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February 17, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:02 PM)

Good afternoon, everyone. It's warm and windy in this part of the Midwest ... starting to smell March Madness in the air.

Keith H (Seattle)

Good morning, Mechelle. Let's start today by addressing the elephant in the room: The Diana Taurasi case. I'm happy that the case was resolved positively. However, isn't a "retraction" usually the result of a "mistake?" Any word on suing for lost wages and defamation? I'm just glad she will be back for the next season of Mercury vs. Storm games. Rooting for the Storm, of course.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:08 PM)

As more information comes out, it would appear Diana Taurasi is not the only athlete who may have grounds for a lawsuit. The integrity of labs is an absolute necessity for the entire process to be trusted. The fact that this lab had problems that were supposedly addressed, and then appears to have them again is big disappointment. I think most people in sport do understand the complexity of the problems of PEDs, but when the process to try to fight them is botched or corrupted, it really damages various organizations' credibility.

Jono (Atlanta, GA)

How do you feel Diana T's exoneration impact the WNBA and women's sports in general?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

I can't imagine anyone who truly cares about women's basketball wasn't just very relieved at hearing the news yesterday. Diana Taurasi's importance to the WNBA as a whole is profound, and her place in women's sport's history is also mammoth. When these cases happen, you really have to just let the process unfold and hope that the system works the way it's supposed to. You'd hope mistakes are never made, but when they are, that they're corrected. In this case, the process seems to have malfunctioned with a lab that appears to have some real problems, but corrected itself with the exoneration. Unfortunately, the athletes suffered emotionally through the process. And now we will see what the ramifications are for that.

kevin (macon ga)

Does the reversal in the Diana Taurasi case cast doubt on all drug testing?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:21 PM)

It really shouldn't, but that's one of the big issues with this: When so much doubt arises over the credibility of one lab, people are bound to question others. Which is not to say that the process and the labs themselves should not be questioned or scrutinized. But at some point there has to be a baseline of trust that everyone develops in the system and its integrity. Without that, the entire battle against PEDs is compromised. That's where organizations like the World Anti-Doping Agency and its signatory organizations have to make sure people are held responsible and the ensure credibility of the labs.

MarkD (MI)

Hi Mechelle, first I would like to say I'm so happy for Diana, she's been my favorite player since she arrived at Uconn. Basketball is her world, not only did this ruin her euro season, but Penny Taylor's season was ruined as well. Do you feel Turkey Basketball will suffer in the future because of the way everything was handled? Also, I hate ISO Cam, please tell ESPN never to do that again... Ruined my entire week I was so disappointed. Thank you :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:31 PM)

That's one of the things that we'll have to see how it plays out: How does this affect the future of the women's game in Turkey. Let's face it: There's all kinds of rumor, innuendo and conspiracy theories going on ... and then there's always the issue of just basic incompetence or sloppiness. I really am glad that Diana Taurasi has been vindicated by the very process that accused her to begin with. No she can continue with what has been a very productive time in her career. Now for other topics ... that iso-cam seems to have been every bit as popular as New Coke once was, huh? This has been kind of "gadget week" on ESPN, and the response would indicate that people really don't want their entire viewing experience of a game altered. There were some steaming-mad folks over this, it seems. The iso-cam can be a good tool, I think ... just not as it was used.

ND (Raleigh, NC)

Marion Jones signed a multi-year contract with the Tulsa Shock yesterday. Thoughts?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:36 PM)

At this point in her athletic career, Marion Jones seems at best to be a potentially useful practice player who isn't going to have much impact in games. Can Tulsa really afford to use a roster spot for that type of player? I'm not trying to be cruel; I honestly wish her the best. Maybe the franchise still believes there is value to the fans in having Jones around ... but frankly, I think Tulsa fans just want to watch a team that has a chance to win, like all fans do.

steve (ann arbor)

Has Pat Summitt ever had a more(evidently) aggravating 24-2 team?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:42 PM)

