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)
Happy last day of February. The madness is almost upon us. Let's get started.
Todd (New Jersey)
So Bill Laimbeer has already acquired Katie Smith and traded Kia Vaughn to Washington for the #7 pick. What else might we see from trader Bill before the season starts?? Might we see Cheryl Ford back in the league with the Liberty? Could McCarville finally return to the WNBA, but possibly on another team?? Might we actually have a blockbuster trade happening before draft day??
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Bill is not ready just yet to say publicly anything about Cheryl Ford but "hints" that there is mutual interest. Ford considered signing with the Liberty back in 2011, and she's always been interested in the possibility of returning to the WNBA. I'm not sure that McCarville feels that same way. Bill was expecting at least one other move this week when I spoke with him yesterday, but we'll see. I'll have a blog up on the Liberty up on ESPN.com likely later today.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Since Katie Smith has signed to play for former Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer on his New York Bad Girl Gang, should we expect an increase in production from her this season based on their successful history together?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
Katie is going to be 39 this June, so it's hard to say how much playing time she still has in her. But nevertheless, Laimbeer feels like she'll be a good influence on the team's mentality and its basketball IQ.
Does Chamique Holdsclaw being indicted means her WNBA/pro career is all but over? And if she doesn't do jail time, any chance she'll play again?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
I would be surprised if she returned to the WNBA, regardless of how her legal troubles end up being resolved. She will be 36 this August and has had physical ailments that have impacted her playing career, too. I'm not trying to be unkind, but I don't think many teams would find her on the positive side of risk/reward, even if she is physically able to play.
kevin (macon ga)
The #7 pick has now been traded twice for marginal or part time starters. What does this tell us about how GMs perceive the depth of this draft?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
The interesting thing is, Laimbeer said he does think the draft has some depth in terms of players who aren't going to make big impacts, but can help. The 5-6-7 slots will also be affected if Kelsey Bone decides to enter this draft. Ultimately, as we all know, there aren't but a small handful of players out of every draft, typically, that make a long-term, lasting impact in the league.
In the grand sweep of women's sports history, how significant is Danica Patrick's Daytona 500 performance?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
She ran a pretty good race from the pole position, and I'd imagine she's learning things with every competition in NASCAR. It matters because she broke a "barrier," and she inspires people. Long-term, she'll be judged on whether she can consistently compete over the course of the season in Sprint Cup. I think she can.
Greg (La Crosse, WI)
So, Brittney Griner is going to be the top draft pick in the WNBA draft. Odyssey Sims is only a junior...have you hears if are any other Baylor starters being looked at by teams to be drafted this year? Do you think any of them could be successful at the next level?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams seem certain to be drafted, and then it depends on the situation they're in, the players around them, how they adapt to the pro game.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
Does St. John's need to get at least 18 wins + a win in the BE Tourney to secure a seed? I see Creme has them in the latest bracketology. Their Big East record looks solid.
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
Certainly, St. John's will feel more comfortable with 18 wins going into the Big East tournament. But they have been pretty solid in league play, and - especially if they finish with wins over Seton Hall and DePaul - their record over the last 10 games will look good to the NCAA selection committee.
Matt (South Bass Island)
If Kia Vaughn had not requested a trade from the Liberty, would she have been considered tough enough to play for Bill Laimbeer's Bad Girls?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
I think so. Laimbeer did stress that Vaughn asked for this trade. He pointed out that it does help the Liberty cap-wise, but that the initial motivator was that she wanted to go elsewhere.
If UConn wins 30 or more this year, they break Duke's record of 7 consecutive years of 30 or more wins. With Auriemma's and Chris Dailey's recruiting and their squad's frequent success, when might that streak end?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
Gosh, I'm not sure that it will end as long as they're still coaching. And it's not like the Big East is getting "stronger" or more challenging to UConn in regard to women's hoops. Unfortunately, it seems like the opposite with the teams that are on the way out.
glenn (fresh meadows)
Yes but did Vaughn ask for the trade BECAUSE of BL and his toughness and change in style of play...under BL She never seemed to be in his plans
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
Maybe so. That happens sometimes when a new coach comes in. Hopefully it will work out well for both parties.
