Happy St. Patrick's Day .... and no pinching among those of you not wearing green. The Miller twins have reunited in Atlanta, Katie Smith is in D.C., we have a few days for the pot to boil before the women's tourney begins ... so let's get started chatting..
It seems like the committee had it out for UConn a little. Arguably, the toughest games for the Huskies all year were St. John's and Florida State, both in their bracket. If UConn has a weakness, it is inside size and depth. After round 2, UConn is scheduled to play four big teams with inside presence--Florida State, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Stanford. Everyone talks about Tina Charles getting in foul trouble. This seems to be a distinct possibility in one of these games. The worst scenario for the Huskies is that they will have to play the late seminfinal game against teh Volunteers with a week of hype. If they survive, they need to bounce back less than 24 hours later and play a more rested Cardinal (who I assume will beat the Nebraska-Oklahoma-Notre Dame survivor rather handily). It looks like Stanford was the #1 overall seed. It drew the #4 overall seed in San Antonio.
Might as well get started with UConn, right? The Huskies fans have to have something to worry about ... they would hardly be New Englanders if they didn't. I don't think the Committee had it out for UConn, but do think UConn and Tennessee were going to be slated to meet in semis no matter what.
With North Carolina getting in with a poor conference record, do you think there will should be a rule forcing teams to be .500 or better in conference to be invited to the dance?
I don't know that you can have such a hard and fast rule, if the point is to really bring in the best 64. That said, I think the Heels really got in by the skin of their chinney-chin-chins this year. Charlie C thought they were safely in all the way, but I can't recall a team being as much in a freefall - save the win over Duke in the reg.-season finale - getting an at-large bid.
Perfect Storm = Tina Charles in Foul Trouble from start to finish +Jantel Lavender subsequently having her way on the block Maya Moore continuing to hit the front of the rim like she has the last several games Samantha Prahalis fiery passion getting under the skin of Caroline Doty and Tiffany Hayes Ohio State hitting 40% of their 3 Point Attempts (they lead the NCAAW with 39.6%) Most importantly, Rene Montgomery is Not there to Help the Huskies with Scoring, Defense, and Leadership UConn has to lose Sometime and it is Better to lose to Ohio State than to Tennessee !
Steve, I know you have been looking at "how UConn might lose" scenarios for a while now. I suppose all this COULD happen. It just hasn't happened at all yet. The Huskies have done much better than most - maybe even the players themselves - expected without Renee Montgomery.
Alysha Clark of MTSU is clearly a great scorer. Do you think she has a pro career ahead of her in the WNBA, or are does her size make her game more suited for playing overseas?
Let's see how flexible-minded the coaches in the WNBA are ... sometimes I think they "decide" things and won't let a player prove them wrong. Now, that said, we know with her 5-10 size she's going to have to prove she can score and guard people inside, and it's a hard task. But .... this kid is a winner, and she flat-out finds ways to score. Will she do it at the highest level? I hope someone gives her a chance.
Realistically, what are Nebraska's chances of making the Final 4, the final game, and GASP, hanging with UConn?
Nebraska got as good a draw as it could hope, and by that I mean no disrespect to No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 OU or No. 4 Kentucky. But I think when you look at all the potential matchups the Huskers might have faced at the regional level, they have to think those are opponents they can match up with. And in the case of OU, Nebraska has already defeated the Sooners in Norman. The big thing to me is that the Huskers are in unchartered waters. They've never had the No. 1 banner before, or anything close to it. How will they deal with that pressure? Since no one has "hung" with UConn yet, it seems really hard to predict when and who might do that.
What will Iowa State need to do to beat UCONN, assuming they get past the first 2 games?
For sure, they'll need to have Alison Lacey back at full health. What a tough loss that's been for them not having her. Interesting thing is that they need to have a game really similar to what they did in 1999 when they beat the Huskies ... Angie Welle was a young post player then, like Anna Prins is now. The perimeter play carried the team. But it's hard to see the Huskies not being able to clamp down better than they did in 1999. Still, when Fennelly is coaching, I'll never say never.
