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! This will be the "fake girlfriend"-free zone, because I imagine you've heard enough about that for the last 24 hours. :) We'll try to deal with nothing but, um, reality. Although I might be temped to sneak in a couple of "American Horror Story: Asylum" references to liven things up. OK, let's go!
Ellen (i-town illinois)
Who is going to beat duke? Do you think it will be post-season when it happens?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
OK, let's get right to reality: as we chatted about last week, Duke's rep is going to rest heavily on how the Blue Devils play against UConn. Fair or not, if they get their pitchforks handed to them, then folks will think the Blue Devils are just going to have another Elite Eight or Sweet 16 season because they're not a FF-caliber team. Of course, that doesn't mean Duke has to fulfill that prophesy if they play poorly against the Huskies. It's just that it will feel a lot like the same movie we've seen a few times. As for who Duke might lose to other than UConn before postseason, I'd say the most likely is North Carolina ... or Maryland in College Park.
Do you think the injuries to MD make Duke the heavy favorite for the ACC championship?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
That and Duke's talent, plus some flaws that other ACC teams have, really do make it seem it's the Blue Devils' championship to lose.
Kerry (Raleigh, NC)
So far this season, NC State is winless in conference play (going into a tough game tonight vs. Maryland) and boasts a lackluster 8-9 record overall. How hot is Kellie Harper's seat in Raleigh right now? Do you think she can right the ship?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I don't know if the seat is truly "hot" yet, because seats take longer to get hot in women's hoops than they do in men's hoops. But ... it's getting uncomfortable. People expected that Harper would be able to come in and make a big turnaround fairly quickly. But it hasn't worked that way. And the ACC isn't going to get any easier, with UNC's monster recruiting class coming in and Notre Dame entering the league.
Pete (Thomaston, CT)
What is your projection for Nebraska's Lindsey Moore in the W, draft-wise and career-wise?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I hate to be too much a downer "realist" but I tend to be pretty pessimistic about guards who are not strong defenders getting a roster spot in the WNBA. I say that just based on seeing how many really good guards in college just don't catch on in the WNBA. There are only 11 jobs on 12 teams, of course, and you're going against the best of the best. Of course, there is always the point to be made that some players do catch on because they get into the right system for them. In general, though, it's really tough.
Rachel (Baton Rouge, LA)
Hey Mechelle, LSU Lady Tiger's question. The ladies have been struggling a bit this year after a decent season last year with new Coach Nikki Caldwell. We've had some decent play from center Theresa Plaisance, super freshman Danielle Ballard and seniors Lutley and Webb. How much time should LSU fans give Coach Caldwell to get our Tigers back to a Sweet 16 or higher?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
It's Caldwell's second year at LSU. I can't imagine reasonable fans getting too uptight just yet about where the program is headed. But I am not a fan, so I do understand that people have big hopes and they want that gratification sooner rather than later. I think she's a good coach and recruiter.
After reading Graham's Jan 10 article on the bullying of Gizelle Studevant, it was disturbing that ESPN used the headine on their SC Feed on espnW page "Griner, No. 1 Baylor bully undersized K-State". Boxscore-Personal Fouls-K-State 18-Baylor 15-Griner 0. Mechelle, what do you think of Baylor being labeled as a bully?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
I don't want to ignore this question because a lot of folks on the chat are asking it. I'm not making excuses, but this is a reality at all web sites and newspapers: A lot of times, headlines - especially on wire stories - are written very quickly without a lot of thought into their potential greater meaning or how readers might take them a different way. I can mention this to our editors ... I really don't think this was meant as a slam at Baylor. But this is why it's good to have feedback from readers - because they see things we may just pass by in the rush to get the next story written or published.
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
BTW, I was at the Baylor-Kansas State game last night. I wrote a blog about it and then drove home .... arrived about 1 a.m., looked at the ESPN.com web site quickly, saw the "bully" headline on the wire story about the game and just read right over it. I have to be honest; it just didn't click with me. But I get what you're saying.
