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 (2:02 PM)
Good afternoon. Well, there was no Game 5 as I figured there might be in the WNBA Finals. What a performance the Indiana Fever put on in this series. They really played better and deserved the title.
Now that Indy's Big 3 have won a championship, how much longer do you think they will remain as a unit? Will Tammy Sutton-Brown continue playing, or has she been making retirement noises? Has she been displaced by Erlana Larkins anyway?
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
To my knowledge, TSB didn't say much about her future (she didn't to me, anyway) ... she was just extremely happy to win a title. Tamika Catchings is a free agent, and when I asked her about the process, she really didn't have much to say about it. Of course, the Fever hope that there are no hang-ups to re-signing her. Some folks thought Tamika might consider going elsewhere to "chase" a championship, but now that she's got one, you kind of think it's pretty likely she'll stay put with the Fever. Erlana Larkins really did come into her own in the second half of the season and especially the playoffs. You'd think that starting job, if she stays healthy, is hers for 2013. That said, credit goes to TSB for still being an emotional leader on the Fever even when her playing time was greatly reduced. She was a positive force in the locker room and on the sidelines; that was very evident.
What happened to the Lynx? How much of it can be blamed on Cheryl Reeve's coaching?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
I don't see that this was Reeve's "fault," as it were. I know some fans weren't happy with her substitution patterns, some thought she played Taj too much, some thought she really went overboard with the jacket-tossing incident. But from the start of the Finals, Reeve seemed very concerned to me about whether the Lynx were losing momentum while the Fever were gaining it. I think the Lynx looked tired during the Finals, and they ran into a team that was extremely hungry and seemed "fresher" to me. Having their three stars at the Olympics did seem to take some to toll on the Lynx. Augustus, in particular, seemed kind of worn out to me even during media interview sessions. And in Games 3 and 4, she just wasn't herself. Credit Briann January, in particular, for being such a good defender, but that wasn't the same Seimone we saw in last year's finals. Sometimes the hungrier team wins.
Ryan (Sacramento, CA)
Better chance of Baylor or the Fever repeating as champs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
Considering how hard its been for a WNBA team to repeat - none since LA in 2001-02 - I'd have to say it seems unlikely for Indy to repeat. But I think the odds for Baylor are high. There are just not that many teams that can beat Baylor as long as the Green Machine stays healthy. Of course, it only takes one on the right night during the NCAA tournament ... but I think Baylor's chances are quite good.
Ryan (Sacramento, CA)
Does Diggins have anything to prove this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
Considering Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame have been to two consecutive NCAA title games, I'd say she's already proven a lot. That said, I guess people will be watching to see how much leadership she shows with a younger team that doesn't have Peters, Novosel and Mallory. I'll state the obvious: ESPN, among other media entities, is putting a *lot* of attention on the Big Three of Diggins, Delle Donne and Griner, so there will be many eyes on these kids. Some people will be looking for flaws. Every player has some ... but the best really work on them. I think Diggins has big, big goals for what she wants to accomplish and may actually welcome the scrutiny.
