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December 23, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:03 PM)

Good afternoon. Anybody going for a milestone in women's hoops tonight? I kind of hope not. I might need to get some presents bought.

AJ . Charlotte NC [via mobile]

How Will The Addition Of Destiny Williams Help Baylor?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:07 PM)

The Illinois transfer is another body in the post to help with scoring and rebounding. And she's a skilled player, whom coach Kim Mulkey has spoken well about. To get that kind of infusion as Baylor is soon to go into the league season is great for the Bears but not such good news for the rest of the Big 12.

Tommy (New York)

Do you think someone at UConn or the Big East got to Geno after his comments ripping the media after the Ohio State game? He was on Pardon The Interruption the next day and he was packpeddaling on his comments faster than Deion Sanders, saying he was only joking. And another thing, does Geno realizes that it's not a good idea to pick a fight with the media? After all, there's a reason there's that saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword."

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:18 PM)

Everybody has their own take on Geno and why he does what he does with media. Some swear it's all planned out and pre-meditated in detail, that he wanted to take "pressure" off his team ... but I don't necessarily think that's so. I always say he speaks in hyperbole at all times, and it's passionate, usually funny, and I think less planned-out than some others believe it is. He's an emotional guy who loves his team, and the "miserable blankety-blanks" do get to him at times. Look, I'll admit they can get to me, and I'm just a writer. So I could see where he was blowing off steam, being protective of his kids, being his usual self ... but all that Geno thinks is never going to wrapped up in one sentence or even one press conference, you know? He knows that the women weren't "breaking" the UCLA record, I think that was just a poor way for him to phrase what they are doing. But he was right that you have people who will find any excuse to denigrate women's sports no matter what.

Mike (Los Angeles)

Is it me or does it seem like the reporters who vote on the Top 25 poll don't have a clue? You were at the UConn-Florida State game. Did you see anything that would make you think that Florida State is a top 25 team? I didn't.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:24 PM)

I have voted in the poll for more years than I remember, actually, and I often feel like I don't have a clue. It can be really hard to gauge teams across the whole country for the non-conference season. It becomes a little easier in league play. But it's not like you can conceivably watch every potentially poll-worthy team each week and feel like you've got a great handle on *exactly* how they all compare to each other. So teams get into the poll early more on reputation ... and the more history they have, the longer they stick around. Eventually, by the end of the season we're closer to an accurate top 25. Also about Florida State, the way UConn has been playing during the streak, the Huskies tend to make all foes look as if they don't belong in the rankings. FSU's loss to Yale, though, was more troublesome.

Ryan (Happy Valley)

What is different about the Lady Lions of Penn State this year? Will their defense be good enough to compete in the Big Ten because their offense sure is.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:29 PM)

They have put up some big numbers offensively, haven't they? But defense, as you note, is going to be a major factor in the Big Ten. In Penn State's 84-73 loss to Drexel on Tuesday, that was a problem. The Dec. 30 game against Iowa will give some indication if Penn State can really make some noise in the Big Ten this season.

Dishin (Farmington)

When the names of those that can knock off UConn are listed on ESPN, etc. they list a few, but all are overlooking West Virginia. Personally, I think other than Stanford, that game in Morgantown is the best chance to beat the Huskies. Thoughts?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

Yes, I totally agree, and I think the Big East experts have been looking at that one for a while. That would be a huge moment for the West Virginia program if it can happen.

Kevin McCaffrey (brookfield,ct)

Stanford has senior point guard along with four tall athletic front line players. The uconn front line excluding Maya is poor matchup for them. Can you see Stanford using a matchup zone and themselves pounding the ball inside to win this game by 10 or more?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:37 PM)

You have been practicing your X's and O's, haven't you? Undoubtedly, Stanford's strength, by far, is in the post and most times pounding the ball inside is going to be their best game plan, although I sure liked how Jeanette Pohlen played at Tennessee. What will be really interesting is seeing how Stanford approaches Xavier and the twin towers on Dec. 28, and then how that might affect how they approach UConn. This is also giving Stanford almost a Final Four primer, in a way, playing two teams that good with just a day between games. Not that Stanford isn't pretty experienced with the Final Four.

