Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

November 24, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:04 PM)

Well, good afternoon before Tofurkey Day. No chats tomorrow while everyone overeats, but thanks for joining me a day earlier. Some scary news today out of Purdue, with player Drey Mingo diagnosed with meningitis. Thoughts go out to her, and hope no one else with the Boilermakers falls ill. Their trip to Mexico has been cancelled.

kevin (macon ga)

Washington is off to a slow start again. Is Tia Jackson on the hot seat?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:09 PM)

If so, it might be the only thing that's hot in Seattle right now. (Rim shot). Sorry, but of course I have been hearing reports from my editor, Melanie Jackson, about how awful the weather has been in the Emerald City. Hope it is better soon. As for coach Tia Jackson, I don't know if this is going to have a good ending. What I always say about the "hot seat" for women's basketball is that it truly depends on what a program's expectations are. Everyone says they want to win, but that doesn't mean the same thing everywhere. Considering the progress that I think is being made at some other programs in the Pac-10, the heat may indeed figuratively be going up at UW.

Rommel (Phoenix)

Emily Carter of TCU is avg 30 ppg. Any chance she gets added to the Wooden Award list?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

She's a player who caught my eye last season, actually. I am trying to recall the actual guidelines on the Wooden Award ... to my knowledge, with all the awards, there is an allowance for people emerging during the season and being added to the lists. We did that in the past with the Wade trophy, for instance.

Rommel (Phoenix)

The Pac-10 has gotten off to a good start. With Stanford, UCLA, USC, Cal, Arizona and Oregon, could they potentially get 6 teams in?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:17 PM)

Ok, this cracks me up ... a bracket question on Nov. 24. Of course, I realize bracketology pretty much never ends. But I do think it's great for the Pac-10 that there is already some chatter about the postseason, and not just Stanford. Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said last season she really thought the league would make some progress this season, and we'll see if that's the case. If so, it is good for women's basketball.

kevin (macon ga)

The Shock hired Teresa Edwards as Director of Player Personnel. Are they setting up to have her take over as coach if the team struggles again next season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:21 PM)

Interesting thing about Teresa Edwards is that she's never sounded that enthusiastic about coaching. Even when she worked as an assistant, I think it was kind of uneasy for her. Simply because she's a perfectionist to an extreme degree, and an old-school kind of basketball player. She has said she would not have the patience to work well with college players. But maybe head coaching at the pro level could still one day work for her. If nothing else, this gives the Shock a voice _ let's hope she's really listened to by coach/GM Nolan Richardson - of someone who knows women's basketball inside and out. I am going to talk to Teresa next week, so I'll get a chance to hear her thoughts on the new role.

Mary (WV)

Is there anything Baylor can do to bring in any new players to bolster their increasingly depleted ranks? Can they bring in junior college players to help replace their two prominent losses? Are they still serious contenders for a national championship?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:26 PM)

Baylor is still OK. This was a very deep team to begin with, so they are able to absorb two losses better than some teams would be. There are still seven guards on the roster, albeit not all as talented or experienced as the ones they've lost, with Shanay Washington's recent ACL and Kelli Griffin leaving the team. I do think that Baylor is still going to be in the NCAA title mix. But Washington's injury does mean the rest of the perimeter has to pick up more slack. It's definitely a blow ... but not a season-ruining blow by any means.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows)

Is it time to break out the O-VER-RA-TED chant for Notre Dame (Something I had been predicting from the beginning)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:30 PM)

Glenn, I do think since you were so adamant about Notre Dame in previous chats, you deserve to be able to say "over-rated." :) As always, I'll say that when voters do the rankings at the beginning of the season, a lot of it is a crapshoot. It just is. ND got the ranking it did largely because of reputation. I did my poll Sunday, and at several points I was saying, "OK, I don't know if this team is really any good or not." We just have to wait and see.

Dishin (CT)

So now the Washington Post has "an agenda" according to Ted Leonsis, and he doesn't understand the "thesis within" their recent article on the Mystics. *Sigh* Are the Mystics going to ever get this PR thing right?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:35 PM)

Let's just say I am not at all hopeful of that. There are just those franchises in sports that are perpetually screwed up and never really "get it," even after you think they've turned a corner. The Mystics seem to be one of them.

