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

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:03 PM)

Good afternoon from Kansas City on another 60-degree day in February. Keep wondering when we are going to have to pay for this. :) Let's get started.

Levi (Oklahoma)

The Big 12 (ahem 10) seems to have five safe bets in the tournament. Should Kansas or Texas Tech get a nod if they are sub-par in the league? At this point, I would assume no. But they still have a week and a half plus the Big 12 tournament to salvage the resume.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:06 PM)

If Kansas wins one of its last three games - they play Baylor (no way), Oklahoma State (perhaps) and Oklahoma (nope) - then the Jayhawks will be 8-10 in the league. If they can win one game in the Big 12 tournament then ... with consideration going to Carolyn Davis' injury, maybe the Jayhawks squeak in. Short of a big, epic finish for Texas Tech, I don't see it. Frankly, I was amazed KU won Tuesday at Lubbock for the first time since Lynette Woodard was a sophomore (1978).

Tracy (Los Angeles)

Mechelle, with all the moves the Sparks are making are they goiong to keep DMJ and TT and are they now the favorites besides Minnesota to represnt the West in the Finals.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:11 PM)

The biggest issue right now is how comfortable are the Sparks with their point-guard situation, considering Ticha Penicheiro is going to Chicago. That still leaves questions. With the Sparks trading for Nicky Anosike, it sure seems like they are going to be a much-improved defensive team overall - even if Delisha Milton Jones and Tina Thompson are not back - but are the Sparks confident in, say, Kristi Toliver running their offense? Of course, the Sparks still do have the No. 1 pick in the draft. A lot still happening with them.

Kelly (Maryland)

Having recently acquired Ticha Penicheiro it appears as though the Sky will finally make the playoffs. On paper alone this looks like the best team in the East. Sloot has a great mentor in Ticha and Cash is a terrific leader on and off the court. Ruth Riley's propensity to stay in the high post will provide a great compliment to Fowles. It seems that Pokey has surrounded Syl with the supporting cast she needs to take this team to the next level.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

I think most folks would agree with you about that ... at least on paper, the Sky has really improved and is following a pretty specific plan that Pokey Chatman had about upgrading this season. Penicheiro still has something to offer on court, and she will be a good mentor for a player like Vandersloot, who is a good listener/learner. Plus, Swin Cash has won everywhere she's been.

kevin (macon ga)

What in the world are the Sparks doing? Toliver and Beard are the only guards left on the roster. Can they really be expecting Alana to play 40 minutes/night?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:18 PM)

Sure, why not? It isn't like there's any concern about Beard's ankle ... oh wait. :) I guess we have to wait to see where/how the other shoe drops for the Sparks, perhaps through the draft? You're right - now this team looks like it's just collecting bigs. They have to get more guards.

Karen (Durham, NC)

What would be the bigger story this tournament: Pat vs. Geno for possibly the last time? or Elena having to play UConn?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:20 PM)

Pat vs. Geno, if it happens, will be one of the bigger stories ever in the NCAA tournament for all the obvious reasons. But Elena vs. UConn, if that happens, will also get a lot of eyes on the tournament. Both have a great deal of emotional element to them. I am sure TV is not going to mind if both of those happen. :)

deportes0360 (longing to be elsewhere)

Since the great Huskies are slam-dunk the long-time Top program in the Big East WCBB, would you say over the last 20 years that Rutgers or Notre Dame would be the 2nd place Big East program over a long period?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:24 PM)

I don't have their Big East records in front of me side-by-side. But considering in the past two decades, Notre Dame has won an NCAA title and been in two other Final Fours, compared to two Final Fours and no title for Rutgers, I give the nod to the Irish.

Tiffany Stegall (South Carolina)

I don't necessarily think Baylor will lose but am I crazy for thinking Stanford might match up better with Baylor than do Uconn/ND because of the fact they have two very good post presences that could maybe hider griner slightly?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:28 PM)

I don't think that's a crazy way to think at all. I would guess a lot of folks would really enjoy seeing the Amazin' Ogwumikes vs. Brittney the Great. And it would be fun to watch Tara VanDerveer and Kim Mulkey match strategic wits in that one. The Cardinal would still have to deal with Odyssey Sims' experience and quickness, of course, and Baylor's length/quickness on the perimeter.

