Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat some hoops.
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 (2:05 PM)
Good afternoon, folks. Not a lot of questions lined up, so we may get this chat over pretty quickly. :) Here we go.
kevin (macon ga)
Usually the draft is followed by a flurry of trades. Why haven't we seen that this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Maybe it has something to do with a pretty weak draft overall? Especially when you consider that nobody was all that sure who was even going to go No. 2.
I was puzzled by your answer last week about the Tallahassee subregional bracket selection. Why would 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast (409 miles) receive home bracket privilege over 3 seed Miami (487 miles) or 9 seed Florida (151 miles). Interesting Miami was sent 3052 miles to Spokane and Florida 973 miles to Bowling Green. Baylor could have played Florida in the same bracket in Tallahassee as the Bowling Green bracket. Stroh Center was the smallest venue and Tallahassee took a bloodbath over attendance.
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
The question was asked if there was a conspiracy to get Baylor to Bowling Green to boost attendance. I said I thought that was unlikely, but who knows. I wasn't in the room with them. Because of pre-determined sites, though, the committee is putting together a puzzle that is very complicated. Maybe they could have put Baylor in Tallahassee with Florida, but then it takes Ohio State away from Bowling Green if they kept Ohio State with that same group. The bracket has these same messes every year; Obviously, Tallahassee took a bloodbath because Florida State didn't make it in the tournament. If the top 16 seeds hosted, for the most part you would avoid horrible attendance sites. But I'm not sure why I keep bringing it up, because I doubt the tournament will go back to that.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
This Late in the recruiting game, would those schools with coaching vacancies (especially with many seniors) be better served by promoting their AHC? I know it's a hot topic at St. Johns and I think I'd rather do that then a hot assistant (who's still unproven) at least your AHC knows the system and players and can recruit to that rather than throw away a year because the coach hasn't had enough time to recruit the prior year on the count of not being the coach there.
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
I'd say you still try to find the best long-term fit; you can't be rushed because of worrying about one cycle of recruiting or one group of seniors. Because you're not necessarily throwing that year away if you get the right person. Of course, if the right person is someone who's already there, all the better.
What do you think about the LA Sparks team this season? Personally, I'm truly hoping that Alana is healthy this season. I've missed her the pass 2 summers. I love Carol as the coach and I love the make-up of the team in general.
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
They are kind of the "it" team in terms of everybody's pretty interested to see how they play and how everything comes together. If Beard is able to return to at least somewhat of her normal ability, that will be a big boost. Parker has to stay healthy, of course. Carol Ross will have to spread out minutes with all the bigs to keep everyone satisfied. I just think Ross is very prepared and ready to be in charge of a WNBA team. She understands the world of pro coaching now as well as she did college coaching. It should be a good fit.
kevin (macon ga)
Tell us about Astan Dabo. Is she a legitimate first rounder?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I don't know anything more than what I've read other people say about her. She's still a teen-ager and 6-foot-8 (if that's legit) ... so if ConnSun's Mike Thibault felt good enough about her potential, it probably wasn't a bad move to draft her. Because, again, this draft was so sparse on players that you thought, "She's a sure thing, She can really help a team." If there was a year to take a risk on someone relatively unknown (by Americans at least), maybe this was that year. Now, you might say, "Well then what about the Liberty and Kelley Cain? Why were you so critical of that?" and again, the big issue with that was she's someone we all know has a chronic injury history because we'd seen her a lot through the college system at Tennessee.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
One rebuttal to your answer on Late coach searches...If you have 3 or more seniors out of 12 players. (or 1/4 your roster) wouldn't holding your class in itself...give you FOUR years stability by bringing in and maintaining a class?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
I'm not sure what you're getting at. I thought you were asking do you hire in more haste if it's someone already with the system. And I don't think you necessarily do. But every single hiring situation has its own quirks and individual issues. I don't think there's any one way that is absolute for trying to replace a program-builder who will really be missed the way KBA will be at St. John's.
stever (ann arbor)
Miller, Bollant, Barnes-Arico...who faces the biggest challenge...toss up?
