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March 28, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:10 PM)

Good afternoon. Back in the Heartland again after trips to College Station, Waco and Baton Rouge. Will be heading to Oklahoma City for the regional. Let's get going!

Elv (Palo Alto)

Why is everyone discounting Stanford to win it all when they are the only team to beat Baylor? Does everyone think that beating Baylor was a fluke and will not be repeated?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:14 PM)

I don't think it's fair to call that a "fluke" ... the Cardinal *did* win the game. But Odyssey Sims not playing most of it is an extenuating circumstance. I'm going to be straightforward: Stanford has been in five Final Fours in a row and hasn't won any of them. That's the main reason, I think, people are skeptical of them winning a championship this season. Can this Cardinal team do something those other five couldn't? I'm not trying to be flip, honestly. I just think that's a legit question.

kevin (macon ga)

The Big 12 has more than lived up to their seeds. Is it possible that the committee is smarter than we thought?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:19 PM)

Hahaha! It's funny; I've been accused at times of being a Big 12 shill, which is understandable as I live right here in the middle of B12 country. But *I* didn't think the conference was all that great this season, so even I underestimated them, apparently. But I'll say the same thing as last week: The committee has almost always been good to the Big 12. It really has been. That said, it's actually nice to see teams like Kansas proving everybody wrong, me included. I know what the Jayhawks have in them, but I also sometimes think I "overestimate" them because I know them so well. I wasn't sure their best would come out when it was most needed. But it did. I did pick Oklahoma to go to the Sweet 16, though. At least I think I did. Better go back and look at my bracket. :) I also picked Texas Tech, though, so what do I know?

Hoopsmom (New York)

Is there a west regional this year? You wouldn't know it from ESPN coverage. The "3 to see" is a clever catch phrase, but it seems to me that ESPN created the story line before the season began, and a lot of other amazing players and storylines never even saw the light of day. I think this is a real disservice to the sport. Yes, these are three great players....but those of us who watch a lot of games and follow other teams are sick of seeing so many stories about them. As one of the few reporters who can apparently count past 3, what is your take on this? What can we fans do to tell ESPN to report the stories rather than create them?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:27 PM)

I hope I don't get in trouble for posting this question. If I don't show up at my regional, you'll know why. :) I do understand that many fans of the game are pretty sick of "3 to See." But, to be fair, TV is constantly trying to build up the women's game with "regular" viewers who normally don't watch WBB or care about it. So, yes, they jump on "themes" and ride them, hoping to gain some traction with casual viewers. They do this with all sports, actually, but especially with "developing" sports like women's hoops. The idea is to get the casual fan to say, "Oh, wait, I know that name," because then maybe they'll tune in just to see that particular kid. Now, I also will point out that we at have covered a ton of stories that are not about the "3 to See." We really are trying to give you as comprehensive a picture of the whole country as we can - including the benefit of having Pac-12 expert Michelle Smith out in the Bay area. So ... I do get where you're coming from. I know longtime fans probably are like, "Here goes ESPN again, pounding us over the head with the same three stories." But understand it's coming from a mindset that really wants the game to grow. (Even if it may seem like it's the opposite.)

Mary (WV)

Will Delaware be able to biuld on their success? Or is the Elena Delle Donne era pretty much their high water mark?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:31 PM)

I think they can build on it ... but obviously, when is another player like her going to come around again and go to Delaware? So it's not necessarily that they can replicate this exact same kind of success. But, their program has been given a much higher profile. It's probably on good young players' radar, and that's more than it was before. Now, it's about recruiting better talent. Maybe there will never be another EDD, but that doesn't mean the program can't get a big upgrade in recruiting that it wouldn't have gotten if she'd never been there.

kevin (macon ga)

Kelsey Bone didn't look WNBA ready in the tournament. What are the chances she comes back to Texas A&M?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:33 PM)

I have to agree with you. She has a lot of talent, she is a smart player, but she doesn't have the consistency yet that you'd like to see. That said, she may emotionally be "done" with college ball, plus, there is the money overseas to think about. I think she will go pro, and she'll have to mature more as a competitor at that level. But if she comes back, I think she can have a great final season with the Aggies.