Michelle Mindlin (Los Angeles)

What do you think the chances are of the PAC12 getting more than 1 or 2 teams in? There's a real lack of respect for, and attention to the teams out here.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

Right now, Charlie Creme has two - Stanford and Cal - in his latest Bracketology, and I don't know that any other team is going to be able to get a spot. I don't think it's really lack of respect so much as that most of the other Pac-12 teams have not done a whole lot to distinguish themselves nationally or from one another. This could have been a very different season for USC if the big injuries had not hit. There are some new faces in the league, some young teams, some teams that probably need new faces. I'm hopeful that the Pac-12 could be a stronger league overall next year.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

I believe that Notre Dame versus UConn will be the ESPN Big Monday Game of the Year! Will homecourt advantage allow the Huskies to defend the Irish without whistles or will foul trouble again factor into this their second match-up of the season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:35 PM)

Could we finally get a really close and entertaining game throughout on this Big Monday? Or are we doomed again? Might the Huskies - with visions of St. John's flashing through their heads - set out to really punish the Irish? Can Notre Dame silence the Huskies' faithful on their home turf? Clearly, UConn has to avoid the foul issue it had previously. I guess for obvious reasons, I favor UConn in this one.

deportes0360 (in hiding)

Can Tenn make a good argument for #2 seed without winning the SEC Tourney, as long as UK doesn't, or do they need to win out for the Seeding Committee to bump them from #3 to a #2?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:40 PM)

Right now, CC has the Orange Crush as a No. 2, and I think they stay there if - as you said _ they don't win the SEC tourney title but Kentucky doesn't, either. I guess I will just be surprised a bit if it's not one of those two, ultimately, that *does* win in Nashville. I will be going to the SEC tournament semis and final this year, so I'm looking forward to three really good games.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Is Penn State really as dominant as they looked against Ohio State on ESPN2 last Monday, or is the young Buckeye post rotation just still learning how to play tough on the road in the Big Ten?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:44 PM)

It's got to be at least some mixture of both. Ohio State made the Penn State posts look like the Amazin' Ogwumikes. Not saying that Nikki Greene and Mia Nickson aren't really good. They are. But still ... did Ohio State actually realize there was a game that night? I mean, that was a weirdly lethargic effort on the Buckeyes' part when something pretty big was at stake. But youth on the interior is a part of it.

deportes0360 (running away)

OK, theoretically, Coach Voepel has 2nd or 3rd place team from the ACC, Big East, Big 12 or SEC. Your team is in the NCAAs third round. Do you prefer facing a similar major team or one of the top mid-majors like GB, Delaware or St. Bonnies?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:51 PM)

Not sure what school could be dumb enough to hire me, but ... OK, let's think about this. The second or third place teams from the ACC could be Duke, Maryland or Miami. From the Big 12, Texas AM and Oklahoma. From the Big East, UConn, Notre Dame or St. John's. From the SEC, Tennessee, Kentucky ... Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina? Hmmm .... These are all pretty difficult match-ups. Of course, if I say I'd rather play the mid-majors, I look like I'm dissing them. Which I'm not. But all things considered, I have to say I'd prefer the top mid-major and take the chance that my "major" conference preparation will prevail. Knowing, of course, that most viewers are all rooting against me. :)

Todd (New Jersey)

With my hopes dashed on Nicky Anosike landing in San Antonio this season, who will be the SilverStars starting center this year?? Appel?? Danielle Adams?? And that Anosike trade to LA just isn't fair, are the Mystics the clear frontrunner for the Brittney Griner lottery?? Any thoughts on where Kelly Miller will end up this season. Both LA & Phoenix still need a starting PG.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:56 PM)

I can really understand why you are worried about your center situation in San Antonio, and right now I can't think of an answer that's really going to ease your mind. :) Not to pick on the Mystics (again) but if what they are building was a boat, I'd be sure to have on my life jacket good and tight. With what we know right now, picking the Mystics to have the worst record in the league this summer is easy. We'll see if it happens. I would guess Kelly Miller should be feeling pretty wanted by somebody ... or more than one somebody.

Troy (Arizona)

So, Ticha went to Chicago! Didn't expect that. What does Phoenix (and Los Angeles, though I only care for my home team ;)) do now at the PG position? Riley/Swanier/Gray-Lawson/Hornbuckle are all backups, not starters... Kelly Miller? Are there any other options?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:58 PM)

I know I have brought this up before, but I still think Sharnee Zoll is worth a look - true point guard who has gotten pro experience. Unless I'm missing something, somebody should be looking at her. Again, maybe more than one somebody?

Dave (Cleveland Tn)

If ND beats UConn two more times, will UConn slip to a 2 seed? Are there scenarios where an ACC team can get a #1 seed? What about Tenn?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:02 PM)

Well, that's a lot of ifs. That's why Charlie is being fed intravenously - because he can't stop to eat or drink, he's constantly looking over and updating Bracketology. :) OK, just kidding ... I think. Um, there are technically still scenarios in which Tennessee or an ACC team could get a No. 1 seed. Especially if Notre Dame beats UConn twice more, or UConn beats Notre Dame twice after losing the first game. That's assuming, of course, that they meet in the Big East final. Or if one of them loses before that in the Big East tourney.

