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

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:06 PM)

Good afternoon, everyone. It's the off day of the Big 12 women's tournament here in KC, the semis are tomorrow. Let's get started.

jbb1985 (nyc)

Which mid-major, outside of Xavier, might make some noise deeper into the NCAAs this year? Do you feel the mid-majors, like Marist and GB, with very impressive, lofty records, yet offset by very low strength-of-schedule, are getting sufficient respect in Bracketology and from us WCBB fans that skew towards the major Conferences?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

Yes, I do think they are getting sufficient respect. I don't think giving the benefit of the doubt to teams from major conferences is wrong. I know everyone supposedly loves the underdogs, but the reality is that competition usually is tougher in the major conferences. That doesn't mean the best mid-major teams can't be very good, but they generally just don't get the same kind of tests in league play. Marist has proven in the recent past that they can make a tournament run, and Green Bay probably will end up with a very good seed. Because of the latter fact, I'd give Green Bay more an edge in getting further.

jbb1985 (nyc)

It seems to us WCBB fans that the final #2 seed might be between UCLA and ND. Which way do you lean and why?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

I know there are all kinds of reasons to go both ways, but I would lean toward Notre Dame because I think the Big East has once again been a tougher league overall than the Pac-10. But this is kind of a toss-up.

kevin (macon ga)

How will the committee view Middle Tennessee now that they've lost their 6th woman and lost early in the Sun Belt tournament? Will there be any "sympathy vote" to get them in?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:17 PM)

It was a tragic, horrible situation, but I doubt the Blue Raiders will be put into the field. There's a lot of sympathy for them in general, but I don't see it leading to an at-large bid.

jbb1985 (nyc)

Which likely #2 seed do you think the various #1 seeds most likely don't want in their Regional?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:20 PM)

Texas AM, Duke and Xavier all pose potential problems. The Aggies looked very good last night in the Big 12 quarterfinals, Duke shot very well in the ACC tournament and Xavier survived challenges to get the A-10 title. If the other No. 2 is Notre Dame, the Irish have a lot of postseason experience and plenty of past upsets as a program. If it's UCLA, the Bruins gave Nebraska a scare last season in the NCAA's second round and will play a very physical style.

Rommel (Phoenix)

Has Wisconsin Green Bay done enough to earn a 4 seed?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:27 PM)

Honestly, I'm more a mid-major skeptic. Others are more mid-major boosters. By that I mean I tend to want more evidence to be convinced. Others love the so-called "little guys" and so they seek less evidence or are simply more pre-disposed to believe that the big conferences really aren't that much better. From having watched the sport a long time, I believe usually the teams from big leagues will prevail more often than not. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with sticking up for the "little guys," and sometime they live up to that, like Gonzaga did against Texas A

Zheng (NJ)

Mechelle,What seeding do you see the Rutgers Scarlet Knights receiving in this year's NCAA tournament? We had 12 losses but half of those losses came against Connecticut, Tennessee, Stanford, Notre Dame and Texas A

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:29 PM)

I'm going to guess around No. 7. In 2007, Rutgers lost eight games but then made it all the way to the NCAA title game. I don't think they're going to repeat that kind of run, but they are playing much better at the right time of the season.

jbb1985 (nyc)

Historically, only two #3 seeds in the 29 NCAA Tournaments have won the Natl Championship, so 7% of total. If some team broke through from #3 or egads #4 seeds -- whom would be your super darkhorse pick?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:34 PM)

Why don't we all have a good chuckle and say Ohio State? You know, all these times we've criticized the Buckeyes - usually rightfully - for underperforming in the NCAA tournament, and wouldn't it be something if they suddenly made this crazy run at the end of the season after getting their mojo back? Of course, it's not going to happen. There will be no super dark horse, because nobody's quite good enough to get multiple upsets of the like it would take for a No. 3 or No. 4 to win it all this season. I'm being VERY pragmatic today. :)

kt (Houston, TX)

Hey, Mechelle. Box scores can give us the stats and watching the games on tv can give us a sense of how the game play unfolded, but what has always intrigued me about sports is the emotion and personal interactions surrounding a team, and that, unfortunately, is hard to observe from a distance. For those of us unable to be at the Big 12 tourney, what have been some of your observations about the teams--who's loose, who's confident, who's mentally fatigued, etc. Thanks for the great coverage!