Since the Aggies are on such a roll...what are their chances of showing up in the Final Four?
A&M looked awfully good in the last two weeks, especially at the Big 12 tournament. But Stanford, of course, has been to the last two Final Fours. If they reach the Sacto final, it's going to come down to whose strength prevails: A
Can Kentucky get to the Final Four with Dunlap and Mathies, or are they going to fall short?
I think if you can finish second in the SEC, you sure can make it to the Final Four. The 'Cats have surprised people this year because not so much was expected of them, but this is a good team. But again, like Nebraska, they are not used to being a top-4 seed, so it's all new stuff. Whereas Oklahoma and Notre Dame are more tournament tested teams, for sure.
Did the committee do a disservice to UConn and Tennessee? They are ranked #1 and #2 in the RPI. At worst they are 1 and 3. Why does Stanford get to play the easiest of teh Final FOur teams in the early game, while UConn would have to beat the #2 and #3 teams and Tennessee would have to beat Duke (RPI #4), UConn, and Stanford to win it all?
Like I said, and I think Graham mentioned this yesterday, too ... I was sure that if there was any way possible that Committee could match UConn and Tennessee in the semifinals, they would. They didn't have to fiddle with the "procedures and principles" too much to make it happen. And they would have fiddled a lot, I think, if they had to. I can see Tenn. fans thinking they got a rough draw ... but I also think eventually you have to play really good teams to win it, right?
I know nothing about Ohio State, or the rest of the field for that matter. However, I do play on the Saint Francis Women's practice squad, so I know their strengths and shortcomings, playing against them daily. Do Hodges, along with our three point shooters, give us any chance against Ohio State? Go SFU!!!
You know, St. Francis is like a like of the other programs in that same position - they have nothing to lose and really no one expects much of them. So they should just go for it. And I do think Ohio State has shown some vulnerability to perimeter scorers but also not always having the killer instinct against opponents. So let's see. And by the way, Ethan, practice players like you should all take a bow for what you do for women's hoops. Thanks!
Do officials EVER call fouls for taunting? From what I've read in the NCAA rule book, both opposing players AND fans can be penalized for verbal personal attacks during games.
Interesting question ... I haven't seen hardly any times in my career covering women's basketball when the officials notice the crowd and penalize them. That's a difficult area for them to monitor while they are in the flow of the game. And I think schools themselves need to do a better job of it.
Will Oklahoma State be able to survive game 1 without suspended Andrea Riley?
Well, that is going to be an interesting situation, isn't it? Chattanooga is hardly at its first rodeo ... this is a program with NCAA experience, good coaching and a history of challenging the big conference schools. If it were just any star player having to sit out, you'd wonder about their chances. When it's the player who is such an overwhelming part of everything they do offensively, you really have to wonder how the Cowgirls will made such a big adjustment.
What do you think Tennessee?s chances are of winning it all this year? Do you think not having any seniors on the team will hurt there chances?
I've been thinking all season that things are going well for Tennessee ... the spotlight hasn't been on them, they have gotten better during the course of the season and they are HUNGRY to prove themselves (as if they really need to) after losing in the 1st round last season. I think they will go to San Antonio ... but the program's history against UConn in the FF goes against them, of course. But I don't think having no seniors will make much difference ... Angie Bjorklund probably feels like a senior with all that's been on her shoulders.
How healthy is Baylor going into the tournament? They are a completely different teams with Jones, will she be able to lead them to an upset bid over Summit and Tennesse - perhaps relinquishing the horrific loss in 2004?
That's an unknown ... even to Baylor. Kim Mulkey said going into the Big 12 tournament she wasn't expecting to play Jones in KC, but then she did play - 17 minutes - in the quarterfinals. With Jones, they are indeed a different team. She just is such a glue player and gives them so much confidence and leadership. Baylor lost to open the season at Tennessee. And I think the program "relinquished" that '04 loss already by winning the 2005 NCAA title.
