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February 13, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:05 PM)

Good afternoon. I was in North Carolina/South Carolina this past Saturday-Tuesday. Just missed the big storm. Feel fortunate to have gotten back home. Will be returning, weather permitting, on Sunday. So ... let's get started.

kevin (macon ga)

Will we ever see Lauren Jackson in the W again?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:06 PM)

Let's hope so. She says she wants to return. She'll be 33 in May, and then she has the World Championship this fall. If she's healthy enough, I guess maybe 2015 is a possibility for returning to the WNBA. Not sure about 2016, as that seems likely to be her last appearance at the Olympics. Unless she decides to match Taj McWilliams-Franklin in the longevity department. :)

jbb1985 (under snow, more snow, periscope up)

New LA Sparks owners get the team revved up to a new level of performance and consistency, or same very bright prospects but potentially mixed results in playoffs?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:08 PM)

Great point ... there should be lots of enthusiasm for the Sparks, and with Gail Goestenkors and Gary Kloppenburg on the bench, that is a lot of coaching firepower. But it's not as if Minnesota is backing away from being the top team in the West. And Phoenix should also be very good. LA will face the same challenges it has been facing.

Stephen (Austin)

Is Baylor the most unexpected success story this year? Are they getting the respect they deserve. Am I wrong in thinking that a bad loss at Kansas is the only thing that is keeping them from a potential #1 seed come Selection Monday.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

Even Kim Mulkey has said her team has performed better than she expected it to, for having so many young players, and players in very different roles. I was at the loss at Kansas, and that was just a young team that was mentally not in the game that day. As for No. 1 seeds ... let's see if Baylor can get through the rest of the Big 12 season and the tournament undefeated. It will be interesting to see how well Texas plays against Baylor in their rematch on Sunday in Austin. Baylor won the first game, in Waco, 87-73 at the beginning of the month. That's the only game Texas has lost in its last six.

Matthew (Kentucky)

Hello Mechelle. I hope you're doing well. I have two questions:1) Ultimately, what regional do you see UConn being sent to in the tournament?2) If UConn and Notre Dame do play in the Final Four, what would be the biggest keys/matchup that would determine the outcome - and who do you believe would win?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:17 PM)

Charlie Creme has the Huskies going to Louisville ... as of this week. That's based on the geographic S-curve, which he has explained a lot in his Bracketology breakdowns. Now, what we don't know is whether the committee will follow their usual procedures and principles since this year has the odd factor of having home sites for the regionals for the first time in many years. This year will be an outlier in that regard, and we really just don't know if it will cause the committe to "free-lance" when it comes time to making decisions. And there are some x-factors among the other teams in the running for No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, in terms of how they finish the regular season and do in their league tournaments. If UConn and ND meet, I think the key is whether the Irish can find any way to slow down Breanna Stewart. At least a little.

Conner (Waco, TX)

If Baylor continues playing like they are, what are your views on them making the Final Four?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:22 PM)

It really comes down to what matchups they get in their bracket. That is the case every season with *almost* every team except those few that you are pretty confident can win any matchup. Baylor was that kind of team the last two years ... and yet still didn't make the Final Four in one of those years, of course. At any rate, this year, as mentioned earlier, there is the added factor that Notre Dame, Stanford, Louisville and Nebraska are hosting regionals. So the odds of teams going to the Final Four are also going to be impacted by what regional they are in. So all that said, does Baylor have the personnel to make a Final Four run if their bracket is more advantageous? Yes, I really think they do.

Kaleigh (PA)

What are your thoughts on the player of the year? I have got to think that Stanford?s loss to Washington hurts Chiney. I know Odyssey Sims? ppg is impressive, but I have found her to be reckless at times. While Breanna Stewart does not need to do as much for her team to be successful, she consistently steps up when it is required.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:24 PM)

I picked Breanna Stewart as projected POY in the preseason, and as of right now I see no reason to change that. I think she has been very consistent and very, very good. She's the hardest part of the UConn "puzzle" to try to solve, if you are attempting to figure out how to beat them.

kevin (macon ga)

Will Gail Goestenkors new gig with the Sparks stop her name from being mentioned for every big college job?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:28 PM)

No, I think if anything it will mean she's mentioned more. She is refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to get back into coaching after being in a consultant's role last year. Whether she ever returns to coach in college may depend on if there's a situation that really appeals to her. She doesn't have to make a decision based on salary; rather, it's about where she'd be really happy. And that is a great position to be in. For now, she's really looking forward to working regularly with the pro players, as she did when she was an assistant with the national team.

Brandon Jenn (Riverside Iowa.)

how many more games will iowa lose this year. what will be there final big ten record be. thanks

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

Predict the Big Ten? Yikes, that's hazardous. If I have their schedule right ... I think they've still got Illinois twice, Purdue, Michigan and Ohio State. The game at Purdue could be really tough, and so could the game at Michigan. They've beaten Ohio State already in Columbus. I'll be optimistic, since the Hawkeyes have played well recently, and say they go 4-1 in that stretch. That would put them at 11-5 in the Big Ten. But even going 3-2 would still leave them in good shape. Then we'll have the craziness of the Big Ten tournament, though.

jbb1985 (under snow, more snow, periscope up)

Are the Carolinas for real? Do you anticipate U of SC to make the SEC race and tourney a 4-way challenge, or is it Tenn. vs. TAMU vs. UK (if they right themselves)? Do you expect UNC to enter the semi-settled ACC situation of ND on top with Duke and MD jostling behind, hoping to upset the Irish in reg season or tourney?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:39 PM)

I think South Carolina is more "for real" at this point because they are a more discplined, experienced team, despite their youth. I say this, though, knowing that if North Carolina hits shots like they did against Duke, they are very scary. South Carolina still has a gauntlet to face to end the regular season in the SEC: at LSU, at Kentucky, home vs. Florida and Georgia, at Tennessee. But I think they are a very good team, and they've certainly got their chemistry together now more than Kentucky does. As for North Carolina ... we knew that with all the freshmen, they were going to have ups and downs. Even as well as the Heels played at Duke on Monday, it would not shock me to see them lose three of their last six. But they have the ability to finish very strong, too. I just have more confidence in the consistency of South Carolina at this point - even though the Heels *did* beat the Gamecocks earlier this season.

