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

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:08 PM)

Good afternoon. It's a pretty day here in the Heartland. Let's get started.

Steve Paulson (Oklahoma City)

Why did Oklahoma underachieve this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

It seems like Oklahoma fans have been pretty disappointed with this season. A lot of folks - me included - picked the Sooners to win the Big 12. But they were slowed by injuries to an extent and then just didn't have the "spirit" - if you will - that we're used to seeing from Oklahoma. Considering how often I think that Sherri Coale has had teams over-achieve in the past, I guess I'm more reticent to be too critical of them this year. But by the same token, I am sure they expected a lot more than they've done.

Justin (Texas)

With the Lady Bears getting more production from their Freshmen at the right time, do you think Baylor has the potential to make some noise in the NCAA's this year? It seems the youngsters are peaking at the right time. What are your thoughts?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:16 PM)

Yes, I think Johnson and Davis are both playing very well, and the team has made progress in terms of not relying as much on Odyssey Sims. I always say the NCAA success of a team depends on matchups, and that's going to impact Baylor to a degree this year, too. But, they have the personnel to make a run, for sure.

Kevin(Atl) [via mobile]

Which team do you think has the best backcourt going into the tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:18 PM)

Hard to pick against Notre Dame with Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd. They are spectacular. But, obviously, UConn with Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson are terrific, too. And as Louisville coach Jeff Walz emphasized Monday when I was talking with him after the game, part of what makes UConn so difficult is that Breanna Stewart is a guard with forward/center size and so it's incredibly difficult to match up with her defensively.

Bill (Kazoo)

What's going on with South Carolina ?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:21 PM)

It's a young team, and I think success is something you have to learn to handle well if you are going to be a perennially successful program. In South Carolina's case, they had not won an outright SEC regular-season title before. This was a big deal. And I think no matter how much the coaching staff talked to them about being ready to go play at Tennessee, the kids probably still had their heads in the clouds a bit. They got pounded at Tennessee. Then they played well against Georgia in the SEC, but never really got into a flow against Kentucky. I would bet this week, Dawn Staley and staff are showing them film, talking to them a lot about this being a fresh start. Let's see how they respond.

Stephen (Austin)

A few years ago Baylor and Texas A&M got placed in the same bracket after playing three close games throughout the regular season. Why is the committee against placing UCONN and Louisville in the same region in 2014? Seems to be a double standard to those who don't live along the east coast.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:24 PM)

The committee has NOT said they are against putting UConn and Louisville in the same region. We don't have any idea what the committee is thinking until they put out the bracket. It's been a lot of us in the media who have said it would probably make more sense to have UConn in the Lincoln regional rather than Louisville. And we said the same thing in 2011 criticizing the committee for putting TAMU and Baylor together. I don't know what the committee will end up doing, though, this year.

Irving Matchen (Washington, DC)

Seems like Charlie Creme's bracketology has created lots of chatter :) Do you see the selection committee stressing out over the same factors? Or will they get it right. And we all know what's right.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:29 PM)

The point of Bracketology is to create chatter. :) That's why it's done. I think the committee can't help but notice the debate about where teams will be placed, but at the same time, once they get in that room they are in their own world. There are different opinions on where teams should be sent. I think it's interesting that so many UConn fans are adamant that the Huskies should go to Lincoln so they don't have to potentially play Louisville on their home court. But ... they may have to play Nebraska on their home court in Lincoln. This whole year is weird with the home courts as regional sites again.

jbb1985 (Petticoat Junction Estates guardhouse)

If UK had beaten Tenn in a close SEC Tourney Final, who do you think might have been the final #1 seed? BU, U of SC, or L'ville?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:33 PM)

I think it could have been Baylor. But Tennessee prevailed in what was a pretty contentious final. That was a big win for Holly Warlick. But I also think Kentucky proved to itself how a good a team it can be, so the Wildcats should carry a lot of confidence with them into the NCAA tournament.

Rob (Indianapolis)

Thoughts on ND possibly playing on it's opponents home court in the opening rounds for the 3rd time in 4 years?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:38 PM)

One of the problems with having pre-determined sites, of course, is this issue. We don't know for sure where the Irish will go for early rounds ... I think Charlie had them at LSU. I feel I've written about a million words over the last decade on why pre-determined sites are not good for the game, so I will be happy to return to top 16 hosting. It just makes more sense, because then that's an advantage you have to earn through your play, not one you "buy" through a bid.

