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 (2:00 PM)
Good afternoon. Hope folks have been checking out the ESPN.com/ESPNW women's hoops preview so far. We'll have tipoff tomorrow, so let's get started.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Opening day tomorrow. What games do you feel are worth watching?
Mechelle Voepel (2:03 PM)
I guess like most folks, I'm really eager to see how some of the bigger-name matchups play out. Such as Texas AM vs. Louisville, Notre Dame-Ohio State and Texas-St. John's. Also eager to find out how well Delaware plays in its opener, and same for DePaul, Maryland and Nebraska. Don't want to leave anybody out, but those names definitely stand out.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Will EDD's Lyme (I'm starting to get Michelle Akers nightmares) push Chicago to pass on her and go for Diggins given Diggins already being more marketable in the Chicago Market?
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
Lyme disease can have long-term lingering effects ... it can be dormant for a while and then come back, as Elena Delle Donne has been dealing with. That said, you can be sure she's seeing the best medical professionals there are to deal with it. Unless it has a major impact on her performance this year, I don't think it would necessarily dissuade a WNBA team. But it would be something they'd want to talk with her about. Certainly, Diggins has a lot going for her in terms of connection with the Chicago market, but EDD fills a more obvious need for the Sky. I've been on both sides of the fence on this, but I now still do lean toward the Sky going with EDD. Lots of time for Chicago to make that evaluation, though.
Now that Bill Laimbeer is back in the WNBA, who do you see Liberty picking at #5 in draft? they need good quick PG to break down defense, how about Angel Goodrich out of Kansas? i know she's small but she lead the nation in assists
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
We'll see if Goodrich's health (knees) hold up, of course. Since Kansas is just 40 minutes away from me, I've seen a lot of Angel playing over the years. She is a rock for a team: So hard-working, committed, and mature. I admire so much what she's been through and how she's still kept her spirits up. Obviously, her size is going to give WNBA folks pause, as is her knee-injury history. But ... she's really got a *lot* going for her in the brain department, as well as the fact that she's maintained her quickness pretty well despite the injuries. I don't know how Bill Laimbeer will evaluate her, or what other moves he may make to address the PG issue for the Libs. We'll have a clearer picture of that, though, before the draft.
What do my Sooners need to do to wrest the Big 12 title from the Bears?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
Now there's some optimism. :) It's just difficult to see where Baylor may allow an opening for any other team in the league this year. The Sooners are still a bit challenged in the post, but they've got the old "intangibles" going for them, and a really top-notch scorer on the perimeter in Ellenberg. I don't think the Sooners are really concerned with trying to be "better" than Baylor, but rather to play as well as they can to position themselves well in NCAA seedings. And, of course, Oklahoma City is a regional site this season. Maybe they'll face Baylor there again after meeting them in the regular season and perhaps the B12 tournament.
With Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas now having a WNBA championship, Becky Hammon is the only real choice for best player without a title, right?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
Well, best player who's been in the league awhile who doesn't have a title. Because you could put Candace Parker or Tina Charles or Sylvia Fowles, for example, on the list. But I think I know what you mean: Someone who's been around for several years and is still among the best but doesn't have a WNBA title. You could say the SASS' Sophia Young is there near the top with Becky, too. Maybe 2013 will be Becky and Sophia's year, finally. :)
Should the WNBA league front office encourage Shelia Johnson to sell the Mystics?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
Well, Monumental Sports Group owns the Mystics, with Sheila Johnson as managing partner. And I think we all have our frustrations about the way the Mystics have been run. I don't know at this point what direction that franchise is headed. There's been a lot of speculation, of course. What I do think, though, is that the WNBA front office is *not* proactive in providing much guidance to troubled franchises. Laurel Richie was hired because of her expertise in marketing, but I don't know how much guidance or advice she can give the Mystics on how to make better personnel decisions. I guess she could advise them on how better to deal with and communicate with their own fans. But I don't think those conversations happen quite the way some of us might wish they did between the league office and franchises.
