Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

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

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:02 PM)

Good afternoon, and hope everyone's eardrums have recovered from the Aussie Open women's final last weekend. I confess to not fully watching the nearly six hours of Djokovic and Nadal trying to kill each other in the men's final. So let's get to a little basketball.

Gabby (Washington, DC)

Good afternoon. Are we looking at a season with up to 5 BCS conferences (SEC, Big East, Big 12, ACC and Big 10) having teams with winless league records for regular-season play? Chances of getting a regular season win looks improbable for some of those squads. Thanks.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:07 PM)

It does look pretty bleak for those in the basement, doesn't it? Of that group, I'm not sure who might make it into the conference win column first (or at all) ... but maybe Missouri in the Big 12. The Tigers have played some of their conference foes pretty closely, including Oklahoma. Of course, they just got crunched by Baylor last night. But Baylor is doing that to everybody.

Ellen (Lusby, MD)

Your thoughts on the Marissa Coleman/Noelle Quinn trade? Is it the first thing Trudi Lacey has done right for the Mystics?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:10 PM)

Well, that might be harsh about Lacey. Or maybe not. :) Neither one of these players had a very good season last year, and it would seem like a change in scenery might help both. As it happens, of course, they are both leaving the areas they grew up/went to college in for teams all the way across the country. So it's a BIG change. Coleman had an opportunity to show what she could do last year with playing time, and she didn't really show that much. Whether she can still show improvement and growth is something we'll see. I believe in Carol Ross as a coach, so that could help Marissa. As for Quinn ... she's had her ups and downs. I guess fundamentally I still question how much of anything can go right now in D.C. Not trying to be snarky; I just really have my doubts. Speaking of which ....

Judith (Our Nation's Capital)

Yesterday afternoon, the Mystics posted a video interview on their web site of Trudi Lacey discussing the trade of Coleman for Quinn. Trudi was sitting in front of a white board on which viewers could plainly see the initials of various WNBA players in several rows of five, evidently some planning or wish list of Trudi's. After a couple of hours of being ridiculed on a well-known message board for putting that info out there for the world to see, the Mystics removed the video from their site. Probably this is a somewhat rhetorical question, but do the Mystics simply have an inexhaustible capacity for doing stupid things?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

I've said before I really wanted to stop picking on the Mystics, yet it's a hard thing to quit. :) The D.C. follies are almost like a sitcom, except not really that funny if you are a Mystics fan/longtime sufferer.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Is the retirement of Shalee Lehning due to her season-ending right knee ACL injury from last season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:17 PM)

She's been rehabbing that, and of course she had a serious shoulder injury her first year in the WNBA. I think she could see the hand-writing on the wall in Atlanta and in the WNBA. Credit goes to her for making it through the time she did in the league. She's a player whose success was based on court sense, guts, and desire ... she took that a long way. She is an assistant coach at Kansas State, and she has a very promising future in that profession. She "coached" all during her playing career, frankly, even when she was a youngster at K-State. It comes naturally to her. I think she's on her way to being a head coach at some point for sure.

kevin (macon ga)

Will the WPS survive the suspension of the 2012 season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:22 PM)

They will try ... whether they can really do it, though, is pretty hard to be optimistic about. Women's pro soccer in the United States has faced a lot of challenges, to say the least, since the magic of the 1999 World Cup. Some of that was just really poor decision-making way back in the immediate wake of that event, with what went on with WUSA. It was hard to watch how they squandered money, frankly, and the disorganization. I don't think the desire to see a successful pro league here in the USA is going away. But whether the right business plan and enough capital can be put together in 2013 or soon after are big questions. I wrote a column about this earlier this week: http://tinyurl.com/6wou8kk

Dan (Buffalo, NY)

Mechelle, if St. Bonaventure (and thanks for the AP vote, by the way; at least 19 of the 40 of you are paying attention) finishes, say, 13-1 in the A10, and also wins the tourney title, how high a seed do you think they could get? Their schedule was front-loaded with all the top A10 teams except Dayton, who they still have to play on the road. The A10 is a better league than the Horizon, and I imagine Green Bay will get a 3 to 5 seed, right?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:27 PM)

Charlie Creme has St. Bonaventure as a No. 7 seed, and I would gauge that is about right ... at least for now. Green Bay has earned some clout with the committee, or I would think that is true, even though technically past performance is not in the criteria for evaluation. St. Bonaventure is having a really nice season, and I hope it gets fairly rewarded.

Lynn (Atlanta, GA)

My partner and I are back to arguing about hoops. I guess that's a pretty good thing to argue about. Today's debate: Whether Atlanta would be wise to bring Coco back. I say that Coco's performance in Turkey shows that she does have the potential to have big numbers on a fairly consistent basis (I think her average PPG is 18+ right now). My partner says that the style of play here doesn't support her getting those numbers at home and her inconsistency makes her less desirable. I think she just needs to be coached and played properly and I like that she can step in to give LH a break should our future (and hopefully fabulous) back-up PG not be able to do so. I'm not ready to give up on Coco. What are your thoughts on this?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:30 PM)

Sounds like you have some very fun discussions. :) I don't want your partner to be upset with me, but I would probably argue in your favor. I think Coco Miller brings some value that is harder to measure than stats, too ... she and her twin sister are totally selfless players _ as much as anybody you will find in the pros. If they are given a minute of playing time, they'll play their hardest for that minute. If they are given 40, they'll play their hardest for 40. I just think she's a good cog teammate. But your partner does make some good points. :)

sportsfan0360 (midwest)

