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January 13, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:04 PM)

Good afternoon, and I hope wherever you are, it is warmer than it is in greater Kansas City. We're at about 8 degrees windchill at the moment. But, it's perfectly fine indoors.

Blake Whitney (Washington, DC)

Other than their reputation, can you justify why Oklahoma is ranked? They've beaten no one with an RPI of better than 66, and are somehow ranked ahead of all three teams that have beaten them.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:09 PM)

Reputation is a lot of what goes into poll voting. There is just no getting around that. Oklahoma was not on my top-25 ballot this week, but that doesn't mean I don't have some teams on there that people could question. I think it's rather difficult to come up with 25 iron-clad teams that you feel very sure are good enough to be ranked right now. Although that term - "good enough to be ranked" - is pretty hard to pin down. Means different things to different people.

Rommel (Phoenix)

Georgia Tech seems to be an up and coming team. Will they be the first to beat Duke?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:12 PM)

I did rank Georgia Tech this week, at No. 23. Not sure if the Jackets will beat Duke in Durham on Jan. 21; they'd have a better chance, of course, in Atlanta. Duke goes to Florida State on Friday, and that trip can be dangerous for all the other ACC teams.

jbb1985 (ny)

Which regular season rematch would you look forward to the most in the NCAAs?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:16 PM)

Right now, I'd say Baylor vs UConn. That game was so close, and both teams have grown - and will continue to grow - in many ways. I have a feeling that may be Baylor's only loss going into the NCAA tournament, although we'll see if some Big 12 road game trips up Baylor. I don't think they will lose at home.

Mary (WV)

UConn squeaked past Notre Dame in the final seconds. Do you think other teams are looking at UConn now and smelling blood in the water? Who else is left in the season that can give UConn the best challenge?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:22 PM)

That imagery is probably too extreme for what opponents might feel. I don't think they see UConn as vulnerable so much as they may see that they're not totally invincible. Which may sound like an arcane difference. But what I mean is, I feel that even pretty good and confident teams did not see any opening against the Huskies the past couple of years. Now, at least the door has been cracked. Even though West Virginia just lost to Marquette, you'd have to think that Feb. 8 game at W.Va. might be challenging for UConn. I also think Notre Dame may do a good job in coming to Connecticut on Feb. 22. And with Georgetown - who knows? They've been so unpredictable. But maybe in those back-to-back road games the Huskies have on Jan. 25-30 - at Georgetown and DePaul - either the Hoyas or Blue Demons might pull an upset. The odds are still not great, but at least there is a sense that it is a possibility to beat the Huskies.

Brittany (Nashville)

With Alyssia Brewer not making the trip to Florida with the team and Vicki Baugh not playing much at all, do you think Pat Summitt plans to use a medical redshirt on them? Furthermore, do you think that the Lady Vols can compete for a title without these big-time post players?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:28 PM)

Vicki Baugh has played in nine games already and had a medical redshirt last year, so that isn't going to be an option this year. Alyssia Brewer has played in just four games, and I know there has been a lot of talk among Tennessee followers of the possibility of redshirting her. But everything I've heard points to Tennessee hoping that Brewer is able to be healthy enough to be a contributor this season when it matters most: February and March. They're both potentially important factors on this team, no doubt, but I would not say it's *impossible* for Tennessee to compete for a championship without substantial contributions from them. But it will make a difference to have them. Baugh, especially, brings a rebounding presence and toughness as a defender that I think Tennessee missed last season.

Kelly (Maryland)

Hi Mechelle, did you happen to catch Duke vs Maryland? I was impressed with young Terrapins performance save for their collapse down the stretch. Do you think the Terps can make some noise in the ACC and NCAA tournament this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:34 PM)

Yes, I did see that game last week, and while I've been critical of the "entertainment" value of some of Duke's recent marquee games, I should compliment this game on being more fun to watch. There were some really good aspects of that game for Maryland, but they don't yet have the kind of leader that Jasmine Thomas has been for Duke. Considering it was on the road at the start of ACC season _ and the Terps were right there until near the end when Duke made some terrific defensive plays to gain control - Maryland definitely has reasons for optimism.

