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December 10, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:09 PM)

Good afternoon. Had a little connection trouble, but am here now. Let's get going.

Madeline (New York)

Is Donna Orender' sudden resignation a bad sign for women's basketball, perhaps suggesting that the WNBA might not be in as great of shape as she had constantly told everyone? Orender said the move was for family reason, but if you read into David Stern's words, you could draw your own conclusion that there might be more to her leaving. What do you think?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

Everyone should be pretty aware that the league has challenges, and Orender's too-much-sunshine view probably wasn't believed by most observers. I did get the sense that there had been some friction with her and NBA commissioner David Stern, but wasn't sure what the nature of that was. There are things that go on in the WNBA/NBA offices that you can only kind of guess at or get people to talk about off the record, if at all. Stern sounded committed to the WNBA when I talked to him. But he didn't sound like he was concerned about Donna leaving.

Dave (Cleveland Tn)

Why is the OSU vs UConn game scheduled for ESPNU and not ESPN or ESPN2. This game will have more casual fans wanting to watch this game. Potential audience could be larger then UConn vs Tenn prior matchups.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:18 PM)

A lot of factors go into the decisions on television games, and I genuinely don't know what they all are. I know Carol Stiff at ESPN works really hard to get good windows for women's hoops teams, but I will have to try to find out the specifics on this one.

Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

100-55 in College Station last night?? Does Purdue have any hope this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:21 PM)

That was a sad score. I admit I saw that and really felt bad for Purdue, a proud program that is going through some tough times. I would never write off a team's chances based on what happened in November and December, though. The Boilermakers have been through a lot emotionally with Drey Mingo's illness, and they are probably still trying to figure a lot of things out. Also, going to A

Peyton (USA)

Let's say UCONN breaks the streak..is the 2001-2002 squad still the best ever?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:25 PM)

I think that 2001-2002 team is still the best team, and the UConn coaching staff has said that, too. The streak, of course, encompasses three teams, with Maya Moore as the key figure as part of all three. Maybe the debate should be, "Is Maya Moore the best-ever UConn player if she wins another NCAA title?"

kevin (macon ga)

The Belmont soccer situation is confusing to me. The president of the university says does not consider sexual orientation in its hiring or dismissals, but then declines to give any other reason for Coach Howe being forced out. Does he really think anyone will believe his spin?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:29 PM)

I think Belmont has never had any national spotlight before, and so they have no idea how to deal with this. They figured they could do this and no one would question them on it. They didn't figure it to become a national story, so now they are scrambling and few people are going to find them credible.

Eileen (Washington, DC)

What's up with Georgetown?!!!

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

Lots of questions about the Hoyas ... and no answers. I don't think any of us can figure them out. Except to say this is a team with one super-talented player but is not a group that has figured out how to play with any consistency. That is not uncommon, but Georgetown is taking it to the extreme.

Kate (Seattle, Washington)

I read your blog about the NCAA's not-so-good-job of putting together the bracket for volleyball. The same thing has happened with soccer and basketball in the past. Why does it seem that the NCAA screw up the brackets when it comes to female sports but not so with the men?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:38 PM)

I would imagine that folks who closely follow other sports could come up with past instances of men's brackets that had glaring errors. But ... I do think it happens more often in women's sports. Part of it is that the committees aren't necessarily put together in a way that guarantees the people on them really demonstrate good knowledge of the sport and an ability to critically evaluate teams.Too often, committee membership has been just another "administrative duty" for members. I've also thought at times, the NCAA has some subtle - but impacting _ behind-the-scenes agendas with these brackets. The only way this improves is if people point out the problems and ask for explanations. The NCAA and the committees need to know people are paying attention.

Drew (Sf)

How is Iowa State so good and so terrible all at the same time? It seems like when ever they lose it is always badly.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

That's actually a really interesting observation. Part of it is the Cyclones depend *so* much on the 3-point shot. They always have. And that is something that isn't always "there" for teams. When it's not, it throws off their entire offense and also takes away their energy on defense. They can win without the "3" but it's a lot more difficult for them. Last night, they were 2 of 9 from behind the arc. Plus, it was in Iowa City and I'm sure Iowa was especially eager to shut down the Cyclones.

joseph Pecylak (florida)

In all the time I've watched Ohio State, Prahalis is always praised for all the assists she gets but most of them are to Jantel Lavender. While Lavender is good and I certainly would want to pass to her, will we not know how good Prahalis is until Lavender is gone?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

Indeed, it is going to be interesting to see how good Prahalis and Ohio State will be next season when Lavender has moved on to the WNBA. Prahalis is very, very good but will have to adjust when she doesn't have a post player who runs the floor and finishes at the level that Lavender does.

Howard (PA)

Since you've gotten to know Louella Tomlinson a bit better, do you think she's got a future at the pro level?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:50 PM)

She'll play overseas and/or back home in Australia, for sure. It will be tough for her to try to crack a WNBA roster, though. But she was just a delightful kid to talk with and someone who really appreciates the opportunity she's getting to play college ball in the United States. A really mature and aware young person, exactly what we hope college sports helps produce. In her case, a great family is part of it, too. It usually is.