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
My knee-jerk instinct is to say Curt Miller at Indiana, but you can look at all three programs and see that they've struggled to establish themselves over the course of a long, long time. It seemed like Kevin Borseth was getting closer to that, but Michigan in general has been a tough place to make it work. I liked Mick McCabe's column in the Detroit Free Press about Kim Barnes Arico being the latest to try to wake the "sleeping giant" at Michigan. Just like all the coaches before her. It may have sounded snarky, but he was right. We've heard it before a lot. As for Matt Bollant, not that there's a direct correlation, but you see the Illini volleyball squad make it to the NCAA championship game last year with a lot of Illinois kids. We look at the Illinois women's hoops program and say, "Why can't they be better when you consider the athletic talent in the state?" That continues to be a challenge, though. They are all three really good X's and O's coaches who I think should help the Big Ten. It should be a boost to a league that needs that.
The easiest way I have found to grow women's basketball fans among my friends is to take baseball fans to wcbb games. These friends do not like the one and done approach to mcbb; they prefer following a player(s) career arc of 4 years, like old school baseball. From all of your interviews with college staff members, what have you found to be the most effective way to grow wcbb attendance?
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
Win a lot of games. That builds excitement, because people want to be associated with winners. When you have a winning team in the right area population-wise - not too big, not too small - that is the magic combination. But you have to sustain it.
Jonathan (New York)
What are your thoughts on the selection of Asjha Jones for the 12th spot on the U.S. team
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
She's a very solid, dependable pro who brings consistent defense. She has a track record of fulfilling her USA Basketball commitments, including at the World Championships. Do I understand why some folks are irritated by both her and Swin Cash being on the Olympic team? Yes, I get that they see this as a huge recruiting advantage for UConn - "Hey, we had six players on the Olympic team!" - and that even though Geno Auriemma didn't pick the team, the committee catered to him. I can see both sides of it. In the end, it's not as if there were a long line of players better than Jones at her position to pick. And it would be unfair to keep her off the team just to prevent having the Huskies' Half-Dozen. In the end, it tells you that UConn recruits pretty darn well, doesn't it? When ESPN Classic was showing the Pat Summitt tribute and they had the 2001 UConn-Tennessee game, I was thinking about what an amazing collection of talent there has been at both schools. It's not like we don't know that, but watching it in retrospect really brings it home.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Does Tulsa actually have something to build on or should Gary Kloppenburg make sure he makes the lottery next year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Considering Tulsa's luck with the lottery, he better not count on that. :) He has something to build on, I think. A young team with a fresh outlook. They have to try to do everything possible to win as many games as they can this year. Don't put the fans through another utterly hopeless season if it can at all be avoided.
Damian (Brooklyn N.Y.)
Since New York drafted which I was surprised, what do you think will happen with the Liberty this year, will they make the playoffs: yes or no?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
Right now, if I were doing a predicted order of finish, the Liberty would not be in the top four as a playoff team. We'll see as we edge closer to the start of the season, but I don't think I will change that prediction, for what it's worth.
Sean Troy Stone (Gilbert, AZ)
Without Penny Taylor, how will Phoenix fare? Will they make the playoffs or fall into the lottery?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
Obviously, a huge loss. I would lean right now toward a fifth-place finish.
List how you think the west will play it in order from first to worst?
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
Again, I might change my mind before the season starts. But right now, I'd say Minn, LA, SASS, Seattle, Phoenix, Tulsa. I'm still debating in my own scrambled little brain what order the East would be in, but probably Atlanta, Connecticut, Chicago, Indiana, Washington, New York. Luckily, I have more time to worry about that before the season preview. :)
How many games would Tulsa have to win this season for the fans to believe the organization is on the right track?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
Ummm ... maybe double digits? Ten? That's probably asking for too much, though. Maybe part of it will be in how well they play even in losses.
Your thoughts on the team chemistry of Phoenix with the addition of Sammy P.
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
She said all the right things on draft day - "I'm a rookie, I have to know my place, and I like the personality of this Mercury." She's an intense and emotional kid, and I think maybe her personality could be a good matchup in Phoenix. Diana Taurasi is a very emotional player, too, and that's hurt her just a little at times, but for the most part she's learned to manage it very well and she's a well-liked teammate. If Prahalis watches and learns, she will be OK.
What is your favorite Pat Summitt memory?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
The time she came to visit Kansas City for a clinic in August 1997, and I got to spend quite a while asking her questions on her philosophy about coaching beyond just X's and O's. She was very generous with her time that day, and she had such thoughtful answers. Her team was two-time defending champions then, but she was so down-to-earth, friendly and a great listener as well as great speaker. It's hard to put into words how much that memory means to me as the years go by, because it was such an important afternoon to me as a still-young-then writer.
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Thanks for all the questions ... you regulars really picked it up there. :) Appreciate it. Will chat next week!