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 (2:03 PM)
Good afternoon from the rainy Midwest. Everybody has started, or is about to start, conference season. Let's get going here.
Blake Whitney (Washington, D.C.)
What are your thoughts on the Toledo Rockets? They're four points away from being undefeated, and while they don't have an amazing nonconference schedule, it's not bad for a mid-major. Their RPI is hovering around 25?? do you see them as this year's Marist or Green Bay?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
With just that close loss at Dayton, Toledo did look good in non-conference play. We'll have a better idea of what kind of postseason chances the Rockets have as we see how they do in MAC play, which I believe begins tonight.
Stever (Ann Arbor)
OSU's Toni Young is averaging a double-double, is she a legit first-round draft pick?
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
The late Kurt Budke used to say Toni could be as good as she wanted to be. She's a superb athlete, as her dual success in track and field shows. In her early hoops career at Oklahoma State, she was known as being a little stubborn, I think, but last year's tragedy deeply affected her and she really played well as the Cowgirls won the WNIT. She's 6-2, great leaper ... if she stays healthy and continues progressing the way she is, maybe she does get picked in the first round. Depends on if WNBA coaches see that her best basketball is definitely in front of her, which I think it is.
Evan (Auburn, Ala.)
How impressed have you been with Coach Williams-Flournoy at Auburn this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
I had a chance to see her at Missouri last Sunday and did a feature about her this week for ESPN.com. That particular game wasn't a great one for Auburn, which allowed 18 3-pointers. You could tell that some of Williams-Flournoy's defensive philosophies don't match her current personnel at Auburn as well as they eventually will. The players seem to have embraced her, and she's had success as an assistant and a head coach everywhere she's been. I think based on her track record, she will do well at Auburn.
kevin (macon ga)
With the return of Anne Donovan and Bill Laimbeer, half the head coaches in the WNBA have won championships and 75% have won playoff series. Is this the strongest the WNBA coaching ranks have ever been?
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
I don't know exactly how you'd measure that statistically other than what you've just presented. Anecdotally, it certainly feels that way. I think those of us who've followed the WNBA have seen that evolution ... coaching in the early days of the league was such a mixed bag, with some really unqualified hires. But the whole concept of being a *pro* women's basketball coach is different than being a college coach, which we see on the men's side. Since the WNBA is still relatively so young, the job of "pro women's coach" has evolved with the league. And so, yes, the league has a better overall coaching pool now, for sure.
I will admit I had my reservations about the OSU Cowgirls and the easy schedule. I also had my reservations after the Texas Tech loss at home. But I was impressed with the start at Baylor and dominating a good Kansas team. I guess it is just the rollercoaster that the Big 12 provides (besides Baylor winning it).
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
Yes, agree: other than Baylor finishing first, the rest of the spots in the league standings are up for grabs.
Matt (South Bass Island)
There is a televised Big Ten Conference doubleheader on tonight which features Nebraska at Indiana and Iowa at Wisconsin. With the home court advantage on their side, which underdog has the better shot at pulling off thee upset, the Hoosiers or the Badgers?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I will say the Hoosiers. But remember, I also said the Notre Dame-UConn game was going to be a pretty comfortable win for UConn, and that Stanford might really have some problems at Colorado. :)
#1 has been musical chairs to date with Stanford beating a Sims-less Baylor to get the top slot, UConn dismantling the Cardinal at Maples to get the top rank, UConn losing to ND and Baylor back in the #1 spot. If Baylor wins in CT, do you see any of its heated Big XII rivals upsetting the Lady Bears to put the #1 at risk?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
No. I really will be surprised if Baylor loses a Big 12 game. One place in the conference that the Bears have had some trouble, though, in the last two years is Texas Tech. So that might be a danger game in Lubbock. But I think they will go undefeated in the Big 12.
Coach P (Knoxville)
Duke contines to be in the top 5 (now #4 in one poll), though they are undefeated is it fair they are ratedthis high being that they have not played the others in the top 4?
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
I think we're basing Duke's ranking on the collection of talent they have, how well they've played against whom they've played - the non-con schedule wasn't too exciting - and how we think they would match up against teams they haven't played. The Blue Devils still have to face UConn, so we'll see how they do and then how that effects their evaluation. I don't think Duke is being ranked way too high, though.
Damian (Brooklyn N.Y.)
Do you really think Laimbeer can the Liberty to the promiseland if he can find the right pieces to compliment Cappie and Plenette?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
Look at his track record. He took over a Detroit franchise that was teetering on collapse and won three titles there before the franchise moved. He's got one great player to build around, and I think he's rejuvenated about coming back to the league. I don't think we're talking about a WNBA title this year, but I'm sure his goal is to finally get the Liberty their first championship.
What do you think about Taurasi being honored by USA Basketball as player of the year? You probably already know my view.
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
Obviously, this rubs salt in the wounds of the folks who are upset about Taurasi only playing eight games during the WNBA season last year. I do totally understand that, and I think Phoenix is going to carry that tag of tanking for a long, long time among league followers. I get the feeling the Merc don't care, but still ... it will be there. However, this is a USA Basketball award, and DT played well during the Olympics, leading the team in scoring. The USA gold medalists were so balanced and so overwhelmingly better than other teams, you could have give this honor to several people. I don't think what happened during the WNBA season necessarily should have influenced an honor that's about USA Basketball. But it does bring the whole topic of what happened with the Merc back to the forefront. It's not going to just fade away.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Do you see Tyler Summitt eventually becoming Head Coach at Tennessee?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
It's just too early in Tyler's career to talk about something like that. He wants to be a head coach as soon as possible, but he also realizes he's just started in the business and needs to learn a lot. He will be a young head coach somewhere, but whether the path leads back to Knoxville is hard to say. He needs to prove himself as his own person and his own coach. And he knows that.
