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February 21, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:07 PM)

Good afternoon. Sorry for the late start. We are having our own Midwestern version of Snowmegeddon today. But it's been a mild winter, storm-wise, so I am not complaining. Let's get started.

John (Shreveport, La.)

It seemed before the Baylor-Unconn game, most all media analysis was directed at exactly the right thing for Uconn to win. It was as if all the media experts were detailing the proper way to bully a Baylor defeat. Why was there no analysis of how Baylor could win at Uconn?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:12 PM)

I didn't read or see absolutely all of the media analysis before the game; I wrote about Jordan Madden's role. Not sure how relevant that turned out to be, because nobody for Baylor could stop Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Although Kim Mulkey said that she didn't think Jordan had played badly in trying to defend KML, just that KML is a great player. But if your perception was that most talked about how UConn could defeat Baylor, that pretty much makes sense considering Baylor is the defending NCAA champion and is ranked No. 1, while UConn is No. 3. I think most of us considered UConn the underdog going in, even if the game was in Hartford. So that wasn't some kind of slight at Baylor. Usually in these cases, the pre-game stories are about how the so-called underdog might pull the upset. We're not used to seeing UConn in the position of "upsetting" teams, but that's the case this season in regard to everybody facing Baylor.

jbb1985 (beyond Downton funk)

Any surprises to you from the Baylor-UConn bout?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:16 PM)

It probably isn't a surprise, but I sort of thought Breanna Stewart might be a little more involved in this game. We know how much talent she has, but Geno Auriemma said right now she's lost confidence and that can be a long road for a young player to come back on. I feel sure she'll do it, but it does remind us that all those statements before the season about how she might be the greatest UConn player ever are a lot of pressure to put on a teen-ager who's yet to play her first game for one of the most successful programs in college athletics.

Judith (Cap City)

I'm not a Duke fan, but I hate that Chelsea Gray is now out for the season with a knee injury. What do you think this loss will mean for the ACC race?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:20 PM)

I hate it, too. It's sickening. Gray, of course, had a phenomenal game against Maryland on Feb. 11 where we got to see how many things she brings to the court. It's a hard, hard loss for the Blue Devils. But they do have depth at guard, and experience. Chloe Wells missed second semester last year because of her violation of university policy and Richa Jackson missed the end of the season because of a knee injury. But both are back, and as juniors have experience. Freshman Alexis Jones is very talented. And Duke has bigger guard-forward types who will try to fill in the gap left by Gray, too. It's tough because Duke isn't a positive assist-to-turnover team without Gray, and that hurts especially when you can't always trust your half-court offense. But ... Duke has the ability to still run the table in the league and win the ACC tournament. I think they will stumble at Maryland, but win the rest of their regular-season games. Then it's a matter of how well they compete in the ACC tournament, because weird things can happen in league tournaments.

Lord Crawley (Downton Abbey)

Do you think Lord Auriemma and Connecticut will get the best of Baylor if they meet again in the Final Four?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:25 PM)

Tell you what ... as long as we reporters had to wait for Lord Auriemma and his players to come talk to us after Monday's game, I suspect perhaps they were plotting their hoped-for revenge in detail. :) I mean, it was a long day's journey into night covering that game. So in the time between Baylor's press conference and the UConn arrival, we media people were working on our stories but also discussing if they'll be a Round 2 of Baylor-UConn, and how it will go. Several folks think that UConn will clean up some mistakes and get the better of Baylor at the Final Four. Right now, I'd still give the edge to Baylor ... but if they meet again, it will be another barn-burner. It was really fun Monday to be in attendance at Hartford.

kevin (macon ga)

How much blame does Paul Westhead deserve for Oregon's disastrous season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:28 PM)

All of it. I mean, it's his fourth season. These are his players. They have four wins. Of course, how bad do you feel if you are Washington State, which has provided two of those Oregon victories? Is there light at the end of the tunnel in Oregon with Westhead in charge? Hard to see it.

Levi (Oklahoma)

Oklahoma St has not been consistent this season with such a talented roster...the loss at TCU is baffling. I think if they go 8-10 in league play with the weak non-conference it may hurt. OSU needs to beef up the non conference to not put the team in this situation. Who could be a dangerous team at the Big 12 tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:33 PM)

There have been some bizarre game-to-game results in the Big 12 this season with all teams not named Baylor. Wednesday was a great example: Kansas, coming off a win over Oklahoma, stumbles at Texas, which now has its third Big 12 win. Oklahoma State, which got revenge for a loss at K-State by clobbering the Wildcats at home on Saturday, gets edged by TCU for the Frogs' first Big 12 win. TCU has been knocking at the door, but the Cowgirls sure didn't want to be the team that let them in. So the Big 12 tournament - which will be held in Dallas - is going to be a free-for-all in every regard except who will win it.