Keith (Lincoln, NE)

With Lindsey Moore playing as well as she is, along with the strong scoring from Jordan Hooper, how do you see Nebraska fairing against Duke this weekend?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:36 PM)

I was in College Station to see Nebraska's upset of TAMU, and the Huskers really stuck to their gameplan and played with so much energy. If they do the same thing, I do think they can give Duke some trouble. The Blue Devils, though, have shown an ability to rally when they are in trouble, and I think overall, they are still the favorite in this one.

Stephen (Granite)

What are the Sooners going to have to do to get to the Elite 8? Coach Coale has them playing well right now.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:40 PM)

Once again, Sherri Coale has gotten the most of what she has to work with despite injuries. I think two things are key for OU against Tennessee: Can the Sooners (not just Joanna McFarland) rebound against the LVols? And can OU hit from the outside to help establish some post presence? The Sooners had 11 3-pointers against UCLA, which really hurt the Bruins. If this is a close game, the crowd will be going nuts and that will help OU, too. Tennessee fans travel great, but they'll be outnumbered by the Sooner folks in OKC.

Brett S. (Lawrence, KS)

Alright, Mechelle. Size up the chances for Kansas to pull off an upset over Notre Dame. This Lawrencian is very optimistic!

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

I love the way Kansas played the last two games. Monica Engelman was amazing against South Carolina. Nice to see after her various ups and downs in her career. But ... I also love the way Notre Dame has been playing all season. If I thought the Irish looked truly vulnerable to a big upset, I would be more optimistic about KU's chances. But I just don't think the Irish will let it happen. That said, KU played very respectably against Tennessee in the Sweet 16 last season, and that was without Carolyn Davis. So the Jayhawks have that to draw on. I think it's all gravy from here for KU; a No. 12 seed in the Sweet 16 is very impressive.

Pj (Chicago)

If your the Chicago sky who are you taking with the 2nd pick in the draft? Also, how do you not offer everything on your roster except the 2nd pick for the 3rd for a future Diggins and Donne pairing?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:46 PM)

The Sky has to go with Elena Delle Donne. All due respect to Skylar Diggins, but EDD is just too good and too rare a talent for her size to pass up. Regardless of questions about her health. The Sky needs EDD; she is going to be a great fit there. I don't know how the Sky would be able to get them both. :) But EDD is enough. I think she's proving she's going to be a great pro.

Matt (South Bass Island)

Is Michigan native Gail Goestenkoers a top candidate for the newly open head coaching position at Ohio State?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:50 PM)

I think GG should be a candidate. The questions are, is she ready to come back to coaching yet, and does her Texas experience affect what Ohio State might think of her? I don't think it should, because Texas was a bad fit for her in a way that Ohio State would not be. That is her neck of the woods. Texas never was. That said, this is a great job, and OSU can be very discerning about who it hires. Let's not forget, by the way, that Stephanie White (Fever assistant) would love this job, too. Just another name to think about.

Matt (South Bass Island)

What has been the most thrilling game to watch from the NCAA Tournament thus far?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:53 PM)

With all that was on the line emotionally, I'd probably go with Delaware over North Carolina. There was an unforgettable atmosphere there that we could feel even just seeing it on TV. The fact that the Blue Hens were trailing, and had to fight back, and did in EDD's farewell home game ... it was pretty special to watch. Maybe not for Tar Heels fans, of course, but the super recruiting class coming in to Chapel Hill is a lot of consolation.

Genny (Western MA)

Am I only one who is turned off by all the "look at Griner dunk" coverage? I know it gives a ready highlight, but WBB is not about the dunk (at least not until more 6'8" women come on the scene) and not the same kind of game as MBB. I would rather see an EDD three pointer or Diggins blow by everyone to get to the basket.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:57 PM)

Dunks are great TV. TV loves the dunk. It's just the way it is. I think it's fine ... it's fun to watch Griner, and I honestly don't get turned off by watching her highlighted at all. I just think she's a remarkable player, and if she dunked every game, great. You're right, the women's game is not about the dunk, but I just don't have any problem at all with enjoying it when it happens.

