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 (2:01 PM)
Good "chat-before-the-Final-Four" afternoon! Will be headed to Denver in the morning.
Lauren (North Andover)
Was Notre Dame's loss to UConn in the BE tournament more a result of "it's hard to beat the same team 4x in a row" or something UConn has figured out about beating ND? If the latter, what will ND need to do to prevail yet again?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
Part of it was - according to Geno Auriemma - that UConn really "grew up" in the week between the Feb. 27 loss to Notre Dame and the start of the Big East tournament. Maybe it was a bit of a soul-searching time both for the older and younger Huskies. So they really came into that Big East tourney final with a lot to prove. That said, I think if Notre Dame plays the way it did against Maryland, that is really hard to stop. Both the Huskies and Irish come into this game with a lot of confidence. Notre Dame's ability to slow UConn offensively might be the biggest key.
what are the keys to defeating baylor? which team is best equipped to do so? thanks
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
Part of trying to beat Baylor is somehow getting Baylor to do a few thing to help beat themselves. Such as not getting the ball to Griner enough by taking some ill-advised shots or getting one of the starters in foul trouble. But these are things Baylor for the most part just doesn't do. To have much chance at beating them, you have hit perimeter shots and stretch the Bears' defense out really far. Which is hard because the defense is already pretty elastic thanks to Griner's combined size and mobility.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Will keep this simple For winning new fans who may not know WBB's depth is 4 1 seeds in the final 4 and 1 vs 2 in the elite 8 good or bad for a sport who's stereotype is that it is only cared about by 3-4 teams?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
It's hard to battle stereotypes unless the people who hold them are willing to look harder at something and see beyond the stereotype. We know a lot of programs do care and are making advancements. Progress comes over a long period of time gradually and has quick spikes along the way. I think the Final Four should be entertaining, and that might be the only women's basketball that some people watch all year. And this year, we can hope that all three games are good, and that people enjoy watching them. I'll say something else ... the last time all four No. 1's were in the WFF was 1989, when Baylor was 3-23 and a million miles from being a contender nationally. So the fact that 23 years later, we're talking about Baylor as one of the superpowers does show the sport's growth. So does Texas AM winning the title last year; they were a hopeless program in the beginning years of the Big 12.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
What was more impressive to you: Griner leading the break & getting the assist, Griner's dribble spin move in the paint, or her two handed dunk? The dunk gets the attention but I think the other two show her development.
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
The dribble spin move to me was pretty awesome, as I think that can be a regular part of her repertoire more so than leading the break ... although she looked very comfortable doing that, too. The dunk was great, and she should do that whenever she has the chance. But I really like seeing post players show nimble and quick moves around the basket that make them so hard to predict for someone trying to guard them.
What day will the US Olympic team be announced? Im assuming before Sunday?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
The USA Basketball announcement will be Friday afternoon in Denver.
Thought on Illinois hiring Matt Bollant? How long will it take to turn the program around?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
He's done a really nice job following Kevin Borseth at Green Bay, so I understand why he was ready to move into a larger conference to see how he could fare there. Illinois went to the volleyball national championship game this past season with a lot of Illinois in-state talent on the team. It would seem like it's possible to rely more on lllinois talent to improve the women's hoops team. Programs turn around based on how quickly they get top recruits. So that's what Bollant will have to focus on.
Denver calls itself the Mile High City. Did the NCAA consider the possible negative impact of altitude on players in this tournament? (I've seen teams struggle a bit in Albuquerque's mile-high Pit.)
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
I don't know that the NCAA thought a whole lot about that. Considering all four teams are coming in from elsewhere and it will affect all of them the same way, I don't know that it will have much impact. If Colorado were competing in the Final Four, though, maybe it would. None of the coaches on yesterday's teleconferences seemed very concerned about it.
Malcolm McFall (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Watching the tournament games the eastern bias against the PAC12 seems clear. The teams below the top four are all about even and would struggle in the PAC12. Duke didn't fight Stanford as hard as Arizona State or Cal did in the PAC12 tournament. Maryland, Kentucky, St. Johns, and Penn State didn't look as good as Duke. I get tired of hearing what an easy conference Stanford plays in every year. The eastern writers seem unanimous in their underestimation of Tara's team. What's your take on it?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I don't think it's showing bias against Stanford to pick Baylor to beat Stanford, if that's what you mean. Baylor has been No. 1 most of the season and is unbeaten. Does that mean Stanford can't beat the Bears? Of course, not. They might do it. But picking doesn't mean anything. For whatever reason, media outlets pick games. I wish we didn't; I don't like doing it. But we do. Anyway, as for the Pac-12, the only way the conference changes its image is to get other teams besides Stanford into the Final Four picture. No Pac-12 team has made it to the FF besides Stanford since 1986. I understand the frustration Pac-12 (and previously Pac-10 people) have about being underestimated, but the fact remains that the league has not had many legitimate contenders for a Final Four over the years except the Cardinal. It would be great for women's basketball if that changes.
