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, everyone. The college season is under way and Baylor looks like it picked up where it left off. No surprise there. Let's get started.
Judith (Wash DC)
Bill Laimbeer said in a recent interview that he was in talks with "another team" before NY grabbed him. Assuming for argument's sake that unnamed team was the Mystics, Plan B for revitalizing the franchise is now down the drain. (Plan A was coming out 1st, 2d, or even 3d in the draft lottery.) So what is Plan C for the Mystics? It's now literally the middle of November, the college season is underway, and there's radio silence from the Verizon Center...
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I hate to start with a downer topic, but it's been on all our minds. I was told by a Mystics spokesperson this week that there is no "set" timeframe for when a new coach and/or GM will be hired. I have heard that Mystics CEO Greg Bibb is leaving the organization, but I don't know the details about that yet. I have talked to other folks in the league who are concerned about the Mystics' lack of action thus far. Some have told me that Sheila Johnson is not very involved with the process. Then you look at the issues that Monumental Sports is dealing with in regard to the NHL labor dispute and the fact that the Capitals are not earning any revenue now. And you add in the colossal disappointment of the WNBA draft lottery for the Mystics. I have heard from a few different folks in the league (from other teams, not from the league office) that they think the league should have stepped in and done something bold about making sure the Mystics did NOT fall to the position they did in the draft. So all of these things add up to concern about the Mystics' future. The organization made a series of self-harmful decisions over the years, and we've hashed that out a lot. But there are other factors that the Mystics' brass have less control over that have impacted this current situation, too. I don't want to sound overly dire, as if I think the Mystics won't be around in 2013 or will be relocated. Because I certainly *don't* know that to be the case. But the longer there is silence (or non-answers) from the Mystics, the more concerned everyone who's in the league or follows the league is going to be.
As a Brittney Griner fan, would you agree that Baylor should be worried about Uconn? I believe that Uconn is going to be really tough to beat.
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
I don't know that Baylor is "worried" about facing anyone. That's just not the mindset of Kim Mulkey or her players. But I think they are quite aware that UConn is really good and they know that the Huskies could present a big challenge. That said, that matchup is a ways off, and Baylor also knows that it's not impossible to get tripped up by other teams if they are having an off night. Baylor looks really focused so far to me, and that's something that Mulkey is good at getting out of her teams.
It seems a lot of the top teams have scaled back the non-conference portion of their schedules compared to previous years. In the Big 12, I could understand "well we have Griner twice that is marquee enough", but should the Big 12 coaches added another marquee game or two in non conference. Also, surprised that Duke has a weak non conference and never shocked that UNC is like a cakewalk. Hats off to Tennessee, even with a young team to continue their ambitious schedule. Womens teams need more of these top ten matchups like the men. I am also shocked a tv crew couldn't go to Hawaii for Stanford-Baylor...odd that game is not on tv on some channel.
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
It's always a balancing act with scheduling, and some coaches just aren't as bold as others. They would rather play it safe. I agree that a lot of the Big 12 schedules are pretty bland. They are concerned about stockpiling wins to help with their overall records when it comes NCAA selection time, of course. As for TV and the Baylor-Stanford game, I don't know the particulars of that decision, but I think it shows how far we've come in expectations in women's college basketball that we are disappointed when a November game from Hawaii isn't televised.
Judith (Wash DC)
Just seeking clarification on an answer above: Greg Bibb is Exec VP of Business Ops for the Wizards in addition to being COO of the Mystics. Have you heard he's leaving Monumental Sports entirely, or just getting out of the Mystics' hair?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
I don't know the specifics of that yet. It's very recent. It may have nothing specific to do with the Mystics' status, but it could be a concern. (Editor's note: see link below about Greg Bibb's departure.)
Todd (New Jersey)
Do you see Elena Delle Donne's case of Lyme disease possibly causing her to drop in the draft? Is she still the #2 pick regardless??
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
We talked a bit about this last week. Lyme disease can linger, and obviously there is a concern about the time EDD has missed because of it. But whether it is considered something that will have a serious long-term effect on her ability to play, I don't know. That's something the teams in position to draft her will have to research and talk frankly with her about.
Who do you think will win the pre-season WNIT final? Iowa or UNC? Neither are ranked but both are fighting for recognition this season.
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
Well, when in doubt this early in the season between two teams trying to establish themselves as stronger than people may think ... the edge probably goes to the home team. Which in this case is Iowa. The Hawkeyes host the Tar Heels at 4 p.m. Eastern Sunday on CBS Sports Network. Definitely a game I want to see for evaluating both squads.