Sporty95326 (in a Hooterville root cellar)
I'm scared that my beloved Notre Dame team will fade worse than Baylor due to the impending graduation of our goddess, the tremendous Skylar Diggins. Although Lady Bears lose Griner, and could fall out of the Top 5, do you feel that Fighting Irish graduations of last year and this year will make them fall out of the Top 10 or so?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Of course, it will be very hard to lose Diggins ... but Muffet McGraw has been doing this a long time. She's not going to let the program drop very far. And if they fall out of the top-10 at least at the beginning of the season, that will be motivation for them.
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
In other words, don't be scared. :) Kids graduate, programs go on. Enjoy watching Diggins in the games she still has left, and then hope she has a long WNBA career. There will always be more kids on the way that will capture fans' hearts, even though they don't know those kids yet.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
There was a lot of discussion amongst Tennessee fans about the impetus for the ESPN articles on the Pat-Geno feud, the discussion of the feud as a prominent topic (given it was only six pages in Summitt's book), and the use the word "waxes" in the byline/link on the main ESPN WBB page. There has been a suggestion that the word choice, the focus on the feud, etc. is part of a larger issue of ESPN being more "UConn-friendly" or "anti-Tennessee." Can you discuss the impetus for the article, why the coaching feud is still a topic of interest, etc. ... and who picks the bylines on the main ESPN WBB page?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
I didn't get any e-mails on that topic, so I wasn't aware anyone was upset. Copy editors at ESPN.com - as with all news outlets - write tons of headlines daily. I seriously doubt more than three seconds' thought went into using the word "waxes" ... it probably fit the headline count, and that's about it. The story was a plug for Summitt's new book based on the part that "Sports Illustrated" chose to excerpt. I'd guess that's because to the average sports fan who really doesn't follow women's basketball, Pat and Geno are names those folks know. The news desk saw the excerpt, they ran it as a story, and an editor asked me to weigh in on it. I wrote a column in an hour and sent it in. I felt like I said the exact same stuff I've said 100 times already. That's about all there is to it. There are fans of all schools who think we're *against* their team ... that just comes with the territory in sports media. I don't live anywhere near UConn or Tennessee, unless you count being in the same country as "near." :) I think I have a very objective view of both programs. And I always say if *both* are angry at you, then you're doing OK. :)
Do you think Odyssey Sims is a top 5 draft pick next season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
Yes, for sure. She controls games well offensively, and she's a heck of a good defender.
glenn (fresh meadows)
Over time...like 4-5 years assuming UConn cannot move...will Geno's recruiting suffer. This isn't the 90s where Larry and Barmore recruited top talent on teams in lesser conference. Recruiting is tougher and conferences are strong stem to stern. I don't see the talent level staying at the super elite level with a conference that is so poor below UConn. The nonconference will suffer and players will play where there is competition
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Well, UConn has done a lot of dominating in the Big East - even with better programs - and they still get good recruits. And also, players improve while they're at UConn, so the program has a great track record of putting people into the WNBA. It's still a place where you get a lot more attention, media-wise, and you have a big fan base. I just think a lot of top players will want to come to UConn regardless of whether their league competition is good. P.S. That's not a recruiting plug for UConn. :) Lots of great players will want to come to Tennessee, too. And other places.
In a championship game, you have one shot to win the game and you're down 2 pts. You can choose between any of the 3 to See. Who do you give the ball to for the last shot?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
Hmmm, another question like last week where I'm down two points in the championship game. :) Um, do I have all three on my team? That would be nice, but again, then my team should NOT be trailing. We should have that game won by halftime! Anyway ... I think I'll go with EDD because she can hit so many kinds of shots. But if I'm absolutely sure I'll get Griner on the low block, then I'll go with her.
All the top teams have players that can take over and win games for them. For instance, Diggins took over in the 1st half against Syracuse to help them get it to only a 3 pt deficit at the half, Sims took over at the end of the ND and Uconn games on the defensive end and Griner took over on the offensive ends. Do you think that this is what makes the top teams stand out? Also do you think this is what separates Baylor from other teams?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Having that go-to, big-time player usually does make the difference. But if she's surrounded by people who allow her not to be smothered by defenders, that matters, too. Baylor has a very good supporting cast for Griner, and as we saw against UConn, they collectively worked to overcome the Huskies down the stretch. And Baylor also stands out because they are a very skilled offensive team that also is at a high level and intense on defense. Much like the recent UConn championship teams were. Whether UConn can play at that capacity both offensively and defensively in this year's tournament remains to be seen.
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Sorry for the ones I did not get to. Enjoy the last days of the regular season!