Ryan (Illinois )
Why is uconn looked past to win the NC? They have proven themselves to be a top contender this season, and overall, I think they are the most well balanced team in the country. My question for you is why does ND have a better chance of beating Baylor than Uconn? Uconn shoots the ball better and can run in transition, two things that have proved to be successful against the Bears.
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
I don't think any team in this Final Four is being looked past, really. All are No. 1 seeds. All are capable of winning the title. Baylor beat UConn and Notre Dame during the regular season and didn't play Stanford. As for whether ND or UConn has a better chance at beating Baylor, I'd say either would have about the same chance in my opinion, if they meet in the NCAA title game. There is no lack of respect for any team here; everybody who has been watching women's hoops all this season knows they are all good. That said, Baylor has a player in Brittney Griner who is unlike anyone else, though, which is something the other coaches have acknowledged.
stever (ann arbor)
Two SEC and two Big Ten HC jobs filled by...men...where's the outrage? ;)
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
If you bring this up, there are people who will say you're being a reverse sexist and that the best "person" should get a job, regardless of if that's a male or female. If you don't bring it up, there are people who will say that women *should* be the first option if everything else is equal and that you're ignoring the potential of women becoming more marginalized in women's basketball coaching. Men dominate Division I women's volleyball coaching (there aren't enough jobs on the men's volleyball side, which also has less prestige, finances.) There are a lot of men in D-I soccer and softball. Remember when Geno Auriemma used to say he was a dinosaur and men were going to get totally squeezed out of D-I women's head coaching jobs? Well, he's right about a lot of things, but he was wrong about that. Men seem to me now to have plenty of opportunity in women's basketball. I'm not opposed to it, and yet there are elements of it that concern me. I know that sounds like a wishy-washy answer, I just mean I truly am conflicted about it. I want the best people for women's basketball coaching women's basketball, regardless of gender. But ... considering how shut the door seems to be on women coaching men at any level, it's impossible to not have some concern about this for the future of today's girls who might want to grow up to be head coaches and who their role models will be.
Erica (Boise, Idaho)
How many more times does Stanford have to make the final four before the commentary changes from how weak the Pac 10/Pac 12 is to just how good Stanford has been in recent years?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
I think it's some of both, actually. Michelle Smith has done weekly features on Stanford all season for ESPNW. So I don't think Stanford is being short-changed on positive publicity from ESPN or the national media in general. Maybe people are too dismissive of the Pac-12 at times. Maybe "weak" is an unfair adjective. But like I said, the only way you really change the narrative of the conference as a whole is for others in the conference to get to the Final Four. And of course, I think it would also be a big point of pride for the league if Stanford won the title.
Josh Fischer (Newark, NJ)
Hi Michelle: Love your columns. Wanted to know your opinion on how far the Blue Hens can go next year with EDD coming back. Also, how awesome would an EDD/Griner matchup be? Who do you think has the overall edge in gameplay? Thanks ~Josh
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Certainly, having the NCAA tournament experience is going to help the Blue Hens. This particular team was in some uncharted waters this year, with the success and expectations. That won't be the case next season. As for Griner vs. Delle Donne, they are pretty different types of players, but both are outliers from the sense of how much they force the opponents to concentrate on them ... which still doesn't usually work. It would be nice to see the two of them face off in college, but if that doesn't happen, hopefully it will a lot at the pro level.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Will the reverse lay-up be the best way for Nnemkadi Ogwumike to score inside against Brittney Griner this Sunday because the basket will help shield the ball from a block attempt?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
It will be one way, for sure. But what is so awesome about Nneka's game is that she's figured out so many different ways to score, and her confidence is not going to be dented by Brittney blocking her. Nneka knows she has to keep challenging her inside - with smart shots, of course _ and she's not going to back down.
Hey Mechelle, Despite being credited as a great defensive team is uconn's defense still a little underrated given that they have the best Fg% defense and fewest points ever, WITHOUT "the griner effect"? not to mention the 2nd toughest schedule in the country.
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
I think when you put it that way, you could be right. In general, I don't think UConn's defense is underrated because everybody does know how good it is. But you make a strong point that the Huskies are doing it without that superstar-like player.
Was Lynette Woodard better than Cheryl Miller, or the reverse?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Old-school question. :) Well, Lynette ended up playing much longer, as knee injuries got to Cheryl. We unfortunately don't have all kinds of old footage of the two of them to watch and compare. They were both far ahead of their time; if you could go back to each in her prime and put them in a time machine to today, they'd both be huge stars. They really were that talented and that athletic. But ... since I'm a Midwesterner and have lived in Kansas for 16 years ... if I have to pick one, I think I *have* to go with the Jayhawk, you know? :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Sorry for ones I didn't get to. Enjoy the Final Four.
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