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March 19, 11:26 AM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (1:59 PM)

Hi folks! Glad to be here to chat about women's hoops. Let's get started.

Mia Raleigh, NC

Can you tell me why you did not select Maryland to get to the Final Four, especially in view of their strong regular season finish, including the ACC championship? Also, why did you select Stanford...the don't have great competition in the PAC 10?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:02 PM)

I want to start with one of the "why did you pick" questions to say my philosophy on picks is ... I don't take picks too seriously. Maybe I should; I just don't ... so don't ever take anything I "pick" as advise to Vegas. I saw Baylor really put on a surge at the Big 12 tournament, so I thought there's a chance the Bears can continue that. But ... Maryland is the favorite, no doubt. As for Stanford, I think it's a really good team and has the advantage of being in its time zone. Which may help just a tad.

Jasmin, Jersey City, NJ

Do you think that it is possible for the Big East to get three teams in the final four? With Louisville having motivation as being disrespected by the committee and Rutgers getting a very winnable bracket.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:03 PM)

Now, that's interesting. I guess I don't think Louisville would need any extra motivation from the committee ... I do think the Cardinals have a shot at winning that region, absolutely. As for Rutgers ... gee, I'm not sure I can see that team, with its consistency struggles this season, winning four in a row to get to St. Louis. But being at home in the first round helps, for sure.

kevin (macon ga)

A team that lost all five starters went 22-10 in a major conference, with the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, and earned a #5 seed in the NCAAs. That coach has to Coach of the Year, right?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:06 PM)

Well, I think looking at it from that perspective, Pat Summitt really has done a good job. But I guess I suspect not enough voters would consider voting that way.

Ginger Atlanta Georiga

Ok so the Lady Vols aren't exactly having what you would call a normal Lady Vol season, but with what you have seen from this team how good do you think they will be in the next 3 years? Will they be the lady vols we all are used to? Thanks!!

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:08 PM)

Also on the subject of Tennessee ... there have been games this season where they have really clicked. Sometimes just for moments in games. And you see that and say, "That's the team they are going to be." So I think the next few years look really good - back to normal, as it were - but I also think the rest of the country is stepping forward the next few years, too. Specifically, a program such as Baylor. And UConn isn't letting up, either.

kevin (macon ga)

I hate predetermined sites! We should either go all the way to neutrals or let teams earn the right to host. If it was up to me, I'd go back to eight sites and let the top 8 seeds who won their conference tournaments host. This year that would mean UConn, Maryland, Stanford, Baylor, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, South Dakota State, and Middle Tennessee would host. We'd still have some higher seeds playing on lower seeds' home courts, but at least it wouldn't be completely arbitrary or based on teams essentially buying home advantage like we have now. What do you think of this plan?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:10 PM)

The issue, though, is television ... to do all 64 games, they want to know well in advance where those games will be in order to keep the costs down for setting up all you have to do to televise that many games. I like your plan more for a "fairness" stand, for sure. But financially, it won't fly.

Josh (Florida)

How far can Florida State go? They played very well against UCONN earlier in the season and beat Texas A&M. I see Sweet 16 at least but do they have even a 1% chance against Texas A&M and UCONN?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:12 PM)

I really like this Florida State team because it IS a team ... not dependent on any one player. From seeing as much as I have of Texas A&M, I think they could match up fairly well. However, it would be such a tall order to beat UConn ... just can't quite see that.

Leesha (Yankton, SD)

Kevin.. as much as I would LOVE to see the NCAA's here in South Dakota, we don't have a facility big enough right now. The Arena where the Summit was held was packed at 6K fans.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

But this is the type of market that women's basketball has to not forget about. The fan support at places like South Dakota State has always been the kind of thing that's the backbone of the women's game. I'd love to see, for example, the Tip-Off Classic there some November. Bring in three great teams. I bet those fans would stay for both games, too.

Barry (Phoenix)

So often we hear about the stories of individual players...in some cases, the same story for years. Why don't hear as much about dissecting defensive schemes? WCBB commentary seems to be big on stories, less on substantive basketball.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:19 PM)

I think both things are substantive - the stories of the players matter a lot to me. But maybe, as the game continues to grow, there is going to be room for a lot more voices that explore different elements of how to cover sports. For sure, there are people who are far, far, far better qualified to be X's and O's experts and getting them into an analysis role - if they aren't already - would be a good thing.

Matt (Ann Arbor, MI)

Big 12 teams perpetually underperform in the tournament as compared to their seeds. Will the national media and the Selection Committee ever see this as evidence that they are continually overrating these teams?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:22 PM)

I think there are always going to be debates about conference strength. I think Texas got a generous No. 6 seed this time around, based on recent performance. I didn't really have any qualms about the rest of the seeding for the Big 12 teams. Last year, the Big East really took it to the Big 12 in the second round, so I think wherever teams are seeded, it still gets settled on the court.

Steiny (NYC)

Do you think Duke is going to be the first No. 1 seed to lose?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:24 PM)

I think Duke has the most potentially difficult second-round game of the No. 1's ... which is not exactly a keen observation, admittedly. I imagine everyone thinks that. Oklahoma could have some challenges from Georgia Tech or Iowa (on its home court). Don't see UConn or Maryland stumbling. Duke has to go into what is likely going to be an emotionally charged situation with Coach McCallie's ties at Michigan State. So if it is Duke vs. the Spartans .... that could be quite a dramatic game.