This statement made me laugh out loud, and I'd bet a lot of Tennessee fans would acknowledge the same. The team has talent, and I think they have heart ... but they lack a type of killer instinct that is usually present at Tennessee. I'm not even sure if that's the right term, but it's something like that. That said, they're still unbeaten in SEC play and they've seemed able to scramble out of trouble. I'm sure the real worry is if they have another stink bomb of a first half as they did against Vandy last Sunday, but it's deep into the NCAA tournament against a team that the program doesn't emotionally "own" the way Tennessee does with Vandy. If Tennessee gets in too deep a hole in the tournament, can they climb out once they're at the Sweet 16 or beyond level? I'm sure that's what Summitt and her staff are trying to prevent.

David (Farmington)

10 years ago, UConn had to wear the blues in the Big East tournament vs. Notre Dame and Sue Bird won perhaps the most memorable game in UConn history. Should I be having flashbacks? Can Notre Dame win this Saturday & force a coin flip for top seed in the Big East?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:48 PM)

That 2001 Big East title game is one of those that just gets bigger in the memory as time goes by ... because so many of the participants in that game panned out to be just as successful long-term as women's basketball followers hoped they would. For those who maybe haven't heard of it, writer Jeff Goldberg has a book out about that game called, "Bird at the Buzzer" that chronicles that game and UConn and Notre Dame rivalry that season. Of course, Notre Dame gave UConn a scare in South Bend in January, but it's just hard to think anyone is going into Connecticut this year and winning. So no, I wouldn't anticipate a coin flip. :)

chris (kansas city)

What are the chances my K-State Wildcats could slip into the 4th seed for the Big 12 Tourney and the NCAA Tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:53 PM)

K-State is in fourth place in the league now, but have some of their toughest games coming up, including against Baylor and Texas A

Chad (Michigan)

How far will Michigan State go in the tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:57 PM)

I am not trying to waffle on questions like this ... but it's really difficult to project "how far" until the bracket is out and you see the match-ups. Because so much can depend on whom you're playing, when and where. The Spartans are a very good team that I think has noticeably improved with their confidence as this season's gone on. And that should bode well for the tournament.

kristy ((PA))

does psu.have a chance vs. ohio st.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:01 PM)

Yes, Penn State definitely has a chance against Ohio State tonight, because at 6-6 in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are the very definition of "who the heck knows what to expect?" It's an important game for Penn State, which fell a week ago at home to Michigan State. The Spartans seem likely to win out for the regular season and get the No. 1 seed in the league tourney, but Penn State can earn the Big Ten's No. 2 seed.

Howard (PA)

Iowa State loses a tough one to TX Tech. Are they still in the Big Dance next month?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:04 PM)

Indeed, that was a tough game for the Cyclones, who fell below .500 in league play again after scrambling to beat Kansas State on Sunday. Iowa State still has three games left against teams in the bottom half of the league: Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. The Cyclones can't afford any more slip-ups, really.

Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Annette Bening or Natalie Portman?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:08 PM)

I confess I have not been able to make myself go see "Black Swan." Not sure I will be able to convince myself to see it. Thought AB was terrific in "Kids Are All Right," but it's probably not fair to pick when I haven't seen one of them. What do you guys think?

jbb1985 (ny)

Which one of the Big 4 of Baylor, UConn, Stanford and Tenn are least likely to run their respective table of regular season and Confernce tourneys and suffer an upset?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:11 PM)

I think they're all running the table and winning their conference tournaments. If I have to pick one to maybe get surprised in the conference tournament, it would be Tennessee - only because of things mentioned earlier: Somewhat of a propensity to get off to slow starts and not put away teams.

kevin (macon ga)

ESPN has Beth Mowins and Doris Burke calling the DePaul-Providence game tonight, the first time they've used two women for a men's game. Why has it taken so long for this to happen?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:16 PM)

There just aren't that many women play-by-play announcers, still. This is a really top-notch duo: Two people who are very professional and do their homework. I think it's great ... but I selfishly want people this talented to do as many women's games as possible.

Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

If Purdue loses at Minnesota tonight, the Boilers are in serious danger of not making the NCAAs. If they miss for a second year, how hot should Sharon Versyp's seat be?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:21 PM)

Considering the emotional challenges this team faced with a teammate who was so seriously ill, I guess I'm somewhat surprised that there is a sentiment among a segment of Purdue fans that's really frustrated. It was just two years ago that the Boilermakers pushed Oklahoma really hard in the Elite Eight ... had that game been on a neutral court instead of the Sooners' home-away-from-home in Okla. City, the Boilers may have won. I know Purdue fans are not used to being in the middle of the pack, where the Boilers are right now in the Big Ten. But ... it seems premature, to me, to be turning up the thermostat on Versyp.

Adam R (Albany)

Despite the loss to Stanford and close win vs. Baylor, are the Huskies the favorite to three-peat?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:24 PM)

Favored? Not the way they were the last two seasons, of course, but certainly they still have a pretty darn good shot.

UConn Husky Fan (CT)

Did the lab actually admit to making a mistake, unintentionally or not? Diana Taurasi said "Not everyone has the same financial resources I did." Jayne Appel is on the Team USA player pool for the 2012 Olympics. Do you think there would have been as much fan outrage if the Turkish Basketball Federation banned her instead of DT3? What if JA was banned by the TBF and she did not have the financial resources to get the ban over turned? This was just a hypothetical situation obviously but the point is money had a lot to do with the ban being lifted. ESPN received some annoying complaints from me about their annoying Maya Cam. Watch out for that Clenbuterol tainted meat served in the ESPN cafeteria. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:34 PM)

Provisional bans for at least three other athletes have also been lifted after tests conducted at that lab. So if it hasn't acknowledged mistakes yet, you get a strong sense that is forthcoming. Yes, Diana was able to hire the lawyer who has the most experience dealing with these cases, but I also think she was referring to the fact that she had financial resources to be OK despite the break from getting a paycheck for playing. As far as Jayne Appel ... yeah, I think people would have been very concerned if she'd faced a ban and said she didn't do it. As for the ESPN cafeteria ... I live a long, long way from ESPN headquarters and I don't eat meat ... so I'm totally safe from that. :) Plus, I'm not suggesting they have bad food. It was fine the two times I've eaten there over the years while visiting. :)

Barry (Phoenix, AZ)

How badly does tennis need Serena Williams right now? First, there needs to be a rival to Clijsters. Second, there needs to be a perceived villain, as Clijsters is universally well-liked and doesn't create much drama. Third, Venus cannot carry tennis' fashion banner by herself.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:35 PM)

Can't disagree with you, although Serena just isn't much of a "villain" to me. :) I like her. The bigger question is - and I have no answer - who is going to replace the Williams sisters in terms of carrying American women's tennis? They can't play forever.

Judith (DC)

Coach Frese's twins, Markus and Tyler, are three today. Will they get another birthday present (Terps beat Duke) like the one they got on the day of their birth?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:38 PM)

I could be totally wrong on this one ... but I've been thinking the Terps will get revenge for their loss in Durham. And now, after the losses to Miami and Virginia, Maryland may be ticked off, too, and in a positive way. So I think, yeah, could be a good night for the twins' favorite team.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:43 PM)

Sorry, lot of good questions I did not get to. Thanks for sending all of them. I do want to remind everyone of a non-basketball event: Tonight in theaters across the country, the documentary "Rise" is playing. It chronicles the loss of the 1961 U.S. figure skating team in a plane crash on the way to the World Championships, and the way the sport had to rebuild after the tragedy. The 50th anniversary of the crash was Tuesday, and this film - I saw it in a media preview in Greensboro, N.C. last month - is a very interesting, moving account of the people lost and the heights the sport has achieved since. I know there is a lot of hoops action tonight, but consider seeing "Rise" as a good investment for anyone interested in an important part of American sports history. Plus, proceeds from the film go to the Memorial Fund of U.S. Figure Skating, which helps developing competitors. Thanks, and chat with you next week!