Dawn Evans puts up some huge numbers at JMU, and she's awfully exciting to watch. How does she stack up with the best guards at Top 25 programs?
I think she's very good, and the nice thing about the Dukes' draw is that she will be in the subregional in Norfolk that is going to get lots of media attention with UConn there. The UConn media folks will all be writing about her, but especially, of course, if JMU upsets Temple in the 8-9 and faces UConn in the 2nd round.
Why is it some coaches seem to have their teams tourney ready every year (Vandy, for example) and some can't seem to peak at the right times (Georgia, Ohio State)?
I do think it seems like certain programs always play better during the NCAA tournament ... but it also becomes a reputation thing about what people "remember." Vandy, remember, was upset as a No. 2 seed by Bowling Green in 2007 ... but because the 'Dores have also overachieved some year, the tendency is to think they usually play well in the tourney. And let's not forget Georgia has been to five Final Fours. As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes have ruled the Big Ten for so long without making a Final Four breakthrough, that's probably what it's going to take for people to see Ohio State in a different light, fair or not.
Is Seton Hall a job a coach can turn around and make a Big East threat, or is the admin's lack of commitment a career killer?
You look at the talent on the East Coast - so much of it, just from a population standpoint - and say, "Surely, there's enough to go around for a program like Seton Hall to be competitive." At least, I'd like to think that. The fact that this program, like so many others, seemed to not have any "pressure" to win for a long, long time makes me skeptical that the administration really did care. But, maybe that's a culture that's going to change. Maybe there's a young coach out there ready to say, "I can do this." I sure hope there is.
Iowa has mostly used offensive to win while Rutgers has done the opposite with stingy defense. Who do you see coming out on top?
The Hawkeyes and Scarlet Knights seem to me to have started peaking at the right time, as they say. Rutgers winning four of its last five was a big turnaround from the negative direction the SK's seemed to be headed. I would give Rutgers the edge here, actually, because I think their was a lot of growing in a Big East conference that is tougher than some people realize. But Iowa should be commended for fighting through three devastating injury/illness losses to almost win the Big Ten tournament.
WNBA Question: Do you think the Whalen acquisition makes the Lynx the favorites in the West?
Just a little detour to the WNBA, because I am really excited about the upcoming season. The Lynx needed an on-court leader, someone who could put all their talented pieces together. Who better for that task than Whalen? I wouldn't say it makes them the West favorite ... I would say it makes the Lynx - provided they stay healthy - a very, very good bet for the playoffs. And that franchise really needs that.
Assuming they beat TCU in the first round how long do you think the Dayton Flyers could hang around with Tennessee? Its great to finally get our rising program into the big dance
So happy for Dayton making the Big Dance! Jim Jabir has worked hard in that job, and with all the girls basketball talent in Ohio, you like to see the Flyers program as destination point for some of it. But any opponent winning on Tennessee's home court? Oh, jeez ... it just almost never happens. Don't think about ... focus on TCU, which is a consistently good program with a lot of postseason experience.
Hi Mechelle,What are your thoughts on WVU's Mountaineers and how far do you think they'll go? Thanks!
I think West Virginia is a good, gritty team that got hosed by the tournament setup, and that will happen to certain teams as long as we have predetermined sites. The Mountaineers have been a strong program all season, they earn a No. 3 seed ... yet may have to face No.6 Texas on the Longhorns' home court. It just stinks. I know why it's happened, but I don't like it and I don't think it's fair to those W. Va. kids. That said, they have to deal with the circumstances and beat Lamar first ... which is not a given, of course, and then - if Texas beats San Diego State - the Mountaineers just need to remember they've had to play UConn twice.
Duke has one of the best players in the country in Jasmine Thomas. She can straight play some ball. How far do you think she can lead the Blue Devils in the tournament?
Almost as much as any team in the tournament, Duke goes the way its point guard goes ... and she has been really good all year. Jasmine Thomas has gotten stronger, she can penetrate and finish with contact, she is tireless on defense and she's a natural-born leader. If Duke and Tennessee meet in the Elite Eight, that is an advantage the Blue Devils have - a true, experience point guard.