Bil (Kazoo)

Stephen last year uconn played nd four times

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:39 PM)

Yes, I think Stephen's question earlier was in regard to teams having to potentially play four times in a season BEFORE a Final Four.

rz (cali)

Your thoughts on why Stanford's season is coming apart at the seams? Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until a month or so ago. And since then... it's become Chiney and everyone else extremely playing extremely inconsistently.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:42 PM)

Does it seem it's really coming apart at the seeams? I guess I look at it like Stanford was bound to lose before the final of the Pac-12 tournament one of these years. Part of the issue with Stanford is that we've all become so used to them cruising through the league and league tournament, that it seems to reflect really negatively on them when that doesn't happen. To me, this is just more normal, and indicative of the improvement of the Pac-12. Which is something that the coaches in that league - including Tara VanDerveer - have been talking about forever even when there wasn't a lot of evidence it was actually happening. With Cal going to the Final Four last year and USC winning the Pac-12 tournament this year, that's real evidence. I realize that doesn't necessarily answer the worries that Stanford fans have that their team isn't performing as well as it should. But maybe you'll see a rejuvenated and hungrier team going into the NCAAs after they were upset in the Pac-12 tourney.

jbb1985 (East Downton Abbeyville)

The best ever NCAA Finals combined record was undefeated UConn vs. once-defeated Stanford (lost to UConn reg season) in 2010. For such a glamorous pairing that resulted in a first half 20-12 score with abysmal shooting by both. If we had a pair of undefeated teams face off this Finals that know each other so well, might you be concerned about another big stage shortfall?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

You want to give us all nightmares? :) That was a terrible championship game. I remember in the last minute, I looked up at the clock and thought, "I can't believe this was the national championship game. Can we all just wake up and start over?" Certainly, a lot needs to happen between now and the possibility of UConn vs. ND in April. But ... if that is the matchup, I cannot envision it won't be a great game.

Bio (Michigan)

I am very intersted in your opinion on where the four # one seeds SHOULD be assign and do you agree that Uconn and ND should meet in the championship game assuming they run the table If the committe does not do this it will hurt the women's game because it needs all the help to grow interest in the women's game Also no one wants to see Louiville vs Uconn unless it's for the championship

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:55 PM)

We know what regional ND and Stanford will be in. I think what makes the most sense with the other two is having UConn in Lincoln, and Tennessee in Louisville. But as I said, either way there is the potential to play a team on its home court in the regional final. If Charlie is right on seeding, Louisville is a 2 and Nebraska is a 3. I realize Louisville has been ranked higher all year, but Nebraska did win the Big Ten tourney title, and they could prove to be as difficult to play on their home court as Louisville has been on its home court. At least there is that possibility. Whatever the committee does, it will irritate some people. Regionals should be on neutral courts, and I'll be glad when they go back next year.

Tina Booze (Clearwater Fl)

Can you please give more coverage to Jerica Coley she is from this area and she is making history but she is receiving very little coverage on ESPN

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:00 PM)

She is having a phenomenal season, capping a great career. 42 points yesterday, and over 3,000 for her career at Florida International. Congrats to Jerica, because she's moved into some pretty lofty territory on the all-time NCAA scoring list.

Shawn (Waco)

Is it of any concern that sending Connecticut to Lincoln could result in a bare stadium for a Regional Final if Nebraska doesn't advance? It seems that for a sport that desperately attempts to attract large television audiences, this could be a huge red flag for the committee - am I wrong?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:05 PM)

There will not be a bare arena in Lincoln if Nebraska isn't in the regional. Obviously there will be a much bigger crowd if the Huskers *are* there, but I think a fair amount of people will still come regardless. It's a brand-new arena downtown, and Nebraskans are big-time sports fans. Whatever teams are playing there, there will be women's hoops and general sports fans who will come see them. As for the committee making decisions based on attendance concerns ... there have multiple times in the past where I think they discounted or didn't even think about that when it came to placing teams in different places that *I* thought could have helped attendance.