It seems Thibault has been scouting Delle Donne. Is there any realistic way Thibault can secure Delle Donne without trading Langhorne, and is that something he should do?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
I can't think of how else he could swing a deal for that pick unless Lang is trade bait. Maybe I'm missing something, but who else with the Mystics is that valuable? I think EDD could be a terrific pro player ... I expect her to be ... but I don't know that I'd give up a proven star in the league unless somehow Mike T feels that Lang wants out or he's willing to roll those dice.
What is your take on Kansas women's program after taking a big step by reaching the Sweet 16 last year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
Carolyn Davis is still playing her way into shape after her terrible knee injury. I think if this team could somehow repeat a Sweet 16 finish, that would probably be the ceiling for them.
Iowa State. How've they ridden *under the radar* so far this season? I got to see them thump OK, and they were quite impressive, IMO. Aside from one puzzling loss to Iowa (and the understandable loss at Baylor), they seem like a probably lock on 2nd place in the Big 12. Dou you see kids like Prins, Christofferson, or Poppens as draft picks down the road?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
The Cyclones didn't have much in the non-conference to pay attention to, and the Big 12 is all about who finishes second. That's kind of a recipe for "under-the-radar." :) I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say they are a *lock* for the league runner-up spot, even though they did just beat Oklahoma. It's still early. The Sooners, Texas Tech, Kansas and Okla State are still in that mix. As for the Cyclones' WNBA potential ... Iowa State players do not have a history of success in the league at any position. So someone like Poppens or Christofferson would have to change that trend.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
What's happening in Austin? Does this team vindicate Gail Goestenkors "failures" in any way?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
I don't know if "vindicate" is the right word ... Aston is coaching GG-recruited players, so it's not entirely fair to judge Aston all that harshly on how the team performs this season. I think this season's woes just further show that Texas has been pretty dysfunctional. And how that happened, to me, still goes back to the fact that GG was never very comfortable recruiting there. We know she's a good coach - those 15 years and four FFs at Duke were not a mirage. But she was just never a good fit at Texas. I think Aston needs at least a couple of years to put her stamp on the program - her recruits, her philosophy, her system. Then she can be fairly evaluated.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Purdue has begun conference play with a 3-0 record with each victory coming after at least one overtime session. Has this type of start ever happened before?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
I don't know. But that is quite a way to kick off the league season. Remember the 2006 Maryland team that couldn't lose in overtime? Not saying Purdue has as much talent as the '06 Terps, but it's got to be a confidence boost when you keep getting pushed to the brink but still come out on top. Or at least, that's the way Versyp can spin this to the players. I'm sure she'd prefer to win in regulation, though. :)
Sofia (Durham, NC)
Mechelle, Harper's seat at NCSU is really hot. She has one year left on her contract and that may be the only reason she doesn't get fired at the end of the year. NCSU just fired their football coaching staff & is still paying the former men's bball coach
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
You're in the Triangle and I'm sure you're picking up on some vibes there. So I appreciate your opinion. The reason I always am less sure how "hot" seats are in women's basketball is that schools do not think like fans think. Most of them will not eat any money in regard to coaching contracts of non-rev sports unless they really feel they have no choice. And lack of wins is not necessarily going to do that.
Nice piece on Megan Herbert by Graham. Do you think a kid like Megan has a shot at a pro team roster? I'd be a bit concerned about her defensive skills, but still....
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
I'm going to come off like the Grinch that stole WNBA dreams in this chat ... but "tweeners" are really hard sells in the WNBA. Alysha Clark of Middle Tennessee is a recent example of a tweener who has made it on a roster - at least for this past season in Seattle - but she didn't right away. I'm not trying to be a total pessimist, but again, I base it on what we've seen over the WNBA's history. That said, there are always some exceptions of players who nobody - certainly not me - thought were going to make it in the league, but did.
Is there any coach in the country right now doing a better job than Muffet McGraw? To lose three starters and have that team at 2/3 in the polls, even with returnees like Diggins & McBride is really impressive.
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Notre Dame needs some good news, doesn't it? :) You're right ... I am very impressed with how this team has played. They lost a lot to graduation, and yet they are right in the mix - at least at this point in the season - for a No. 1 seed.