Which bottom seed (13 or higher) has the best shot at pulling an opening night upset?
I think the pretty obvious choice is No. 13 Chattanooga because of the program's NCAA experience and going against No. 4 Okla. State without Andrea Riley.
Will Andrea Riley make it in the WNBA or will her lack of size (and on-court incidents) be too much to overcome?
I want to be fair here. Her two incidents were two years ago - at Big 12 tourney and NCAA tourney - and I actually think it's time for folks to let that go. She has apologized many times, and now she's going to serve her suspension. So it should be over-over, to me. That said, the thing about size is always an issue, and you'll find a lot of people who have a lot to criticize about her game. I still say this: She scored more points than anybody in the Big 12. She's lightning quick. I definitely think she will make it in the WNBA in some capacity. I really do.
Do you feel like Baylor will have some issue with Fresno State? Given the 3 point shooting prowess of Fresno State and given that Baylor leads or is second in the nation on the 3 point field goal defense..what will Baylor have to do offensively to combat the lack of a perimeter shot and how comfortable will the chemistry be with Jones back in??
Actually, when the bracket came out that matchup did stand out to me as a interesting one for the reasons you mentioned. Baylor will be all right, but Fresno State does have some ways of hurting the Bears.
What do you think of Katie Smith coming to the Mystics? Who starts out of Harding, Beard, and Smith?
Katie Smith makes any team better. She always has. At this point in her career, she is not interested in being a star, just wants to win another title. She will play whatever role is needed. Good move for the Mystics to add this future Hall of Famer.
Stanford bigs Appel and Nneka O. are keys to Stanford making to the Final Four, but I think Kayla Pedersen is even bigger as she is a problem match-up for most teams. I think Stanford goes as far as Kayla takes us, do you agree?
Yes, I really do think Kayla is the key. Not just because she's a matchup problem for other teams but because if Stanford faces perimeter-strong A&M in the Elite Eight, the Cardinal will need Kayla's defense to be really strong. And I think she may be ready to have a really big tournament.
Georgia's Final Fours are all in the ancient past. Do you think the game has passed Andy Landers by?
You know, it's interesting ... I really don't think the "game" has passed him by. But I think recruiting has become harder for Georgia than it once was, and you wonder if the grind of all those years coming "close" but not quite winning a title have worn him down at all. There are also some young and hungry coaches in the SEC now, such as Ky's Matt Mitchell, SC's Dawn Staley and Florida's Amanda Butler. I think the SEC is tough no matter what the year or the outside perception. And maybe that has taken a toll on Landers. We'll see if Georgia lives up to its 5 seed.
Thanks for taking our questions today! Who are your five favorite players to watch in the college game right now? Not the five best, but the five who you would pay cash money to watch? Also, just for fun, who was the nicest player you interviewed this year?
I simply have to take a question from my home state of Missouri. :) It's been a long time since I had to buy a ticket for a women's game, but if I did, I'd say that Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Kelsey Griffin, Monica Wright and Alysha Clark would be more than worth the price of admission. And as far as nice players, women's basketball is full of them. It would just be too hard to pick. It's one of the best things about the sport.
Great to see the Miller twins as teammates again! But here's the real question: If identical cousins Patty and Cathy Lane had been scholarship hoopsters, what positions would they have played? I see Patty as a 2-guard, prone to turnovers and hot-and-cold shooting, and Cathy as a reserve point guard who could have the starting job if she had more fire in the belly for roundball.
Somebody who knows me REALLY well posted this. Love it. Cathy would come off the bench and hit the shot that won the championship, and then Patty would have to get over her jealousy about it. They would patch things up, though, by the end of the episode.
What coaches do you feel are on the hot seat this year? I would think that Kristy Curry would be one but maybe not. Will the economy make some schools keep coaches longer so they don't have to buy them out?