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:40 PM)

Iowa State looks mentally fatigued to me. They lost their regular-season finale at Missouri, struggled to beat Nebraska in the Big 12's first round and then fell to Kansas State in the quarterfinals. The Cyclones are having to work too hard to score _ they aren't making shots like they are usually known for, and that affects their defense. They looked emotionally down to me. Texas A

Rommel (Phoenix)

Texas got blown out again, and they look really slow. Why are they even being considered for an at large bid?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:44 PM)

Most teams would have looked really slow against the Texas AM performance last night. To me, if a team like Michigan is being considered for an at-large, I don't know why you would not still have Texas in the mix, too. I don't know if the Longhorns will get the benefit of the doubt ... if they don't, they'll know it was road losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State that ultimately cost them. They are 19-13, and that's a lot of losses, although most of them are to very good teams. Playing Baylor, Texas AM and Oklahoma twice in a season can really hurt your record.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Now that the Big Ten Conference Tournament has concluded, which of its teams do you predict will receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:47 PM)

I'd guess it will be five at-large bids: Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan ... with the Wolverines as the shakiest. Congrats to Penn State for making it back into the NCAA field ... that is good to see for that program, which loses only one senior.

Carol Reed (Santa Cruz, CA)

Do you think that the committee will keep USC out of the NCAA Tournament (and include Michigan, for example) as Creme recommends in his bracket? USC did not lose to a team outside the top 100. Michigan lost to 182 Detroit. If you agree, can you explain the actual logic and facts of such a decision. Seems to me that there is different criteria used for PAC-10 teams getting into post season. USC:RPI: 0.5959 - 38SOS: 0.5877 - 18Michigan:RPI: 0.5790 - 53SOS: 0.5766 - 31LSU:RPI: 0.5823 - 50SOS: 0.5785 - 29

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:52 PM)

To me, Southern Cal deserves pretty strong consideration to get into the field. Again, I'm sure the numbers could take you either way, but I would put them in the tournament.

Bob (Dallas)

Any chance Baylor doesn't get a #1 seed and Dallas tourney spot?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:55 PM)

Kansas State has had a very nice season, one they should be proud of. They've played their way into the NCAA field. But they don't have the horses to beat Baylor. So I don't see Baylor losing shy of the Big 12 title game ... and even if they lose that, I believe they will be the No. 1 seed. So, yes, I think BU is No. 1 in Dallas and nothing will change that.

Bill (Little Rock)

Creme has 10 Big East Teams in but only six from the Big 12. What's your take? Would those Big East teams survive in the Big 12? Texas was a much tougher date for Baylor than Syracuse

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:02 PM)

Well, there is the fact that Big East has 16 teams to the Big 12's 12 (which next year will be 10). So that does factor in. Also, the Big East presents the problem that they had six teams whose record was in the range of 10-6 to 8-8 ... so there was a lot of parity in the middle of the league. All that said, I do think Texas has made a decent case for inclusion - the Longhorns beat Texas Tech twice and also defeated Kansas State on the road, and both those teams will be in the NCAA field. But ... Texas also could have made a much stronger case by not losing at Missouri, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Plus, they had a chance to beat Oklahoma and TAMU in Austin, but didn't get that done.

Jason (South Dakota)

The South Dakota State Women won their record third consecutive Summit League tournament title and have won 11 of their last 12. Thoughts on the Jackrabbits? And what about lower seeds hosting first and second round games in Tournament? I think it gives them an unfair advantage, Do you agree with that?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:05 PM)

South Dakota State is one of those programs that keeps proving itself as being able to play their best at the right time of year. They are on a nice run now going into the NCAA tournament, in which they've had some success. As for the worse seeds hosting ... we'll see how that shakes out on Selection Monday, but it's a product of pre-determined sites. I don't like it. If there have to be home sites - which there still needs to be for women's hoops - I'd still prefer the top 16 seeds host. But that is not what television wants, so we are stuck with this flawed system. Maybe for quite a while longer.

Someone Not On The WNBA President List (TX)

Tennessee, Stanford, Baylor, and UConn have very similar PPG Statistics for Offense and Defense. All 4 have very similar RPI and SOS. Are the Final Four teams a foregone conclusion? Or can Texas A&M or Xavier or Duke reach the FF? How far do you think Ohio State will advance? I am hoping for a potential #1 UConn versus #3 Ohio State regional final. I really hope that Jantel Lavender could experience at least the Elite 8. Thanks for today's chat.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

Are you SURE you're not a candidate for WNBA president? Because that's being kept as top-secret info. Or kind of, anyway. :) I don't think the UConn-Tenn-Baylor-Stanford Final Four is a foregone conclusion ... but it's just a really good bet. It helps that all four get to host in the early rounds. And Baylor is likely to be in Dallas, so if they make the Sweet 16, that's a quick trip up I-35. So a lot is in the favor of those four teams making it to Indy. But as mentioned earlier, there are some No. 2 seeds I think could challenge them. And there's a possibility that one of them gets knocked off in the regional semis. But that's a small possibility.