Donnell (New Orleans)

If LSU continues to play defense and finds a way to make it to the Sweet 16, how good of a chance do they have of making it ot Denver if they can find a way to stop turning the ball over.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:05 PM)

The Final Four might be a little too optimistic this season for the Geaux Tigers, but I like the spirit! LSU has seemed to turn a corner in February with the five wins in a row, and they could be an interesting team in the SEC tournament. They have to finish with Vandy and Georgia first, of course.

kevin (macon ga)

John Whisenant has resumed the mostly inert GMing style that marked his last few years in Sacramento. Does he really think the Lib are a contender as currently constituted?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

You know, "inert" is one of those adjectives you never want applied to you ... or to the team you like. But it's pretty accurate here, isn't it? That is one of the big gripes the Sacto fans had back when they still had a team to gripe about. Either The Whiz has a few moves up his sleeve that he hasn't shown yet, or he is happy with the Lib as is. It really may be the latter.

Alex (Anaheim)

How far do you expect Cal to go?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:10 PM)

NCAA second round really wouldn't be a bad showing for this team this year.

AJ (Delaware)

What are your thoughts of UD making it to the final four?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:12 PM)

I would be surprised - not because I don't think Delaware is a good team that on the right night could possibly hang with or upset one of the "major" schools. It's just that to get to the Final Four, you have to win four games in a row, and in this day and age, all four of them actually could be pretty tough. It's beating multiple good opponents consecutively that's the hard, hard thing about the tournament, of course.

Carla (Burbank, CA)

Lots of Sparks talk here :) As a big fan and STH, do the recent moves mean they WON'T be taking Nneka?! Who else could go No.1 and make sense for them: Riquana Williams?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:18 PM)

Maybe I'm wrong ... but I don't see how you can let Nneka Ogwumike go no matter how many posts you have. Here's a fabulous athlete who keeps getting better and who has the kind of personality anyone would want on their team. As for the Hurricane backcourt, Shenise Johnson is Miami's leader in points, assists and rebounding. How high is she going in the draft? What is the long-term view of Sammy Prahalis, who is a true point guard, regardless of what some folks feel about her temperament? The Sparks still have some big decisions to make, don't they?

Josh (Austin)

What do you the think the future holds for Kristy Curry at Texas Tech, after this disappointing season, and with a fan-base that is yearning for the glory days??

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:22 PM)

There are some very unhappy fan bases in both Austin and Lubbock, as the spotlight has gone to Baylor and Texas AM. Tech has seemed to me to have some strange chemistry and leadership issues with the players. There seems to be a player leadership void of sorts at Texas, too, at least with the upper-class players you'd expect to be able and willing to do that. And I'm not trying to make excuses, but injuries have hit Texas in particular very hard. I am not sure I have a feeling at the moment about Curry's future. I do have a feeling that Gail Goestenkors has at least one more season to get more wins and fans' confidence back.

Helen (NYC)

Auburn's Nell Forter and Mississippi State's Sharon Fanning resiging/retiring at season's end... how much of an optimist do you have to be to believe Gail isn't next?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:27 PM)

I'm not sure it takes much optimism. It's really more pragmatism. Gail Goestenkors has two years left on her contract, and I don't think Texas wants to buy her out and admit the hire didn't work. Not yet, anyway. I think she'll get at least another year _ with two very good recruits coming in and, she hopes, the injuries from this year healed up _ to prove that she can be competitive in the Big 12 and nationally. The Horns don't look good for an NCAA trip this season, and there are fans in Texas that are really ready to pull the plug. I'm not criticizing them, because I realize they think if you get a million bucks, you gotta make it happen pronto. But I don't think Texas' administration is ready to make that drastic of a move. A lot will be riding on next year, to say the least, for GG at Texas. Will have a story on Espn.com about this later today.

Helen (NYC)

Who's your dark horse for Coach of the Year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:31 PM)

I am going to be writing about that for Friday on ESPN.com, with six "main" nominees. I don't know how the other voters for the various coach of the year awards are thinking, but I believe the front-runners are the mid-major folks (Delaware's Tina Martin, St. Bonaventure's Jim Crowley) and the dark horses are the "major" candidates (Baylor's Kim Mulkey, UConn's Geno Auriemma). I could be way off-base here with what others are thinking, though. And how about Katie Meier at Miami?