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
I wish I had some big news to share with you guys on the Mystics. I just don't right now.
Donavan (Grand forks)
Tennesse is ranked low in the preseason poll. Do you think they are under ranked? And can they win the SEC this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I see Tennessee is picked to finish fifth in the SEC, and I think that's too low. That said, I understand why they were picked there. Holly Warlick and her staff are kind of relishing the opportunity to be the "underdog," and using that as motivation. But looking at the talent on that team, as they have time to mature, I think they will be very tough contenders in the SEC. And they could be a pretty dangerous team by NCAA tournament time, too.
I know that is has just been exhibition games, but UCONN's posts this year seem to very impressive. Especially with the high low game and versatility that they now possess. Do you think this will help contend with Baylor and BG?
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
Absolutely. If everyone is healthy, the Huskies could be a very tough matchup for Baylor. Last year, I didn't feel like anybody was going to beat Baylor - even though a couple of teams, including UConn, came within five points. This year, I don't think Baylor has lost anything - they'll be just as good or better _ but other teams have more firepower to challenge them. UConn being first, for sure, in that group.
Craig (Salisbury, MD)
What is your outlook on Maryland now with the injury to Brene?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
It hurts, no doubt, because she really was coming into her own. And losing Barrett to graduation compounds that. However, Brene Moseley has been a good leader for the Terps despite her injury, and they still have a lot of talent. Brenda Frese has been very happy with how Laurin Mincy has been doing running the point, and of course Alyssa Thomas is not just a scorer but a really good play-maker herself. If the Terps can avoid any other big injuries, they remain a really strong team.
What are your feelings on the status of Maryland now that they are down to 9 players with the loss of Moseley and now Townsend as well? Townsend may not have seen much playing time but it is quite different now to just have 9 players total.
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
You are right on that, and depth is undoubtedly a concern with center Essence Townsend out with an ACL. Especially because now Maryland just doesn't have that much margin for error. That said, sometimes smaller squads really develop a chemistry that is pretty powerful. Every player knows her role, there aren't a lot of decisions to make on how to distribute minutes. When you're in this situation, you look at the positives, and of course, Frese is a really positive coach. It's just her nature.
One sleeper team and one sleeper player people should keep an eye on
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
This is always a hard question: By definition, "sleeper" is somebody who's going to surprise all of us, right? :) But I'll say this: I am eager to see how Oklahoma State plays this season. They have everyone back from the WNIT championship team, and the players grew up a lot through the tragedy they faced last year. I don't know if you can call Cowgirls point guard Tiffany Bias a "sleeper," but she may impress some folks this season who are not familiar with her. And watch how Toni Young leaps! Maybe she's the sleeper?
A lot can happen in a season, and I know it's hard to look as far as the NCAA Tournament right now. But to me, aside from Baylor, I can see a lot of teams that have the potential to be playing to punch a ticket to the final four in New Orleans this year. Do you think we'll see any teams outside of the "expected" (Duke, Maryland, Connecticut, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Stanford) teams to contend for a National Title sneak into the final four picture? I see a lot of teams out there with a lot of talent that could potentially be surprises (potentially being a key word). Also I've followed Coach Stringer's Rutgers team for quite a while now, and do you think this might be a year where the team full of a good amount of young talented players and a couple seasoned veterans, really spring back into the national scene? After this last year with the graduating of the class that had so much potential and expectations, do you think these two new recruiting classes can do what this last class was unable to do? Sorry...that was a lot in one post, but just wanted to get it all out there.
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
We have to pick our "projected" Final Four for ESPN.com, and after the obvious picks of Baylor and UConn, I found a lot of teams went through my mind. I know I sound like a broken record, but SO much of getting to the Final Four can be what your draw is. There are teams that absolutely have the talent, but get a bad break with where they are seeded and who they have to face (or where they have to face them.) As for Rutgers, I'm eager to see how they do against Georgia on Sunday. I was recently talking with Georgia coach Andy Landers, and he is very enthusiastic about his young players, too. We all know that game could be kind of ugly, especially this early, but we might see some gems in it, too.