Cardinal (NYC)

Will Nikki Caldwell stays in LA or take an SEC job when available?And is Staley having success at South Carolina?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:41 PM)

It seems like Caldwell has been happy so far in her transition to the West coast and is building a good program. I don't know why, if she continues to make progress there, she'd be in a hurry to leave it, despite her playing/coaching history in the SEC. As for Staley at South Carolina, I've thought that was a job that was going to take some time to really judge in terms of whether she's "succeeding" or not. Kelsey Bone leaving the program didn't help, but by the same token maybe it did aid Staley in redefining some of her recruiting parameters. All coaches have to figure out what kinds of kids will best fit their system and their school, and sometimes it takes some misses to really have a feel for that.

Ruth (New York)

How about Oregon State winning it's first 3 games? Feel good story of the season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:44 PM)

All things considered, they couldn't have felt much worse at Oregon State, right? So *anything* positive is a beacon of hope. I don't know how good the Beavers will be feeling come Pac-10 season, but you wish for the sake of the program there is some real rebuilding work going on. It's tough, though. This program has been at or near the bottom of the league forever, and trying to change that culture is a mammoth undertaking.

Owen (Knoxville, TN)

What do you think Tennessee's chances are of shaking their recent postseason struggles and possibly winning a national championship this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:47 PM)

Really good, I think. If Tennessee stays injury-free, plays the kind of traditional defense the program is known for, has some kids hitting perimeter shots at least semi-consistently, and is aggressive on the boards, this group is going to be in very good shape for the postseason.

Ben (Atlanta)

Two schools that usually rank near the bottom of the SEC standings, Alabama and Arkansas, are both undefeated. Do you think this means the SEC as a whole will be more competitive or will we see the same teams sitting near the top again?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:52 PM)

Honestly, it's just too early to tell. A lot of squads can get off to decent starts, but non-conference play may be deceiving. That said, Alabama and Arkansas are both 5-0, and so at least there's some optimism around both programs. Bama's win over N.C. State did catch my eye. Bama and Arkansas also both do have some history of success - having been to the Final Four, albeit in the 1990s and under different coaches - so maybe this early surge really will carry into SEC play.

kevin (macon ga)

Tulane whipped Mississippi State by 20 and beat LSU on the road. Are they a top 25 team?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:56 PM)

Again, it's so early ... Mississippi State lost a lot to graduation, and LSU is not where it was last season, either. Still, these are victories over SEC schools, and that's noteworthy for Tulane. When voting for the AP poll, I'd guess most voters do what I do - they look at a lot of different programs early on and probably give them the benefit of the doubt (or not) based on whom they are playing and what conference the opponent is from.

Mary (WV)

Andy Landers recently racked up his 1,000th game coaching, yet he never seems to receive the same kind of acclaim as Pat Summitt or Geno Auriemma, or even C. Vivian Stringer or Tara van der Veer or Van Chancellor. Why do you think that is? Is it mostly because he's never won a national championship? (Let's face it, lots of good coaches have never won it all.) How would you rank him in the overall scheme of things in the history of the women's game? Where's his place in all of that?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:01 PM)

I don't think any women's college coach can expect to get the attention that Summitt and Auriemma have because those two have won so many championships. In comparison to the others you mentioned ... TVD has won the NCAA title twice and been in the past three Final Fours. Stringer and Chancellor have also more recently been in the FF than has Landers, whose last trip was in 1999. I think it's more that than anything. He's been a very important figure in the history of the women's game, though, obviously. Certainly one of the most prominent and important coaches in the modern college era of women's basketball.

Howard (PA)

What's the lastest word on the Purdue team's meningitis scare?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:06 PM)

Purdue's trip to Mexico, as mentioned, has been cancelled. Coach Sharon Versyp and team physician Alayne Sundstrom are having a press conference at Purdue at 4 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon. Purdue's release said Drey Mingo was in stable but critical condition after being hospitalized Tuesday afternoon. The team was in Indianapolis prepared to leave for the trip, but then came back to campus in West Lafayette. The release also said that coaches and team members have been given antibiotics as a precaution. Purdue's two most recent opponents, DePaul and South Dakota State, also have been advised of Mingo's condition.