Stephen Shirley (Murfreesboro, TN)

Thank you for your excellent article about the tragic death of Tina Stewart and how it has impacted the Lady Raider program as well as the entire Murfreesboro community. In your dealings with players, do they grasp how we, as fans, latch onto them as members of our favorite teams and develop a sense of "relationship" despite not really knowing them at all off the court?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:12 PM)

I'm very sorry for the great loss to your team, Stephen. I think in places were the fans make such an effort to be a part of players' lives, the players do feel that support and come to really appreciate it. They are pretty level-headed about it and really enjoy the interaction with fans. I think the approachability of women's players on both the college and pro level is part of the popularity of the game. I do think players are often surprised to find out that fans from other teams admire/respect them. I know that means a lot to them to hear that.

jbb1985 (nyc)

You've got only one superstar to pick to lead your team, the Voepel State University team (VSU) in the NCAA finals -- from Chamique Holdsclaw, Cheryl Miller, Di Taurasi or Maya Moore -- whose your pick to get VSU's first Natl Champ.?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:18 PM)

Where is my school? I would like it in a warm place. Our nickname will be the Zombies, an ode to my favorite horror movie, "Night of the Living Dead." But we will not actually *play* like zombies, so there's the element of surprise! I will not coach ... because I can't coach. Not sure who will. Students do have to take math to graduate at VSU, because I've already got my degree (whew!) so that won't affect me. And ... I'll choose Diana Taurasi by an eyelash over Cheryl Miller ... because VSU's coach can put the ball in DT's hands all the time and perhaps find post players good enough to surround her. Now, all that said, VSU will probably be upset in the fictional Sweet 16 by a fictional team led by one of the players I did not pick. Then I'll probably just fire my coach, right?

John (Shreveport, La)

La Tech Lady Techsters will they be in NCAA even without WAC automatic bid?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:21 PM)

I think so ... La Tech is 23-6 with an RPI around 27. But I'm sure the Techsters would much prefer to sew up the automatic bid. Of course, if Tech wins Friday, that will be the program's 1,000th victory. I talked to a couple of people here at the Big 12 tournament who are cheering for that win and are big supporters of Teresa Weatherspoon. Bet you can guess who. :) Hint: They now wear green.

Sonja (san antonio)

What are your thoughts on the Silver Stars landing Tully Bevilaqua and the All-Star Game?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:26 PM)

I talked to Dan Hughes yesterday at the Big 12 tournament, and he said he really just wanted a solid veteran leader to help stabilize the the squad. He said Tully is such a pain to play against _ he meant that as a compliment - that it would be nice for a change to have her on his side. He thinks she still has enough in her to finish out her career with a lot of energy and can contribute to SASS' success. I like any opportunity to go to San Antonio, and I imagine fans will be very happy to see the All-Star Game there. Hughes also said he was not at all sure who the Silver Stars will take with the sixth pick. He thinks it's a pretty good draft overall. BTW, he and a few other coaches have said they think probably no one has helped herself more during her senior season - in regard to overall perception of her chances in the WNBA -than Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen has.


MN fans have been growing frustrated with the decline of the program since the end of the Whalen-McCarville era, especially seeing players like Brittany Chambers, Kachine Alexander and Tayler Hill (among others) do well at other programs. The U is in a somewhat unique position being the only D-I program in the state. There are two top in-state recruits coming in next season. Is that enough to extend Coach Borton's tenure?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:31 PM)

A big part of the issue with this situation _ and with others I see across the country _ is that for the most part, frustrated women's basketball fans don't make the kind of noise about coaches that men's basketball fans do ... and there are fewer of them to make it. So athletic administrators don't feel the pressure to make moves that potentially could be a bit costly - with buyouts, etc. - but may be necessarily to move programs forward. And it also may come down to whether the school officials think there is a reasonable chance for success. At Minnesota, we know there is. So then it comes down to how much "lack of success" is allowed, and for how long? For the most part, athletic departments don't make many aggressive, pro-active moves in regard to hiring/firing in this sport.

kevin (macon ga)

Has Xavier really done enough to earn a #2 seed? It's unusual for a team with no top 25 RPI wins to get such a high placement.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:34 PM)

You're right, but the Musketeers have gained credibility over the years in the selection committee's eyes. And with the only two losses being to Duke and Stanford (both in December), Xavier has probably done enough - or,at the very least, is well-perceived enough - to get a No. 2.