Kelly (Maryland)

Despite their loss on Saturday against the huskies, I came away very impressed with Notre Dame. Their defense is the best I've seen under Muffet McGraw and if they can get Peters and Achonwa playing consistently at a high level, they can go far this year. I was down on Skylar Diggins earlier this season, but after watching her against Uconn, my opinion has changed. While she might not have gaudy stats, her value to the team is immeasurable. I've seen her pass up open shots in favor of getting a better percentage shot for her teammates and of course her on ball defense is outstanding. I do think she is deserving of All America honors this year.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:39 PM)

It was a good showing for the Irish, and Skylar Diggins is displaying the kind of improvement that can come as a player moves from freshman to sophomore. She's in that group of top guards in the country, certainly.

Rommel (Phoenix)

The Wooden list is out and Jeanette Pohlen is not on it. A big miss if you ask me.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:44 PM)

I'd have to agree. Sometimes these award lists get really "set" in people's minds before the season even starts. Then when players elevate their games for a team that already has a couple of "predicted" players who are expected to be in the awards mix, that other player is left out. I'm not defending the process, but I do understand why it happens. People came into this season thinking mostly of Nneka Ogwumike and Kayla Pedersen, for good reason. But Pohlen has been as much an MVP for the Cardinal as anyone.

Scott (Austin)

Where does Texas go from here? Looks like they could start 0-4 in the Big XII.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:51 PM)

The Longhorns have Oklahoma at home on Sunday, and while I am hesitant to use the term "must-win" in January, that game is close to "must-win" for Texas. Then the Horns have to go to Texas AM (by the way, ampersands screw up the chat for some reason, which is why I try to not use them) and the Aggies have had coach Gail Goestenkors' number since she came to the Big 12. I am not trying to do some kind of Big 12 commercial here, since I think plenty of leagues are tough. But with the Big 12, unless you are a powerhouse like Baylor is this year, you are absolutely going to lose some conference games, often more than one in a row. You can't afford to get too bogged down in your losses, because there is always a chance if you have some talent - which Texas does - to get on a good roll again. That takes a lot of emotional maturity, though, and we'll have to see if Texas has that.

Mary (WV)

Who will be the dispenser of Diana Taurasi's punishment and when is it expected to be handed down? Who's the ruling body in this story?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:57 PM)

I believe the Turkish Basketball Federation would dispense the punishment, and if that happens, it then it would be a matter of how far in the appellate process Diana Taurasi would attempt to go if she chose that route. There is no hard and fast schedule about when the punishment may come, but if it's going to happen, I would expect in the next month or so if close to a standard timetable is followed.

Marisa (Austin, TX)

In the past few years, things like suspensions, injuries and inexperience were offered as excuses for while Texas hasn't been the power most envisioned when they hired Coach Goestenkors. After blowing a 12-point lead with 3 minutes left vs. Missouri and getting dominated by Baylor, will you finally admit that the Coach G experience at UT is a bust. Astute fans realize it would take a little time to get things going, but this program has regressed every year under Coach G.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:05 PM)

There is this sentiment from some folks in Austin. I don't agree, but fans have their right to see things as they choose. My feeling is still that the program was not in the great shape that you apparently think it was when Jody Conradt retired. Baylor, Texas AM and Oklahoma were all ahead of Texas in the Big 12. If Texas really wants to get rid of a coach after three-plus seasons despite NCAA tournament appearances each year, then buy out her contract and go find somebody you think is better.

jbb1985 (ny)

Which two teams have been the biggest positive surprises season-to-date, and which two have been unexpectedly challenged teams this year vs. your expectations?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:17 PM)

I didn't necessarily expect Michigan State and DePaul to have as strong a season as both have had so far. Am looking forward to tonight's Michigan State-Iowa game on the Big Ten network. I also was not sure how good Texas Tech might be, but the early Big 12 schedule favors them, so I expect they'll start 3-0 in the league. As for surprises the other way ... I'm not sure you could say "surprised" with Ohio State, because the Buckeyes have had difficulties in the postseason that carry over to the way the program is perceived generally, fair or not. But I am disappointed so far in the way the Buckeyes have played. They have the talent to be better than they've been, especially in their marquee games.

Eileen (Washington DC)

How cold is it in Kansas City?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:20 PM)

Take away the wind, and it's about 20. Unfortunately, out here on the prairie, you can almost never take away the wind. Which means we go by the "feels like" temperatures. And it feels like it's freaking cold.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:22 PM)

Although I will say Iowa City last weekend felt colder.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:25 PM)

Of course, one can't complain much when you are covering an indoor sport. Or shouldn't complain. We'll chat next week.