Do you think Duke is going to have a breakthrough year? It seems they keep getting recruiting classes that are at the top, even better than many of the top programs such as uconn for example. Yet they can't seem to break through to the upper level, as getting beat by UCONN consistently and by Stanford in the Elite Eight last year.
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
In the post-Goestenkors era for Duke, the new "breakthrough" is making the Final Four. It's not new for the program, of course, just new for the current regime while at Duke. Could it happen this year? The talent is there, if everyone gets and stays relatively healthy. But if Duke somehow ends up with another Elite Eight matchup against either UConn or Baylor, then it would be tough. So it's Duke's mission to put itself in a position where it won't be facing one of those teams before the FF: in other words, to earn a No. 1 seed.
Do you see Stephanie Dolson having an impact in the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
UConn's track record is very good for its drafted players having at least some success in the WNBA for a prolonged time. It reflects how well prepared they are to move to the next level. Dolson has a lot of skills. Her body type is somewhat deceptive, I think. I am more inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt that she'll continue to work hard, and increase her stamina and athleticism.
Who will have the better WNBA career out of these 3 coming out next year: Skylar Diggins, Tayler Hill, and Alex Bentley? i love Bentley's last night performance against A&M, you can tell she got some clutch genes in her. Tayler Hill is so explosive, speed kills and Diggins has alot of talent but i some people say Diggins is a lil over hyped...do you agree?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
There's so much that can happen that affects what kind of WNBA career a player might have. Part of it is what team she goes to, and how well she fits in there with the coaches, personnel and system. Part is if she's able to stay relatively healthy despite the rigors of playing in the WNBA and overseas. And part is how much she emotionally and mentally adjusts to that lifestyle. All three of these players have impressed me a lot so far during their college careers. And in terms of skill set and athletic talent, all have the ability to be good at the next level. As for Diggins, she has been to the Final Four the last two years, and she embraces having a public persona. Some will say she's over-hyped ... I think anybody who gains any name recognition in the women's game is helping everybody else in the sport. Is she "over-estimated" as a player? To me, no. I think she's very good.
Tara Fan (Farm)
6 NY teams in MAAC conference & the Regional is going to CT - Fairfield. Getting a little old for UConn to have at least 2 if not 4 games of tourney in backyard. Lot of folks aren't buying the song that there was no where else available.
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
On short notice - because of the NCAA's decision to take the regional away from Trenton - the NCAA probably opted to go someplace that they are very familiar with and that is very familiar with them. In that sense, Fairfield fits in easily with the experience they have in NCAA events. Frankly, I think if you sent UConn to Antarctica for their region, they'd still fair pretty well there.
Do you think Baylor will continue its success after BG graduates? I always find it impressive the longevity of programs such as Tenn, UConn, and Stanford to an extent.
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Yes, I do think Baylor's success will continue, because for the most part it did after they won the 2005 NCAA title. They've been a good program for a long time, and are a great program right now. They have a good current freshman class and another good one coming in. The school has made the commitment necessary to keep their coach well-compensated and appreciated. Give Mulkey the tools she needs, and she is not going to have any "bad" seasons.
kevin (macon ga)
The NBA has begun using Lauren Holtkamp and Brenda Pantoja as officials. I know this is great progress for women as a whole, but does it signal a further degradation of WNBA officiating as the best men AND women move to the men's league?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
Well, that's capitalism, right? :) People with the best skills and the most ambition usually try to climb to whatever position has the highest pay and prestige. I don't worry about that. If they are good enough to make a living in the league that pays the most, great for them. There will always be officials in the WNBA who are better than others, but that's the case in all leagues.
Judith (Wash DC)
And here's a press announcement of Greg Bibb's departure from Monumental Sports entirely: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2012/11/14/monumental-sports-greg-bibb-to-leave.html
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
Thanks. I was talking to some folks in the league yesterday and today who were discussing this. They're a lot like fans and media, frankly. They don't know for sure what is really going on with the Mystics, are concerned, and are looking at various things as potential clues or signs.
Tara Fan (Farm)
I like the idea of sending UConn to Antarctica :-)
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Geno Auriemma's reaction to this would be priceless. :) But I bet some of those intrepid UConn fans would make the trip.
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Will let you know via Twitter what the chat schedule may be next week because of the holiday. Enjoy the weekend.