Justin (Texas)

The Baylor/Tennessee matchup on Tuesday ought to be a great one..How do you see this playing out?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:54 PM)

We're all looking forward to that. As with every other team, I'll be curious how Tennessee opts to defend Griner, and how well Baylor's defense can disrupt Tennessee. I give an edge to Baylor, but I would guess most people do.

Justin (Texas)

I was wondering what your thoughts are on the surprise teams in the Big 12? There always seems to be one or two every year who sneak in behind the coattails of the "typical" powers in the Big 12. Who do you think is going to try and make a decent run?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:59 PM)

I am probably going to chastise myself later for saying this ... but maybe Kansas really has something going this year. I've believed they had the personnel before, but never felt sure they had the right chemistry or mindset. I don't know that they do this year, either, but it is a possibility. Overall, though, I think the Big 12 is in a down cycle, compared to some of the conference's better years.

tom (san francisco)

What do you think of the Iowa Hawkeyes season so far and their chances in the Big Ten, especially after dominating Iowa State last night?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:04 PM)

I have to say, lots of questions today about Iowa (there are several I won't get a chance to post). The Hawkeyes are really off to a nice start, with the only loss being at UNC. So far, the Big Ten has been off to a pretty good start as well. Do I think the Hawkeyes have a shot at winning the league? Yes, they could give the Buckeyes a challenge. Their meetings are Jan. 8 at Iowa City - I hope to be at that game - and Jan. 24 at Ohio State.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Thoughts on Tennessee this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:07 PM)

We're going to have a much better idea about Tennessee in the next week-plus, with games at Texas, at Baylor and then back in Knoxville against Stanford. Dec. 19 is some day, isn't it? UConn-OSU and Tennessee-Stanford.

Barry (Phoenix, AZ)

Can I count on your support in my campaign for me to replace Donna O? :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:12 PM)

I thought you were after Stern's job, right? :) In all seriousness, I hope the next WNBA president does homework in finding out how fans/observers feel about the league. People have some really good ideas, and they have some complaints that the league never seems to address.

kevin (macon ga)

Which Texas A&M player is a better WNBA prospect: Danielle Adams or Sydney Colson?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:14 PM)

Both very good players who each have a liability/question mark. Can Adams really get into WNBA playing shape and stay there? And can Colson stay healthy? She's had a lot of knee issues.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows)

Is the Orender Legacy Positive (TV, Sponsorship, Independent Ownership) Negative (Comets, Monarchs, Detroit/Tulsa contract controversy, 11 Player/1 AC rule) or somewhere in between?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:19 PM)

I would go with "somewhere in between." She faced some challenges with the economy that I don't think anyone could have done much with. But I also question if she was a great consensus builder or a really strong, compelling figure of leadership. Especially at some times when the league really needed that. She should have been more of a voice during difficult times, saying, "Yes, this is rough, but the league will get through this."

Victor (Round Rock, Texas)

The SEC has long been the toughest conference in the nation, but which league do you think now has that title.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:25 PM)

I hope I don't sound like a grump, because I don't mean it in a grumpy way. But I'm not exactly blown away by any conference so far this season. Maybe I've become a harsher critic. However, the Big Ten is off to a strong start, which is good to see. I still think it's too early to make any sweeping pronouncements.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows)

With the passing of Don Merideth and in retrospect I realized something the W and WCBB has missing...the VOICE of the sport.someone who draws viewers because they and the WNBA are one to them, NHL has Mike Emerick, NBA has Marv, NFL Had Meridith, then John Madden, MLB Had Mel Allen, College Basketball, Dickie V, NASCAR Benny Parsons during it's growth explosion. Someone who is 100% THAT SPORT, nothing else that tells you THIS IS THAT SPORT if you like it or not.Does the W need someone like this (Remeber the Linda Cohn expirement) and who COULD become that person to help the league grow.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:36 PM)

All the guys you mentioned had/have very strong personalities and were allowed to display that on the air. They were just themselves. Like Vitale - I know he drives some people nuts, but that's really what he's like. He's that fired up about men's college hoops. One of the issues that women's announcers have faced is that they haven't been encouraged to be like that. In fact, they've probably been somewhat discouraged. And I think sometimes women's announcers are worried about criticizing or offending anyone. I don't know if Diana Taurasi is ever going to get into broadcasting, but she'll have to stop playing someday and she might be great on TV if it's something she wanted to do. Lots of people would love her, some would hate her - just like it is for her as a player. She'd draw people in. Part of this is also that women's hoops is still growing. The sport finding its various "voice" or "voices" may come in a subsequent generation.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:39 PM)

Thanks for all the questions and sorry for all the ones I did not get to. I also didn't get to the top-five coaches in NCAA history ... let's start with that next week. I think I've formulated my list ... I did not have trouble with top four, but I have waffled a lot on No. 5. For those of you into soccer/volleyball, men's soccer College Cup semis tonight (I am covering them in Santa Barbara) and final is Sunday. Women's volleyball regional semis tonight, finals Saturday. Chat with you next week, when volleyball Final Four will be in Kansas City.