What's your take on Sunday's Georgia Tech-Tennessee game?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
Eager to see the youngsters in this game. I don't want to set Tennessee up for a fall this season, but I think they are going to be a lot better than maybe some folks think. And Georgia Tech made a big step as a program last year with getting to the Sweet 16. I hope Georgia Tech carries over that confidence to this season.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
given that his issues were strictly administrative...do you see a future for Adrian Wiggins in the W...guy can coach and is a good motivator...this year may be too soon but could the W be the right fit for him?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
I'd guess he is doing some soul-searching right now. What a mess has been made at Ole Miss. Maybe he will look at the WNBA, but right now I think he has to just be figuring out how such a promising new direction in his career went completely off the rails.
MaryEllen Williams (North Carolina)
What are your thoughts on how Coach Kay Yow impacted women's basketball and Title IX?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
It's hard to sum up her impact briefly, but I'd say the main thing is that she was a very friendly ambassador for women's sports. People who met her even once probably remember her friendliness. And yet she was still a fierce competitor. So she moved the sport forward with her personality, as well as with her coaching skills. She connected with people, and took the time to do that.
Mike (Newburyport ( MA ))
Who do u think has the best shot to knock of Baylor this season and who are your early picks to make it to the final four.
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
Connecticut has the best shot, and my picks were Baylor, UConn, Duke and Stanford. For what that's worth. :)
Hoopfan24 (San Francisco)
So, any plans to go to Hawaii later this month to cover the Baylor/Stanford game? What's your take on the game, besides they have Griner and Stanford doesn't have Nneka? :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Uh, no, I didn't even ask to go to Hawaii. Maybe I need to aim higher, huh? :) Seriously, I am eager to see if Stanford's overall team speed might be a little better in regard to matching up with Baylor. And seeing what kind of floor leader Chiney is when it's now "her" team.
Linsey Pawl (Sterling Heights Michigan)
How do you think Michigan State will do this year? Will they make the NCAA Tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
The Spartans have a lot of obstacles in front of them, because of graduation, suspensions and injuries. If they overcome that and can finish close to the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, then they do have a chance to get an NCAA berth. But it's going to be tough road.
With Matt Bolant at Illinois now do you think the Illini will make some noise in the Big 10?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
It's a fresh start for the Illini, and that's true for other teams in the Big Ten as well. New coaches there, at Michigan and Indiana. We know these coaches pretty well - Bollant, Kim Barnes Arico and Curt Miller - but we don't know how they'll adapt to the Big Ten. The fact that all have been successful elsewhere is part of what makes this a really intriguing season for the league.
Looking at a young Texas A&M squad (as far as their front court goes) and a tough slew of games right out of the gates, what do you expect to see from a young Aggie team being thrown into the fire early? I know they had some overseas experience this summer I believe, so I suppose that would help tremendously, but a tough couple of games coming out fo the starting blocks for Gary Blair's Aggies.
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
A lot of talent at Texas AM, and they will have to hit the ground running. Of course, Vic Schaefer is gone now to Mississippi State, so we'll see how that impacts the Aggies' defense. But they have really good size and speed, and it helps that Gary Blair is so familiar with the SEC. That's a big advantage, even if he did leave Arkansas in 2003. He still brings a lot of knowledge about the league. By the way, Gary will be honored at Baylor (of all places) when the 2013 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class is presented at the HOF Tipoff Classic game next Tuesday in Waco between Baylor and Kentucky.
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
Thanks for all your questions, and enjoy the first weekend of the season. Also, if you follow women's soccer, keep tabs on the NCAA tournament with my colleague Graham Hays, who will provide you plenty of hoops insight, too, especially with the mid-majors. I know you want answers about the Mystics; I'll keep trying. Have a great weekend, chat with you next week.