Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

January 16, 12:28 PM ET
Chat with Graham Hays

Graham Hays
  (11:02 AM)

Hey there, thanks for stopping by on a holiday afternoon.

Rachele, Philadelphia

How important is the UConn-UNC game?

Graham Hays
  (11:06 AM)

Probably bigger for us as fans than anything. In a practical sense, there would have to be a lot of major surprises to end up in March with something other than UConn as the No. 1 seed in Trenton and UNC the No. 1 seed in Raleigh. And that's no matter what happens tonight. But it does seem like it's taken on a little more importance as a result of Doty's injury. Beyond the Tar Heels, who won't want to lose at home, I think a lot of teams are going to be watching this game to see if UConn can still play at the level it has for the first two months.

Lauren (Santa Monica)

What does North Carolina need to do to win tonight?

Graham Hays
  (11:09 AM)

Hitting some outside shots would be a good place to start. Geno Auriemma talked about possibly playing more zone with Doty out and getting Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren on the court together. I've been surprised at how well the Tar Heels are shooting from outside this season, with Lucas, White and Claytor, and they can stretch out that zone if they keep it up tonight. Along with that, Cetera DeGraffenreid will have to keep doing what she's been doing in terms of taking care of the ball.

kc oakland

Huge win by CAL yesterday w/o a lot of production from Walker and Hampton. Final 4 team? If not, what do they need to work on?

Graham Hays
  (11:12 AM)

What a game for Gray-Lawson; she was just tremendous. You can look at that game two ways, either as they needed that kind of superhuman performance to win a big game or that they won a big game without much from Walker and Hampton, as you say. I tend to lean toward the latter, because Hampton showed some flashes, especially in the second half, to suggest she's coming around. And I just don't see Walker having many games like that, between Stanford's excellent defense and the leg cramps that slowed her. So yeah, I think they're right in that (very large) mix of legit Final Four contenders. But winning at Stanford, really their only big road game remaining, would make me feel a lot better about the mental side of things entering the NCAA tournament.

glenn (Netcong, NJ)

Hey Graham, Missed you last week, like the new time slot though. So anyway...WHAT is wrong with Rutgers. A blown 20 point lead to a down Tennessee team (still tennessee but blowing 20 point leads is unsafe at any speed), a couple bad losses, a weak win against nova before beating on a beaten up Marquette. There are rumors about Stringer being unhappy with the AD search, there are Rumors Sykes is transferring. Stringer is more worried about attendance 10 minutes before games than the game it seems...is this team falling apart or will they turn it around?

Graham Hays
  (11:16 AM)

When it rains, it pours. Rutgers isn't always the most giddy of atmospheres even when things are going well on the court, so I don't think it's surprising that a lot of rumors and stories bubble up when things are going poorly. But it seems like this team deserves some more time to see if the last two games are really the sign of a fresh start. Playing Speed seems like a good indicator that freshmen and coach may be gradually coming to terms and getting used to each other. I can't see them turning it around to be the top-five team many, including me, thought they would be in the preseason, but it doesn't seem like a lost cause at all.

Dave (Clovis, NM)

where are the lobos going to be in your next Mid Major rankings?

Graham Hays
  (11:20 AM)

The next rankings should come out the first week of February, and New Mexico could be a big part of them after that win at BYU. They don't have an easy homestand coming up with San Diego St. and TCU, but going on the road for a big win for the first time this season is a big statement. They've got a nice core group with Beggin, Hartill, Adamson and Best.

emily (moore, oklahoma)

How come Oklahoma beating Texas A&M isn't the number 1 story today? A&M was supposed to be a contender and the Sooners beat them easily.

Graham Hays
  (11:23 AM)

Just an overload of big games, probably. When No. 1 and No. 2 play, it tends to dwarf everything. But watching that game, Oklahoma looked tremendous against a great defensive team in the first half. Hand really gives them a key dimension with her range and Danielle Robinson is playing like one of the best point guards in the country. You knew Texas A&M wasn't going to quit, but the second half lull when the Aggies got back into things was a little concerning. After praising Robinsoin, I've also got to say a point guard has to be responsible for making sure a post like Courtney Paris never gets lost in the shuffle of the half-court offense.

Dave (West Hartford)

Should either Auriemma or the Syracuse player be punished for what happened after the game?

Graham Hays
  (11:27 AM)

No, hopefully that just fades away quietly. To me, that was just classic Big East tension that went too far. Auriemma probably could have left it alone instead of saying something to Michael after the game, but you take the good passion with the bad at times. And Syracuse did seem more interested in playing a physical game than adjusting to the open shot after open shot they were giving up out of their defense.

glenn (Netcong, NJ)

I know this is a few weeks backlogged but I gotta take some issue with you here on your article on lack of female coaches in WBB. The other sports you mention have merit...but it makes me FURIOUS when people whine about lack of women coaches when flat out POOR coaches like Cindy Blodgett (Maine) get jobs over very qualified male coaches like Jeff House. The fact is great male women's coaches exist and still are viable in today's coaching marketplace (Jeff Walz!) and to throw that baby out with the bath...ug...Give me a Quinton Hillsman over a Phyllis Mangina, a Jeff Walz over a Cindy Blodgett, or even a Jeff House (someone people SHOULD be hiring but arent!) over some of the choices being made just because they're female! Now BLACK women coaches I'll talk to you about, that IS a problem.

Graham Hays
  (11:29 AM)

You're a great fan of the game, Glenn, and I appreciate your passion, but that's a little silly. There are lousy coaches in the women's game who are men and lousy coaches who are women. The difference is there are only lousy men's coaches in the men's game. Women don't get a chance to prove themselves one way or the other on that side of the game.

victor monroe,la

predictions on the final four?

Graham Hays
  (11:32 AM)

They change by the week, if not by the day. Until UConn or North Carolina show otherwise, I can't come up with a reason to pick against either of them. The other two spots are wide open, but I do like the way Auburn is flying a little under the radar with Bonner and Boddie. And I'm getting sucked back in to the Oklahoma allure with each passing game for the Sooners. But ask me tomorrow and any of seven or eight other teams could be in those two spots.

glenn (Netcong, NJ)

Sorry for the downer and the W question (but you should be used to it given that you're the only WBB guy we get to talk to here) but are you worried about the state of the WNBA with the AFL going bye bye, the Comets debacle, and rumored pay and roster cuts?

Graham Hays
  (11:34 AM)

Absolutely, I think we'd have to be drinking some serious Kool-Aid not to be worried in this economic climate, just as I'm worried about the WPS, the new pro league for women's soccer and the NPF, the pro league for softball. I don't have any great insider insight on the WNBA's financial picture, but simply as a fan, yeah, I'm worried. Hopefully without good reason.

Graham Hays
  (11:35 AM)

Hey, thanks for stopping by on a day when I know a lot of folks are off work. I appreciate the questions. Enjoy the game from Chapel Hill tonight!