Blake Whitney (Washington, D.C.)
Kentucky and Texas A&M play tonight. What do you expect from this matchup in Lexington?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
It could be a really fun close game ... or a really ugly close game. Both teams have the ability to play very well, or to miss a ton of shots and make too many turnovers. Ultimately, a lot rests on TAMU's Kelsey Bone and whether she really establishes herself inside as one of the best posts in the country, which she has the capacity to do.
jbb1985 (below the debt ceiling)
If UConn and ND play each other this season the usual 3x to 4x, what do you expect the outcome of at ND, in Big E final, and perhaps at the FF?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Might it be this again, just like last season? I think if it happens again, it will go like this: ND wins at ND, UConn in Big East final, and UConn at FF. For what that's worth, which isn't much. :)
It seems that a lot of Uconn fans are blaming Hartley for the loss to the Irish, and nary a mention of Doty who had an even worse performance. Is that a fair criticism?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
Overall, Notre Dame's backcourt outperformed UConn's, so Hartley and Doty likely both feel they share blame. I give credit to how well the Irish played as a unit ... they are so familiar with UConn that it takes away the "awe" factor, and they just play confidently.
Arnold Ziffel (Hooterville)
Long time no chat in the ol'barnyard! Soo looks like Vandy has righted the ship after the devastating loss of center Stephanie Holzer. Will their four guard lineup featuring the fab Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie survive in the SEC to earn a conference tourney bye?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
That was a tough loss inside for the Commodores, and put more pressure on a back court that already was going to carry a big load. Then again, Melanie Balcomb seems to specialize in undersized teams, so we probably shouldn't be too surprised. But I think Vandy, while being an NCAA tournament team, will just miss out on an SEC tourney bye.
Baylor beat Notre Dame and lost to Stanford, Uconn demolished Stanford, but lost to Notre Dame. Who is really the number 1 team right now?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Baylor. And the only thing that will rock that is that dreadful X factor in sports, injuries, or a loss at UConn.
Sue (Durham NC)
How often have you seen Chelsea Gray play in person? I suggest that seeing her in person multiple times will lead you (& others) to include Chelsea with Odyssey and Skylar as the greatest PG's in Div.1. I do understand that the definitive thing will be for her to come up big against the best teams and Duke has yet to play any this season. Is that what holds you back when comparing her with Odyssey?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
We had Chelsea as one of our top-five point guards, along with Sims and Diggins, in ESPNW's preseason player rankings. And in a question last week, I said she was one of the best in the country. I gave Sims the nod as *the* best because of her overall ability on both offense and defense. I don't think we've been short-changing Gray, or at least not intentionally.
kevin (macon ga)
Angel McCoughtry said on wnba.com that she had "nothing to do with the coaching change". Should we believe her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Maybe that means she actually wasn't the one to call Marynell Meadors to tell her she was fired? :) Of course she had something to do with it. But, anyway, it's water under the bridge now. Fred Williams is the Dream's coach, and Angel will be back as his star player. These things happen in pro sports ... look at the NBA and coach firings and players saying, "Oh, I had nothing to do with it!" Meadors, I believe, would still like to return in some capacity to the league, but if not, she's had a long career in the sport with a lot of accomplishments. I feel bad for her that things ended in Atlanta as they did, though. She deserved better. Now Angel and Fred will have a revamped East - at least in terms of the new coaching hires - to deal with.
Has ESPN been encouraging the Lady Vols and Huskies to revive the long ago rivalry? Does it happen again this decade?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
I really don't know all that goes on with the TV side, but if I were to guess ... yes, I'd bet they have been and will continue to do so. :) Will it happen? I think it would be for the best for both ... but I never wanted it to end in the first place.
After all of the controversy with Virginia Tech hiring Dennis Wolff - in respect to male vs. female coaches _ do you think the fact that his team has already matched their win total from last year, makes him a better hire than initially perceived to be?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Here's the thing with all coaches. When they are hired, there are always going to be various opinions about them, some very strongly negative. People may not remember this, but Oklahoma was pilloried for hiring "a high school coach" in Sherri Coale back in 1996. Even some major names in women's hoops coaching called that a joke and said it proved Oklahoma truly didn't care about its program. And we've seen how drastically wrong that evaluation was. I understand the worries that people have about coaching hires in women's sports in regard to men and women, since men's sports is so closed off for the most part to female coaches. But ultimately, I want women's basketball to succeed and for more teams to improve, regardless of the gender of the coaches. So if Wolff is able to revive Virginia Tech over the long term, then what people thought about his hiring initially will be irrelevant.
ellen (I-Town IL)
Do you see Illinois getting ranked at all If they keep up what they are doing in conference play?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
I think Illinois is going to be a player in the Big Ten and will work its way into the rankings under Matt Bollant. How soon it all happens, I'm not sure. But there's some good things happening in the Big Ten in terms of the new coaches.
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Sorry for the ones I did not get to. Chat with you next week!