Donnell (Baton Rouge)

Mechelle, how good of a job has Nikki Caldwell done with this group of ladies this year with all the adversity they have endured. Do you see her as being a longtime coach here at LSU or do you think she heads to a more precious job if it call calling. Love what you do for women's college Bball and GEAUX TIGERS!!!!!!!!

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:00 PM)

When you consider that there was a time in this season where it really didn't look like LSU was going to even be in the NCAA field, let alone the Sweet 16, that says it all about how good a job Nikki Caldwell has done. She's a good coach, a good motivator, and I think also really gives her team confidence. I think LSU *is* a great job, and it's in her "home" conference. I could be wrong, but I don't think that there are too many other jobs that would even interest her at this point.

jbb1985 (same old time zone)

Kelsey Bone and Kayla Alexander did not have exactly superb NCAA games on the way out. It seems the AP All-American 2nd team "post slot" is now a competition between Elizabeth Williams (last yr. 3rd team) and Steph Dolson (last yr. not even Honorable Mention). Usually AP voters like to promote AA players one notch as they get older and one hopes better. Usually AP voters like the main metrics PPG and RPG, like MLB MVP voters like HRs and RBIs. Do you think Duke's Williams reg season and NCAA is enough to get 2nd team or might Dolson just edge her out, presuming one post per AA team?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:04 PM)

We AP voters already did our ballots for the All-American teams and POY, COY. Those were due on March 18. So the NCAA tournament doesn't have any bearing on those votes. And the last AP poll, of course, is before the NCAA tournament, too. Whether it should be that way I guess may be up to debate among fans, but that's the way it is set up.

Jan (Kentucky)

Who are your top candidates for the North Carolina State job?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

I am really not sure, because it surprised me a bit they pulled the plug on Kellie Harper after four seasons. My friends in the know in ACC country said that it was in the works when the Wolfpack's season was clearly down the tubes, but Harper also had some N.C. State backers in her corner who wanted her to be given more time. The old saying is, you don't want to be the coach that takes over for a legend, you want to be the *next* coach after that. Few programs went through more emotional angst than N.C. State did in Kay Yow's final seasons; Harper had to help kids "heal" but also try to move the program forward in a new direction. That was not an easy spot for her to be in. I think Harper will bounce back fine in a new setting once the sting of this goes away. She'll move forward quickly, that's just her nature. But who can come in and make the Wolfpack competitive with the likes of Duke and Carolina? It's a tough task.

Jan (Kentucky)

If you were Holly Warlick and you get past Oklahoma to face Baylor, how do you beat them? What's the game plan?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:14 PM)

Holly Warlick talked about it when asked the question generally "How do you beat Baylor" back before the SEC tournament. She keyed in on what Texas AM did in beating Baylor in the 2011 Elite Eight: Hit outside shots. That's huge. But it's hard, because Baylor's perimeter defense is just as good as the interior defense. The Aggies, led by Sydney Carter that night, were able to do it. But ... that was also a younger Baylor team. Ultimately, Warlick said that hitting outside shots and trying to disrupt Odyssey Sims' control of Baylor's offense were two "musts" for beating the Lady Bears. The good thing for Tennessee - if they beat Oklahoma and then face Baylor again (if Baylor avoids a shock from Louisville) _ is that Tennessee has gone against Baylor this season and at least can draw from what they learned in that game. Not that they'd want a game anything like that blowout in December in Waco, of course. :)

Genny (Western MA)

Does the knocking out of all the #3s show that there is pretty much parity among the major conference schools in the top 20-25 beyond the very top programs?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:16 PM)

I do think there's something to be said for that, and you can look at the "logjams" that are often in the major conferences' standings in the second or third or fourth spots, etc., too. The Big 12, for example, was a league where other than Baylor, you kind of thought anybody could beat anybody. You saw similar parity in the Big Ten and Big East, too, for example.

jbb1985 (same old time zone)

Bria Hartley's nagging ankle injury seems to have largely hindered her all season with subpar shooting, and that has affected the rest of her game. Or do you think the injury was complicated by confidence issues? Whichever case, do you anticipate a fully healthy Hartley as a senior bounces back completely to her prior State Farm/ WBCA All-American level as a soph or not again in her college career?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:19 PM)

