Chat with Graham Hays
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage, while also writing occasionally for Page 2. He began with ESPN in 1999.
Send in those questions now, then check back at 11 a.m. ET on Monday.
Hays Archive: Columns
Graham Hays (11:01 AM)
Nothing says Championship Week (Weeks?) like a foot of snow in the morning, so greetings from snowy Bristol. How's everyone doing?
Glenn (netcong, NJ)
Fair warning im home from work and under a foot of snow so I'm bored and have more questions than a 3rd Grader, Graham :-D But what would you expect...Anywho lets start with a Happy question...Who punched their tickets to the Big Dance this weekend as the Regular season closed?
Graham Hays (11:04 AM)
Lucky you. Two teams that definitely helped themselves were Georgia and Temple, although one had a lot more work to do than the other. In my mind, any doubt about Temple is pretty much gone after they followed up the win against Xavier by winning on the road at GW. Getting to the A-10 final would be a nice next step, but they seem safe (and maybe an Auriemma-Cardoza showdown waiting in Storrs for the second round?). Georgia can't afford a bad showing in the SEC tourney, but the win against Florida may have saved the Bulldogs. Villanova was probably safe anyway, but the comeback win at Georgetown should punch their ticket for sure.
Danny (bristol, ct)
who do you think should win the big east player of the year?
Graham Hays (11:08 AM)
I think I'm happy to have zero input or responsibility for that. It's entirely a no-win situation. Whichever wins out of McCoughtry, Moore and Montgomery, the other two are going to have tremendous cases. And that doesn't even factor in Zellous, Prince or Kurz, who could all be much bigger factors most seasons. I'm fairly confident in believing Moore should be the national POY; she's the best player in the country and she's been phenomenal. But when you talk about what McCoughtry means to Louisville or what Montgomery means to UConn, I almost feel like the conference POY is a tougher call. So I'll sit on the fence.
Rob from Montana
Do you see anyway that if the University of Montana Lady Griz team can get an at large bid if they do not win the Big Sky Tournament?
Graham Hays (11:11 AM)
I don't, and that's sort of a shame. Montana did just about everything it could to play a tough non-league schedule, taking on Wyoming, Gonzaga, Maryland, South Dakota State, Oregon and Illinois. But the last two didn't amount to much this season and despite playing the others tough, the Grizzlies just couldn't get that signature win (they did beat Wyoming). And the Big Sky is so weak overall, relative to the rest of the country, that MT just doesn't have the RPI or resume. Based on what they did against Maryland, SDSU and Gonzaga, I think they're one of the best 64, but they need the auto bid.
Adam (Columbus, Miss.)
Graham, Your thoughts on Mississippi State getting an NCAA bid, provided they beat South Carolina and lose to LSU in the SEC tournament?
Graham Hays (11:13 AM)
I'd feel better if they beat LSU, obviously, (and that's not exactly impossible since they've done it twice). But yeah, in that scenario, barring upsets to some mid-majors, I'd feel good about them making it.
Mike (Normal, IL)
Hey Graham, do you think that Illinois State has any chance of making the dance as an at-large team if they end up losing in the conference tourney?
Graham Hays (11:16 AM)
Tough call. I could be wrong, but I think their profile is actually a little stronger this season than it was last season when they would have been squarely on the bubble without the auto bid. But I'd say they don't control their own fate. In my mind, the mid-major teams (not counting A-10 or MWC) that can afford to lose in the conference tourney and count on at-large bids is along the lines of: South Dakota State, Middle Tennessee State and maybe Gonzaga. The next tier would be Illinois State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Bowling Green, Marist and Montana. That second tier would need the cards to fall exactly right everywhere else to garner at-large consideration.
Tina (Danbury, Connecticut)
what about Coach of the year?
Graham Hays (11:19 AM)
Sue Semrau deserves to get a lot of consideration. That might be where I'm leaning at the moment, although I'd also weigh coaches like Aaron Johnston at South Dakota State, Jeff Walz at Louisville, Harry Perretta at Louisville, and yes, Geno Auriemma. I'm sure I'm missing more than a couple. But that would be a rough list.
Glenn (netcong, NJ)
Ok Senior Night in most places, so which senior are you going to Miss watching the most as they say goodbye to CBB?