kevin (macon ga)
Why is Geno Auriemma talking about lowering the rim? Didn't anyone learn the lesson of the smaller ball? It hasn't helped scoring (down from 70 ppg in 1983-84, the last year of the larger ball, to 63 ppg last season) or FG% (down from 44% to 39%). What makes people think the lower rim will have any more effect?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I like Geno Auriemma a lot, and think many of the things he says make sense. But ... he also sometimes just start talking with his regular UConn media and says stuff off the top of his head. I would put his latest "lowering the rims" comments in the latter category. The smaller ball was supposed to decrease turnovers and increase scoring. I don't think it helped the women's game or necessarily hurt it ... but I'd just as soon bring back the "standard-sized" ball. I really don't think lowering the rims is going to increase women's hoops popularity, as Geno seemed to suggest. I'm actually not sure even he really thinks that. He is asked a lot of questions and he has a lot of answers. They are not *all* to be taken that seriously. :)
The Fever are the first champion without multiple No. 1 picks since Detroit in 2008 (counting Penny Taylor as the No. 1 dispersal draft). Is this a blip in the trend toward draft luck deciding titles or is there something about the Fever that other teams can try to emulate?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
I don't know if you can talk about trends in terms of this result, but there are three big factors - to me - in terms of the Fever's success. One obviously is having a great player as motivated as Catchings. Two was having a really good, cohesive coaching staff. Steph White and Mickie DeMoss were helpful and supportive presences for Lin Dunn. Steph White is on her way to becoming a WNBA head coach at some point. Finally, GM Kelly Krauskopf built the Fever from the ground up, and the moves she's made in the last three years really helped this team. She got Shavonte Zellous and Erin Phillips in trades that cost the Fever essentially nothing. And she kept an eye on Erlana Larkins even after EL left the WNBA for a couple of years. So if other teams are looking for something to emulate, I'd guess part of it is patience and persistence. And in those franchises that have the coaches and GM jobs separate, making sure those two people really work together well, with Dunn and Krauskopf do.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
While Only an idiot thinks no one cheats in the Women's College game how much does the major violations and the firing of Adrian Wiggins at Ole Miss hurt the image of the Women's game. Also will anything more come of this incident?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
Not sure it hurts the "image" of women's basketball because Ole Miss is not one of the handful of programs that have some degree of national recognition. What it hurts is Ole Miss and the SEC. This is a year of change in the league, with Pat Summitt no longer the head coach at Tennessee and the new faces that are in the league, including the addition of Texas AM and Missouri. Wiggins, after his success in Fresno, was one of those new faces, but now he's gone from the SEC before he ever had a chance to make any impact ... except a negative one. It's a shame because I think several women's basketball followers were looking forward to seeing how he - as one of the league's new coaches - would improve the program. Now, Ole Miss is in disarray.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
What will be the impact on the WNBA with Stern's retirement?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
Certainly, David Stern has been a staunch supporter of the WNBA. Once he was convinced in the mid-1990s that it was time to launch the league, he was firmly in support of it. But he's not the only person in the NBA office who's been a strong backer of the league. To my knowledge, Adam Silver, for instance, is also in that category. I think the NBA's commitment to the WNBA is likely not going to change when Stern leaves. That said, the challenges are still going to be the same, too.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
How much of a distraction will the Jennings Lawsuit be on the Lady Vols as they try to rebuild into a Final 4 contender
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
I don't think it will have much impact on the team. The players don't necessarily pay attention to these things. They have a new media relations director telling them what to do ... not much really changes for them. Depending on how the lawsuit goes and how much is made publicly of the charges that Debby Jennings made, there could potentially be some more bad publicity for Tennessee. I don't know if that will affect their recruiting; it may not. It does affect the way a lot of people who've followed Tennessee for years may feel about the school's commitment to women's athletics and equality, but again, I don't know that that translates to any specific effect on the women's hoop team itself. At least not right away. The immediate difficulty is trying to replace the presence of Pat Summitt as head coach. That's a huge challenge.
Ryan (Sacramento, CA)
Can Elena Delle Donne carry Delaware to the Final Four this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
So much depends on your draw in the NCAA tournament, especially if you are an "underdog" type of team. Which Delaware still will be in terms of making the Final Four. Delaware lost in the second round last year, and that experience will help them. Do I expect to see them in New Orleans? No, but maybe they will get a draw that is favorable. They obviously do have a lot of senior leadership.
West Virginia the second best team in the B12? Really Kim? Then the Big East is a lot better than even I thought it was!
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
Mike Carey is a good coach, and I think the program will adjust OK to the Big 12 over time. But especially with West Virginia losing Asya Bussie to a knee injury and having to face a whole new league ... I will be pretty surprised if the Mountaineers end up second this season.
kevin (macon ga)
The NBA is changing its All Star ballot to allow voting for three "front court players" instead of two forwards and a center. Will the W follow suit? Should they?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
I smiled broadly when I saw the NBA was doing this, and I STRONGLY urge the WNBA to follow suit. It just makes more sense to me to do it this way, because of the fluidity of positions on several teams and the fact that it gives voters more flexibility. Obviously, some of my ballots over the years have broken the rigidity of the FFCGG rule anyway. So this change would help me be more in line. :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Thanks for all the questions as we transition between WNBA and college. Will not be chatting next week, likely will return the week after that. Happy Halloween!