PAUL (USA)

I think it is an injustice to overlook geography for one team but remain for the other 63. What do you think?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:13 PM)

I think the plane flight for UConn is about the same whether they're going to Louisville or Lincoln (provided they are in the regional semis, of course.) UConn has soundly defeated Louisville three times, so I don't think they are "worried" about going to Louisville. Nor do I think they are "worried" about going to Lincoln. But the argument may be more that Louisville has already played the No. 1 team three times, are you going to potentially force the Cardinals to do it four times before the Final Four? Or do you say, "Hey, if Louisville makes the regional, it gets to play on its home court, so they should accept whomever they have to play." I don't know ... like I said, people will be ticked off no matter what happens. I would think Tennessee fans wouldn't mind Louisville that much ... it's about a four-hour drive from Knoxville. And like I said earlier, in either Lincoln or Louisville, there's the potential of a No. 1 seed playing a team on its home court in the regional final.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:14 PM)

Of course, we're talking about all this stuff as if we know for sure all these teams WILL be in the regional semis/final. And we don't know that. Obviously, some are overwhelming favorites to do that, but it still has to play out. :)

PAUL (USA)

what is the chance of big 12 tournament mvp Nina Davis being national freshman of the year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:16 PM)

I really debated this when we were voting for our ESPN.com awards. I think Nina is an excellent choice, but I did end up going with North Carolina's Diamond DeShields. You can make good arguments for either one. Nina inherited a huge load inside, and there's no way Baylor would have had the season it had without her. Diamond had no senior leadership to rely on with her team; as a freshman she *was* the leader, both emotionally and on the court. Like I said, you could make a great case for both of them.

jbb1985 (Petticoat Junction Estates guardhouse)

When Breanna Stewart sprinted the length of the floor to block the Rutgers' player breakaway layup, what did you exclaim on 1st and 2nd viewing? If you ever did the Top 10 plays in WCBB 2000-2014-to-date, does that make it?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:22 PM)

The biggest thing I take away from that is here is a great player exhibiting all-out effort in a game she is sure - let's be frank - that her team is going to win regardless of if she makes that play or not. Who cares if Rutgers makes that one basket? Well, Stewart cared because she thought, "I can stop that." That is exactly how UConn has gotten to be UConn. They are measuring their performance every game against a standard of excellence that they learn in practice.

kevin (macon ga)

The W is apparently going hold the draft at the Mohegan Sun and invite fans to attend. Good move?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:27 PM)

Sure, why not. ESPN has some construction going on at the main headquarters in Bristol, which I think precludes the draft from being there. I'm not a casino person, I'll admit, but there is other stuff do there - eating, shopping, etc., and it might be fun for fans to come to watch the draft and get autographs, etc.

Jack (DC)

Lets talk about the WNBA. What do you think about Lawson to the Mystics.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:30 PM)

I think it's where she wanted to be, and the Sun probably thought it best to accomodate her. Washington is home for Kara, and she will enjoy being reunited with Mike Thibault. Now, of course, the question is whether the Sun will go with Chiney Ogwumike with the top pick or opt for one of the two top guards, Kayla McBride or Odyssey Sims. I still think they go with Ogwumike, but that's just my speculation.

Kevin (Atl), [via mobile]

Who do you like as a surprise darkhorse or Cinderella team in the tournament?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:31 PM)

Not trying to give a cop-out answer, but this is a question more for when we actually get the bracket. Because they we can look at matchups and see if there is potentially easier path for a darkhorse candidate.

jbb1985 (East Downton Abbeyville)

Did the Conference Tourneys change your mind on NCAA prospects for teams that lost unexpectedly early, such as s Stanford and PSU, and for any teams that did much better than expected?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:35 PM)

I would say one team that really upped its stock was Tennessee, just because they played so well in the regular-season finale against South Carolina and then battled so well throughout the SEC tourney. They just seemed a better, more cohesive unit, and it wasn't reliant on just one player. Penn State raised more questions for itself because the Lions has two such bad defensive performances near the end of the season ... with the loss at Nebraska and the loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. Penn State has been very up and down defensively this year.

Dream Fan (Atlanta)

What do you think of the Dream trading Bentley for Ajavon?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:39 PM)

I think the Dream was looking to make their perimeter defense even better, because that's what I believe Ajavon can most bring to a team. And they may feel like Bentley was a good young player, but somewhat expendable.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:41 PM)

Everyone tune in on Monday night to see how the bracket plays out. Thanks for all your questions. Will chat next week!