Graham Hays (11:23 AM)
That's a question worthy of at least 1,000 words every year. There are always a bunch of seniors that will be missed (and speaking of senior nights, kudos to Maya Moore and Kaili McLaren for surprising their seniors with a fabulous rendition of the national anthem before Saturday's game). A very, very incomplete list of the top of my head: Montgomery, Kristi Cirone, Kristi Toliver, McCoughtry, Courtney Paris, Rachel Porath, Marissa Coleman, Briann January. Wow, I could go on all day. It's mostly players I either saw a lot on television during their four years or who left an impression watching them in person.
Jordan, South Dakota
The head coach for SDSU, Aaron Johnston, should be in the running for coach of the year!
Is there one conference tournament that looks the best this week?
Graham Hays (11:26 AM)
I'll be at most of the Big East, but I've gotten progressively less and less excited about that one. It didn't help that Louisville routed Pitt over the weekend in what could be a semifinal preview. It didn't seem like a month ago, but the ACC looks like a really compelling tourney. Semis of FSU vs. Duke and UNC vs. Maryland, with Virginia and Ga Tech lurking as spoilers? And the Big 12 next week should be great. Outside the BCS conferences, I'd say the Colonial and the Mountain West look very compelling.
How many teams does the Big Ten get in?
Graham Hays (11:27 AM)
Five, although Indiana may have a chance to make it six with a strong showing at the Big Ten tournament. Right now, the Hoosiers just don't seem to be showing the finishing kick to make it.
Gibs (Charlottesville, VA)
Ok Graham, whats your bet on which UVA team shows up in the ACC tourney? And do you agree with the assessment that one of this teams greatest strengths AND greatest weaknesses is their lack of panic when they start getting down by large amounts? I like the fact that they don't panic and start throwing up bad shots when they are down 10 or more, but they seem so relaxed... I'd prefer to see some urgency in that situation. Thoughts?
Graham Hays (11:31 AM)
I haven't seen them in those scenarios often enough to really have a sense of that, but it would make sense given the results. On paper it just doesn't seem like they ever quite found a consistent identity once Littles returned. But when they beat Maryland or win at Florida State, you see exactly what they can be when they start clicking. To your point, it will be interesting to use the ACC tournament as a test case to see how they react to the one-and-done setting before the NCAA tournament.
Who gets the number 1 seeds in the NCAA tourney as of right now. Uconn, Oklahoma, who else?
Graham Hays (11:32 AM)
Maryland and Stanford in my book. But there's a poll up on the frontpage of women's hoops right now, and I think maybe Auburn was leading as that fourth No. 1, I could be wrong though.
Graham Hays (11:33 AM)
Or I could, you know, look. Right now, Aurburn with a slight edge on Stanford for the fourth No. 1. I'd still pick the Cardinal.
Clint Oftedahl (Bellows Falls, Vermont)
No love for Koren Schram from Dartmouth as a Senior you will miss watching? You only wrote a feature article on her! Anyhoo, with either Dartmouth or Harvard winning the Ivy League this season (hopefully Dartmouth!), will their seed/opponent be based more on their body of work, or their locale to either Storrs to play UConn, or the Rutgers site?
Graham Hays (11:36 AM)
See, that's a perfect one. Schram is a really interesting kid, and she played one of my favorite games I've seen this season, nearly beatng Michigan State by herself at a Thanksgiving tournament in Burlington, VT. Good call, Clint. As for the Ivy, Storrs seems like a strong bet. Would either Dartmouth or Harvard really be No. 64 in the field? Almost certainly not, especially if some conference tourneys provide upsets, but they'll be within a line of it on the seeding, and with travel costs what they are ... I'd say hello to Storrs.
What team are you most looking forward to seeing in the NCAA tournament. Who really has a chance to go far other than Uconn and Oklahoma? Any schools that you really want to see do well?
Graham Hays (11:39 AM)
Teams like Florida State, Auburn, Louisville that are all looking to solidify emerging reputations. The thing about this year's tournament is that for all the talk about Connecticut (and there will be a lot), I can't remember a more balanced field if you removes the Huskies from the equation. There are really 10-12 teams I really could see making it to St. Louis. As long as they avoid Connecticut's bracket.
Shouldn't Brenda Frese get some love for COY? I mean how many teams can lose a Langhorne and Harper and actually win the ACC when they couldn't do it before with those 2?
