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January 31, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:04 PM)

Good afternoon. Recently had a long chat with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who is closing in on her 900th victory. It was really interesting hearing about how many odd jobs and experiences she has had in her life. She is someone who really understands hard work. Her generation of coaches did not make much money for many years, and they worked constantly. I think it's important to appreciate that about them. Now, let's get started!

Marty (Nazareth Pa.)

Do you think the Lady Lions can go a long way in the college basketball tournament this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:07 PM)

Michelle Smith and I were just talking about that for our little video thing we do. Everyone always mentions the elevated importance of guards during the postseason, and with Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley, Penn State is very talented and gritty in the guard department. Matchups are so crucial in the NCAA tournament, so it's always hard to speculate too far before you actually have a bracket. But ... I think Penn State could go quite a ways in the tourney.

jbb1985 (ny)

If you were Gail Goestenkors' highly paid career counselor, would you recommend she eventually return to the ACC, stay in Big XII, or try a new conference but closer to the recruiting region she knows such as SEC?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:11 PM)

I talked to Gail late last summer about the U.S. national team job, since Geno Auriemma was finished with that. GG has been an Olympic assistant and has a history with USA Basketball. And at the time, she said she didn't want to coach. At all. Anywhere. Now ... some more time has passed, and maybe more needs to before she has entirely "detoxed" from the Texas experience and wants to go back into coaching. But ... maybe she really will do something else with her life. If she does come back, I think Big Ten might be a good place ... she recruited Ohio quite well. I'm not sure what program, though, or when. Easy to speculate on somebody else's career. :)

Nick (Denver)

Will anyone hand Penn State a B1G loss this year? Are they a legitimate Final 4 contender?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

It's kind of hard to see them getting through completely unscathed, including through the league tournament, but ... they are good enough, so it could happen. And, actually, yes, I think the FF is not out of the question for PSU. Again, it depends on the bracket. I know I say that over and over, but it's really true.

Lady Sybil (Downton Abbey)

Who are you picking to win when they play next month? Baylor or UConn? The game's in Connecticut, right? Lady Mary says she's picking Geno Auriemma because he reminds her of Lord Grantham.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:16 PM)

Oh, thank you for this question. I was trying to keep quiet on spoilers this week with my friends who hadn't caught up with Downton. Finally, I said, "Damn it, watch the episode so I can talk about it!" :) I am so glad that you appear to have, um, rallied, Sybil. I'm going with Baylor by a smidgen in this matchup. As for Lady Mary's comparison of Geno to Lord Grantham ... Geno's track record is a LOT better. :) Wonder who the Dowager Countess would be rooting for?

Helen (NYC)

Having a little flashback to the rather seismic coaching changes that occurred in 2007. Names included: Gail, Coach P, Co Washington, Borseth, Bollant, Butler, Banghart, Van, Mitchell, Suzie, Collen, Guerva Walz Any thoughts on their impact, 5/6yrs in -- and maybe some reflections on last year's changes - 'so far'?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:18 PM)

Oh, goodness, that would take even longer than I generally take asking these questions. :) You are right, that was a big "moment in time" for a lot of people and programs, and we're still seeing the effects of it. It's hard to project what the movements coming into this season will bring eventually, but ... the most obvious thing, I think, is going to be the continued elevation of the Big Ten.

Maurice (Louisiana )

Do you see LSU making the NCAA's?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:21 PM)

The tough thing for LSU is that the remaining SEC schedule doesn't favor them going on a streak to pick up some crucial wins for NCAA consideration. They've still got TAMU twice (including this Monday on ESPN2), Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia. Yikes. So if they're going to make the field, they'll have to do it by getting some upset wins in coming weeks.

kevin (macon ga)

Sophia Young injured her knee playing in China. If she can't return this season, what can the SASS do to compensate for her absence?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:26 PM)

I was really sad to hear that for Sophia Young, as she's been such an pivotal player for the Silver Stars. I don't know if Dan Hughes feels he can try to trade to shore up his post game or at find someone in the free-agent market to help, assuming SY is out for the summer. SASS was already a team with some post concerns, so this just adds to that. Plus, it's a big emotional blow, because SY has been with the franchise for a while now and has such a good on-court chemistry with Becky Hammon.

Sofia (Durham, NC)

UNC is 19-2 with quality wins in some tight games. They've surprised people who thought they'd be as bad as or worse than last season. But the 2 losses were by a combined 71 points. Are they for real? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop that would see them lose games but so far they've pushed through--including that Danielle Butts highlight at Miami.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:28 PM)

You think about some past good UNC teams, and they would have those "huge" losses, too, to other good teams. Which didn't necessarily mean the Tar Heels "gave up" in those games, but I think their style is such that when the wheels fall off, they ALL fall off and everything goes to hell. Then they bounce back. We'll know more based on how they play against FSU tonight and Duke on Sunday.

Shalisha Cook (NJ)

I've been reading the conversations on the Uconn vs Baylor game and people have been saying that BG has fell off from last season and that Dolson has out played her. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that Dolson has outplayed BG?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

Um, I pretty much stay away from those conversations. :) UConn fans are going support their kid, and Baylor's will support their kid. But ... OK, here goes ... no, I do not think Dolson has outplayed Griner this year. Griner has dealt with the shin problem that slowed her a bit, but ... heck, she just said goodbye forever to Lubbock last night with 40 points and 15 rebounds. You can imagine that felt good. Dolson and Griner are having terrific seasons. We're going to see them square off at least once, and maybe twice.