Well, some of the hot-seat coaches are already gone ... although those seats should have exploded from heat a long time ago. I think Kristy Curry is not in any imminent danger, if you will, at Tech, but it's getting "warmer" there. The economy combined with a continued apathy from some schools toward women's sports does conspire to keep coaches in jobs even when they're making no progress. I'm not ready to say that's the case with Curry, though. Although I know a lot of frustrated Tech fans.
What first and second round games will you be covering? It would be great to have you in Mpls for Nebraksa.
Well, thank you! I will indeed be in Minneapolis. I am really looking forward to seeing the former-Vol matchup of coaches in the N.C. State- UCLA game. And this gives me a chance to see UCLA in person, which I haven't gotten to do this season. LIke what Nikki Caldwell is doing there. Also what Kellie Harper did this season. And congrats to UNI for pulling the upsets to get the MVC bid to face Nebraska.
The Blue Hen fans are very excited to see Elena Delle Donne on the Wooden ballot, heck, on our court. Who's your pick this year?
I have been sticking with Tina Charles as player of the year. But anyone who votes for Maya Moore is certainly not wrong. Congrats to EDD on her first season back at hoops ... I will just say how happy I am to see her playing basketball again.
Why hasn't Geno gotten any men's basketball jobs? Is that something he could strive for since he's basically done it all in the woman's game?
Don't think he wants to do it. He's made noises sometimes about that, but I think he really loves the women's game and it's been his lifelong career passion. I hope he never leaves. There's no such thing as compiling too much excellence in your job.
Do you think the Big 10 can make some noise in the tournament this year?
Sure, and I feel guilty about not giving the Big Ten enough attention. Maybe this IS Ohio State's year to pull that memorable, program-defining upset if they Buckeyes meet UConn in the Dayton final. Maybe Michigan State shows its Jekyl side and not its Hyde side. We'll see if Wisconsin and Iowa can surprise people, too.
What do you think about OU's first round matchup? This is a team that barely lost to always well-coached Baylor in SA last year by two. Should the Sooners be w little worried?
One thing about Oklahoma - this is a team that has understood all year long it has not much margin for error. So the Sooners really do prep well for everybody. All teams say they do; OU does. It has to. So there will be no overlooking the Jacks. Especially after what they almost did to Baylor last year.
How has Kelly Harper's first year as coach at NC State been received within the women's basketball community -- you know, those people who are really dedicated to Kay Yow and her legacy and likely supported Stephanie Glance for the position? I think she's done a great job of honoring Yow while still making a fresh start. Go WolfPack!
I think she's made as graceful and smooth a transition as you could. And I can't imagine that Coach Yow - even though she wished for Stephanie Glance to succeed her - wouldn't be proud of what the Wolfpack did this year, including making the ACC final. Kellie Harper has been a winner wherever she's been.
What did you think about Boston College being left out of the tournament but UNC making it? BC had signature wins (e.g. Duke) and essentially the same record as the tarheels.
The big problem with BC, of course, was the 15 losses. That's hard to overlook. But ... I still think you could make the case that they deserved at-large as much as the Tar Heels. Not to bash UNC ... it's just that this is one season I would not have been up for giving the Heels the benefit of the doubt.
Along with the Harper-Caldwell match up in Minneapolis, Connie Yori and Tanya Warren were teammates at Creighton. Glad to see you'll be in Minneapolis.
Indeed, there is a lot of Iowa history in this subregional. :)
Who's the national freshman of the year: Griner or Delle Donne?
Kevin, you ought to have your own chat, bud. :) I'd go with Griner. I really don't think the "incident" changes anything about how dominant she was and how well she played this season. She is a force offensively and defensively. Would like to see EDD improve on the defensive end.
what will it take for tennessee to beat uconn
OK .. if we get this matchup - which will be a complete circus, by the way - I think Tennessee HAS to avoid turnovers, HAS to shoot the 3 well and HAS to have a strong defensive performance from Kelley Cain. But Tennessee does have the ability to do all this.