Graham Hays (11:40 AM)
Fair point, Kristin. Although under that theme, you'd have to also include Tara VanDerveer, who lost Wiggins and then Hones in the season's first week.
Graham, DePaul is having a great season that many people did not expect. Coach Bruno has done a great job. Why hasn't he been talked about for Big East coach of the year and what kind of damage can Depaul do in the NCAA Tournament?
Graham Hays (11:43 AM)
That's another good call, losing Allie Quigley to graduation, among others. And you get the bonus that DePaul's style always makes them enjoyable for us to watch as fans. My guess, though, is they're headed for that 7-8-9 range in seeding, and especially if it's one of the latter two, that makes it next to impossible to get out of the second round. None of the potential top seeds would be bothered much by an up-tempo game, which might limit DePaul's element of surprise.
John from Georgia
I say Oklahoma is imminently beatable in the post season - no bench depth. What say you Graham?
Graham Hays (11:48 AM)
I say I don't agree, although it's a very debatable point (and assuming, of course, they have Whitney Hand for her normal 25-30 minutes as part of any rotation). Carlee Roethlisberger and Abi Olajuwon aren't necessarily stars in waiting, but if I'm the Sooners, I'm entirely comfortable with them on the court if they have to play 10-15 minutes. They know the system and they have some skills. When it comes to benches, I'd love to have a group that could play 40 minutes a game somewhere else, but I'd be happy with a group I knew could play 10 minutes a game for me.
Josh (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Also.. what is your prediction on Marist in regards to seeding - either with winning the MAAC Tourney or as a possible at-large contender?
Graham Hays (11:50 AM)
I wouldn't want to mess around with an at-large bid if I was with the Red Foxes; that's not a given this year. If they hold court in Albany at the MAAC, my guess would be somewhere around a No. 12 seed? And for the reasons mentioned with DePaul, I'd almost rather have that than a No. 8 or No. 9.
What are your thoughts on Ohio State's season thus far? They seem to be a more up-tempo team than in year's past and Lavender is playing great.
Graham Hays (11:52 AM)
I should have included Ohio State on that list of teams of interest. I'm really curious to see what the Buckeyes do, and I'll admit I haven't seen them play enough this season to have much of a sense one way or the other. They've been such a postseason disappointment over the last five years, and you're going in with a point guard, who as sensational as she is going to be (and already is, in many respects), is a freshman and turns the ball over a lot. Can they keep getting the ball to Lavender consistently?
Mike (Queens, NY)
With the strength of the A-10 this year, why are only 2 teams being looked at. The overall strength at the top for the top 4 teams is better then the mediocrity of the mid-level powere conferences.
Graham Hays (11:54 AM)
I'm not sure it's just the top two. Charlotte still seems like a pretty strong at-large candidate to me.
Chad (Las Vegas)
LSU is a young team and it has showed for most of the season. However, they seem to be on fire lately. Are they a lock for the NCAA's or do they need 1 win? Can they do any damage in the NCAA's?
Graham Hays (11:55 AM)
Look like a lock to me with the late surge, and speaking of coaches who factor in the mix for individual honors, Van is certainly putting his name in the conversation with the turnaround in conference play.
Helen R (Rochester NY)
Hi Graham, What do you think a team needs to do to be able to beat this UConn team? What teams have the potential skills/players/coaching to pull it off?
Graham Hays (11:59 AM)
There's actually a package going up on this question this week or next, I forget which. To me, you need a good point guard, an explosive scorer and some frontcourt players who aren't liabilities with the ball in their hands and can keep the offense moving (like Appel and Pedersen in the Final Four last year). And, as the OU and UNC games suggest, there might not ne a team quite like that this year. But if Hand is healthy, and with Doty out for UConn, I think the Sooners would be much more competitive in a rematch. Maryland and Auburn also seem like possibilities to match up as well as can be expected. But frankly, any team that does it will also need a good amount of luck on their side on that given night.
Mike (Queens, NY)
I spoke with Mel Greenberg after the Temple GW game and he mentioned that he struggled to get the strength of the A-10 tourney across to the writers during the simulated bracket that was done. Do you see this occuring with the real selection committee?
Graham Hays (12:00 PM)
If Mel is on the case, I trust him to get it across.
Graham Hays (12:01 PM)
Hey, a new record for questions this week. Obviously, March has arrived. Thanks for all the great questions, and sorry I couldn't get to more. Talk to you next week!