Fighting Artichoke (A valley with aggressive yet edible thistles

In selecting your first team AA's, you chose Sims, Diggins, Delle Donne, Ogwumike, Griner. Who would be on your second team? And who is the 6th best player in WCBB?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:39 PM)

This is another thing we all talked about a lot Monday night in Hartford. Lots of reporters were there, so it was great to hear their perspective. Right now, my second team is Dolson, KML, Alyssa Thomas, Chelsea Gray (despite the injury), and A'dia Mathies. That isn't set in stone yet, though. Now, do you mean the best "sixth player" or the sixth-best player? Tricia Liston has been doing a nice job for Duke as a sixth "man," although with Gray's injury, that might change her role. But if the question is who is the sixth-best player in Division I, I'm not sure I've really ranked that in my mind.

George Clinton (The Mother Ship)

Can you see more than 4 ACC teams getting NCAA bids this year? Seems like after the top few, the rest are jumbled up and keep beating each other.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:40 PM)

Yeah ... just depends on how Miami and Virginia finish in regard to whether either can get into the field.

David (Hoopfeed)

You sure you didn't bring the snow back with you after Monday night?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:42 PM)

I did, as a favor to my friends in the East. :) Actually, our farmers here in Kansas desperately were hoping for precipitation. So I am very glad they are getting it.

Blake Whitney (Washington, D.C.)

Fordham was 0-29 in 2008. This year, under Stephanie Gaitley, the Rams are 18-7 and 8-2 in a pretty competitive (at least at the top) Atlantic 10. Fordham has been at the very, very, very bottom of the A10 in both men's and women's hoops ever since joining the league. How impressive is this turnaround?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

It's fantastic, because it's very hard to recruit after a program has hit that kind of rock-bottom. You've got to get kids who believe in a quick but real rebuilding process. Gaitley has been able to do that.

Rock (Milwaukee)

Do you think Zoll is a good pick up for the Chicago Sky?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

It was so disappointing to see her get hurt in LA last year when she finally seemed to have a good chance at catching on with a team. She's a good player who has just needed the right opening, and maybe this is it. So, yes, I think it's good for both parties.

Matt (South Bass Island)

Is last night's 1-point Hoosier victory over the ranked Boilermakers the biggest rivalry upset of this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:47 PM)

It's certainly right up there, and I am wondering - as are Purdue/Big Ten fans, I imagine - just what all has happened to make the Boilermakers go as far off the rails as they seem to have gone. The team has hit a funk, and this was a particularly tough loss emotionally.

rob (TN)

why did you pick loyd over graves for fresh of year? graves is leading and carrying a heavy load for a team in 1st place. loyd is supporting case for diggins and Graves leads Loyd in points and rebounds per game. seems like a no brainer, Not to mention that the LVs are totally outperforming anyone's expectation even more so than ND, as they were picked 5th in the SEC and 20th overall.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:51 PM)

I think Bashaara Graves is a great choice. I do give a lot of weight, though, to how much Jewell Loyd has contributed to Notre Dame being the No. 2 team in the country and exceeding a lot of expectations, too. Plus, it's February 21, and it's not like any of my picks for anything are set in stone. Readers kept asking for "predictions" on awards, and so Michelle and I thought it would be a good idea to do projections.

Helen (NYC)

Just checking in post Baylor-UConn on your thoughts on the physicality of the game -- see the Griner-Dolson takedown. Too much? Just fine? The nature of the game?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:55 PM)

No matter what I say on this, it will tick off somebody. :) Coaches, media and fans tend to talk about games being "too physical." But I rarely ever hear players "complain" about the game being too physical. They'll tend to agree that the sport is physical if asked - which they frequently are - but they generally don't bring it up or complain about it. Dolson was annoyed with the "pulldown," but she wasn't really griping much to us after the game. I think the refs do the best they can with a sport that's gotten increasingly physical as the athleticism has improved. I don't think the sport is "too" physical. Funny thing is, I can remember covering games back in the 1980s and coaches/fans complaining that it was too physical then. :)

Rock (Milwaukee)

Should Kelsey Bone enter the 2013 WNBA draft this year or should she wait until 2014? ESPN has been promoting the Three to See campaign the entire college basketball season. The only problem I have with that is they do not show any Delaware games so people can not see one the best college players in 2013 play. I am talking about EDD of course:)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:00 PM)

I talked to Kelsey last week, and she is definitely at least thinking about leaving for the WNBA after this season. She will have her degree in May, so that's not an issue. The decision will be whether she thinks it's beneficial to her to stay and learn more basketball for another year in college. Gary Blair told me that she could become more proficient at the "4" position to go along with playing the "5" and that could add to her value. But perhaps she could learn all that playing overseas and in the WNBA, too. I think it comes down to how much she enjoys the college atmosphere and whether a chance at an NCAA title next year is something she finds meaningful and realistic. She said she has NOT made her decision yet, but I got the sense she's leaning more toward going into this year's draft. As for the "Three to See" ... I do wish we all got the opportunity to watch EDD more. I don't know how the television games are decided or what all goes into that. I really don't. But the neat thing is that this season has revealed there are a lot more than just three players to keep an eye on.

