Chat with Graham Hays
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com women's college basketball writer Graham Hays stops by to chat just hours before the championship game.
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage. He began with ESPN in 1999.
Send your questions now and join Hays Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:01 PM)
Greetings from snowy Denver. Only a few hours until Baylor and Notre Dame tip, so what's on your mind?
So you think the officials will let the final be as physical as the ND-UConn? If so, who does that favor? If not, what do you think they'll change?
Graham Hays (4:04 PM)
Hang on, having some technical difficulties.
Graham Hays (4:07 PM)
Ok, sorry about that. Robert, I doubt it, although it would be great if they did. These two teams average about 28 fouls per game between them. There have been at least 35 fouls called in four of the past six title games, and Baylor-Michigan State in 2005 was the last title game in which no player fouled out. I'm not putting all of that on the refs, or even most of it. But a title game without a lot of fouls would be a change.
Graham Hays (4:07 PM)
If it is called tightly, it seems like that favors Baylor. Being physical could help ND neutralize some of the size/speed advantages Baylor has with Griner/Sims.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
How many 3-pointers will Notre Dame need to score in order to avoid the block of Brittney Griner and upset Baylor in the national championship game tonight?
Graham Hays (4:10 PM)
Not sure the 3-pointer is an absolute must for Notre Dame, although it would obviously be a big plus. Diggins/Novosel/McBride/Mallory are all good 3-point shooters but it's not as big a part of the team's offense as others. And one thing it seems like ND has to do, even with Griner, is continue to be as aggressive as ever. Devereaux Peters said it yesterday; they know they're going to get some shots blocked. But changing the entire offense to avoid that is making Griner even more valuable.
kevin (macon ga)
We've had an historic low number of upsets in the tournament this year. Only seven lower seeded teams won, the fewest since 1988 (when it was a 40 team tournament). What is this attributable to? The new RPI formula?
Graham Hays (4:13 PM)
I'm inclined to put the RPI pretty low on the list of factors. Some of it is statistical randomness. The 7/8 seeds were 7-1 in the first round but it's tough to call any result in those games an upset. If those seeds go 4-4, or even 3-5, then we're talking about a bad year for weak seeds instead of a historically bad year. And at the other end, it's not revisionist history to say there were just four teams better than everyone else this season, so the No. 1 seeds weren't going to add losses to the total. The rest of the picture is puzzling. To me, the top tier is still the top tier, but there's a great deal of parity in the range of Nos. 10-40. So why didn't that show up in the bracket? Maybe the committee just did a great job of seeding, but I'd lean toward the "just one of those things" explanation.
what do you think will be the deceiding factor in who wins tonight? Also who do you think will win?
Graham Hays (4:19 PM)
It isn't going out on a limb, but I think Odyssey Sims is the key factor. I can see Baylor winning without her playing a great game, and I can see Notre Dame winning if she does play well, but it seems more likely that she's a player who swings this game to Baylor's side if she plays well, as she did in the first meeting between these two. Griner is going to be Griner, but if there are two players on the court that Notre Dame can't physically match up with, be it speed or size, that's hard to overcome.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Is Notre Dame versus UConn currently the top national rivlalry in women's college basketball?
Graham Hays (4:24 PM)
It's the best rivalry of the moment. There is some history between the programs in the long run, they've played eight times in the past two seasons, twice in the Final Four, and split those games. Great coaches, great stars, generally good games. So it adds up to a great rivalry. I'm not sure if it's a national rivalry. There may not be a great national rivalry right now, in the same sense as Connecticut-Tennessee.
Alexis (New York)
How would you characterize/summarize Uconn's season this year? Would you consider this one of Geno's best coaching jobs ever?
Graham Hays (4:28 PM)
I think Auriemma did a fantastic coaching job this season, yes. At the same time, it seems like there is some momentum for saying this team overachieved, and that doesn't ring true to me. This was a team with the talent to make a Final Four. Getting to Tuesday night, or certainly winning a title, might have qualified as overachieving, but it seems like this team did what it should have done. But the ups and downs of getting to that point did require a heck of a coaching effort.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
If Baylor wins tonight will Brittany Griner be the MOP?
Graham Hays (4:30 PM)
Hard to see otherwise. She didn't have the most statistically dominant performance in the semifinal, but neither did any other Baylor player. If Baylor wins tonight, it's safe to say she had an effect on the game. And she would get the benefit of the doubt for her past body of work when ballots are cast.
Who do you think has the best shot of winning the national championship next year?
Graham Hays (4:32 PM)
Regardless of what happens tonight, Baylor enters next season as the favorite with Griner. Connecticut will be up there again with Breanna Stewart coming aboard. Maryland and Duke could be top-five. And Kentucky and Louisville could make it a good year for that state. Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee will have some big holes to fill, but they are among the programs that always do just that.
Much has been made about UCONN and ND escalating to this great rivalry. But has it really reached that point? Clearly ND has been very good the last couple of seasons and have challenged UCONN more than recently. But considering most of the ND starting line up will be graduated, which the "rivalry" return back to the way of UCONN dominance?
Graham Hays (4:35 PM)
That will be the challenge for Notre Dame, sure. But I don't know that a rivalry has to be dead even every year or every cycle to still be a rivalry. The past two years, and a 3-0 all-time record against Connecticut in the Final Four, will give Notre Dame some cover if they go through some reloading.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Has there been a spot reserved for Brittney Griner on the Olympic team?
Graham Hays (4:39 PM)
I think a lot of people will still be surprised if she's not in London.
Do you foresee a large number of de-commitments due to coaching changes?
Graham Hays (4:41 PM)
I wouldn't expect a lot more movement than with the normal coaching hiring and firing. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any of the big hires who would have an especially negative effect.
Graham Hays (4:42 PM)
All right, we'll wrap it up there. Enjoy the game tonight on ESPN at 8:30 ET and check out coverage from Mechelle Voepel, Kate Fagan, Michelle Smith, Charlie Creme and myself on ESPNW.
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