Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
Good afternoon. Wow, a lot has happened WNBA-wise since last chat. Let's get started.
kevin (macon ga)
Is there any downside to Magic and company purchasing the Sparks?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
Not that I can see. He and the Guggenheim group seem very committed to the Los Angeles sports scene. I think they have a genuine interest in making the Sparks a financially successful venture, and individual franchise success obviously helps the league as a whole.
Ashley (Chapel Hill, NC)
NC State was picked to finish 10th in the ACC and, instead, they're in third place, having already won as many games as they did in the entirety of last year. Any chance Wes Moore's not the Coach of the Year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
The Wolfpack have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the women's hoops season, not just in the ACC, but nationally. I think Wes Moore has to be the favorite for ACC COY. But considering Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw is in a new conference for the Irish and so far is undefeated in it, she is going to get well-deserved consideration, too. I know people will say she has a ton of talent and most expected ND to do well, but part of coaching is *getting* that talent. That said, if N.C. State finishes the ACC season as well as the Pack have done so far, I think Wes will probably get the nod.
Irving Matche (Washington DC)
ND is better than what some folks thought they would be without Skylar Diggins; but do they have what it takes to beat UCONN considering it's about the same team that beat them in FF last year.
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I think Notre Dame has the personnel and the mindset to at least compete against UConn. And that is part of the battle. If the Irish face the Huskies, Notre Dame will not go into that game thinking, "This is probably impossible," which is what I think most teams think - in spite of themselves - when they meet UConn. Breanna Stewart, as she was in the FF last year, seems to be the X-factor because she is so hard for any team to match up against. I'm not trying to minimize the other Huskies, because they all have played well so far and all have had specific games in which they particularly have starred. But Stewart really is the one no one can stop if she's "on," which she typically has been this season.
Elena Diggins (Greensboro, NC)
What do you think of WNBA players in the Celebrity All-Star Games. On the one hand, it is easy publicity. On the other hand, if they don't dominate against people who are not full time professionals and two non-athlete women, then it just gives the haters more ammunition.
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
The thing is, the "haters" don't need to be given ammunition. Those who make a big point of trashing women's basketball have other things going on in their heads - fears and insecurities about themselves - that have nothing to do with the actual quality of play of women's hoops. I've gotten to the point where I say, "The hell with them." Sticks and stones, you know. :)
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Give me 3 teams that have the ability to beat UCONN and what's the game plan they draw up?
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
This is hard, because UConn is playing so well and with such confidence. Having the "ability" though would suggest just this: That it would be conceivable that the team *could* beat the Huskies if everything went right. No. 1 Notre Dame, as mentioned earlier. No. 2 Louisville, in part because we have to give creedence to the fact that the Cardinals were giant-killers last year and have the ability to go to town from 3-point range. No. 3 ... I guess I don't want to rule out Stanford, especially as the Cardinal have improved since their loss to UConn back in November. As for Tennessee, I think it would depend a lot on whether the LVols would play more traditional Tenn defense, and if they were shooting really well from the perimeter. And both those things have been inconsistent for Tennessee. And I know I should mention Baylor, since they came the closest thus far to actually beating the Huskies.
jbb1985 (hinterland snowbanks)
Several teams have a tendency to stumble against lesser ranked teams or even unranked teams, whether it be UNC, PSU or OU, by having too many "clunker" games. Is there a reason for such, whether it be in-game coaching or a program's consistent lack of consistent intensity more often found at the elite programs? Or simply poor luck?
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
I don't think you could ascribe any "one" reason to various upsets ... other than the fact that conference play means a greater familiarity between opponents, and that can contribute to upsets. Plus, in the conferences of the teams you just listed - the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 - there actually is a pretty decent amount of parity. It is not shocking to me that Penn State could fall to Iowa (even when the Nittany Lions were at home) or that North Carolina (especially this young UNC team) could lose at Georgia Tech.
Concerned Alumni (Outside of Durham)
What is gong on with Duke? All that talent and seven years of blowout losses to elite teams? Is it a coaching issue?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
Duke is a difficult subject. The Blue Devils have won a ton of games, but as Duke fans know, they have struggled against that very, very elite tier of teams. Obviously, it's not a news flash to say that Joanne P. McCallie has her detractors, and I don't think that's just because people still haven't gotten over the Goestenkors years. I think they are frustrated because they see Duke as not fully capitalizing on the talent it gets. That said, there are JPM supporters who say, "Look at their overall record and the success they have compared to most programs." Duke is a situation that we really aren't that used to seeing in women's basketball. When is winning a whole lot still not quite enough? In men's basketball, you could have a coach who won tons of games, but fell short in the highest-profile games, and that person could get fired just because the standard at a particular school is that high. But does Duke have that kind of standard for women's hoops? I have to say probably not, even though for some Duke fans, that is extremely frustrating because they feel the Blue Devils will continue to max out at Elite Eight level and not really be true contenders for an NCAA title.
jbb1985 (hinterland snowbanks)
Are you more impressed, or more surprised at Dawn Staley's squad fast start at 21-2? Would you think that helps U of SC snag the final elite recruit, A'ja Wilson, via the dual pitch of you can stay near home and be the final cog to get SC to a FF trip? Or does she go to UConn where 3 of her fellow USA U19 teammates and pals play for a team that regularly goes to the FF?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
I am impressed, but I don't know that I'm ever surprised at Staley's success. She's shown now at two different programs that she can build very good teams. As for Wilson ... you can't help but think that the Gamecocks' success will have an impact for her. But whether it's enough to sway her from going to a program that has so much of a "sure-thing" vibe as UConn? I don't know ... all kids are different. Some really want to establish themselves as doing something that hasn't been done before, and Wilson possibly could do that at South Carolina. But there is no lack of valor if you decide to go play at UConn and be part of a long tradition of success. It just depends on what factors are most important to you as a player and person. Ultimately, there is no "bad" decision for Wilson. At least I don't think so.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
WHY is everyone grading McBride as the 4th overall pick? What am I missing (I have her 7th or 8th!)
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
I don't know what "everybody" is doing in regard to projecting Kayla McBride in the draft. But I will say that one GM told me that McBride really, really impressed people at the USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas last fall. So let's see how the rest of the season plays out, and then hopefully we'll get more of an idea of how the WNBA teams value her at that point.
jbb1985 (hinterland snowbanks)
Rutgers has moved out to a 17-5 record. Given last year's 16-14 record and missing out on the NCAA's, that's an excellent turnaround. It's partly aided by a helpful schedule; but they've some offensively talented players that are actually scoring at a nice, non-Rutgers pace. Is this Vivian Stringer's contract extension push, or might her defense-first mode be evolving? Have you heard any whispers on her potential extension?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
Clearly, Stringer wants to stay in place at Rutgers. She does not feel like she's "done" coaching. As for her philosophy "evolving" ... wow, it's a little hard to picture that. But I guess nothing is impossible. :) I have not heard any whispers one way or another about her future ... it will be one of AD Julie Hermann's early big decisions.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Will Lacob get fasttracked for the next team to get moved (Like the Stars did in 03) or for Expansion by 2015 given his bid for the Sparks which seemed to be held as a Fail Safe?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
When I asked Laurel Richie about that this week, she was very complimentary toward Lacob/Golden State and said the WNBA was "grateful" to them for their interest. But she was non-committal in regard to expansion in the near future.
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Chat with you next week!