Rommel (Phoenix)

Nebraska is coming off the best season in their history. Shouldn't they be playing a tougher non conference schedule? They could be 11-0 going into the Louisville game.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

The Huskers lost such a big senior class, coach Connie Yori probably didn't want to really challenge this younger squad too much early in the season. Especially because, in their last season in the Big 12, they will be challenged by their league foes. I think that's always a balancing act - you don't want to under-challenge a squad, either. Either way, I do think the Huskers have some good young talent and may make the transition away from that strong senior class better than perhaps some were expecting them to.

Dishin (CT)

Gee Notre Dame lost two games to two teams in the Top 15. They lost key components to last year's team, including their point guard. Diggins is adjusting to being the only PG. While I said from St.John's & Gtown should be better than the Irish, call me in March and let me know what their record is.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:11 PM)

Fair statement. This debate could go on all season. :)

Monica (Kansas City)

Watch the "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" special on Geno last night and at the end Bryant said something along the lines of its great that he's won 81 in a-row, but can we please stop comparing them to UCLA. Why such attitude from a show that was profiling him as a great coach? Why do fans of male sports continue to get angry that a women's team is in the spotlight and mentioned next to arguably the greatest college basketball team all time?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:16 PM)

I do think there's a balance here. It's *inevitable* that they will be compared to John Wooden and the UCLA squad. That said, I think it's OK to point out they are different sports. But what's at work here is that a lot of men are disdainful of women's athletics ever being taken as "seriously" as men's. It's almost like a pathological fear they have. Seriously. It's like, "Hey, we'll give you *some* spotlight, but always keep in mind that you're not as good as men's sports. Don't you EVER forget that. And don't worry, we'll constantly remind you of that." Which is exactly what Bryant Gumbel was doing. I'll just say I'm not the slightest bit surprised and leave it at that.

Tony (Emporia (KS))

Brittney Griner was criticized after the Uconn game, specifically by Swin Cash who twittered, "I havent seen Griner make 1 post move yet! She turns right shoulder every time so there's no need to foul" What did you think about this remark and from your observations what do you think Griner needs to work on? Post moves, footwork, rebounding, playing with more intensity... etc

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:25 PM)

Brittney is only a sophomore, and if I remember correctly, UConn's Tina Charles got plenty of criticism when she was that age, too. Brittney is trying to balance her size and increasing strength with still playing "in control" and not getting into foul trouble. I think back to someone like Ruth Riley who had to figure that out, too. Lots of talented centers must go through that. It's a demanding position with all eyes on you. Swin Cash's remarks should be looked at as helpful ... she knows her stuff. Criticism can be something to learn from, if you approach it that way.

Terrance (Raleigh)

Do you think the return of Jessica Breland at North Carolina will put them back into title contention this year? They have won all of their games handily so far. Is it because of the soft non-conference schedule or have they rebounded from last year's less than stellar season with her return?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:28 PM)

UNC doesn't have a reputation for playing a great non-conf. schedule, and as good as Breland is, she can't fix everything that was out of balance with that squad last season. I do think it's bound to be a stronger squad, for sure, with her. National title contention? Not ready to go there yet. But I think they could challenge Duke for the ACC title.

David (Pittsburgh)

Mechelle, I think men have a disdain for UConn's 81-game winning streak because people like yourself are trying to shove it down our throats that what UConn is accomplishing is on par with what UCLA did. It's not. Most of UConn's victories have come against cupcakes. The Huskies have probably played 10 teams (if even that) that going into the game people felt had a chance to challenge them. Also, the fact UConn hasn't played Tennessee during the streak also take some luster off of it in some people's view.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:35 PM)

