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 rainy Kansas City. Tonight, coach Sylvia Hatchell's North Carolina team makes its second try for her 900th victory. Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer is on deck. Let's get started.
Greg (La Crosse, WI)
With Lauren Jackson and Ann Wauters not playing this upcoming season, you mentioned in your article that Seattle will have to find a "quick fix" in free agency. Who do you see as the most likely free agents Seattle could target?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
Brian Agler said yesterday that he wouldn't necessarily look to the draft to fill in the gap of Jackson's absence, but would take more a "long-term view" with the draft pick. And that free agency would have to be some kind of "fix" in the post. But ... when you look at the unrestricted free-agent list for posts, there's not anyone there who can give you something that approximates a healthy Lauren Jackson. So ... Seattle will have to get someone who, in combination with others, can at least carry a little load. Does Agler take a risk on more older players again?
Ryan (Sacramento, CA)
Who is the second best post player behind Griner in this year's draft?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Possibly Tianna Hawkins at Maryland. She is having a terrific season. Just a sidenote: Before Carolyn Davis' knee injury last year, I was pretty high on the Kansas post. She is coming back and had a very good game recently at Kansas State ... but she's not nearly 100 percent yet. Still working on fitness and confidence in herself.
Texas A&M at the top of the SEC, and Mizzou in the middle: surprised....or not?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Not surprised at all by Texas AM; thought the Aggies would fit in well in the SEC. Especially with Gary Blair's experience coaching in that conference. But Mizzou ... I thought they would struggle a lot this season, and they have surprised me. Robin Pingeton's offensive philosophy is proving harder to guard than several teams anticipated. I didn't think I'd ever see the day that Missouri beat any Tennessee team, even one with the injuries/flaws that this one has. But the Tigers did it, and they deserve credit for playing smart and hard.
With Hatchell about to pass 900 wins, Stringer right behind her, VanDerveer likely to pass 900 wins next year, and Auriemma in 2 years -- it seems like a former insurmountable career number, 900 wins, is like 500 homers in MLB, almost commonplace. Any special reasons why this happening? Are the coaches better, even as some parity has occurred in WCBB?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I think it's a matter of all these coaches getting into the business at a relatively young age - or *very* young age, as is the case with some - and then surviving and mostly thriving through the changes the sport has gone through in the last three decades in particular. These coaches have been adaptable, and they've stayed "hungry" to want to do this taxing job. I am not sure who among today's coaches who were players in the 1980s and '90s are going to stick around and be successful for long enough to reach 900. Is coaching overall getting better in women's basketball? Yes, I think it is.
John (Shreveport, La)
Womens basketball has worked hard on cancer awareness, my question is when is the same awareness going to be directed to impact that ACL injuries have on the players and finding a cure?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
I was Tweeting about this last week. I don't know that there is a "cure" per se. But we have been hearing a lot of the same data, I think, about ACLs for a long, long while. It seems like there is some disagreement among athletic trainers and other athletic medical personnel about whether research is stalled and repetitive, or actually going forward. But what I think is definitely true is there is not enough awareness of preventative measures that hopefully could give younger girls a better foundation to prevent ACLs. Most parents don't know about this topic, most club-team coaches don't know, and I'd bet most junior high and high school coaches don't, either. I think massively increased involvement in spreading the word on ACL awareness and prevention, plus funding research, should be Goal No. 1 for the WBCA, frankly.
Ellen (I-town, IL)
It's unfortunate there is another injury due to the ACL. Can UConn still hang in in the close games with Banks on the bench? How will they hold up in the tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
If there is one program that has shown amazing resilience in spite of ACL injuries, it's UConn. This one hurt, no doubt. But UConn has found a way to step forward despite injury disappointments so many times over the years, I think it is just a part of that program's mindset.
kevin (macon ga)
Which is more damaging, Seattle losing Lauren Jackson or San Antonio losing Sophia Young?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
Obviously, they are both critical. But at least Seattle has had more time having to get used to LJ not being there, because she's been available for a limited time in both 2011 and '12. But the Silver Stars have been able to rely on Young being there and staying relatively healthy. So it may be harder, at least initially, to the SASS adjusting without her.