Levi (Oklahoma)

Iowa will be the most talked about team in an at large bid...so many ranked wins but so many non ranked teams they lost too. I think from the ranked wins Iowa should be in even with a losing Big Ten Record if it happens. Thoughts on Iowa?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:07 PM)

Oh, my gosh, the Hawkeyes are a puzzle. They had that terrible stretch of losing five in a row, but then got the win Sunday at Purdue. They have this week "off" from games, with a trip to high-flying Nebraska on Sunday. They've already lost at home to the Huskers, so that one will be rough. Then they finish with Indiana and Northwestern, and they *should* win those two, but who knows since they already lost at home to NW. If Iowa finishes this regular season 19-11, 8-8 in Big Ten and then wins at least a game in the Big Ten tournament, they should be OK. Especially since they are an early-round host, which does have a little factor in the committee's thinking, whether they say it does or not. But the Hawkeyes are on thin ice if they don't beat Indiana and NW.

Carter (College Park, MD)

According to Debbie Antonelli, Maryland's Alyssa Thomas is putting up a year that is statistically unheard of. Her combination of pts, rebs, assists is unmatched as far as Antonelli looked back. She was first team All-American last season. Why is it that from this preseason til now, national media don't want to include her as an All-American?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:11 PM)

Alyssa Thomas is having an amazing season. And my ESPNW colleague Michelle Smith DID have AT on her first-team All-American ballot. So might a lot of other people. It's not a matter of media not "wanting" to include her on the first team ... it's who do you leave off? Is it Delle Donne? I don't think it's likely that Griner, Ogwumike or Diggins will be left off. Maybe Sims will be, but when you watch the impact she has on games even on nights she doesn't shoot well (like Monday), it's hard to leave her off. So then it probably comes down to EDD vs. Alyssa Thomas ... and then you'll have some people not happy that KML isn't a first-teamer. Like I said before, I might change my mind before we vote. Right now, Thomas isn't on the first team on my ballot, but that's hard for me to say because she's a great player. It's not that I don't "want" her on the first team.

Jean (Charlottesville, VA)

Duke still has an enormous personnel advantage over the rest of the ACC. How do you see them stumbling?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:13 PM)

I think you're right. It's just that possibly they will struggle emotionally and with how efficiently their offense runs. It's hard to lose a point guard, we all know that. But Duke is in better position to absorb that loss -even as good as Gray is - than a lot of teams would be.

Lindsey D. (Houston, TX)

There seems to be a lot of drama with the overseas game. Disgruntled players, ownership issues, paychecks not being received, etc. What are your thoughts on these issues and their impact?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:16 PM)

I guess, unfortunately, we can't be too surprised because the global economic situation has impacted the finances of women's basketball overseas. One thing about the WNBA is that although the salaries are smaller, as far as I know, the checks are always on time. Problems overseas might contribute to some players taking more time off because they don't feel they're being financially rewarded for their time there.

jbb1985 (beyond Downton funk)

It is a tight 3-way race for best 3-point % shooting between Maggie Lucas, Tricia Liston, and Mosqueda-Lewis. On the Coach Voepel team, you have all three superb gunners, your team is trailing in the NCAA finals by 2 -- which gunner is the first option and which the 2nd option when you draw up the final play in the huddle with Baylor defending so SIms and Madden are lurking at the perimeter?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:19 PM)

So I'm taking the Sylvia Hatchell road - after the timeout - of going for the win and not the tie? My first option is KML, second is Lucas. I feel really good on a team that has KML, Lucas and Liston as shooters. But I must be a lousy coach to be down by two. (Goes without saying.)