OK, first off, I really don't think I have made a big fuss about UConn and UCLA. What TV does is their deal. But what in sports isn't shoved down our throats now? It's the nature of the beast when you're filling 24 hours of airtime, 365 days a year. Got enough Brett Favre lately? Seen enough of Bristol Palin's dancing and yacking about it? I still think there is a knee-jerk reaction to women's sports even being compared to men's sports. Many men simply need to hear endlessly that they are better and more important. So we say it endlessly. And it's *still* not enough. But on another tangent ... how good were all of UCLA's opponents during its streak? They *never* played a team that was overmatched? Look, In the end, it's not UConn's fault if the media want to make a big deal of their streak, if other teams didn't challenge them enough (cupcake or not), or if people want to get bent out of shape because they are being compared to UCLA's men. All UConn cares about is winning another NCAA title.

kevin (macon ga)

David in Pittsburgh has a very selective memory. Very few of UCLA's opponents were considered a threat back in the day. MCBB in those days was not deep in good teams, certainly not as deep as today's WCBB.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows)

With tourney teams and at least 3 ranked nonconference teams I guess the FDA legalized cynide as almond flavoring for people to accuse Uconn of playing cupcakes...in fact, some of the weakest opponents Uconn faced during the streak were IN CONFERENCE which is considered the toughest in WBB...so Cupcakes?

Tiffany (South Carolina)

What do you think of Stanford's chances of finally winning a national championship?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:40 PM)

Several questions on the Cardinal. Should they have won their games so far by a bigger margin? Are they too big and not quick enough? Will fast guards do too much damage to them? Again, we will know a lot more about Stanford by the time the calendar turns to 2011. Facing the likes of Tennessee, UConn and Xavier will give some answers to these questions. Ultimately, I think they could continue to be hurt by really quick guards, yes. Depends on when and where the Cardinal might have to face that. Oh, but about the the national championship ... yes, they will be in contention to win, as has been the case the last few seasons.

Alex (Ellington, CT)

In watching Uconn-Baylor, I was left with the conclusion that, by the end of the year, Maya Moore will have more depth around her than Taurasi did during her final two years at UConn. The talent is young, but the first year players seem to have the talent and audacity necessary to play at a championship level. Would you agree, and how would you assess the depth of the rest of the field relative to 2003-04?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:43 PM)

I would agree, and that's not meant to disparage those 2003-04 UConn players. But I do think this group has a higher talent ceiling. As for the rest of the field, I thought that was part of why what DT did was as impressive as it was. There was a feeling of national parity - or something like it - in 2003 and 2004 during the regular season, for sure. But then UConn still won it all. The Huskies may like that parallel to this season.

KC Aggie (Work)

Your thoughts of this year's A&M team and how far they can go. Also your thoughts on Gary Blair. I think he's the best coach in the Big XII.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:45 PM)

This should be another strong A&M team ... Blair has a good system in place and finds players who like the play his style. He is a smart coach who knows what things to leave up to his assistants. I think the fact that he delegates well is an under-appreciated part of his success.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:50 PM)

Sorry, actually had to take a break to talk about men's soccer. But I'm back for a little longer.

Terrance (Raleigh)

Do you think Kellie Harper has what it takes to be anywhere near as great as her former coach, Pat Summitt? It was a tough position to come into but I think she has done her best to mold NC State into "her" team without taking anything away from Kay Yow's legacy there.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:51 PM)

Harper's track record of success in coaching has been pretty impressive, and I do admire the way she honored Coach Yow while still carving her own identity. It's still early for her, of course, and she has to continue to make headway in recruiting. And she's still growing as a coach. Everything I've seen from her, I've liked. But it's really not fair to put Summitt up as a benchmark for anybody.

Elizabeth (Andover)

Do the Purdue games in Mexico become losses on their record? Obviously, the health of the team and especially Drey is most important, but I was curious how this works.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:54 PM)

I don't know exactly how this will be handled, but I think the games will just be cancelled. Recall when there was a family tragedy with Arizona State in a November 2006 tournament, Rutgers accepted a cancellation of that game and did not even consider asking for a forfeit. There's some scrambling that has to be one with the schedule in Mexico, though. I would imagine that's being worked out now. The paramount thing in all of this, of course, is Drew Mingo's health. I'm sure that's all Purdue cares about right now.