Joe --ct [via mobile]

Do u think Tina Charles will get traded to LA for Nneka Ogwumike? If so why would ct trade Charles?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:41 PM)

Much as I like Nneka as a player, I would not trade Charles ... unless she is absolutely unhappy and desperately wants out. And I don't know that to be the case, although there have been rumblings of her unhappiness. But you don't part with a young, very talented player who's been league MVP unless you feel you have little choice. At least, that's my view of it.

kevin (macon ga)

Would Breanna Stewart be the #1 pic if she was available in this year's draft?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

Yes. I'd pick her if she were available in that spot without a moment's hesitation. And that is no disrespect meant to the seniors who will be in position to be taken first. I just think Stewart is that multi-dimensional and talented a player.

Brandon jenn (Riverside ia)

which game do you think iowa loses. purdue or Michigan or both.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

At Purdue.

Phil (CT)

Does UCONN need to get out of the AAC?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

Yes, but I don't know what options they really have.

Bill (Oklahoma City)

Baylor's Nina Davis - freshman of the year? Has anyone else done as well? 17 rebounds vs UCONN? And a chance for a first - Odyssey for player of the year and Nina for FOY?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

Davis has been really good. I think right now, though, North Carolina's Diamond DeShields is the top freshman in the nation. There is still time for players to make their cases for all the awards.

Howard (Pennsylvanian Arctic)

Diamond DeShields: future NCAA POY? By the way, have you heard of any timeline on Sylvia H.'s return to the bench?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:48 PM)

It's certainly possible with DeShields ... she is very talented, and she embraces the big moments. She's hard to guard, and if she keeps developing her game, will be even more difficult to stop. As for Coach Hatchell, she would like to return at some point this season, but that's a hard thing to put a "timeline" on, because it really does depend on how she continues to respond to treatments. Sylvia, I guarantee you, is pushing as hard as she can to return. Her doctors are going to have to be cautious, though. And deep down, she understands that.

brian (lexington)

Kentucky has a pretty tough schedule towards the end of the season with UT, Vandy, A&M, USC and underrated Miss State. How do you see that turning out? How many wins do you think they need in the SEC to guarantee a tournament berth?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:56 PM)

The fact that they've lost three of their last five is a concern. The Wildcats really do have to pull it together, because this is a tough finish to their SEC season. Even a team with a losing SEC record like Mississippi State is potentially dangerous, especially because that game is in Starkville. I think Kentucky would still be OK even with a 7-9 league record (in terms of making the NCAA field), but if that were the case, they wouldn't have very much confidence at all entering the SEC tournament. Realistically, I think the Wildcats can go 4-2 in this closing stretch, and then feel pretty good about the postseason. But they have to right the ship.

Howard (Pennsylvanian Arctic)

What odds might you give WVU for coming out on top of the Big 12? I'm beginning to think they're Big Time Sleepers, even on the national scene.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:00 PM)

The Mountaineers have control of their own destiny in that regard. They still have another opportunity to play Baylor - in Waco _ and trail the Bears by just a game in the standings. W.Va. still has seven games left, starting tonight with Oklahoma. If I had to predict, I'd say the Mountaineers finish second to Baylor, but that should still position them well in the NCAA tournament.

Ellen (Boise, Idaho)

On each elite team in WCBB, it seems there is that one Superstar that when things go bad, can put the team on her back. It seems that Duke lacks this. Liston may be the de facto leader, but she isn't all that athletic. Do we have to wait for Jones to truly make this her team for her to become that superstar?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:03 PM)

Chelsea Gray was that person, but with her out, I agree there is kind of a void there. Alexis Jones seemed more confident previously than she does now. Duke has some issues to work through, some mental and some physical.

jbb1985 (under snow, more snow, periscope up)

Do you want to see L'ville have 4 cracks at UConn? Do you want see Duke have 4 shots at ND?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:04 PM)

Well ... not really. I think it's more likely we will see Louisville vs. UConn four times, than Duke vs. Notre Dame four times.

Mel (MN)

Thanks for your column on Betty Jaynes. Do you have any memories of her that stand out?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:08 PM)

One time many years ago, I called her because I thought the Wade Trophy process was not as comprehensive as it needed to be. And there are a lot of people in her position who might have gotten defensive about that or whatever, but Betty was very nice and really wanted to hear my thoughts. Her ego was never in the way, you might say. She just cared about the sport, and trying to do what was best to help it grow and get more exposure. She really was a friendly person who reached out and listened to everybody. I always admired that about her.

Chuckie Creamer (Joseph Lunar's House)

Does Duke's loss once again remind us that we don't need to get so worked up about projected seedings at this time of year. I mean, two guys have that as part of their job, but it seems like some fans are already ready to bring their torches and pitchforks to the committee and there are so many games to be played before seeds are decided. Can't we all just discuss hypotheticals peacefully?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:10 PM)

Yes. :) I couldn't agree more. Bracketology is for fun and discussion, but the bracket experts can only work with the information they have in front of them. Things can be different week to week, let alone what they are like in early January vs. mid-February vs. early March. No pitchforks, please. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:12 PM)

Thanks for all the questions. I'm sorry I have no updated info on the WNBA's CBA. Let's hope that "soon" really is "soon." Chat with you next week.