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April 18, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:02 PM)

Good afternoon. Overall, I thought the WNBA teams for the most part did OK on the draft. It's always an inexact science. Let's get chatting.

Greg (La Crosse, WI)

Rebecca Lobo, during the ESPN WNBA draft coverage, said that she thinks Phoenix is the favorite this year with the addition of Brittney Griner. Carolyn Peck didn't seem entirely convinced. Who do you have as early favorites in each conference post-draft?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:04 PM)

My very early prediction on conference finishes for the East: Indy, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Washington, Connecticut. For the West: Minnesota, Phoenix, LA, Tulsa, Seattle, SASS. This could change before we do our season preview stuff. But that's my initial prediction.

Steve (CT)

Best basketball program in the new American Athletic Conference outside of UConn (and Louisville for 1 season) is.....? Who do you expect to rule the new Big East?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:06 PM)

I'll go with South Florida in the AAC. And the "new" Big East - a very good conference for men's hoops - is filled with question marks on the women's side. It's mostly marginally successful programs who may get better and some ne'er-do-wells. As for the potential leaders of this new Big East, I'll say St. John's, DePaul. They have had their good moments in the past ... maybe they will bloom more out of UConn's shadow? Oh, and Dayton. I forgot - they are joining the new Big East. Hard to keep this all straight, actually.

RDub21 (California)

Was there any chance that Skylar would have gone #2 to Chicago?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

Last year after the draft lottery, I thought maybe so. Then I said to myself, "You're crazy; the Sky can't pass on Delle Donne." No offense to Diggins, but I think EDD's combination of skills at her size means she's a rarer gem, and besides that, she is exactly what Chicago needed. She can be a presence inside and out, and will force defenses to keep from keying on either Fowles or Prince.

Ryan (Ordonez)

Is the Diggins/Wiggins duo enough for Tulsa to get its first ever playoff appearance?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:11 PM)

I don't think it will be just them. Kloppenburg has a pretty decent team to work with, and he showed his coaching chops last year. That _ combined with what we are anticipating may be rough years for SASS and Seattle _ make Tulsa seem like a pretty good playoff bet to me.

RDub21 (California)

Any good sleeper picks in the draft in your opinion?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:15 PM)

I think second-rounder Kamiko Williams is really just starting to come into her own as a player and will fit in well with what Laimbeer wants to do in New York. She's got the size and quickness and defensive skills he wants in a guard. And Chicago might have gotten a "sleeper" with Brooklyn Pope in the third round. If rosters were one player bigger, it would be easier to see more "sleepers." Somebody like Waltiea Rolle with the Lynx, perhaps. Maybe she'll make it anyway.

Peg (Baldwin, MD)

I'm sure you'll get asked this a lot, but how do you think the Mystics faired in the draft? were you surprised Hawkins was not chosen by the Mystics?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:21 PM)

I gave the Mystics a grade of "B," but I think their draft was "OK" not "great." It seemed certain that the No. 4 pick had to be Tayler Hill, Kelsey Bone or Tianna Hawkins. Hill fit a spot in which the Mystics were more in need. I still thought they might go with Hawkins. Brian Agler was very happy to get Hawkins in Seattle. Mike Thibault is a very experienced scout, so even if Ohio State had its struggles this season, he was able to discern Tayler Hill's performance separate from what the team was doing. For some reason, I have to admit I'm not entirely sold yet. But she may be exactly what Washington needed.

RDub21 (California)

Is there any talks about expansion for next season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:22 PM)

None of substance that I know of right now.

kevin (macon ga)

Would the WNBA have been better served to postpone the draft in the wake of the Boston attack? Whatever buzz the 3 to See generated was completely lost as ESPN spent the whole next day talking about the explosions.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:24 PM)

There were too many things that would make that logistically very difficult. Sometimes, real life just disrupts planned events.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who will be your Preseason Pick for the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:25 PM)

I'll go with Brittney Griner, but I won't be surprised if it's Elena Delle Donne.

Jay (Jersey)

Your opinion on the Chicago sky? is the core of prince, cash, fowles, and now Delle Donne enough to propel them to one of the wnba's elite franchises?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:26 PM)

Yes. If these players stay healthy, or relatively so, I really like that line-up. Delle Donne clearly has thought ahead to how she fits in; she was very, very happy on draft night.