If reasonable fans don't get uptight with a coach after 2 years how, would you classify Mystic fans?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
Here is what I think philosophically (it may not be what everyone thinks). There is a big difference between what fans' expectations should be in the women's college game vs the WNBA. Women's college basketball is still about kid-building and education. Yes, eventually you *have* to win, especially when you're getting paid the amount of money that a coach like Caldwell is. But I think fans should realize that at least on the women's side in college, there are still a lot of other factors that a coach is judged on. In the pros, it's all about victories. You want to have good citizens, and the WNBA does a lot of community service and all that. But a pro coach isn't really responsible for molding young people. He or she is responsible for winning games and entertaining fans. Hence, I think more patience and a broader viewpoint are good things for a college fan to have. Pro fans want to be entertained, period, and that requires wins. As for the men's college game, it's a different industry, frankly. It's all about winning, too. There's little difference, in my view, between the men's college and pro fans in terms of expectations. Whether it should be like that or not, it is.
Pete (Thomaston, CT)
I watched the Baylor-KSU game last night. I have a theory that Kim plays the first half of every game close to the vest, just wanting to get to halftime w/o BG or OS getting into foul trouble, then she lets it fly the last 20 minutes.I think Baylor could win most games by 50 if they went full tilt boogie from the opening tip! :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:13 PM)
Interesting theory. I think Mulkey in games she pretty much knows she is going to win - KState's only weapon against Baylor is 3-pointers - lets her experienced players try to figure out a few things on their own during the first half of games. Or at least watches to see how they adjust on court. Then she lets them know how "the cow ate the cabbage" at halftime. (To use Mulkey-speak).
Chris (Carson City)
Arw there any midmajors that have a chance of getting to the second weekend in the NCAA tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
Right off the bat, Dayton comes to mind. I would defer to mid-major guru Graham on this. but I think the Flyers have that potential.
Great article on the Lady Vol Sisterhood, Mechelle. It really is an amazing phenomenon; have you ever seen anything like it in other schools?
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
Thank you. I'm sure there is a strong bond of former UConn players, and since 1985 they have all had Geno as coach. And Stanford players are in a similar situation with Tara. At Tennessee, though, part of it is that it goes back even a decade earlier - to the 1970s - and that so many of the people around Pat - her secretary, her media relations director, her top assistant Holly Warlick - were or have been around for so long. They all get some of the credit for this, too. When I needed to reach Lady Vols from the 1970s for the story, I knew Katie Wynn - Pat's longtime administrative assistant - would know exactly how to contact them. Debby Jennings is no longer the SID - I think I've made it clear how I feel about her treatment by UT - but for three decades no women's SID in the country did more to chronicle and publicize her program than Debby did. And then there's the time that Pat put into making this happen - the hand-written notes to alumni, the remembering their birthdays and family histories. She created that bond and kept it. Now, it's up to others to really extend it into the coming decades.
Pete (Thomaston, CT)
What do you think about the UCLA-Stanford game tomorrow?
Mechelle Voepel (3:22 PM)
Big for both teams. Stanford has had its Pac-12 perch rattled by Cal. The Bruins want to rattle it some more.
Australian Open: If not Serena, who takes it all?
Mechelle Voepel (3:25 PM)
Gosh, I don't know that I have a good guess. You know me ... my default pick is always Serena. I was happy to see Kimiko Date-Krumm win. Go 40-somethings!
Despite the rising eagerness for the Monday Duke-UConn game, there is a 15-1 team facing another 15-1 team this Saturday that is almost off the radar screen: Syracuse visiting UConn. Close game, or not, between teams with combined 30-2 record?
Mechelle Voepel (3:28 PM)
Indeed, the Orange are one of those "under-the-radar" teams, too, aren't they? Big East followers, is there still a bad "vibe" between UConn and Syracuse? Or is that water under the bridge? It's Syracuse's big spotlight moment, the kind that playing UConn can provide.
Mechelle Voepel (3:30 PM)
Thanks for all the questions! Some good ones I didn't get to, sorry. Tune in next week when you can help me get over my depression Thursday after the "American Horror Story: Asylum" season ends Wednesday night. At least I'll still have basketball and "Downton Abbey." :) Chat with you then.