Karen - Durham, NC

Puttin on your swami hat, what's the biggest potential upset you see happening?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:27 PM)

Well, if UConn loses, that's the biggest upset, of course. :) But to say which I see happening ... I think a lot of eyes went to that second-round game at Rutgers if the Scarlet Knights are host to Auburn. That's just the game that stood out to me right away as a big potential upset.

kevin (macon ga)

Who will score more in the first round: Maya Moore or the Utah-Villanova winner?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:29 PM)

That is funny! Probably the question should be who COULD score more - because Maya probably could were than her goal and she stayed in 40 minutes. It isn't her goal, though, and she won't play that much, of course. But credit does go to Harry and Elaine for getting the job done the way they do it. They're not getting the prep all-Americans, of course.

Mia Raleigh, NC

Why do you think we are able to generate great enthusiasm for the Women's Final Four, as it is always sold out, but not for the Regionals, as evidenced by the poor attendance in most cases?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:33 PM)

The Final Four has some built-in attendance factors ... the coaches' convention is there, so you have those folks going to games. It's the Final Four, so that all by itself draws people. But your point about regional attendance is one that's been bugging me for years. I've wondered if the regionals shouldn't be in set places for five-year blocks and build them up that way. I think it's a big issue that hasn't been solved yet.

Amanda, KC MO

What's your can't-miss, must-DVR first-round matchup?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:36 PM)

Really, I have to make it one? I can't quite limit it. Let's say this: Marist-Virginia really intrigues me. Usually, so so the 8-9 games. Among those this year, probably the one I'm most intrigued by is Middle Tennessee and Michigan State. For what it's worth, the second round is potentially more jam-packed with blockbusters than any second round I can remember.

kevin (macon ga)

There's talk again about moving the women's tournament to February or April so it wouldn't coincide with the men's. Do you think that would have a positive effect on coverage?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:39 PM)

My initial reaction to changes like this is that no, it won't help coverage. The people who cover men's basketball would be busy with the men in February. They would be on vacation or doing other stuff in April. Those of us who do the women's game will be doing it no matter when it is. So the question is, would more people watch it on television in February or April? I really don't know. My guess is no, but obviously I don't know that for sure. I haven't heard any substantive discussion about moving it. If it moved, TV would make that call, just like it does with virtually anything in sports these days.

Scamp (Seattle WA)

What do you think of Clay Kallam's indictment of some women's basketball fans as suffering from Our Girls Syndrome?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:44 PM)

I've been hearing that for as long as I've been covering the game, which goes back to 1984 ... the complaint that people are interested in only their team, not the sport itself. There are a lot of components to it. People do tend to get attached to their women's teams in a different way and sometimes for different reasons than men's teams. The athletes are more accessible, they do virtually all stay for four years, they are real student-athletes at every school. Look at the 14 schools in the women's tournament that have 100 percent graduation rates. So ... there is a more intense personal bond between fans and their women's teams, in many cases. I'd love to see fans branch out and enjoy the game nationwide. I think some already do. More will. It never happens as quickly as any of us want. My big thing is if you are going to see your team at a subregional or regional this year, please stay for both games, including the one that doesn't involve your team.

SigourneyW (Acheron)

Do you think there's a cinderella in this year's bracket? Not a team to win it all (that would be asking too much), but perhaps a team that could surprise everyone by making it much further than most of us would predict?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:47 PM)

You know, it's funny, but when we were doing the "Cinderella" question for ESPN.com, I thought, "Can I possibly call Tennessee a Cinderella?" Because, of course, they are a team with 10 losses. :) But... of course, I can't call them that. So I think that a lot of folks are looking at South Dakota State as a possible Cinderella. I think that's hard as a No. 7 seed and potentially having to play Baylor. But the Jacks have played some very good teams this year and beat them, so they would lead the Cinderella race, I think.

Barry (Phoenix)

Why don't we see as many high screen and rolls in the women's game as compared to the men? Seems like an easy way to take advantage of point guards who can drive and athletic posts who can finish.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:49 PM)

This is great strategy question ... I think it may be something you see developing in the women's game. Because you are seeing more point guards capable of doing it. I see the point-guard spot evolving in the women's game. I'd be curious to see what other folks who are better hoops brains than me think about that.

kevin (macon ga)

Who is in the best position to improve her WNBA draft stock?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:53 PM)

I think a great deal of the evaluation is already done. Sometimes the tournament allows for a last great "stage" for certain players, the way it did for Armintie Price at Ole Miss in 2007. I think perhaps some of the nation's less-seen guards, if their teams get on some kind of roll, could improve their stock or catch an eye that they hadn't before.

Steiny (NYC)

Do you think Connecticut is going to win it all?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:57 PM)

I saved this question for last, because it's the easiest. Yes. :) Thanks for the questions and sorry for the ones I did not get to. Look forward to perhaps doing this again as the tournament moves forward.