Confidence can erode so easily when a player is struggling with some physical issues. I don't always know where one starts and the other begins. I'm not sure the players and coaches always do, either. I think based on her skill level and UConn's ability to get the best out of the overwhelming majority of its players, the odds are that Hartley can have a very, very good senior season if she feels good physically.

kevin (macon ga)

Through two rounds, tournament teams are averaging 65.4 ppg. That's a little better than the first weekend last season and even ahead of the men's tournament. We even had a team crack 100 for the first time since 2009. Still, it's well short of the 80's and 90's when tournament averages were 70+. What will it take to get more scoring in WCBB?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:24 PM)

You could probably say the same thing about the men's college game. To me, there are two factors that stand out. 1. How physical post play, in particular, has become in both men's and women's hoops. It makes it tougher on offenses, I think. But that's how the game has evolved, and I don't know if you can really dial it back without it becoming a free-throw shooting contest. 2. I really believe technology changes have made it harder on offenses than defenses. By that I mean the vast amount of video that is available, how quickly a coach/player can access specific situations/plays to watch. I think defenses are more prepared than ever for what offenses are going to do. And ultimately, I still think executing a great offense is still more difficult than executing a great defense. Those are just two things I think have impacted offense on the college level for men and women.

victor (monroe,louisiana)

what do you make of the LSU Lady tigers now that they are going to spokane this saturday?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:27 PM)

Kind of like Kansas, I think anything from here on out is gravy for LSU. They defied the odds to beat Penn State without Jeanne Kenney, although I did feel for the Lions having to play two seasons in a row on LSU's home court. That was hard. I don't know if Kenney will be available, or if LSU's seniors can produce against Cal the way they did against PSU. Cal is a tough, physical team that will try to wear out LSU inside. Although PSU tried to do that, too.

kevin (macon ga)

Wil Taj McWilliams make it to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame? What about the Naismith?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:29 PM)

Definitely the first, not sure about the second. BTW, I talked to Taj on Saturday ... she and new fellow NYLiberty assistant Barb Ferris were both at the games in College Station, Texas. Taj actually said she's not ruling out ever playing again, but for now she'll see how things go with coaching at the WNBA level. At her age, obviously, time is nearly run out on her as a player. But with Taj, I guess we still can't say "never." She is very excited about working with the Liberty.

Allen (WI)

What did you think about UCLA's effort against Oklahoma? It almost seem as if many of them were disinterested about the game.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:34 PM)

I saw a program (OU) that really understands how to play well in the NCAA tournament vs. one (UCLA) that still doesn't quite have that mindset the same way. Oklahoma has developed that well over the long time that Sherri Coale has been there, and UCLA was probably starting to get it under Nikki Caldwell. But now Cori Close hasn't had time yet to truly instill that. It just seemed to me that the Sooners had more "fight" in them than the Bruins did in this do-or-die kind of game. For UCLA's sake, you hope they take this experience and build on it.

Matt (Chicago)

Purdue has now missed the Sweet 16 for four straight years, the longest stretch in the program's history. Is it fair to wonder if Sharon Versyp is in over her head given that she can't reach even that level of success for a historic power now that she has her own recruits? It seems like it is way past time to blaming Kristy Curry for the program's downfall.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:39 PM)

Kristy Curry is getting enough heat at Texas Tech, she doesn't need Purdue's problems on her plate, too. :) The Big Ten is evolving _ in a good way, I think _ but that does make things tougher for Purdue. The Boilermakers did win the Big Ten tourney again, though, so Versyp has to get credit for that. And it was tough having to be on Louisville's home court to play the Cardinals in the NCAA second round. I don't think that Versyp is in over her head, but I also don't know if Purdue can reach the same level of success that the Boilers were used to. At least not consistently. I've heard some speculate about whether her coaching style - which is perhaps more "controlling" than some others in the Big Ten and elsewhere - will continue to be successful to the degree that Boiler fans are used to.

Andy (Minnesota)

What do you make of the new WNBA/ESPN deal?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:41 PM)

Hey, the more WNBA games on TV, the better. The stronger the relationship the league has with ESPN, the better. What can I say? That's self-interest, of course. :) But also just because I want the league on national TV as much as possible.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:42 PM)

Thanks for all the questions. Enjoy the Sweet 16/Elite Eight. Chat with you next week!