Jan (Kentucky)

There has been a debate as to whether UConn/Tennessee should revive their series since UConn won the title. One view is no because of past history and to grow the game by focusing on other teams and rivalries. Another is yes because both programs benefitted by playing some of the best competition. Your opinion?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:27 PM)

I never wanted them to stop playing. As it turns out, other rivalries did fill in the gap, especially Notre Dame-UConn. But the UConn-Tennessee matchup is still special, as it's such a clash of titans and of very different parts of the county. Yes, I hope it returns at some point.

Jan (Kentucky)

How do you think Tulsa should handle the situation with Liz Cambage? Trade her or leave the door open but move on? Could they even get a trade for her at this point?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:29 PM)

I asked Shock president Steve Swetoha on draft night, and he said he still feels they have a good relationship with Liz. They hope at some point they can lure her back over here. I guess they don't want to give up on her just yet.

Matt (South Bass Island)

Besides Alex Bentley, which draft pick after the first round has the best chance of making their team roster?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:30 PM)

I'll go with Sugar Rodgers, Kamiko Williams, Brooklyn Pope, Angel Goodrich, and Jasmine James. But as everybody knows, it's hard to get a job in this league.

Jonathan (New York)

Do you think that more media coverage of the international careers of elite women bball players can help grow the women's game? Players like Taurasi, Jackson, Charles, and other stars after all play most of their careers and earn most of their money outside the U.S. Thanks

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:35 PM)

Idealistically, yes. But there's a reason why the WNBA is in the summer: Because of the fear it would be completely lost in the "normal" basketball season with the NBA, men's and women's college, and boys' and girls' high school. And there's the plain fact that it's not in the United States. How much attention can we reasonably expect to get in the USA for women's pro basketball played in foreign countries at any time, let alone in the winter/spring when there's so much other basketball here going on?

Ryan (Sacramento, CA)

Do you think Cambage will ever come back to the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:36 PM)

At some point? Yes. When and where? I don't even think I can guess.

Ryan (Sacramento, CA)

Besides the "3 to see", which other rookies are you looking forward to watching this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:37 PM)

Tayler Hill, Tianna Hawkins, Toni Young, Kayla Alexander are some of the top players I'm most looking forward to seeing, in terms of how they adjust to the pro game.

Jan (Kentucky)

Were you surprised that Tennessee's Taber Spani wasn't drafted and do you think she will be invited to some training camps?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:40 PM)

No, I wasn't surprised she wasn't drafted. She has an injury history and there are going to be questions about her as defensive player. However, I would guess she will be invited to camps, and she definitely can play overseas. She might end up being a player who doesn't make it into the WNBA right after college, but eventually does. It depends on how healthy she can stay _ she could give a team a big, tall, lefty shooter with range.

Matt (South Bass Island)

If Kelly Faris was not a UConn Husky, would the Sun have still selected her at #11?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:46 PM)

Perhaps not, but that doesn't mean the ConnSun only picked her for the "label" of UConn. The fact is, UConn has produced a lot of successful pro players. Huskies are a known quantity. You are going to get a player who already has conducted herself like a "pro" while still in college. UConn players are used to demanding practices, to dealing with a lot of media and expectations, to carrying themselves in a dignified way, and to playing hard. They tend to make the transition to the WNBA efficiently. I compare it to a company that continues to perform well in the market ... you keep buying their stock. At that point for the Sun, picking No. 11, I don't think it would have made much sense to pass on Faris. I didn't think Tiffany Hays should have dropped to the second round last year, either. I'm not trying to do a UConn commercial here, just stating what seems evident judging on former Huskies' performances in the WNBA.

Rommel (Phoenix)

I noticed that Anna Martin was not drafted. Do you think she has a chance to get a camp invite? I would think she would fit in Seattle, or Washington as they need talent everywhere.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:47 PM)

Yes, I would expect her to get a camp invite, if she hasn't already. Again, it's always a numbers game to try to make a roster, especially for guards. But she deserves a look.

Ryan (Sacramento, CA)

Which team had the best draft? The worst?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:49 PM)

I think New York was the best, but it's also hard to beat Phoenix and Chicago just with Griner and EDD. As for the worst, I didn't think anybody really screwed up or did ridiculous things, like we've sometimes seen in the past. But I don't know if Connecticut or San Antonio helped themselves that much. In regard to the latter, it depends on if - and how quickly - Kayla Alexander can make an impact.