David (Pittsburgh)

Kevin and Mechelle, my point was that UCLA had legitimate threats back then. Notre Dame had Adrian Dantley and John Shumate, North Carolina State had David Thompson and Tom Burleson, Memphis had Larry Kenon, and Maryland had Tom McMillian, John Lucas and Len Elmore. All of those players played in the NBA, and each one of those teams resided in different regions of the country. And I didn't even bring up Indiana, Kentucky or North Carolina. My point was UConn (to no fault of its own) hasn't had a team out there where it had to say, "We better keep an eye on that team." In fact, I think it's safe to say that women's basketball has been that way since the early 1990s, when you had Virginia, Western Kentucky, Southern Cal, Texas, Tennessee, Old Dominion, Georgia, Auburn, Stephen F. Austin, La. Tech and Stanford as serious contenders to win a national title in any given year.

Patrick (Yonkers, NY)

Hey Mechelle! I may be thinking ahead, but I was wondering about your thoughts on next year upcoming draft? I think we're all pretty certain Maya's going first, but then I feel like there are a lot of great players who can go after her. Who do you think is going #2? (Also, are we certain that Cambage is coming from Australia?)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:58 PM)

Cambage's status was brought up in a recent chat, but I don't know if there's been anything concrete about her coming over here to play recently. Maybe it's a decision she won't make until closer to draft time. I do think there are some pretty good players that will be available, but the reality is that it's hard for very many rookies to make a big impact on the league. With only 12 teams, it's just difficult to get a spot.

Mary (WV)

Do you think Elena Delle Donne will make it to the pros? Do you think she regrets leaving UConn?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:02 PM)

I have only talked to Elena in person last season, and she seemed pretty much like she was happy to be where she was, at home in Delaware. She is one of the smoothest, purest offensive players I've ever seen in the women's game. As most will point out, though, her defense is not possibly going to be as good as it would have if she'd gone to UConn. So the keys will be how much she wants to play professionally and how much she can improve defensively when she's at that level. That said, she's so good on offense, I'd take her as a mediocre defender.

Julia Coleman (florida)

I know there are games in between, but Gtown is likely to face UTennessee with both unbeaten on neutral court. Your prediction?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:04 PM)

I generally do not pick against Tennessee in games like this. History would indicate strongly that they don't often lose these games. But this would be a nice matchup for Georgetown to get a feel for how good it really is.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows)

After a key OT win against a quality and evenly matched Wisconsin (I have them both on the early early bubble) team do you think KU coach Bonnie Henrickson has the Jayhawks finally tourney-ready?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:08 PM)

I've thought it before and been wrong. So ... I do think this team has the potential to be very good in the post, and new assistant coach Tory Verdi (who came from Nebraska) should help in that regard. But there are still some youngsters who will have to step forward, and the Jayhawks have kind of been generally snake-bitten in past seasons. So I have my reservations about Kansas, I guess you'd say.

Mutt Helms (South Dakota)

Mechelle... Happy stuffing and gravy day to you! What do you think South Dakota State's chances of making the dance are this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:10 PM)

I don't have a good read on SDSU yet this season, but I will try to educate myself before next chat. Obviously, this is one of those programs that finds ways to compete even when it doesn't have the top talent. So I admire that.

E.J. (San Antonio)

The rumor going around is that the Silver Stars are close to addressing their coaching situation. Have you heard anything?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:11 PM)

No, actually I haven't. But ... I must admit the Silver Stars haven't been really high on my radar recently. :) It's still the WNBA job out there that's open, though, so hopefully *they* know what they're doing ... even if we don't yet.

Howard (PA)

Is there any turkey in Ripley's near futue? :-)

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:14 PM)

My dog actually does like Tofurkey quite a lot. And I do share. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:18 PM)

OK, I think perhaps I have exhausted the questioners? :) And all this talk of tofurkey has made me a bit hungry. Thanks for the questions, and I will be back next week on Thursday as normally scheduled. For you volleyball fans, the NCAA selection show is Sunday afternoon at around 3 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN News. Happy Thanksgiving.