Mary (Florida)

Do you think UConn beating No. 10 Ohio State and No. 25 Florida State each by 30 points say more about how good UConn is, or how bad the rest of women's hoops is? My point is that Duke is No. 1 on the men's side, but they're not going to beat the No. 10 and No. 20 teams by 30 points.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:47 PM)

I don't know that it's impossible for Duke's men to beat ranked teams by 30 points. But I don't think that has anything to do with the first question, which is did UConn's big victories say more about UConn or the other teams? I guess it says something about both: that UConn is supremely confident (and should be) and that against that standard, Ohio State and Florida State didn't match up. But Baylor did, and I think Stanford could and some of the Big East teams. I'm not sure there's one "right" answer about this. UConn is like a speeding train now. It's like when Steffi Graf used to beat the stuffing out of people in Grand Slam finals ... even though her foes had looked very good in the semifinals. Was she that good or were they that bad? Or was it more than she was so at the top of her game that she made them look worse than they actually were? Yes, I like breaking out the Steffi Graf references.

kevin (macon ga)

The WNBA's TV schedule makes no sense to me. All this coverage of Maya Moore will be long forgotten by the time the Lynx make their lone ESPN appearance in August. The Eastern Conference champs, who were the second highest scoring team in the league, don't make national TV after the opening week. But we get the plodding old Sparks, who look to be pretty terrible again, four times. Is Candace Parker really that big of a draw?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:52 PM)

Last year we got "over-Sparked" on televised games, which was especially not good when Parker went out for the season. I can see tipping off with Phoenix and Seattle for obvious reasons, but am stunned that Maya and Minnesota - well, we assume the Lynx will draft her - aren't on very early in the season, too. I can't understand that at all.

Dishin (Farmington)

How about Houston and Marist's holiday tournament performances?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:56 PM)

They were leavin' Las Vegas pretty pleased with themselves, especially Marist, which is now 9-2 and beat Louisville, Nebraska and Houston out there. Houston at 8-2 has to feel fairly good, too. Nebraska got some things exposed, losing three in a row in Vegas. Not to surprising; Huskers are going to hit some rough patches with their youth.

Anthony (Charlotte NC) [via mobile]

Where Do U See Angie Bjourkland Being Drafted In The Wnba And What Type Of Player Do U Think She Will Be?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:02 PM)

Yes, Bjorklund should get drafted, but she's going to have to become a more consistent perimeter shooter to find a productive place in the league. Ex-Tennessee player Shanna Zolman Crossley has done alright, when she hasn't been injured, in the WNBA. I'm not saying they're identical players, but it's a comparison. Although some folks seem to be upset about the use of the word "comparison" lately. :)

Tommy (New York)

You said that the "miserable blankety-blanks" get to you like they do Geno, and that some of those same people do everything to bring down women's sports. Do you not think that Geno's "back to the kitchen" remark was more harmful than any of the reporters did? Even if Geno was joking, that's not something you joke about.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:03 PM)

That part was regrettable and really unnecessary, I agree. He pushes too far at times.

Mary (WV)

Is the UConn streak diminshed in any way by the fact that they never played Tennessee during it? Will there always be a little asterisk next to the streak if they didn't play their biggest rivals during the accumulation of that record?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

I don't know how many people will think of it that way, especially since it wasn't UConn that ended the series. It would have been very interesting to see how UConn would have done in a trip to Knoxville during the streak, but they didn't have that opportunity, so ... It is something that does cross my mind, which I don't say to make UConn fans mad. It just does. But I can't bring myself to put a mental asterisk on it, because it wasn't UConn's decision to avoid Tennessee. The Huskies would have wanted to play them, too, for sure.