Ryan (Sacramento, CA)

Which player not getting drafted was the biggest surprise?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:53 PM)

I didn't see anybody as a big surprise in terms of not getting picked. But I think the players who might have been next to go if the draft still had a fourth round are Carolyn Davis, Markel Walker, and Destiny Williams.

kevin (macon ga)

If you had a 12 year old daughter, would you want Mike Rice to be her AAU coach?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:53 PM)

No. I wouldn't want Mike Rice coaching anybody.

jbb1985 (east)

If Baylor was the odds-on favorite to repeat as NC this past season, or perhaps heavy odds-on favorite, would you say UConn is the odds-on favorite or perhaps even the heavy odds-on favorite for the upcoming season to repeat?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:54 PM)

UConn certainly seems to be the heavy favorite for 2013-14.

Andy (Minnesota)

With Jarry, Gemelos, Rodgers, and Jeffery - who do you see with the best chances of making it on the Lynx roster?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:55 PM)

I'll say Sugar Rodgers.

jbb1985 (Euphoria in CT)

Charlie Creme posted his pre-season Top 25. Which of the three previously lofty ranked teams, which he now suggests will all be in the second 10, surprises you the most: Baylor, ND and PSU that far back?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:57 PM)

I think it was a good top 25. I am a little higher on Notre Dame than Charlie, perhaps. I might have had the Irish around 7-8. That is not to say that I don't think Skylar Diggins will be missed. Of course, she will be. Just that with the others coming back and McGraw as head coach, I think they're still going to be very good.

Rich (London)

If one bounce goes the other way and Cal lose that second-round NCAA tourney game that went to overtime, is Layshia Clarendon even a first rounder in Monday's draft?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:00 PM)

I mentioned on Twitter before the draft that a coach in the league had told me she really wanted Clarendon and had her ranked highly before the NCAA tournament. That coach was from Indiana. So she wasn't fibbing. :) It seemed like talking to various coaches, they were more on the Clarendon bandwagon earlier in the season than I initially thought.

jbb1985 (east)

How much more physical is the WNBA vs. top-tier WCBB? Will most WNBA games for Griner be like the bouncing about and jamming she faced in the L'ville game, or easier? Of the top WNBA centers -- which one is the match-up you're looking forward to the most, such as Fowles-Griner, Charles-Griner or another pairing?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:07 PM)

As you know, it's not like Louisville did something nobody else had ever tried. It just worked well, in part because I think Baylor was just "off" mentally at the start of the game and didn't expect such ferocious/fearless play from Louisville. And the LBears were not making the Cardinals pay for packing it in on BG. Now, I know a lot of people will say that Louisville got away with too much that wasn't called in that game, but - again - it's not as if Griner had never been roughed up like that before. She was maybe a bit too passive for too long in that game. And although Baylor was a great college team, they didn't have anything like Taurasi, Bonner, Taylor, Dupree as scorers to make teams pay for collapsing on Griner. Not to mention that Prahalis has shown herself to be a pretty adept PG, too. As for the center match-ups, I look forward to Fowles-Griner and Charles-Griner equally.

Rich (London)

Can you survive a WNBA season with Mistie Mims and Kelsey Griffin as your platoon at power forward?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:09 PM)

Well ... define "survive." :) If you mean "be successful," it's hard to see.

Sheree (Georgia)

Kevin McGuff wasn't Ohio State's first choice, but is it crazy to believe that he is still the best fit for the job of all the candidates under consideration (sans Geno)?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:10 PM)

With his ties to the area and his past success, McGuff seems like a good choice to me. Even if he wasn't No. 1 or 2 or 3 on OSU's original list.

SoYo (San Antonio)

Several of us are puzzled why Dan Hughes would select Whitney Hand when Destiny Williams was still available. What reasons were given for all teams passing on Destiny Williams? Is Hand going to rehab & play profesionally?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:15 PM)

I respect Dan Hughes a lot as a very good talent evaluator, but I would have taken Destiny Williams before Hand without even a second thought. I said earlier that no one was a *big" surprise to not get drafted, but the closest thing to that - for me - was Williams. I think she's a good player who can help a WNBA team. The fact that she got bumped from Baylor's starting rotation this year had little to do with her play. Kim Mulkey said that Brooklyn Pope played better as a starter, while Destiny was just as reliable either starting or coming off the bench. Destiny is big, strong, smart, and very mature. I don't know for sure what Hand's plans are, but that pick seemed like a reach to me. Hand is a fantastic kid who showed a lot of promise, but injuries kept her from fully achieving all she could have.