Apparently Griner needs to average 27 ppg over the next 17 games (B12 tourney championship game and 6 games in the NCAAs) to catch Jackie Stiles. Any chance she makes it?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
That's about six points more per game than BG has averaged in her career, so that's actually a pretty big jump. *Can* she do it? Yes. But I don't think it will happen. That said, Kim Mulkey is always aware of historical numbers, and I think she would like to see Griner get that mark. But she's not going to jeopardize anything big-picture-wise to do it.
What kind of changes, if any, have you seen made in women's basketball over the years to try and prevent ACL tears?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
Definitely there have been attempts to strengthen women's legs, to work on their jumping mechanics, and - very important - to make sure they are in the right kind of shoes. They need shoes that are right for their feet, not just smaller versions of men's shoes.
Damian (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Why N.Y. isn't making any moves like Conn, Indy, L.A.?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
I know Liberty fans are very eager to see evidence that Bill is in on the poker game. :) For right now, he's playing things closer to the vest. He's going to be making some moves, though, that's a certainty. He wouldn't have taken the job if he didn't think he had enough freedom to do what he thought best. The action has really just started.
jen (state college, pa)
What do you think about Ohio States drop off this year in the B10 ? Coaching? or something else ? and where's Charlie Creme and the bracketology ?? we miss it !
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
It does say a lot about how - despite her acknowledged temper flare-ups - Sammy Prahalis did a lot in providing leadership for the Buckeyes. It seems like they are kind of adrift in a Big Ten that has other teams with better leaders right now. As for Charlie, never fear! He will be back with Bracketology this coming Monday, and it will run every week after that up to the tournament.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Which factor will play a bigger role in deciding who wins the Battle of Bedlam this Sunday between #19 Oklahoma and #21 Oklahoma State...free throw points or turnovers?
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
Having watched Oklahoma in person last night at Kansas State, I'm going to say turnovers. The Sooners have a *lot* of heart, but sometimes they throw the ball all over creation. The Cowgirls have been too careless at times, as well, with squandering possessions. It's a big matchup for both teams, not just because of the Bedlam rivalry (which Oklahoma has had the better of for several years now) but for NCAA tournament implications.
Ryan (Sacramento, CA)
Is the #1 pick in the WNBA draft "untradeable" in your eyes?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
This year? Yes. Absolutely. Without question. :)
Is Mizzou's Morgan (Dead-)Eye the next incarnation of Laurie Koehn?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
They are both small-town Midwesterners, but different personalities. Koehn was (still is, I'd imagine) obsessive about her marathon shooting workouts. Morgan works really hard, but seems less obsessive to me. Just my bit of amateur psychological observation. :) Morgan is a more easy-going personality. She isn't starting, and that doesn't bother her. She just wants to do whatever will help the Tigers. She's already at 90 3-pointers for this season
Is it just me, or is Iowa State being UBER-inconsistent this season? They looked like a FF team against OK, then....disintegration, followed by OT wins, etc. Your opinion?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
It's a good observation, and I gather it's rather frustrating to Coach Bill Fennelly. The bottom line for the Cyclones is always the same: They have to shoot well for everything else to work. Take a game like their loss at Kansas last week ... they seemed fully in control, up by like 18 points with 8 minutes left. They they started missing shots, and the wheels eventually fell off entirely. I've seen Iowa State go through periods of ups and downs, and then come out the other side OK by the end of the season. But I'm really not sure how this team is going to perform over the next month.
BurgerKing (Hoffman Estates)
#2 pick, Delle Donne or Diggins?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
For what they Sky needs, I'd say Delle Donne.
Delaware and Dayton are knowns now for this season, but which of the other mid-major Top Ten teams have the best chance to pull a first-round upset or even make the Sweet 16?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
I'd say Green Bay, Creighton, Florida Gulf Coast and Pacific. By the way, for more on Creighton in particular, check out Graham Hays' mid-majors blog. Always loaded with good stuff.
what chance do the Razorbacks have at beat Kentucky tonight?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
As you know, the Hogs are coming off a terrible loss at Mississippi State. That really hurts a lot. Arkansas is getting into crisis time in terms of making a run at the NCAA tournament. They really have to knock off at least one of the ranked teams they have left: Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee. The Wildcats have seemed a little rattled, having lost two of their last three. So maybe the Hogs can regroup and get this one. The thing is, Kentucky is not coming in complacent, they're fired up about getting back on track.
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Sorry there were a bunch I did not get to. Chat with you next week!