RP (US)

Kathleen Nash has increased her scoring by over five points, from 11.7 as a junior to 16.8 as a senior, while also contributing over eight rebounds a game. Is she a possible first round pick?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:16 PM)

I have not talked to any WNBA scouts about her, so I couldn't give an opinion from that perspective. She has a lot of moxie as a player, and she's been under the radar to a large degree at Texas. A lot may depend on how well she does in the Big 12 season as more eyes are on her.

Steve (CT)

C'mon Mechelle! Tennessee hasn't even been that good during the streak! How many final fours did they make?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:23 PM)

Sigh, I knew someone would respond this way. :) Last year, Tennessee was good enough to win the SEC regular season and tourney titles. Yes, they lost in the NCAAs to Baylor, which then got crushed by UConn. And, yes, Tennessee lost in the NCAA first round to Ball State in 2009. And they have lost twice so far this year, including to Baylor, which UConn beat. But ... going into Knoxville may still have been a test of SOME sort for UConn. Maybe not, but it could have been interesting.

Ted (California)

Thanks for a great article on Tara today! It seems that fans often forget that teams evolve during the course of a basketball season. Which teams do you think are a work in progress and will change the most by tournament time?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:28 PM)

Thanks. Although she surely didn't want the two losses to DePaul and Tennessee, TVD did get to celebrate 800 in a good place, surrounded by people who love her. That was nice to see. I tend to think "work in progress" is something *every* coach says, but it's not always true. Some teams don't get all that much better in league play. But some do. I'm sure there are more than these two, but I'll mention them: Oklahoma and Duke. Even though Oklahoma just lost, I think with Whitney Hand coming back and so many young players, they really are a work in progress. Duke, with its talented freshmen, probably is, too. Which leads us to ...

Sue (Durham, NC)

Some Duke fans have taken notice of your write up of the Duke/Xavier game. Your remarks happen to echo what I've been saying for four years (and taken a lot of grief for). What do you think Duke's Coach McCallie could/should do to improve the shooting percentages of the players? I'd like to see a lot more screens - high, low and in-between to create lanes for talented slashers. Thoughts?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:37 PM)

I understand some Duke fans think criticism of McCallie's system is all based on some kind of personal dislike for her because she's not Gail Goestenkors, who incidentally has her share of critics among Texas fans. But that has nothing to do with why I've been critical of Duke's system ...and I doubt it's why you and others have been, either. Duke had upgraded to getting really good talent under GG, and that's something McCallie has maintained. I just think McCallie is still playing a style of basketball that she needed when she had lesser talent. It seems she's not quite adjusted to the fact that she's driving a better race car now. Everything you said has merit - Duke's screening really could be better - as does the even more basic concept of being offensively unpredictable. Not every coach is great at that, but you don't have to be if you get an assistant who is. The head coach doesn't need to be great at everything, but does need to supplement what he or she isn't top-notch at doing. I think for Duke to truly challenge for national championships, that has to happen.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:49 PM)

In closing, I will say this. UCLA's streak is in men's basketball. Bravo. UConn's is in women's basketball. Bravo. Comparisons are a form of complimenting something you think is great. Yes, Geno fired up the trolls and also ticked off some people who don't understand or acknowledge that every once in a while, lots of those involved in women's sports feel like calling trolls "miserable blankety-blanks." Those who say to compare the streaks is "insulting" UCLA are stating that it's extremely more difficult for men to beat men than for women to beat women, and I don't buy that at all. This has nothing to do with whether UCLA's men - or men's basketball in general - would win head-to-head on court with UConn's women and women's basketball in general. It's about comparing two excellent achievements, which is something we do all the time in sports. All praise to the legend of UCLA's men. And congrats to UConn's women. If you can't smile with admiration about what that group of student-athletes in Storrs has done to make college sports great, then in my book you *are* a miserable blankety-blank. :) Happy holidays, folks! :)