Steve (CT)

Do you think UConn will find it difficult to fill out a tough non conference schedule? Considering how tought the ACC is going to be, Notre Dame doesn't need to schedule UConn but doesn't UConn need to schedule Notre Dame?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:19 PM)

Of course, UConn always faces some difficulties with its non-conference scheduling because so many teams either don't want to face the Huskies (fear of getting blown out) or don't want to face them in Connecticut. And UConn, economically, needs to have as many home games as it can. Will the change in conference affiliation make it even tougher for the Huskies to schedule? It seems likely. But that doesn't necessarily mean their play will suffer. They've had great seasons where they ran all over their competition, and still never got sloppy or complacent.

Damian (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

New selected Bone, Young and Williams, how far do you see the libs are going this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:20 PM)

I anticipate the Liberty will be a playoff team, but not Eastern Conference champion.

Steve (CT)

No surprises in Kelly Faris going to the CT Sun. But is the Sun the right fit for Kelly?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:24 PM)

She will play very hard, because that's what she does. However, I think she is a "cog" player, not a star, at the WNBA level. Thus, I think she would be better-served to be with a more talented team that could utilize her well as more of an effective role player.

Jan (Kentucky)

Tennessee is currently being pegged as a top five team next year. What do they need to get past the Elite Eight hump and make it back to the Final Four?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:26 PM)

I think they need to have that team speed/quickness to play more traditional Tennessee defense. They may have that next season.

Tom (San Francisco, CA)

Have you heard anything else about Beth Burns' sudden and mysterious departure from San Diego State?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:27 PM)

Not yet, really. And, yes, it seems very weird.

Tom (San Francisco, CA)

What do you think of the way Brittney Griner came out on the SI show last night? To me, I was struck about how it was so matter-of-fact and not a big deal. Even more encouraged by the comments, her fellow colleagues (EDD and Skylar) made about playing with a gay player. How much impact can these three have on the game? And the W embraces Brittney! Amazing how far the league has truly come. Would love your thoughts on this as a mark of how much the culture of the league has changed and perhaps finally embraced or not shied away from gay labels.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:33 PM)

I agree the WNBA has come a long way in this regard. At a luncheon of the draftees on ESPN's campus on Monday, Brittney talked about this (her sexuality). It's been something she has been - as far as I can tell - pretty open about while in college. Or at least, she wasn't "hiding" it. And, yes, considering she was at a Baptist school and is beloved there ... let's just say that is very interesting. :) I think that's how things change, though, in a society ... people may have a very strong belief about something, and then they become fond of someone whose very existence challenges their view. They suddenly have to really think about gay people as individuals, not as some collective block of "others." As for Diggins' and EDD's responses, they are heart-warming, and I believe they represent the view of the majority of younger people today. I believe you'll see BG being more open and outspoken (in a positive way) in several stories this year. I know of one, for sure, that will be coming pretty soon.

jbb1985 (east)

If you're a top exec at NCAA or at ESPN, how much might you be rooting for the long delayed Tenn. vs. UConn game to occur next year at Nashville in the final game, given all the story lines that would present? Do you think Warlick could revive the Tenn-UConn series on her own, or is she likely to give her mentor, Summitt, the veto power on that decision for the next few years?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:37 PM)

They can "root" for it, but that doesn't mean it will happen. :) But the idea of it is pretty intriguing, for obvious reasons. As for the series ever resuming, I respect Warlick so much for the loyalty and devotion she has shown Summitt. She has been steadfast in that for decades. But ... it's her program now, and she should make that decision based on what she thinks is best for her program. If Warlick decided to resume the series - I know she's said in the past she wasn't thinking of doing that, but we'll see as time passes - it would NOT be a slight to Summitt. In any way.

Jan (Kentucky)

Phoenix added Griner but LA added Harding. Will either team make the WNBA finals or will Minnesota surprise everyone?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:39 PM)

I don't think it will be a surprise if the Lynx make it back to the Finals. They are, again, going to be a really good team. I can see any of those three making it, barring any major injuries. It's going to be really fun watching the match-ups between those teams, especially, in the Western Conference this season.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:41 PM)

Thanks for all the questions. Sorry for the ones I did not get to. We'll be taking a break from the chat next week. Will let you know on Twitter when we'll resume.