CCoop (Olathe, KS)

Is it right that a coach should complain about tournament officiating before the NCAA's start? It seems like a lot of politicking instead of coaching. Does the NCAA have a rule about this?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:38 PM)

I suspect you are referring to the story about UConn coach Geno Auriemma talking about officiating. I wasn't at the Big East tournament, but I would guess he was asked a general question about officiating and his team's depth, and he answered that officiating can play a factor in the NCAA tournament. I doubt he was actually trying to stir up that issue ... he answers questions very honestly and doesn't avoid potentially controversial topics. Sometimes then it makes it seem like he was trying to make a big case over something, when in reality, it was probably just a good angle for the reporters who ask him a million questions after games. Again, I wasn't there. But I would imagine, knowing him, that's what it was.

UConn Steve (TX)

If there was no NBA in the WNBA, what would the WNBA look like? Struggling like the Women's Professional Soccer league? Somewhere in between the WNBA as we know it and the WPS? Hypothetical question from Mr. What If of course. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:43 PM)

I'm going to say somewhere in between. I know some of the things the NBA has done in overseeing the WNBA are frustrating to fans. Sometimes, they've frustrated me. But the infrastructure, personnel, contacts, sponsorships, etc. that the NBA provides for the WNBA are priceless in an entertainment world where it's been so difficult for women's team sports in particular to get a real foothold. There's no way the WNBA would be where it is right now without the "NBA" in its name. That doesn't mean that it's just something worthless that's being propped up, though. The WNBA is a legitimate business interest for an entity that wants to "own" global basketball. But the NBA also wants to see the WNBA make steps toward more revenue in the next few years.

Ben (SC)

How would you rate Shekinna Stricklen in the history of Lady Vol greats? She certainly has proven her versatility. Do you think next year she will be in the national player of the year conversation?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:51 PM)

I think her stock in the pantheon of Tennessee greats will rise, of course, if they can make the Final Four and/or win the title this year. Her perception has probably been adversely affected, unfortunately, by the struggles of the team her freshman season. But ... that's all more and more looking like very ancient history. Her versatility has been a big aid to Tennessee, and I do think she's going to be in the conversation for POY next season.

Teddy (Poughkeepsie)

Marist has a lot going for them (30 wins, #1 ranked defense, 26-game win streak, strong W's over Louisville, Houston, and Nebraska)...but most projections have them as a 8/9 seed. Why so low? Same token, why UW-GB so high?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:54 PM)

I have to say that I don't have a great answer on this ... the more I look at it, the more Marist seems to be underrated right now to me. I think they've taken people by surprise that they've played as well as they have this season. Nobody wants in that 8/9 slot any year, but especially this season with the projected No. 1 seeds all hosting.

Kevin McCaffrey (Ct)

Tennesee looks to be stronger than UCONN in NCAA 's with refs calling games closer. Do you agree Tenn would beat UCONN easily?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:59 PM)

I had to post this question just because I laughed out loud at the idea that anyone would say any team will beat UConn "easily." Tennessee has a deeper bench, and I think everyone would agree with that. But teams have won NCAA championships before without much depth, UConn among them. Certainly, if UConn and Tennessee meet, and it's a total foul-fest, then it would make sense that might give the Lady Vols *some* edge. But ... that wouldn't necessarily mean UConn would lose. And I would never say any team will ever beat UConn easily. Hopefully, I've answered this question in a way that angers neither the Bluebloods nor the Orangebloods.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:04 PM)

One last thing on the WNBA president search for this week ... I have heard a couple of names from different sources, but have not confirmed they have interviewed. Several people I've talked to swear they have NO ideal whom the NBA is really looking at. But I wouldn't be surprised if the person picked might come out of the front office of an NBA team, if that person were interested in women's basketball and - as I mentioned in a story after talking to NBA second-in-command Adam Silver this week - had a really strong business background. If it's one of the names I've heard, then I'm intrigued. Will try to have more on this later. I did not get a strong feel, though for when the NBA really plans on naming this person. "By June" is quite vague.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:05 PM)

Thanks for all the questions ... hope you enjoy the rest of the league tournaments, and are geared up for Selection Monday!