Matt (Chicago)

Huge game in the Big Ten on Monday night on ESPN2. What does Purdue have to do to knock off Penn State in State College?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:35 PM)

I think this is a big test for Purdue's defense. The Boilermakers likely would prefer this game be more in the 60s or less, if possible. Penn State would like it to be a high-scoring game, and that favors the Lions. I'm glad this is a nationally televised matchup because there are players on both teams who are fun to watch and deserve some more exposure.

jbb1985 (ny)

Putting the ELite 3 to one side, and putting the two next top-tier duo [Duke and Stanford] to the other side, from the quartet that follows, which would be your NCAA dark horse pick: Cal, PSU, UK or MD?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:38 PM)

Well, of course, we can see the "best-case" scenario for all four of these teams, and we can also see the "worst-case." I just have been having a feeling lately that Penn State is the so-called "darkhorse" to watch. So let's see if Monday changes my mind any about that.

TerpMD (Maryland)

Thoughts on Maryland and how they've played so far with the short bench? How deep do you think they can go in the Tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:40 PM)

They've been terrific despite dealing with so much injury disappointment. I don't want to short-change their NCAA prospects. It's just that so much is on the shoulders of Thomas and Hawkins. That said, they are pretty adept at carrying a big load. But it sure would have been nice for Maryland's sake if the injuries hadn't hit the guard spot so hard.

aberran (NYC)

With Player of the Year discussions starting up, it's almost disheartening to Delaware fans that Delle Donne doesn't even have a shot (she probably doesn't deserve it this year due to the illness, but last year she was definitely worthy), like MLB MVP voting, should a question be raised "would this team be ranked nationally without that player in the lineup?"

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

There's always that question in the MVP voting - how do you measure "value" to each specific team, or is that really what the award is about. You'll get a lot of different answers for that. I would say this: EDD is still going to get a lot of attention, and that's going to continue past the college season. Obviously, though, as you said, she makes all the difference for Delaware.

ISM ((WDC))

You mentioned Griner scoring 40 points and 15 rebounds; she did that plaing 37 minutes. If you were coaching would you have played her that many minutes with the game well in hand?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

I don't want to try to read Kim Mulkey's mind ... but something tells me she was possibly making a statement of sorts in the wake of the bad blood that's existed between Baylor and Texas Tech since the incident Griner's freshman year.

Sofia (Durham, NC)

What's do you think Tulsa's big announcement is today? A jersey sponsor? They've hyped it as a "Big Day" for the franchise and The WNBA president is in town.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:47 PM)

I think that is what it is, and if so, that's great news. Jersey sponsorships help the league, even if some folks don't like the looks of the jersey then.

Matt (South Bass Island)

After losing starting power forward Kalpana Beach to a torn ACL during preseason practice, Ohio State has been unable to recover, and seem doomed to miss their first NCAA tournament appearance since head coach Jim Foster came to Columbus. Will this down year from the Buckeyes cause star guard Tayler Hill's WNBA Draft stock to drop?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:50 PM)

The WNBA coaches are savvy enough now that they aren't going to judge a player just on what her college team does - or doesn't do - in her senior season. Now, whether the Buckeyes' woes emotionally impacts how well Hill plays the rest of the way - that is a possibility. The WNBA folks, though, ultimately will judge her on her play and potential alone.

Stephen (Austin, TX)

Baylor seems to be steamrolling their way through the Big 12. What does UCONN have to do next month on their home court to beat the Bears and create a question mark amongst the question of who will be the 2013 national champion?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:53 PM)

I don't think the 2013 NCAA champ is a done deal already, regardless of what happens when UConn and Baylor meet in February. UConn is really good, and they have players to match up with Baylor. Even if they were to lose the regular-season matchup, they could win the title. Teams have had little success getting Griner into significant foul trouble, and they don't shoot well against Baylor. If UConn can do both, they can beat Baylor on Feb. 18.

Shalisha Cook (NJ)

The WNBa draft is fast approaching. Who do you think goes number 1 and 2? If Griner goes to Phoenix, do you see them reaching the Wnba finals if they all stay healthy? If Griner goes 2nd and ends up going to Chicago, Do you see them getting to the post season as well as the finals?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:55 PM)

It's impossible for me to believe Phoenix will not pick Griner. That's just not going to happen. With her and the rest of the Mercury healthy (and playing full-time), they do have a shot at winning the WNBA title in 2013.

Lady Sybil (Downton Abbey)

I had mixed feelings about Chamique Holdsclaw being in Knoxville for Coach Summitt's banner raising. I was surprised she was there. Did it make you raise your eyebrows? Glad to see so many former stars show up for Pat, but wasn't sure if Holdsclaw's presence detracted from the event.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:00 PM)

Sort of like Ethel now being Mrs. Crawley's cook ... yeah, there were bound to be some raised eyebrows for Holdsclaw being at TBA on Monday for the banner-raising. I don't know that it "detracted" from the event, though, and I guess it goes to show that Tennessee's bond to former players through good times and bad is real. I don't know exactly what the next step is in the legal process for Holdsclaw ... have been trying to find that out. But the incident with Jen Lacy as it was reported was very serious and could have had a much more tragic outcome. Anything I say will probably sound judgmental, but I hope Chamique realizes how close she might have come to a catastrophe.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:03 PM)

Thanks for all the questions, sorry for the ones I did not get to. Looking forward to the Monday double-header on ESPN2 with Purdue-Penn State and LSU-TAMU. By then, Sylvia Hatchell might have her 900th win, we'll see. And Downton Abbey can't possibly break me up worse this Sunday than last. :) Chat with you next week!