Sue (Durham, NC)

Jasmine Thomas replacing Lindsey Harding in Atlanta - what kind of impact will this have on the Dream? Having watched both for 4 yrs at Duke and following them in the pros, they are very different players. Jasmine has some nice offensive skills that are buried when she's setting up plays. I can see Jasmine playing as a combo guard with another combo guard like Price - Jas can hit the outside shot and has a nice midrange game. If they try to simply substitute her for Lindsey, they're in for a world of hurt.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:21 PM)

That seems like a pretty good analysis. Maybe the Dream plays without a true, 100-percent point guard. Be interested in what Dream followers think of that.

kevin (macon ga)

Will the 9 for IX series from ESPN become an ongoing thing like the 30 for 30 series has?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:22 PM)

I'm not sure if they are going to make it a continuing series or not. But I am looking forward to the reception of these nine films later this summer. It's an important thing for women's athletics to have this kind of chronicling. I hope it's something that continues. There are so many stories to tell.

Adam R (Albany)

Mechelle, don't my Lady Great Danes deserve better than a 15 seed in the tournament? They're unbeaten in conference play, only 3 losses on the season, and are 2nd in the nation in both points allowed per game and opponent's field goal percentage.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:24 PM)

The way that NCAA brackets work, it's such a tough thing for small conference teams to get seeded better than they usually do. I empathize with that. But it happens on the men's and women's sides. It puts the onus on those teams to have a huge upset in the first round. Not impossible. :)

Lindsey D. (Houston, TX)

Are you surprised Anne Donovan is returning to the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:28 PM)

Not really. I was more surprised that she left for Seton Hall. I didn't get that move at all. Anne is a bit a rolling stone, which I don't mean in a negative way. But she's moved around quite a lot, and I think maybe she gets a little restless when she's in one place for too long. All things considered, she has a lot to look forward to with the ConnSun this WNBA season.

Mary (WV)

Where do you think Viv Stringer will get win No. 900?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:31 PM)

When they lost at DePaul on the late 3-pointer, I thought, "Well, it's really going to be a while." They now travel to St. John's, have USF at home, travel to Cincy, have Pitt at home. At first I thought it would be USF. Not sure about that anymore, especially with USF beating Louisville. Now I'd say it will be at Cincy. It's not a pleasant topic for Stringer or Rutgers.

Levi (Oklahoma)

Is Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins going to be enough to replace a Temeka Johnson and Ivory Latta led offense last year? Do you see the Shock going foward or back or staying the same as last year? I think Tiffany Jackson will help a lot and Liz, if she comes back, should help a lot.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:33 PM)

Yes, if Cambage comes back _ if _ then the Shock is going to be improved from last year. I agree that Tiffany Jackson back helps, and so will Diggins, if she's the pick as expected. I don't know where Liz stands at this point on returning to the WNBA/Tulsa this season.

tim (gainesville)

Do you think that the gators have a chance at making the tournament? A lot of close losses versus good SEC teams

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:37 PM)

Probably not. Unfortunately for the Gators, they needed a couple of those close losses to be victories. However, Florida still has four regular-season games left - Vandy, Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina - and it's not impossible for them to win all four. That would put the Gators at 8-8 in the SEC, and 19-11 overall, and then we have a different story. But ... winning any four SEC games in a row is hard to do.

Matt (Syracuse)

Is Syracuse one of the most surprising teams this season, in your opinion? Seems like they're flying under the radar!

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:40 PM)

Yes, Syracuse probably does deserve more attention than they've gotten. But with regular-season games left against Notre Dame and Louisville, I think they will get more spotlight.

Damian (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Why the Liberty is always waiting 'til the last minute to make any moves?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:43 PM)

As I said earlier, I think Bill has a few moves up his sleeve that he hasn't revealed yet. I know they are driving you crazy, though, Damian, so I hope the Libs make some moves soon. :) I heard a few rumors in Hartford. :) But I don't know if they are imminent.

Robin (San Antonio)

The Silver Stars signed Ziomara Morrison to a new deal. Do you think that's enough to help overcome the loss of Sophia Young? If not, what do you see the Silver Stars doing in free agency or the draft?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:45 PM)

Probably not enough, and the SASS picks eighth in the April draft. Not sure if they can help themselves out enough at post in the draft. Dan Hughes has to make some other moves, I think.

WTE (New Hampshire)

Were you excited as I to see Robin Roberts return to Good Morning America? It was so awesome.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:46 PM)

Indeed. She's such a truly good person, as well as a beloved TV personality. You see that in how respected she is by her colleagues. Everyone is rooting hard for Robin.

Mary (WV)

What's your prediction for this year's Best Picture Oscar?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:50 PM)

"Argo." But I admit I'm pretty far behind on viewing the Best Picture candidates this year. Last year by the Oscar telecast, I think I'd seen all of them except "War Horse," which I couldn't make myself watch. I insanely loved the "The Artist," and was so happy it won last year. I don't have too much "rooting" interest this year. But ... I love watching the show. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:51 PM)

Thanks for all the questions. Guess now I have to go shovel snow. Chat with you next week.