Loree (Atlanta)

What are your thoughts on Angel McCoughtry's hit singles?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:34 PM)

Do I come off as totally uncool for saying I've never heard them? Probably. I didn't watch the Grammy awards, either. I was covering a wrestling tournament. However, *nothing* will make me miss the Academy Awards, at which I hope "The Artist" - my favorite movie of 2011 - wins everything. :)

kevin (macon ga)

There's a fascinating article in the DePaul Journal of Sports Law and Social Problems about the possibility of applying strict scrutiny to schools that cut men's sports to meet the proportionality prong of Title IX compliance. Is that likely to happen? Would it strengthen Title IX?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:41 PM)

I have not read that article, but especially in this 40th anniversary year, there should be a lot of discussion about Title IX. Including on ESPN.com, ESPNW, ESPN the Mag, and the TV networks. I'm actually *not* trying to be a shill. But there will be a lot of talk about it, hopefully a lot of good stories and features. I don't know of anybody reasonable who isn't bothered by the concept of cutting men's sports for schools to be Title IX compliant. It hurts the public perception of what's been a wonderful thing (in academics and athletics) and it hurts male student-athletes. By the same token, women were denied opportunities for so long, that sometimes difficult measures were taken to try to remedy that. I think if there was very strong scrutiny about living up to the Title IX requirements without slicing men's sports, that *does* make Title IX stronger. And, realistically, the language of Title IX does not say specifically it's only about protecting or promoting women's opportunities. It's just that women have been by far the under-served gender in regard to funding/opportunity.

kevin (macon ga)

Sharnee Zoll tweeted about "BIG BIG NEWS" then sent a tweet to Candace Parker, Jantel Lavender, and Nicky Anosike. What does that tell you about where she might be spending her summer?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:42 PM)

I will let people see if they can guess that one. ;)

Arnold Ziffel (Hooterville)

Texas AM will definitely be able to hold their own when they land in the SEC, but how about Mizzou?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:48 PM)

OK, this might be a joke question ... but how could I not post it when it's from my favorite TV pig character? Heck, isn't Arnold everybody's favorite TV pig character? Unless you count Wilber from the "Charlotte's Web" movie ... but he was a cartoon. Anyway, I am glad the Ziffels apparently have upgraded and provide Arnold with Internet access. My answer .... I liked the spirit the Tigers played with the other day at Kansas. Mizzou is a smart team that is in the mold of Iowa State, which is not surprising considering that Robin Pingeton used to be an assistant coach for Bill Fennelly and picked up a lot of good ideas from him and has added those into her system. But the SEC is always super-athletic and a difficult league to score in. Missouri is going to have to improve in quickness and defense to match up in the SEC. They haven't been able to do it in the Big 12 for the most part, even before Pingeton took over.

Helen (NYC)

Coach V, Coach V! You want your team to win, so go for the Bonnies. Last game "exposed" their post play. :-) Anyhoo, a side by side comparison suggests Temple is better prepared - out of conference sked-wise - even though they lost to the Bonnies... Your thoughts on it being the Owls not the Bonnies going to the Dance?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:49 PM)

Good point, actually, and part of why the A-10 tournament could be a very interesting thing to watch.

DishNSwish (Hoopfeed.com)

Loved Jayda's comment today, I guess Carol Ross thinks she can coach the Mystics players better than Trudi. Other than the obvious CP3, why should we believe the Sparks are so much more than Mystics west?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:53 PM)

That is funny. Well, I think the Sparks are kind of doing the Bain Capital treatment to the Mystics - grabbing the most valuable assets (save Crystal Langhorne and Mo Currie) and then leaving the Mystics for dead. :) If the Sparks do find the right answer at point guard and mostly stay healthy - I know those are still big IFs - it could be a very fun LA team. Plus, we know the Sparks' mojo, even when it's been bad, is still far better than that of the Mystics.

Jay (Nashville)

Will we see Nell Fortner land another coaching job or head off into broadcasting land?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:57 PM)

She said in the press conference that she wanted to step away from coaching, but wanted to remain in the Auburn community. Well, we know coaches change their minds or mask their intentions sometimes (cough), but if we are to take her at her word, I'd say broadcasting could be in her future again. Frankly, I really enjoyed Nell's broadcasting work. She's got a nice personality in front of the camera, and a joy about hoops that comes through. At least that's how I viewed her work in that realm.

Helen (NYC)

In the "it's not turning out how I hoped" vein -- yah, it's only been a couple of years, but Seton Hall and Anne Donovan are 0-fer in the Big East.... have you spoken with her about her state of mind?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:01 PM)

No, I'm not sure I'm ready for that depressing of a conversation. ;) Actually, I do feel bad for her, but ... she kind of had to know that this was a major rebuilding job. Maybe not quite like trying to raise the Titanic and make it seaworthy again, but ... Anyway, Saturday is the big Seton Hall at Pitt showdown, so either the Pirates or the Panthers finally have to win.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:04 PM)

OK, I've probably wasted enough of your time. Thanks for all the questions, including the 95 times someone asked if Elena Delle Donne would make it to the Final Four in Denver. Yes, she will ... as a member of the State Farm All-American team. But very likely not with her Blue Hens. Although, that would be a heck of a fun Final Four story to cover. Talk to you next week. Go Uggie!