Should Doug Bruno go to a bigger program, since he's done wonders at DePaul? It seems he'd be great at a larger WCBB program?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:36 PM)

He's kind of like Bill Fennelly at Iowa State ... I sometimes think about how either of them would do with a team full of high school All-Americans, because they are such good bench coaches and good strategists. But ... part of what they do well is motivate players to over-achieve. So I don't know how they'd adjust to players who might underachieve relative to their ability. Players that have to motivated in a different way. It would drive those two guys a little nuts. :) But I imagine they'd adjust to it. Ultimately, though, this is about where they are comfortable. Doug Bruno is a DePaul graduate and former player, of course ... I think he bleeds both blue and red, he's so wed to his school. And Fennelly is an Iowa native who is iconic with the Iowa State program that he made into what it is. I know you didn't ask about Bill, but they remind me of each other in that both have been "home" for a long time, and I think will always stay there. Should add, of course, that both have done a nice job when dealing with the high caliber of USA Basketball athletes they've coached for various national teams.

Kitty [via mobile]

Is Gail Goestenkors finished at Texas?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

I don't know that Texas is ready to cut the cord and have to buy out what remains on GG's contract. That would be a monumental decision, considering all they invested in her. And then to whom would they look as a replacement, and how much would they pay that person? I know Texas practically prints money, but still ... However, the reality is that things continue to go in the wrong direction there. This season has been a big disappointment so far, and it's hard to see it turning around. I can imagine the level of discontent is very high among the fans after the losses to Texas Tech and then at home to Kansas State last night. I am sure GG and her staff have been wracking their brains to figure out how to fix it, but I don't know how much more patience everyone in the administration/fan base has because of the money paid initially. She had a big job when she took this over, and I think both she and Texas underestimated how hard it would be to make the Longhorns into a power in the Big 12, let alone nationally.

Fan with questions (CyberSpace)

a) Is Stanford a real #1 seed?Sure they have only 1 loss, but outside of Uconn and the Vols the rest of the schedule is suspect. Texas, Xavier, and ODU have bombed this year, and the rest of their SoS seems weak.b) Will ESPN grow the base of women's basketball in the near future?I know we can see Uconn, Baylor, Duke/UNC, and the Vols as they are probably safer for the ESPN ratings, but will we see ESPN push more matchups at the next level down to grow a broader serious fan base in the future? Maybe a little less of the 5 and a little more of maybe 25 - 30 teams.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:46 PM)

As for Stanford, I think you make a valid point that in some ways, they leave the radar in Pac-12 play because they're dominating those games for the most part. This is not anything new, of course. That said, I think they likely are still a legit No. 1. As for your other question, I know the folks who make up the TV schedule really do try to balance the so-called "sure things" with expanding to other teams/leagues that get less coverage. I don't work on the TV side, and don't necessarily know what all goes into their decision-making. But I do know they care about growing the game. The development of ESPNU and ESPN3 on-line provides more options for televising a wider range of schools and leagues.

sportsfan0360 (midwest)

Which UConn streak is more daunting in your veteran view -- the 97 straight home wins, the 172 straight games vs. unranked teams, or the 19 years without two straight losses, 677 games and counting?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:48 PM)

Those are all pretty insane ... but the last one might be the most impressive of all. That says so much about preparation and focus.

duane (NoCal)

Will/Should Minnesota match a three year max contract for Candice Wiggins? I'm thinking that Phoenix or LA or Tulsa might offer her that.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:50 PM)

I think Candice Wiggins may be a better fit in terms of what she could bring and having more playing time in a different franchise. Might be better for her and for the Lynx. So we'll see, but my quick answer is no.

Judith (Terp Land)

Maryland's beyond-embarrassing loss last week to Virginia Tech may have cost them a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. But if the Terps finish out the season strong and beat the teams they are "supposed" to beat, what's the chance the Committee will see the VA Tech game as an anomaly and discount it?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:55 PM)

If Maryland finishes strongly and does not lose any more games that they "shouldn't," then, yes, I think the committee will write that game off as an embarrassing anomaly that does not really reflect on the Terps as they'll be entering the tournament. Not having Alyssa Thomas for that game was still no excuse for the loss, but it was a mitigating factor. The committee has shown in the past that when a team has an "out-of-place" loss like that but the rest of the "body of work" stands up, then the latter is what holds the weight. You Terp fans may have a lot of trouble expunging the Virginia Tech loss from your nightmares, though. :)

Shades (Minneapolis)

Are you in the camp that none of the 2013 WNBA Lottery Big Three (Griner, Delle Donne, Diggins) will declare for the 2012 WNBA Draft?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:07 PM)

Yes, I am in that camp. And I'll go even further with one player. I have a feature on Delaware that soon will be up on the ESPN.com Web site. I spoke with Elena Delle Donne yesterday, and she guarantees she will NOT be leaving early. Her exact words: "I know it's a lot of fun for people to chat about, but I can tell you this Blue Hen will be here next year. I will be back. I love it way too much to leave early." I am kind of scooping my story, I guess ... but hopefully you will read it anyway. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:10 PM)

So expect to see Blue Hen Fever continue for at least another season after this. :) Thanks for all the questions. BTW, I was at Oklahoma vs. Kansas on Tuesday in Lawrence, and the Sooners pulled out a gutsy win. This next week, Feb. 8, Texas visits Kansas. You want to talk about two coaches who can feel the seats under them getting hot. Even though KU was ranked this past week in the coaches' poll, they are facing a tough stretch of schedule. And Texas' woes we've already talked about. Will discuss this more next week, plus other college and WNBA stuff.