the next two years, *and* if it has someone in mind that the school thinks can immediately get better results. It's one thing to be fed up, which I understand because Texas paid a lot of money and wanted big results. But are they going to do the same thing with someone else? If they do, they have to make sure they get a coach who is so plugged into the Texas prep recruiting scene already that that person can instantly go toe-to-toe with the likes of Baylor and Texas AM and Oklahoma for Texas recruits. Does Texas want to spend the money to buy out GG's contract because they know for sure they can bring in a replacement who is immediately better? That's what they'll have to decide.
dusty (newbury vermont)
Realistically how far will the lady vols make it in the road to the final four?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I would have said when this season started that I really thought they had a great chance to go to Denver. But we've seen some of the same issues of this team not having that classic Tennessee "killer instinct," not to mention watching them get run off the court by Notre Dame. This is going to be the final gut-check for the likes of Stricklen and Johnson, and as much as I like those kids and think both can be very good WNBA players, I'm not sure what they have in them emotionally at this point. Also, Tennessee has dealt with some injury issues that I think bothered them more than expected. Ultimately, another big factor will be the match-ups they face in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee can still beat *most* teams. But can they beat that elite group at the top?
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Will this coming Monday's match-up of Kentucky at Tennessee be the most exciting women's basketball game on ESPN's Big Monday broadcast so far this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
Good grief, let's hope so! Unfortunately, "Big Monday" has been "Big Boring" this season, especially the double-dose of blowout we got this week with Duke-UNC and Baylor-Oklahoma. Be fun to see a really good game between Kentucky and Tennessee in their second matchup of this season.
How much has Bill Fennelly's illness affected Iowa State this year, and do they rally to make the tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
I'm really glad you asked! I have a story on Bill Fennelly and the Cyclones that will be posted later today on ESPN.com. I was at their game last night against Missouri in Columbia. Bill feels especially with a freshman point guard, his voice was needed more this season, and he unfortunately has not had his usual voice. But it is coming back, and thank goodness he has a clean bill of health right now and is cancer-free. The Cyclones have now won five of their last six, with the only loss in that stretch being by 2 points at Texas AM. So they are coming back. I believe Charlie Creme put the Cyclones into the field in his last Bracketology, and I think he's on the money with that.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Will Maryland be able to match-up well enough with Miami's high -powered backcourt of Johnson & Williams in order to protect their homecourt and pull off the upset this Sunday on ESPN2?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
Big game, and my colleague Graham Hays is scheduled to be there covering it. The Terps have had their issues playing as well as I think they can play. But ... they should be as pumped up as possible for this one. Maryland, for all the deserved knocks on its defense in years past, does have the ability to defend on the perimeter. And the Terps will have to do that against the 'Canes, who have impressed me with how they've dealt with the injury-loss of Morgan Stroman.
kevin (macon ga)
What do you think of Charlie Creme's women's Bracket Buster Monday idea?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
I realize the logistics could be tough, which Charlie readily acknowledged, but it sure sounds like it could be fun. I also know that people would like to see those teams like Green Bay, Delaware, Gonzaga, St. Bonaventure, Florida Gulf Coast, etc., play "big conference" teams in such match-ups, too. But it would be cool to see them against each other, and for them to get that kind of spotlight. Anyway, it was a neat idea for Charlie to present, and I know a lot of fans have had "wish lists" of games like this before, too. Hey, lots of things start with a wish, right?
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Mechelle, did you happen to watch last Thursday night's Big Ten Game of the Year as Nebraska upset Purdue in West Lafayette in triple overtime? I caught a replay of the game the next day. What a thriller!
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
I saw part of a replay, and it was a great game. The Huskers are a young group that is figuring out new stuff every day. That was a heck of a win on the road for them, but Purdue is one of those programs that tends to "bounce" back better than most.
I didn't know Brittney Griner can handle the ball so well. She made 2 plays vs ou where she got the rebound or block and dribbled up the court. You think she can handle the point lol?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I don't think Kim Mulkey is planning on that. :) But we are seeing how much more well-rounded a player Brittney becomes each year. She is never going to need to do much of that, but her comfort all over the court is noticeable. I doubt we'll see her displacing Odyssey Sims, though. :)
Who is your player of the year? Does the selection committee for this award keep in mind points per minute played? Griner could have 35 plus a night but she is often able to sit out much of the second half? Is this taken into consideration?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
Right now, I still give my vote to Brittney Griner. I don't think you even have to take minutes played into consideration in her case. Her dominance has been quite a powerful case.
Danny (San Diego)
As of now who is the best player from the 2012 sophomore class? Chiney Ogwumike, Odyssey Sims, Bria Hartley, or Alyssa Thomas? If you were picking a team from scratch who would you take to build around?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Can I cheat and have them all? I'd even be willing to take those four and play four-on-five versus a lot of teams. (Not that you'd want me coaching them; I'd just stand back and watch.) We still have time to figure out a "best" if you will from that group, but they're all extremely good and valuable to the women's game long-term.
I hate to ask a question related to officiating, but last night's Uconn-L'ville game had me thinking at multiple points that someone was going to be seriously injured. It was beyond physical play. At some point isn't it a priority for officials to take into account the actual safety of student athletes and get things under control?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
It can be really tough for the officials at times to try to keep "flow" in a game but also, as you said, keep it "safe." I could be wrong on this, but I tend to think players mostly settle these things on their own. They are used to physicality, and if they go to far, they are policed to a degree by each other. I am not trying to minimize your concern, but ultimately I think the officials can only do so much in some situations.
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Sorry to go so short this time, but am interested to hear what Alana Beard and Carol Ross have to say on the upcoming call. :) We will have several Play 4Kay stories on ESPN.com - there are some now, and will be more in the coming days - including one on former Boston College player Clare Droesch, who is now battling breast cancer at age 29. I hope everyone gets a chance to read these stories and tune into the games. This is such a big battle we all are fighting together, and the hope is that basketball is really helping fund-raising and awareness. I will be at Monday's UConn-Oklahoma Play 4Kay game, and we'll chat next week. Thanks!