How does USC get left out of the tournament in favor of North Carolina? I thought the last 10-12 games were supposed to count heavily.
I agree. Think USC should have been in.
What do you think Vandy's season would have been like if they'd had one healthy six-foot plus post available to play?
You know, they have had this problem two seasons in a row - having to play bigger than what they are. Last year they really put up a fight against Maryland in the Sweet 16. We'll see if they can have a similar effort this year.
What do you think of lamar and their chances
It's nice to see Jenna Plumley, after her difficulties at Oklahoma, have success at Lamar. I'm sure the Sooner fans wish her the best. Lamar does have the advantage of staying to play in Texas, but I think West Virginia is a tough matchup for them.
What did you make of Maryland's year? I know they have a lot of youth but their struggles seem to go beyond that...not to mention they won a Natl Championship with 2 frosh, 2 spohs, and 1 junior back in 06 so youth isn't really an excuse.
Well, seemed like there was just too much youth this time and not quite the talent level of the 2006 "magical" squad. That said, I look at Maryland as a rising team again in the ACC ... there's no reason to think the Terps won't be tournament contenders next season.
Do you think any of the SEC teams besides Tennessee have a shot at advancing beyond the first and second rounds?
I'd say Kentucky seems to me to have the best shot ... but I wouldn't rule out Georgia.
Who has the best shot at beating UConn and what percentage chance do you give them? 1%?
Stanford, and I'm too horrible at math to even guess a percentage. I know Stanford is the standard answer, but I still think if they reach the final, the Cardinal's experience could help them pull that upset. But it would be an upset. And I am not ruling out a Tennessee upset of UConn, either, although that also would be an upset.
Come on! You gotta take LA Tech over the looking-ahead-to-UCONN Seminoles! The Techsters are back, baby!
Do have to say congrats, big-time, to T-Spoon and all the La. Tech faithful who've stayed with the program during some hard times. Enjoy the NCAA tournament. But FSU is not going to be looking ahead to UConn. :)
Hey Mechelle, what are your thoughts on Marion Jones' effectiveness in playing in the WNBA?
Honestly, I haven't seen Marion Jones play basketball since the mid-1990s, so I have no frame of reference for what she looks like on the basketball court now. It stretches my imagination to think that she can pull this off. There is so much talent fighting to get jobs in a 12-team league.
I see a lot of WNBA draft sites down on Kelsey Griffin. I understand she's undersized,but her motor and will to win alone should make her a top five prospect. What do you think of Griffin's potential on the next level?
The question with a player like Kelsey is whom does she guard effectively at the next level. I think she has great body control - better than people who don't watch her often realize - and she has incredible smarts for the game. I don't think you can underestimate how powerful a leader and positive force this kid will be on your team, no matter what role you ask her to play. I think she is someone you want on your team.
Doesn't it seem like Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State have their seeds reversed? Everyone seems to be picking the Blue Raiders.
I just like the way the Blue Raiders finished this season. But ... I thought this game could be really, really good as soon as I saw the bracket. One of the best first-round matchups. Hope some people in Pittsburgh show up to see it.
Any reason to think the Final Four won't include all four #1s?
Well, for what my "picks" are worth ... when forced to choose I did take all the No. 1's to make it to San Antonio. That was brave, wasn't it? But having just seen Texas A&M win the Big 12, I think the Aggies could come out of Sacramento. I think with Notre Dame's history and the experience that team has gotten by having to play UConn three times this season, the Irish could make it out of Kansas City. I would say even Oklahoma is a threat out of KC, too. Maybe Duke has a great night offensively (I said maybe) and beats Tennessee in the Elite Eight in Memphis if they meet. And ... maybe ... maybe .. maybe ... Ohio State, playing in Ohio, knocks off might UConn. So, yes, there are some reasons to think it won't be all No. 1s.
Well, I really appreciate all the questions and thanks for reading our stories at ESPN.com and providing feedback. Sorry I couldn't answer everything, but really enjoy seeing the range of questions. Looking forward to tipoff! Thanks!